Don’t Be A Domino

In case you haven’t heard the news, the New York Philharmonic announced the cancellation of all performances through January 5, 2021. Is that discouraging news? Yes, but there’s no reason for it to be the first domino to tip.

Undoubtedly, the New York Philharmonic’s leadership team spent a great deal of time analyzing options before arriving at a decision.

Every other orchestra will be well-served to follow a similar process. More to the point, if you’re an executive administrator or board member and you hear the phrase “the New York Philharmonic just cancelled the rest of the year so we should…” don’t resist the urge to push back.

On the other side of that coin, there’s no reason to resist cancelling concert activity for the rest of the calendar year in order to be some sort of contrarian.

In the end, this process has no shortcuts and attempts to cut corners is all but certain to end in tears.

Once a decision is reached, it should be supported with copious documentation, research notes, and input from the full range of institutional stakeholders. Anything less than across the board support at mandate thresholds is only going to come back and bite the institution in the behind down the road.

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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