Conductor Expiration Dates

Music Directors are like milk in that they both have expiration dates; or, at least, so goes the old joke. Fortunately for conductors, they have a much longer shelf life and statistically speaking, that runs anywhere from 10 to 12 years.

Adaptistration People 211That amount of time usually consists of 2-3 contract cycles and provides most music directors an opportunity to get through the bulk of desired repertoire.

If the group was amid a growth cycle during the music director’s tenure, you’ll usually see artistic standards increase and for those emerging from those cycles, that tenure will be marked by refining the orchestra’s artistic voice.

Granted, there are always exceptions to the rule and music directors are sometimes most effective over shorter or longer stretches of time.

A recent example of a music director at the end of his tenure is Sebastian Lang-Lessing, who will step down next season as San Antonio Symphony’s music director. And if there was ever a group that embodied the expression “may you live in interesting times,” it’s San Antonio.

The 3/26/2019 edition of the San Antonio Express-News published an article by Deborah Martin that examines Lang-Lessing’s tenure and ongoing role as music director emeritus, which includes ongoing fundraising duties on responsibilities.

That’s somewhat of a rarity and it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds until a new music director is announced.

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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