Looking To The Past When Thinking About The Philly Orch-Kimmel Center Not-A-Merger

On 6/17/21 The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center announced the organizations were “uniting under a new parent company”. Before we dive too deep into the weeds, it’s worth noting that one of the key figures involved here is Anne Ewers, Kimmel Center president and CEO.

If that name sounds familiar within the context of merges, you have a good memory because Ewers was the driving force behind the Utah Symphony and Opera merger in the early part of this century. At the time, that process was marked by an unusually contentious relationship between Ewers and the consultant they hired to evaluate their plan, former Cleveland Orchestra chief executive Thomas Morris.

Dubbed the Morris Report it made quite the splash at the time thanks to its frank and unvarnished review of the merger. The report reached new levels of notoriety thanks to Ewers launching a crisis management campaign that went so far as to denigrate the report findings and recommendations, the very thing the organization hired Morris to provide. We examined all of that in detail in an article from 3/18/2005.

Staring At The Crossroads In Salt Lake

You can find even more resources in a post from 3/10/2005 that includes inks to several news reports from the time. I apologize if any links are out of date but that happens when links are 16 years old. Having said that, you can have good luck finding current links by doing a bit of Google sleuthing using the old URL as reference.

Getting Up To Speed In Utah

For now, we won’t really know much about the Philly merger alliance until more details are released but The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Peter Dobrin has some early thoughts and additional details on the matter in an article from 6/17/21.

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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