Chicago Concertgoers Get A Dose Of Moody Muti

The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times published articles on 6/25/18 reporting on an incident at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) that involved music director Riccardo Muti stopping a performance due to coughing.

According to the Sun-Times report by Mitch Dudek, Muti “castigated the audience” while the Tribune article by Morgan Greene relayed audience reactions. But one common thread through both versions is Muti didn’t seem concerned about projecting his displeasure toward the audience.

This is timely in that we just examined a parallel issue that transpired at the Philadelphia Orchestra and the value of music directors keeping their volatility in check on stage.

We could examine this specific instance and how it conspires against the goal of maintaining an inviting concert environment, but we’ve had that conversation so many times it feels pointless.

Instead, it all boils down to this: when an artistic leader earns more than $3,000,000 per season, it shouldn’t be too much to expect him/her to maintain composure on stage regardless the interruption. If not, perhaps the field should consider following in the footsteps of professional sports and begin handing out fines for unprofessional behavior.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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