That Hidden Bird Cost Will Get You Every Time

Sure, building a new hall is an exciting and terrifying endeavor that can propel an orchestra to new artistic levels and provide a venue that serves as one of the city’s crown jewels. But they never tell you about the bird cost.

Case in point, the 5/13/2022 edition of The Tennessean published an article by Kirsten Fiscus that reports on the Nashville Symphony’s efforts to prevent migratory birds from roosting in trees on the Schermerhorn Symphony Center’s grounds without also having an adverse impact on the birds.

According to the article, the birds started roosting in the center’s trees and as a result, were causing a large amount of damage to building’s limestone façade as well as markedly increased cleanup costs.

The current trees will be replaced with a species that isn’t as conducive to roosting and along with guidance from the Tennessee Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy, the organization will implement a plan to replant additional trees in the area with the goal of preventing any adverse impact on the bird’s ability to migrate through the area.

This is a good example of the sorts of unexpected expenses organizations should anticipate in addition to well established legacy maintenance costs. And if you want to take a lemon into lemonade perspective, it provides some unique opportunities to develop connections with potential supporters that align in a wildlife conservationist/arts supporter segment. If there was ever a cause to help draw in that individuals, this is it. Help protect migratory birds and reinforce your city’s major symphony orchestra.

The campaign appeal copy practically writes itself.

Or perhaps a special movie with live soundtrack concert around a bird-oriented film. You can go in the family series direction and see if music from 20th Century Fox’s Rio films or go in the horror-thriller direction with Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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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