An Orchestra Stakeholder’s Guide To New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year and even though we’re eyeball deep in the age of anxiety, one odd byproduct is it makes the whole resolution thing that much more straightforward.

To that end, one simple thing all stakeholders can resolve to do is be nicer to one another. There’s enough dickishness to go around and we could all benefit from making a conscious effort to be more empathetic.

Now, let’s take a look at stakeholder specific resolutions:

Board Members

  1. I resolve to donate 10 percent more to the organization than my highest previous annual gift.
  2. I resolve to perform my duties as a steward of public trust by confirming the organization’s individual agreement process is free of discrimination and/or bias. If our organization doesn’t have a written policy, I will lead the charge to make it happen.
  3. I resolve to not be a HiPPO.


  1. I resolve to filter out anger and really listen to issues that need attention.
  2. I resolve to bookmark
  3. In resolve to do a better job at improving the quality of my data and making higher quality data driven decisions.

Special executive level resolutions:

  1. I resolve not to wade into a decision making process in the eleventh hour to blow everything up just because I can…and never bothered to get involved in the process when it was appropriate.
  2. I also resolve to not be a HiPPO.


  1. I resolve to read the entire collective bargaining agreement, not just the parts about auditions and artistic review…then do it again.
  2. I resolve to make gender equality and diversity a priority in programming and hiring decisions.
  3. I resolve to be neither a tyrant nor a passive aggressive leader.


  1. I resolve to express appreciation and gratitude to board members, managers, volunteers and ticket buyers no less than once a month (and not just the same person each month).
  2. As a union member, I resolve to act on making sure substitutes receive equal pay for equal work because without them, my job wouldn’t exist.
  3. When serving on a committee, I resolve to remember that my job is to represent my colleagues instead of using my position as a personal pay-back platform.


You’re already awesome. Carry on.

Ticket Buyers

You’re awesome too. Having said that, there are a few resolutions that would make your concert experience even better.

  1. I resolve to demand gender equality and diversity in programming and not complain to the administration if a program doesn’t have at least two works from Mahler, Beethoven, Berlioz, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Ravel, Dvořak, Sibelius, or Prokofiev.
  2. I resolve to bring no less than four friends to a concert who have never been to a concert before or attend infrequently.

Happy New Year!

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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