Looking For A Way To Chip Away At The Us vs. Them Walls?

The idea would have never occurred to me in a million years but if you’re looking for a legitimate initiative to help build positive connections between stakeholders, be sure to check out something the Wichita Symphony rolled out a few months ago.

Spoiler: they designed an improv workshop.

Attended by a cross section of a dozen board members, managers, and musicians it produced worthwhile results. The program was initiated by the WSO’s concertmaster and Partner for Audience Engagement, Holly Mulcahy (disclaimer), and she published an article about where inspiration for the idea originated and how everything came together (emphasis added).

Participating in improv games and exercises encouraged our deep listening, supporting one another, and exploring creativity all in a safe place. There was a freedom to “fail.” The ability to try new ideas without worry or repercussions was something none of us were used to!

I spoke with Kelly Leonard of Chicago’s Second City recently to understand the benefits corporations seek. Kelly is in high demand for workshops and seminars guiding a wide range Fortune 500 companies through how improv can improve creativity and communication.

Given how much pressure each stakeholder group is feeling right now that line about freedom to fail really stuck. Mulcahy includes excerpts from her conversation with Kelly Leonard as well as including direct feedback from WSO stakeholders.

I won’t spoil things by posting too many excerpts here but be sure to check out what some participants wrote about the value of vulnerability.

Improve Through Improv

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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