So Is This A Remark That Sows, Or A Remark That Reaps?

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association held its second teleconference press conference on Monday, 3/18/19 and as luck would have it, I’ve been unable to attend both. Nonetheless, Chicago Tribune reporter Howard Reich authored an article for the paper’s 3/18/19 edition that includes his overview of the conversion. While most of the conversation seems unremarkable, one comment stood out.

For those unaware, Chicago is amidst an historic mayoral election where the two run-off candidates are both African-American women.

One candidate, Toni Preckwinkle, appeared alongside musicians on their picket line and declared later on Twitter “I’m proud to stand with the striking @MusiciansChiSym of @CFM10208 as they fight for wages and benefits they need to thrive!”

The other candidate, Lori Lightfoot, offered a similar position via Tweet: “I stand in #Solidarity with Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians in their fight for a fair contract. The CSO is an important institution in this city, and the musicians deserve fair wages, benefits, and retirement security.”

According to Reich’s report, when asked about those statements, CSOA President Jeff Alexander opted for a pointed reply:

“We’ve made a decision to make no response to her inappropriate comments.”

And qualifying their comments as “inappropriate” constitutes what, exactly, if not a response?

Granted, a press conference is the last place where someone can consider remarks with the luxury of time. But it never hurts to remember that may not be the sort of seed you want to sow with someone who will be your city’s next mayor.

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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