Well This Was Unexpected (Again)

In July 2021, we took a quick look at the sudden and unexpected departure of then San Francisco Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson. At the time, I indicated this type of abrupt departure raises eyebrows.

Fast forward several months and Hanson turns up as the new CEO at…wait for it…Baltimore. According to the orchestra’s press statement announcing the appointment, he assumes the role on April 21, 2022.

If you don’t follow the field closely, it’s worth pointing out that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is a bit of a lightning rod that stumbles from crisis to crisis like a ship which has lost its sail. At the heart of those fights is nothing surprising: money and labor problems.

That history goes as far back as the orchestra’s last longish term executive, John Gidwitz who retired after the 03-04 season. Time will tell whether or not this tenue will make any appreciable difference.

An article by  Mary Carole McCauley in the 4/5/22 edition of the Baltimore Sun points out all the larger head-scratcher elements that go into this announcement, not the least of which is the fact that Baltimore is several steps down in budget size from Hanson’s previous group, the San Francisco Symphony.

“When Hanson resigned last August as the California orchestra’s president and CEO, he was paid $974,040, according to tax forms. At the BSO, Kjome earned a salary of $298,000 when he stepped down.”

The BSO’s board chair, Barry Rosen, didn’t release any information about Hanson’s compensation which given the extreme differences in play here combined with the fact that nonprofits are required by law to disclose this information anyway on the tax filings, the orchestra seems to have missed the best moment to demonstrate they’ve finally learned the value of transparency.

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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2 thoughts on “Well This Was Unexpected (Again)”

  1. I have never seen an announcement of this type where compensation is mentioned. It would be inappropriate. Do wait two years and it will be revealed on the 990. Perhaps this is good news for the BSO. There isn’t always a hidden agenda. Perhaps instead of prejudging, we should wait and see the results.

    • All things being equal, I agree that reporting compensation wouldn’t be tied to a position announcement. But this is far from equal and even the Baltimore Sun article touches on that fact. Combined with the long history of poor transparency to surprise discover when figures are released, this is precisely the sort of scenario that demands compensation transparency.

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