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 is making a conscious effort to be more empathetic to one another.

Now, let’s look at stakeholder specific resolutions:

Board Members

  1. I resolve to confirm my organization provides meaningful protections against workplace sexual misconduct that genuinely focus on stakeholders and not merely the institution.
  2. I resolve to donate 10 percent more to the organization than my highest previous annual gift.
  3. I resolve to not be a HiPPO.


  1. I resolve not to willfully misrepresent the opinions and positions of other stakeholders to board members.
  2. I resolve to perform a ruthlessly efficient unconscious bias check in my decision-making process.
  3. I resolve to explore meaningful win-win opportunities to improve musician involvement instead of simply asking them to do more for the same pay.

Administrators & Staffers

  1. I resolve to do my part in making the organization’s website and digital communication platforms more accessible.
  2. I resolve to bookmark or subscribe to the weekly email summary.
  3. I resolve to filter out angerand really listen to issues that need attention.


  1. I resolve to become positively engaged in key musician overscale negotiations.
  2. I resolve to make gender equality and diversity a meaningful priority in programming and hiring decisions.
  3. I resolve to read the entire collective bargaining agreement, not just the parts about auditions and artistic review…then do it again.


  1. I resolve, as a committee member, to learn how to properly identify user profiles and create compelling messaging based on those recipients instead of regurgitating the same old talking points.
  2. As a union member, I resolve to act on making sure substitutes receive equal pay for equal workbecause 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 vehicle to advance my own agendas.


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.

Here’s to making 2020 the best year ever for live performing arts organizations!

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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