Here’s Hoping We See A Connection Between Words And Actions

Newly minted League of American Orchestras President and CEO, Simon Woods, published a commentary piece at Medium that spells out his thoughts on issues the field should be prioritizing.

By and large, it’s a good read. He hits several strong topics squarely on the nose that a few years ago, were actively avoided such as racial equality and elitism.

The only items missing from his list that ranks alongside racial equality is sexual misconduct and equal work for equal pay.

While the post does an excellent job at highlighting what issues are, it’s noticeably light on what he proposes to do in his position to begin instituting positive change.

Granted, one of the biggest challenges for anyone running a performing arts service organization is staking a claim. Doing so risks alienating a segment of supporters, or worse, advocating for middle ground that only upsets everyone.

Having said that, decades of safe positions helped produce all the issues called out in his post. Consequently, no one should expect to see the field make significant advances on problems like racial equality and sexual misconduct without instituting clearly defined programs with quantifiable results.

Can anyone think of a more opportune time to abandon the practice of trying to catch up by going slower? I can’t and I hope the onset of Woods’ tenure at the League will be marked with more distinction on these topics than his predecessors. I’m certainly rooting for him on all those fronts.

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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