Live Fast, Die Young, And Leave A Beautiful Corpse…Or Apply For The Baltimore Symphony CEO Gig

The embattled Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is losing its embattled CEO. According to an article by Mary Carole McCauley in the 4/26/21 edition of the Baltimore Sun, the BSO’s CEO, Peter Kjome, is leaving the group after his contract expires in January 2022.

In light of the fact that the BSO’s Music Director, Marin Alsop, is leaving six months prior, it’s tough to miss the timing. Speaking of timing, the BSO went through an especially nasty labor dispute right before the pandemic hit.

When you wrap all of this together, it isn’t difficult to see why the BSO may be facing an especially steep challenge when it comes to finding new executive leadership.

Typically, when a CEO departs, the organization compiles a list of accomplishments under the outgoing executive’s tenure. But the Sun article is appreciably devoid of those details. Granted, the current board chair describes the gig as a “plumb job” but the BSO is almost certainly hip deep in music director search process (or they should be) and attracting the best CEO candidate can be even more challenging if the individual doesn’t have the ability to influence that process from the onset.

Time will tell.

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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