September 18, 2013 at 7:50 PMPut the successes of the Los Angeles Philharmonic next to the failures of the Minnesota Orchestra, and one thing seems clear: a successful orchestra requires a board with the right attitude. That is, thoughtful and resourceful people who understand — and love — the art of symphonic music.
Unfortunately, people sometimes join an orchestra board for the wrong reasons, and the result can be nothing less than the death of your local orchestra. Thus, we've compiled a list. We'd laugh, if we could stop crying:
Signs you should NOT be on an orchestra board of directors
You get more excited for the Festival of Homes, Debutante Ball, or other big fundraising events, than you do for orchestra performances.
You think the primary purpose of education programs is to leverage grant money to pay for orchestra staff.
You think that the orchestra staff should be paid more than the musicians, since they're the ones doing the full time work.
You don't see playing music as a "real" job, so orchestra members should be happy to be paid anything at all.
You think the musicians should feel grateful for the opportunity to be associated with you and your fellow board members.
You've suggested that the orchestra save money by cutting the number of string players and playing pieces that require only a small orchestra.
You think it's more important that the conductor work well with you and the rest of the board than with the musicians. After all he works for you, not them.
You want to segregate your audience by scheduling separate performances for young or ethnic audiences, not for outreach, but so they don't show up when you and your friends are attending.
You listen to and support classical music because you believe that reflects well on you, not because you like it.
You think the most important thing you to secure your orchestra's future is to break the local musicians' union.
Update: And you've got some good ones! Here are a few additions to the list, inspired by comments below.
You'd rather find musicians through Craigslist than International Musician.
You think that a lockout or a strike won't be devastating, and could be a good thing for an orchestra.
You think that it's your orchestra, instead of the community's.
You believe that classical music is dying, and that there's nothing you can do about that, so why bother?
You believe classical music is dying.
You're super-excited to get rid of the conductor that brought your orchestra to international prominence because he costs too much.
You give only .015% of your income to the orchestra but you still get a leadership position on the board.
You don't understand why Michael Henson would mislead you.
You don't realize the mission statement of your orchestra has been changed to not include the word "orchestra."
You feel your involvement volunteering with the orchestra marks you as a high security risk, so you hire a bodyguard to protect you.
You think blogs are senseless and must be ignored.
You think it's somehow within your rights to buy up domain names "saveourorchestra.com" and "savetheorchestra.com."
You don't know how to buy your domain name purchase through a third party.
You hire security guards to keep musicians from associating with board members and big donors at the 2012 Symphony Ball fundraiser.
You hold your Symphony Ball 2013 in your new $50 million lobby which you renovated with state money you received because you said your financial future was bright. The lobby is made entirely of glass, but you are renting hedges and shrubbery and darkening windows so donors don't need to see protesters outside.
You think it's a great idea to spend roughly $30,000 a pop for full-page ads in the Minneapolis Star Tribune to spread lies at the expense of your musicians and patrons.
You dismiss the orchestra's largest donor and the mayor of the city your orchestra is located in.
You're fine with the entire orchestra finding jobs elsewhere.
Like I said, though, TOTALLY NOT DRAWN FROM REAL LIFE...
After locking out *your* musicians, *your* orchestra's CEO (unsuccessfully) posts help-wanted ads for replacement musicians on Craiglist.
"How do people get appointed to the board of directors ie. who appoints them ?"
Other board members. There's zero public accountability, at least in Minnesota.
I think it's important to examine these attitudes and the problems they can cause.
Yet this glancing-blow kind of "exposure" education gives them only frustration. Once the kids buy in, they want to learn and get good at it, not just dabble. There are a hundred levels beyond what they are doing, and many people don't understand that.
"Exposure" is just not the same as an educational program. You wouldn't read one book to a child and then say, "We gave him exposure to reading!" and be satisfied that his education was fully served! No, people don't have to take violin lessons. But musical literacy would certainly boost our collective brain cells and ability to function in community with one another. And it's going to take more than these piecemeal efforts funded by piecemeal grants.
The answer to that is, "No we aren't. We are trying to make more complete human beings who are interested in the world around them. We are trying to make citizens who have an appreciation for beauty, craftsmanship and passion."
"My (fill in appropriate relative's name) is truly gifted,(not) and he/she is going to play in that orchestra and get paid!
The said board member is married to a former musician (or is one themselves) who went to school with one or more members of the orchestra, and has plenty of scores left to settle. Let the bloodbath begin!
And my personal favorite, the board chair is the parent of someone truly gifted. Every suggestion is met with a flying rage because said chair thinks it is all an attempt to thwart their vision/career of their precious charge. Yikes!
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