Dear Conductors: Just Wear The F*cking Mask Already…And Get Vaccinated!

Almost a year ago, I published an article asking why some conductors seemed to be exempt for mask requirements during performances when on-stage musicians were required to be masked.

Now that we’re looking at an extension of CDC recommended strategies to help control the Delta variant that clearly indicate the need to be masked indoors in public spaces, I’m still seeing some of the year-old arguments from conductors about why they should somehow be exempt.

On a positive note, it doesn’t appear to be as widespread this time around, but it is absolutely out there, and I feel for any executive or board that has to spend precious time dealing with this noise.

First and foremost, the CDC is crystal clear about the need for masking.

Given what we know about the Delta variant, vaccine effectiveness, and current vaccine coverage, layered prevention strategies, including wearing masks, are needed to reduce the transmission of this variant

  • At this time, as we build the level of vaccination nationwide, we must also use all the prevention strategies available, including masking indoors in public places, to stop transmission and stop the pandemic. Everyone who is able, including fully vaccinated people, should wear masks in public indoor places in areas of substantial or high transmission.

Any arguments to the contrary should be dismissed out of hand.

In addition to the masking debate, I’m also seeing instances of conductors that refuse to get vaccinated and demand exemptions even when staff, musicians, and guest artists are complying with required vaccination policies.

At this point last year, I would have recommended a diplomatic approach to dealing with this issue. It was worth the time and effort to keep the peace but at this stage, with vaccinations readily available and FDA approved, the field doesn’t have time to suffer this brand of fool. Too many musicians and staffers have lost jobs and income already. Why on earth would we want to prolong that pain to appease a handful of conductors who actually believe the lie that is the Maestro Mystique?

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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