Better Late Than Never?

The 9/20/2018 edition of the Los Angeles Times published an article by Mark Swed that features an interview with Simon Woods, the LA Philharmonic’s new CEO. It a good get-to-know-you interview that provides Woods a platform to address some of the topics on his mind about where the orchestra is and where he wants it to go.

Adaptistration People 078To that end, one of the primary goals on Woods’ mind is increasing diversity and creating a more inclusive culture.

While it’s good to see the biggest of budget groups begin to espouse this approach, it can come across sideways when presented as some grand realization. Simply put, there have been no shortage of voices throughout the field preaching these truths for more than a decade.

At the onset, it fell on primarily deaf ears but after a few years, it started to take root and it became fashionable to talk about it at conferences and retreats, far from the cold reality of planning, implementation, and evaluation. Finally, a handful of organizations began dipping their toes into the water of experimentation, but efforts were more one-offs with limited budgets than any meaningful long-term directive.

Don’t get me wrong, it is all kinds of exciting to see the new LA Philharmonic CEO say things like “When you think of what success will look like a decade from now, it is creating an organization that is as welcoming as it is innovative.”

It just shouldn’t be perceived as groundbreaking or innovative. Instead, something more along the lines of “ugh, you’re just now discovering this stuff*” seems more suitable.

In the end, all of this reminds me that I still need to follow through with an article I want to write about a conference session I attended during the 2018 Southeastern Theatre Conference annual convention titled Engaging the African American Community. I managed to gather a good bit of video from the session and I’ll see if I can get a copy of the presenters’ slide deck.

Hands down, it is one of the best sessions I’ve seen on the topic as it examines real world, successful engagement programs designed to increase African American attendance at a US opera company delivered by the trio of professionals who designed and implemented the program.

*FWIW, that’s a direct quote from a colleague that accompanied a link to the article.

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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