Good Problems To Have

The more attention we focus on the processes used to enter the post-pandemic period of concert activity, the better. Case in point, there’s an excellent article from Jim Farber in the 5/24/2021 edition of San Francisco Classical Voice that includes interviews with the CEOs from New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony about how both groups are approaching the return to more in-person events.

A few things caught my eye such as the author pointing out concerns over the potential for musician injuries if programming demands are too much.

The return of anything resembling full summer seasons raises questions regarding the safety of musicians. After so long a lay off from regularly performing, musicians, like athletes, may need time to build up their conditioning. A too rapid return to demanding schedules, such as the Hollywood Bowl, could quite possibly result in injuries.

I would have loved to hear something on that topic from both orchestra CEOs interviewed, Deborah Borda and Mark Hanson, but at least it made it into the larger scope.

Unsurprisingly, everyone is aware of the day-to-day shift in local, state, and federal guidelines for in-person events. While no one interviewed for the article hits this too hard on the nose, the question about how much responsibility venues and arts orgs have to police vaccination status and enforce rules is an ugly truth about where the guideline buck stops.

“One of the problems,” Hanson observes, “is at this point there is no nationwide system for vaccine verification. We are requiring a combination of the CDC card with a photo ID that confirms the identity of the ticket buyer. But we also have to rely on a degree of trust that people will do the right thing.”

I’m sure we’re all going to hear the word “trust” quite a bit in the upcoming months and really, what other choice is there? Are you going to turn away a patron with an ID who forgot their vaccine verification card? And how many additional reminder notifications can you send before ticket buyers get annoyed?

In the end, I am still filing these under good problems to have and moving forward, I do hope things continue to change at rapid pace. Providing it doesn’t put anyone at risk, the sooner change happens, the easier it will be for organizations to shift gears.

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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