Issue No. 11: October, 2000

Publisher’s Notes by Paul R. Judy
Field Activities and Research
The Oregon Symphony: A Journey of Transformation by Elaine Cogan
Healing the Starfish by Saul Eisen
Oregon Symphony Strategic Plan: A Consultant’s Perspective by Elaine Cogan
Hartford Symphony Orchestra : A Work in Progress
Cultural Change in the Pittsburgh Symphony Organization
The Problem Solvers: Orchestra Personnel Managers
Reflections by Paul R. Judy
About the Cover…by Phillip Huscher
Wither the Audience for Classical Music? by Douglas Dempster
Symphony Orchestra Organizations in the 21st Century
Full Report: Orchestras in the 21st Century

If queried, most participants in symphony organizations would probably say that there is an intensive amount of communication and face-to-face contact which goes on in this business, and would cite personal experiences. During a season, many members of boards, staffs, orchestras, and volunteer groups spend countless hours in meetings and related discussions. Board members and other volunteers lament the time they spend in symphony meetings. Orchestra committee members complain that they seem to be in a continuous session. Externally, executive directors and other staff members, and volunteer leaders, attend various conferences and meetings where information is shared and gathered, relationships are developed, and opinions and insights exchanged. Orchestras send delegates to annual conferences and other meetings to foster face-to-face contact with colleagues in other orchestras. Personnel managers and librarians have annual meetings to share professional insights and to give and receive mutual support. Year in and year out, in hundreds of North American symphony organizations, an enormous amount of time and energy is devoted by participants to gathering, getting to know each other, exchanging ideas through talking and listening, and carrying out business.

And so, during the course of a year, across the industry, what is the amount, regularity, and quality of verbal communication and relationship building which takes place within symphony organizations involving all the constituencies, and especially between all the persons elected and appointed to leadership roles within these constituencies? How much time and effort is devoted to having people in these groups get to know each other better through regular, authentic, and purposeful discussion? How much time and emotion is devoted to having constituency leaders explore where everyone is coming from and develop, as a team, where everyone needs to go, together, if the enterprise is to be successful? Teamwork involves practice, predictable and reliable actions, and thus trust. Shared experiences, stories, smiles, humor, and mutual support, are part of excellent teamwork. Creating these conditions takes time, energy, and true engagement. How many symphony organizations devote the necessary resources to these communications and relationships? Most readers would probably say, “Well, not too much of that kind of communications and relationship building is taking place in the symphony industry . . . but probably it should.”

There are some symphony organizations in which the steady and comprehensive development of communications and relationships throughout the organization is, in fact, a high priority, and is commanding a heavy investment of time  and energy. Such efforts are leading to positive cultural change within these organizations. In the first part of this issue, we are pleased to tell or update the stories of three such organizations.

◆ Over the past three years, the Oregon Symphony Orchestra organization has embarked on an exciting transformational journey, as enthusiastically described by Joël Belgique, Fred Sautter, Lynn Loacker, and Tony Woodcock, beginning on page 1. Organizational development consultants Saul Eisen and Elaine Cogan, who have worked with the Oregon Symphony, add their perspectives on the organization’s growth. Given the well-publicized difficulties this organization was having, the change in this organization’s ecology is phenomenal. As the participants report, there is more progress to achieve, and gains to sustain. But the Oregon story shows what can be accomplished through commitment and teamwork of joint-constituency participants and leaders. Hats off to Oregon!

◆ The Hartford Symphony Orchestra organization realized a major catharsis in its organizational life through a contract renewal process carried out in 1994. The elements and stages of this process were reported in Harmony #5 (October 1997), by a roundtable of participants who were involved. We thought it would be interesting to check back with some of these participants, joined by some current constituency leaders, to see how things were progressing in the Hartford organization. “Quite well, but with continuing challenges” is the answer you will hear from Ann Drinan, Dwight Johnson, Candy Lammers, Arthur Masi, Millard Pryor, Greig Shearer, and Tom Wildman, as reported on page 16.

◆ The institution which is perhaps leading the pack in innovative organization change—at least among the larger orchestral organiza- tions—is the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra organization. As described in Harmony #7 (October 1998), the PSO began, in 1997, to employ Hoshin, a unique strategic planning technique of Japanese origin. This initial experience soon led to the expanded use of Hoshin. With further experience and practice, the PSO has begun to employ, increasingly throughout its operation, the principles which underlie the Hoshin technique, and some other similar techniques, in such a way that these tenets are now becoming a dynamic part of a new culture developing in the PSO organization. The sense of sustained if not accelerating change taking place in this organization comes through rather clearly in the voices of Scott Dickson, Hampton Mallory, Ron Schneider, Linda Sparrow, Bob Stearns, Kathy Kahn Stept, Tom Todd, Gideon Toeplitz, and Rudolph Weingartner, which are recorded starting on page 24.

On behalf of the Institute and Harmony’s readers, we thank all of the participants for the concern and time they gave to these three roundtable discussions in order to better inform others throughout the symphony world about what high- level, interconstituency communication and involvement can do for organizational vitality and participant satisfaction.

Bridging, then squeezing down, and finally eliminating the space between the constituencies of a symphony organization is not easy, and is a process to which too few symphony organizations are seriously committed. The gaps between orchestra and staff, and between orchestra and board, are the widest and most boundaried in most symphony organizations. As I pointed out in my earliest essay in Harmony #1, the separateness of the orchestra from its supporting elements—staff, board, and volunteers—has its roots in the very nature of the art form and its historical development. In this regard, this tendency toward separateness might be considered “natural,” therefore requiring rather unique and creative organizational efforts and structures, if it is to be bridged and overcome. In more than 100 North American organizations this separateness is heightened by an orchestral collective bargaining agreement. In helping to bridge both the natural and the manmade boundaries between these two worlds, and in administering a document which attempts to link them, orchestra organizations have come to depend on the personnel manager, a special role within symphony organizations. Thanks go to Doug Hall, Llew Humphreys, Jeff Neville, Greg Quick, Carl Scheibler, Linda Unkefer, and Russell Williamson for informing Harmony’s readers about this position and some of the duties and ambiguities their work entails.

After participating in or reviewing these four diverse roundtable discussions, I found myself reflecting on the long journey ahead for organizations which do not aspire to become truly unified communities, and the need to get on with this effort (page 37).

On page 43, we turn to a topic of keen interest to everyone interested in the future development of symphony organizations. Is the audience for classical music shrinking, or, in fact, growing? Are the doom-and-gloom pessimists or the naive optimists right? Not persuaded by the anecdotal sentiments of either camp, Douglas Dempster, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Eastman School of Music, has taken a hard look at the numbers. His conclusion is that growth, not decline, has been taking place. Doug is also the director of Eastman’s Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Program, dedicated to more completely preparing students for the real world of the professional musician.

We are pleased once again to bring to our readers’ attention the perceptive writings of Christos Hatzis. As is noted on page 56, we have excerpted some key points made in a recent Hatzis essay which is posted on his Web site, and thus are initiating a linkage between the pages of Harmony and content increasingly appearing on the World Wide Web.

In a further step in initiating a link between content appearing in Harmony and that posted on our own Web site, <>, we are pleased to present a report looking to the symphony organization of the 21st century. On page 59, we introduce readers to the main points in this report, which is an amalgam of the contributions of 13 current and former members of the Institute’s Board of Advisors. On our Web site, readers will find a complete presentation of the report, which can be easily downloaded and printed for even more careful study, which we hope many readers will wish to do. We believe this report will be especially useful to those involved in symphony organization strategic planning or otherwise interested in the future of symphony organizations. Interspersed with the Harmony presentation are various quotations relating to the future environment for symphony organizations.

On page ix, under The Institute, the Internet, and the World Wide Web, we describe various matters which relate to the Institute’s own future development.

◆ If you are a symphony organization participant, we hope you will take a few moments right now to complete and return (in the postage prepaid envelope) the survey packaged with your copy of Harmony. We need your response to better serve you and your organization over coming years. By providing us your e-mail address, you become eligible for a handsome prize. Act now!

◆ We go on to outline our plans to publish Harmony content increasingly on a dual basis—in the traditional paper printed and mailed form, and also the newer electronic form available for reading, downloading, and printing. Over the longer term, we can envision our Web site becoming an electronic forum for information, discussion, education, and interactivity regarding symphony organizational issues—well beyond the potentials of a periodic print publication.

◆ We reiterate the service orientation of the Institute toward symphony organizations which are committed to its aims and efforts, and which signify that commitment by an annual voluntary contribution. More about this continuing focus during 2001 can be found under Distribution of Harmony and Institute Support, on page 73.

◆ We also announce the formation of the Advocates of Change, reported in more detail on page xiii. This is an association of participants and supporters who believe that symphony organizations must become more effective and high performing, and will only become so if more participants begin to push new approaches. Some 35 people from around North America have coalesced as founders of this group.

Recent developments in the Institute’s field activities are reported on page xii. Although the reports are brief, the significance of these activities is large. Some day, out of the Institute’s field efforts, and also drawing on the experience being gained in other cities and organizations—be it in Pittsburgh, Portland, Hartford, New Orleans, or elsewhere—I am hopeful that the Institute will be able to bring about a broader understanding of the beliefs, principles, processes, and methodologies that can underpin real transformational change in North American symphony organizations and throughout the field at large. In the meantime, we will continue to work quietly with selected organizations and groups in these efforts to perfect insights and designs. Finally, as noted, the Conductor Evaluation Data Analysis research project has been further delayed, but hopefully will be completed in 2001.

While speaking of commitment to organizational change and improvement, we are very pleased to note that the Institute ended 2000 with some 158 supporting symphony organizations, a new record, including 18 organizations which provided their support for the first time (page xv).

Following past policy, on page 71, we report the Institute’s financial operations for the year ended March 31, 2000, and our financial condition as of that date.

Lastly, we are indebted to Phillip Huscher for the musical score fragment appearing on our 11th cover and the snippet of orchestral history it symbolizes. Can you diagnose the music? Do you wish to conjecture as to the historical development to which it refers? If you get this one, you are a magician or a genius! See page 39.

All for now. Good reading!!


Field Activities

Through its representatives, the Institute is continuing to work jointly with participants of the Philadelphia Orchestra organization in an ongoing, multi- year organizational improvement program which is showing steady progress.

In the spring of this year, the Institute was invited by the various constituencies of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to join them in a concerted effort to become an outstanding organization, with very challenging short- and longer-term goals toward that end. Major accomplishments have already been achieved in a very short time frame.

In August, Institute Board members Fred Zenone and Paul Boulian were invited to attend the annual meetings of ICSOM and ROPA, player conferences within the American Federation of Musicians. At the ROPA conference they led a discussion of the paradoxes and challenges faced by ROPA orchestras. At the ICSOM conference, they were asked to stimulate a discussion of the role of ICSOM in addressing the issues faced by orchestras in that conference. This discussion, lasting more than three hours, encouraged an expression of the diversity of views that exist within the conference.


The Institute has been delayed in its effort to complete the Conductor Evaluation Data Analysis project. Factoral data for a number of conductors and orchestras in the data universe have been compiled, but completing the programs through which these factors can be integrated with database information and the results correlated and analyzed, has taken more time than earlier contemplated. Thus, it is now expected that this research project will not be completed until some time in 2001.


The Oregon Symphony:
A Journey of Transformation

A roundtable discussion

F or the Oregon Symphony, the 1980s and early 1990s were years of change. In the early 1980s, the symphony became a full-time orchestra, making it the primary occupation for its musicians. Not many years thereafter,

deficits began to build and relationships began to sour. One manager moved on, a board member served as manager for more than a year, and during a third manager’s first contract negotiations, the orchestra was locked out. Could things possibly get worse? Unfortunately, the answer was yes. However, in 1997, the Oregon Symphony began a journey of transformation.

In February 2000, Fred Zenone, vice chairman of the Symphony Orchestra Institute, paid a visit to the Oregon Symphony. He had followed the events of the difficult years and was pleasantly surprised by what he found in Portland. He invited four members of the orchestra family to participate in a roundtable to discuss where they had been, where they are now, and where they are going. At this point, we will let them pick up their story.


Institute: Let’s begin by asking you to introduce yourselves and telling our readers about your involvement with the Oregon Symphony.

Joël Belgique: I became principal violist with the orchestra in January 1997. I chair the orchestra committee, although my term ends as the new season begins. I also teach at Portland State University and Lewis and Clark College and am active in chamber music performance.

Lynn Loacker: I currently chair the board of directors for the Oregon Symphony. I became board chair in 1997 and have served on the board for 10 years. I also serve on the board of the Oregon Symphony Foundation.

Fred Sautter: I’m principal trumpet, an ICSOM delegate, and have served on the negotiation teams in 1996 and 2000. I’ve been with the Portland Symphony for 32 years which makes me the resident historian for this roundtable.

Tony Woodcock: I became president of the Oregon Symphony in December 1998. Prior to that I was managing director of the Bournemouth Orchestras in Great Britain for eight years. I am a violinist and have spent 25 years in arts management.

Institute: The year 1996 was a particularly difficult one for the Oregon Symphony. Fred and Lynn, you were involved with the orchestra at that time. Explain to our readers what happened.

Sautter: Following the lockout, we got yet another new manager and things seemed to be going well for a while. However, you need to understand that there was still a good deal of distrust because of the lockout. As time progressed, the grievances began to mount and that brought us to the negotiations of 1996. On the surface, it appeared that everything was rosy with increased ticket sales and so on, but what we actually had was a dysfunctional relationship between management and musicians. The bottom line was that the musicians went on strike.

Loacker: I was on the executive committee of the board at the time and I still didn’t feel that I had all of the information that I needed. And certainly none of the background that I needed to make some of the decisions we were being asked to make. I remember thinking, “The musicians are trying to get blood out of a turnip. Why don’t they understand this?” Well the reason they didn’t understand it was that there had been no honest communication about what the finances really were. And even if there had been information sharing, no one would have trusted the information because management, at that time, was very selective in what information was shared. The strike was a wakeup call. And although some people say it was a horrible thing for us to have gone through, to me it was a necessary evil. It was a turning point because we clearly could not continue to do business as usual. Very shortly thereafter, I became board chair.

Institute: What thoughts were on your mind as you stepped into that role?

Loacker: When the strike ended, I thought everything was going to be just fine. But then several members of the staff left the organization. And I thought, “Maybe this won’t be quite such a walk in the park.” But my main hope and goal was to improve communications among all of the constituencies.

Woodcock: What Lynn brought to the organization was intuition, personality, and style. I don’t think she needs to think about these things. She just does them.

Loacker: I was determined to improve communications and began by just talking and listening to people. I had many conversations with musicians and I was much more hands-on in day-to-day situations around the office. We had had corporate people as board chairs for a very long time. So, of course it was going to be different because I don’t have a corporate background and wasn’t coming from that angle.

Institute: And then, Tony, you joined the organization shortly after Lynn became board chair?

Woodcock: I characterize it that I came in on the surf of what Lynn was creating. Lynn started in 1997 and I began in December of 1998. One of the first positive things that happened was the search process itself for my position. The orchestra was consulted and was asked to nominate two members of the search committee. From my side of the table as I was being interviewed, I felt that this was building bridges.

Loacker: We had representation from all of the “arms” of the organization. Through our process, we came up with a common view of what qualities our new president needed to have. The whole group wrote out words that would characterize the type of person we needed. But the important point is that we made sure that everybody who needed to be at the table was there.

Belgique: I started here in January 1997, after being a member of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra for three and a half years. And I would have to agree that there was a lot of distrust when I first came. Not just between the musicians and management, but among the musicians themselves. At the time, I found it surprising that some of my colleagues had not spoken to each other for years. The search for a new executive director was a perfect opportunity to do things differently. When the search committee was down to three final candidates, a group of six musicians, who had been chosen using a sign-up, was asked to meet with the candidates over lunch. The search committee took our input and opinions seriously and, ultimately, the selection was the musicians’ choice. This group of musicians, as well as the rest of our colleagues, felt that this process was a positive one.

Sautter: The important point here is that the musicians—not just the musicians who were directly involved, but the orchestra at large—knew that we were involved in the decision-making process. This was very important in developing the air of openness that we now have.

Institute: Tony, were there any thoughts that you brought out of a different organizational culture in England that helped the Oregon Symphony address their issues?

Sautter: Tony is far too modest to answer that question. You need to understand that this orchestra had not only come to the point that people were not speaking to each other, there was actually sabotage going on among the musicians. We desperately needed someone of dignity, of patience, someone with knowledge of and experience in our business. In other words, a complete human being.

Loacker: Tony listened. In the beginning, he had numerous meetings individually with the musicians. He shared information and was available to listen and to answer questions. Tony builds trust by sharing information, by being consistent, open, and honest.

Institute: As we understand it, there then came to be more formal groups. The 2000 Plus Committee. The Collaborative Task Force. A group that worked on the Strategic Plan. Tell us about those.

Loacker: The 2000 Plus Committee and the Collaborative Task Force were already meeting in 1997. The 2000 Plus Committee actually came out of a grant we received from the Knight Foundation’s Magic of Music initiative, and included having one of their consultants, Bill Keans, work with us to see if we could get a group together and actually begin to communicate. Board members, staff, musicians, and conductors had the opportunity to sit at a roundtable with no agenda, and no project to accomplish. And Bill helped us to understand that there were many layers that had built up and that we needed to “peel away the onion,” as he described it. That was the beginning of our learning to communicate more effectively. The Collaborative Task Force was another small group of board members, musicians, and staff formed to address our financial picture in 1997.

Sautter: And then, with the help of the Symphony Orchestra Institute, Saul Eisen came in as a scholar in residence and helped us explore our issues and communication or lack thereof.

Loacker: Saul did a residency in which he visited us for two days each month for six months. Although he was technically here as an observer, he spoke with everybody. This was another opportunity for many of us to vent and begin to address some of the issues. And he left us with a “starfish” metaphor that we are still using.

Institute: Explain the metaphor for our readers.

Loacker: The idea is that the organization can be likened to a starfish, with each arm representing one of our five constituencies. Scientists have studied the function of the ring of five interconnected nodes near the center of a starfish. When the nerve ring is intact, and all five arms communicate, the starfish can decide to move in one direction or another. When the central nerve ring is severed, the arms react independently to multiple stimuli, and the starfish tears itself apart. That’s a pretty vivid reminder that has stuck with a lot of people. It is very helpful to understanding the need for a core of communication and how important it is for everybody to be on the same page.

Sautter: Saul was very easy to talk to, was a great listener, and knew what questions to ask. And I think the study took place at a crucial time for our benefit. We needed some guidance as to what to do and how to do it. The starfish metaphor really is vivid for us. If the five segments of this organization are not communicating around the outside of the circle, then trouble begins. This is almost a complete turnaround from where we were.

Institute: We also understand that you have developed an 83-page strategic plan which must have been an enormous amount of work. How did that come about and who was involved?

Woodcock: It arose from need. Lynn has mentioned the need for communication. And out of our need for communication came a need for knowing where we were going. As an organization, we needed to be on the same page. Now, I could have sat in my office over a weekend and written it and then showed it to everyone. But that would have been my report and my strategy. And no one at all would have signed up to it. It wouldn’t have taken long to write, but we would have spent months and months fighting, and persuading, and cajoling.

Instead, we went into a very detailed, arduous process which was meant to bring together the five arms of the organization, so that when a final strategy was produced it would be as a result of everyone’s input. And everyone would buy into it for the future. I describe it that we had to go slow in order to go fast.

We involved a consultant, Elaine Cogan, who is well known in Portland. She talked about a process that should involve everyone and suggested that as part of the process we should have a minimum of two family days where everyone would get together to discuss ideas. And that is exactly what we did.

At the beginning of the process, we had a family day at a hotel and 112 people attended. At the second family day, which concluded the process, well over 140 people attended. Those were full-day meetings. Everyone was there. The musicians were there. The staff was there. The board was there. The volunteers were there. The conductors came along and it was very, very positive for the organization.

The strategic plan, all 83 pages of it, was ratified last November 16. And everyone has a copy. We use it not only for direction. We use it to raise money. We use it to sustain relationships in the community. We use it for really positive messages. The steering committee that took us through the whole of this was representative of all of our constituencies, and from small beginnings that idea of inclusion has permeated our whole organization in a very strong way.

Sautter: Let me speak from a musician’s perspective. Through this process I met all kinds of people who had been around the orchestra for years but whom I did not know. I made some very good friends. A woman who is a judge here in Portland, and whom I have admired for my entire tenure here, has become a dear friend. We saw each other’s sweat for so long that we got to know each other really well. This process allowed us to be candid at a level I would have never expected. When we had problems we couldn’t solve in a large committee— which can be cumbersome—we formed subcommittees or small task forces to deal with them. We shared sweat and toil to come up with solutions. In each and every case, our solutions included the collaboration of all of the parties involved.

Institute: Joël, you are relatively new to the orchestra, but you must have been orchestra committee chair through part of the process that resulted in the strategic plan. What role did the orchestra committee play?

Belgique: We were very involved from the beginning. We were involved in everything from choosing a consultant to reviewing the final draft. But I think that the main job of the orchestra committee was to make sure that the rest of the orchestra had a good idea of what was going on. We wanted to excite the musicians into taking part, into taking ownership, and into the whole plan itself. I think I speak for most of my colleagues when I say that the strategic plan is a working document and is not a dust-gathering piece of paper. Each element has a thesis statement which defines the goal, followed by a statement of strategy. It then lists the persons or groups responsible for seeing the element through, including timelines for review and evaluation.

I think the role of the committee has evolved as a result of this process. People who hadn’t been the best of friends were finding the energy to talk with each other. We organized an ad hoc committee of musicians representing all corners of orchestral politics simply to elicit dialog and bring people to a better understanding of one another’s views. The musicians were included in Tony’s hiring, we were included in the hiring of a general manager, and we are very much part of the music director search. All of these actions have helped to affirm that we are part of the organization. And I would add that many of the younger players who were hired in the last three or four years have assumed committee responsibilities, and so have some musicians who had said that they would never serve again. They are coming back and participating.

Institute: Lynn, what effect did this process have on the board?

Loacker: At the time we began the strategic planning process, our board had nearly 50 members. As is usually true with a large board, a small group ends up doing a lot of the work. But board members wanted to be part of the process, especially the family days. Members of the foundation board were also involved. As Tony has related, the family days were very successful. It was fun to hear board members say that they had learned from the musicians, or from the telemarketers. We all had a deeper understanding and appreciation of what was going on in the organization and of each other’s roles.

Institute: In reviewing the strategic plan, it appears that there are to be changes in board structure. Would someone explain those?

Loacker: We’ve adopted a new board structure that will have a larger executive committee which will be involved in more of the day-to-day operations, and a group of community members who will be involved on a variety of committees.

Woodcock: It is the plan that musicians will have two places on the executive committee.

Sautter: We are in contract talks right now—I’m on the negotiating team—and we’ve discussed this. It is my belief that this will be acceptable to the musicians.

Woodcock: Having musicians on the board is a continuation of the commitment to open communications, to an open decision-making process. It is one thing to be observers, which the musicians are now, but to be voting members of the executive committee is a very deep manifestation of trust.

Institute: The Oregon Symphony currently has a search under way for a music director. It is our understanding that you are following an unusual process. Can you explain that to our readers?

Woodcock: When I came into the organization and began to get to know the orchestra as individuals, I very consciously decided that the musicians had to be the majority shareholders of the search process. So the music director search committee involves seven musicians, which is a majority. Some of my distinguished colleagues from other orchestras think that I am mad to do it this way. But I feel that it is very appropriate to our future here in Oregon.

When we opened the process, anyone could nominate a candidate. At our first meeting, we were faced with a list of 72 conductors. The search committee, particularly the musicians, have worked very hard to sift through those names to learn a great deal about these conductors. It has been a fabulous process. We now have a short list of 12 known applicants. The first six will come through this season, and six more will appear next season. And then they will come back again in years three and four. This process has galvanized the orchestra.

Loacker: As a board member, it had always been my perception that a music director search happens very quickly, that it is a mad dash to fill the position. And I am sure there are other board members out there who have that perception.

Belgique: Musicians have very strong opinions about who is on the podium. We play differently for different people. Musicians may not know as much about the marketing potential of a potential music director as board or staff members might, but I am convinced that if we have a conductor who excites and inspires the musicians, the result will be demonstrated in the way we perform, which, in turn, will bring more people into the house.

I also want to mention that the search committee agreed that we would not let the conductor just choose the programming. We did not want conductors to come in and do only what they do best. Each has been asked to submit choices from which the search committee will make a selection, and each has also been asked to conduct a classical-period concerto.

Institute: Lynn, does this search process make sense to you as a board member?

Loacker: With the exception of perhaps one or two people, our board members had not been through a conductor search, didn’t have a clue as to what the process should be, and were open to Tony’s suggestions. Initially, some of us wondered about why we were going to take five years. But the explanations made sense. It is understandable that a conductor can be on his or her best behavior for one performance, and that we need to see our candidates in a variety of situations. We also recognize that we cannot just ignore our current conducting staff and give the entire season to guest conductors. And we certainly understand why the musicians have a large vested interest in the outcome.

Institute: We are approaching the end of our time together. Are there any other thoughts that you would like to add?

Sautter: Yes. I mentioned earlier that we are currently involved in contract negotiations. And we are doing Interest-Based Bargaining. We bring board, management, musicians, and the union into the same room together. This morning we tallied up that we have been together for between 200 and 250 hours of talking during this bargaining process. We know that IBB is a very slow process. But the direct result is that we are all talking together on the same plane, sharing all of the information. No one is in the dark. We are making decisions together.

As a musician who has been here 32 years, I can tell you that there is a sense of trust coming out of this process that will build the future that Tony has talked about. When we add to the mix the artistic vitality we hope to have, we can look forward to good health for this organization so we can be the best that we can be.

Loacker: We have come a long way, but I see so much potential for doing more in the future. A lot of that has to do with some of the things that we are discussing now in IBB. But it starts with communication, with trust. We are building toward an organization in which everybody can talk openly and honestly with one another about what is going on and what needs to be done. Those developing relationships are important not only internally, but also with the community. The community needs to see what a vital, important aspect of their lives we represent. If we bring to them health—in relationships as well as in finance— that is an important contribution.

Woodcock: I know that one of the Institute’s objectives is to share information with orchestras to see if what one orchestra does might be applicable to another. Let me relate two very positive experiences we have had as part of the IBB process. First, when we decided to share budget information, we, as management, took a very deep breath because it had never been done that way before. The musicians would receive any information for which they asked. We have honored that, and the musicians probably have more information than the finance committee. Through that sharing of information came understanding, followed by an acute awareness of where we are as an organization. I thought that was a terrific process.

Secondly, we involved Lynn, as our board chair, the chair of our foundation board, and the board member who chairs our liaison committee on the negotiating team. I think the success of our discussions has been largely due to their involvement. They have not said the wrong things. In fact, they have said the right things. They have challenged management as well. When the board members have felt that they did not have enough information, they have asked for it so they are better prepared for the next meeting.

I would encourage people to take that line for the future. Because it means that to the musicians, the board is no longer a “gray eminence” somewhere in the background. The musicians have a direct line to the board chair and other members of the board. Through this process of discussion, they can affect attitudes and can communicate at the level they desire.

Sautter: The only wrinkle that I would want to identify is to again mention the monumental time commitment. As the discussions have continued, there has been honor and respect, and we do formal updates when someone has been unavailable for a meeting. In the future, the time commitment may be less because the friendships we have formed will sustain us through separations, and will allow us to get back together more quickly because we have worked well together before. We still have a lot to fix, but we are well on our way and I feel very good about that.

Institute: What a positive note on which to end this conversation. We thank you very much for your time and know that the Oregon Symphony’s organizational development over the past three years will provide food for thought for many of our readers.


Healing the Starfish

W hen the Symphony Orchestra Institute invited me to participate in its Scholar in Residence program, I was both pleased and apprehen- sive. While I had three decades of experience as a professor of organizational behavior and as a consultant to a wide range of organizations, I had not worked with orchestra organizations and knew little about them. I sensed, too, that my presence and involvement as a learner would not be invisible, and would inevitably have some effect on the organization—hopefully a positive one.

In retrospect, the residency experience with the Oregon Symphony did give me a unique opportunity to learn about this organization, and to some extent, about orchestra organizations in general. There are some ways, too, in which I was able to serve as a sounding board for the individuals and groups I interviewed. I sensed as we talked that their experiences, perceptions, and assumptions were being amplified, reverberated, and made more available for reflection and self- awareness.

Tim Scott, who was then chair of the orchestra committee, was part of a group doing ongoing planning for my visits, and he arranged meetings with the committee he chaired. Fred Sautter was very helpful in arranging informal gatherings with musicians representing a range of views—including people who perhaps would otherwise not have agreed to talk with me at the time. I also simply sat in and observed a number of regular meetings.

Listening and Learning

When I observed group meetings, my approach was to attend to what each group was attempting to do and how it was doing it. I was openly curious about the task and function of each group, in the context of the larger organization. This is essentially a neutral stance—not particularly looking for problems to solve or improvements to suggest, but simply noting the group’s behavior as it is. Similarly, in talking with individuals I was interested in understanding their unique ways of perceiving and experiencing themselves and the organization.

I learned of the successful growth and development of the Oregon Symphony over the last two decades, under the visionary musical leadership of James De Preist and two other uniquely talented and energetic conductors—Norman Leyden and Murry Sidlin. The transition to new musical leadership, however, was not evident to me at the time.

I heard in great detail about a history of difficult experiences related to financial pressures, a painful strike, operational snafus, the limitations of the concert hall, and low morale among many members of the orchestra. As I talked with musicians, board members, managers and administrative staff, and volunteers, I became aware of a low level of trust between individuals and groups. I noticed, too, a number of ways in which distrustful assumptions and group stereotyping were leading to a high incidence of misunderstandings, which only fed the mistrust and stress people were experiencing.

I recognized this pattern as one that is endemic to other kinds of organizations—whether in the arts, service, manufacturing, or technology; I have certainly seen it before. Many organizations have functionally separate constituent groups, such as marketing, operations, and finance—or in this case, the orchestra, management and staff, the board of directors, and volunteer organizations.

There is a tendency for each group to develop its own subculture and shared assumptions. The other groups are seen as adversaries, their members are stereotyped, and their motives are suspect. They each have their own priorities and ways of working. They are often housed in separate buildings and may seldom work together or even see each other.

Under these conditions it is not unusual to develop patterns of adversarial distrust for the other groups. When people are caught in such patterns they tend to personalize the problem as being caused by the other side—as a group or as individuals. The underlying fragmenting structures, however, are not acknowledged or understood; they hear the notes but not the music.

The Vicious Circle

This kind of repetitive pattern can be understood as a vicious circle (or more technically, a regenerating feedback loop). A high-stress/high-pressure environment tends to breed incomplete or distorted communication. This leads to frequent misunderstandings, which feed mistrust, which in turn amplify the pressure and stress, and so on. People caught in such a vicious circle tend to feel trapped and hopeless. And indeed, if no change is introduced, things only get worse.

But there is a hopeful irony in discovering such feedback loops, because for the same reason that they work in one direction they can work in the opposite direction—toward improvement. For example, if new activities or structures provide opportunities for valid communication across groups, there can be more mutual understanding, which allows trust to build. This leads to reduced stress, which in turn reduces the tendency to miscommunicate and misunderstand, and so on.

The story of the starfish that Lynn Loacker describes was my attempt to explore with her, and then others at the Oregon Symphony, the possibility of shifting attention to the underlying patterns in their dilemma. It is a very dramatic metaphor in the sense that it describes a fundamentally self-destructive pattern. She and others resonated strongly to the starfish metaphor, to a large extent because it connected with and supported their own emerging awareness of the nature of the problem. Indeed, activities like the 2000 Plus Committee and the Collaborative Task Force were structured specifically to bring constituent groups together around shared values and goals. These seemed to me to be very positive and productive initiatives, attesting to Lynn Loacker’s perceptive leadership.

Similarly, the search for a new president was guided and informed by a participative process across constituent groups. The fortunate selection of Tony Woodcock for the position reflects the shared awareness of the importance of moving toward a style of management that supports healing of old wounds and collaborating across constituencies. Indeed, he provided the needed leadership in the strategic planning process that has developed a new sense of direction for the whole organization, and a framework for continuing monitoring and decision making over the critical next few years. Again, the fact that a strategic plan was developed not by a few managers in a board room, but through an open process that brought together all the constituencies in a large-group format is indicative of his competent and effective leadership away from fragmentation and toward integration.

The same can be said for the wise initiative to use Interest-Based Bargaining. Rather than waiting for contract talks to begin and to predictably deteriorate into adversarial polarization, IBB has provided a forum for cooperative problem- solving toward shared goals. The monumental time commitment involved has been an investment in mutual understanding and healing.

The transformative process is not over, though it has developed a significant momentum. Perhaps the starfish, with its healing nerve ring, is beginning to function and thrive as a whole organism.

Saul Eisen is a professor of psychology and director of the master’s program in organization development at Sonoma State University. His international consulting practice integrates planning, whole system redesign, and organization development. He holds an M.B.A. from U.C.L.A. and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Case- Western Reserve University.


Oregon Symphony Strategic Plan: A Consultant’s Perspective

In my 25 years as a strategic planning and communications consultant with nonprofit organizations, I have rarely been as gratified and exhilarated by a process, and a product, as I have been from my recent work with the Oregon Symphony.

When we began, the organization probably was as disparate as I have seen, with each segment going its separate way, intersecting with others only when necessary, and even then, reluctantly. The strategic planning process we developed could not have worked without the full cooperation and participation of all members of the symphony “family.” As musician Fred Sautter notes in the roundtable, this all takes hard work and a significant commitment of time. I think everyone was surprised at the level of both we obtained and sustained as the process unfolded.

There were several keys to success. A significant contributor was the Long Range Plan Steering Committee, comprised of 17 representatives from every facet of the symphony family: board, foundation, staff, volunteer associations, and musicians. Except for the artistic director, whose schedule did not allow him to attend any meetings, steering committee members were very conscientious in carrying out their commitments. After previously interviewing them and other key people in and outside the organization, I suggested a planning process that would consider all the most important issues that needed to be resolved.

At the first meeting of the steering committee, there was an obvious wariness and tension in the room. This was to be expected, as many of these people had never before sat down together. It also was obvious, however, that one matter united everyone, from the women’s association representative, who has been a volunteer for the symphony for more than 40 years, to the newest staff member who had been on the job only a few months: love of music and of the Oregon Symphony. From June to November 1999, the group met regularly and intensively. I facilitated many, sometimes heated, discussions, during which steering committee members crafted statements of mission and values, and finally, specific action plans that were then taken to the entire symphony family for modification and ratification.

Another key element of success was the leadership among all parts of the Oregon Symphony family. They not only dedicated themselves to the process, but enthusiastically spread the word to their constituents and elicited their support.

Symphony Family Meetings

Two other significant keys to success were the symphony family meetings, the first held midway through the planning process, and the second held toward the end of the process. True to the guiding principles for the process, as exemplified by the inclusive steering committee, everyone associated with the symphony was invited to two all-day sessions held in a local hotel. To nearly everyone’s surprise, more than 100 people attended each time. At each family meeting, participants were seated at round tables of 10, each having a predetermined complement of musicians, board members, staff, and volunteers. Once again, as with the steering committee, people were delighted to meet others whom they did not know, and all were united in a love of music and of the Oregon Symphony.

At the first family meeting, after a briefing about the process and the preliminary work of the steering committee, attendees, at their small tables, discussed these questions:

◆ In the best of all worlds, five years from now, describe the Oregon Symphony.

◆ What factors help or hinder us from reaching those ideals?

◆ How can we overcome our problems and make the most of our opportunities?

Each discussion was facilitated by a steering committee member. The many good ideas were then taken back to the committee for further refinement.

Several months later, at the second family meeting, attendance was even greater and more enthusiastic as the word had gotten around that this strategic planning process was really going somewhere and everyone’s opinion counted. At this all-day session, attendees were once again preassigned to tables to ensure variety, and this time, many greeted each other as old friends. They considered elements of the strategic plan proposed by the steering committee, with the assignment to review, delete, or add as they thought appropriate.

Moving Toward a Final Plan

The steering committee considered all these recommendations seriously and made modifications which were then considered at meetings of each group of family members (staff, musicians, volunteers, etc.) led by steering committee members. The final plan was once again revised and forwarded to the board, which unanimously adopted it and its many action items. One unanimous and unexpected recommendation that resulted from the planning process and excited everyone was a call for steps to consider finding a site and raising funds for a new symphony hall. This is being enthusiastically pursued.

When I first proposed this ambitious process to the Oregon Symphony, there were serious doubts that anything of real value could be achieved. As readers can see by the comments in the accompanying articles, the process worked. The resulting strategic plan and action agenda is a serious, supportable, and achievable document which has many proud parents. It has been a pleasure to work with them all.

Elaine Cogan is a partner with Cogan Owens Cogan in Portland, Oregon, and has authored two books. She holds a B.S. from Oregon State University.


How Are They Doing? Hartford and Pittsburgh Revisited

Over the past several years, the Institute has presented readers of Harmony an inside look at orchestra organizations that have undertaken extensive organizational change efforts. So the question arises: how are they doing? To find out, we hosted roundtable discussions with members of two of these organizations—the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra—to review institutional status and progress. Edited transcripts of these reviews follow.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra:

A Work in Progress A roundtable discussion

In 1991, after a number of years of increasingly difficult circumstances, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) went dark for 14 months. The orchestra resumed work under a compromise contract that called for, among other things, the establishment of 10 voting positions on the board of directors to be held by musicians. Those positions are still in place, and six musicians also constitute one-third of the executive committee.

As the orchestra approached a 1994 contract renewal, it used a facilitated process to reach an agreement. In the October 1997 issue of Harmony, we reported extensively on the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in a background piece written by musician board member Ann Drinan, a roundtable with participants in the 1994 contract-renewal process, and a brief essay on the “lessons learned” written by Paul Boulian, the organizational development consultant who facilitated the process.

Three years have passed since our report, and we recently gathered a group of HSO current and former board members to give us an update on the orchestra’s organizational progress. Following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Institute: To get us started, please introduce yourselves and describe your roles in the Hartford Symphony organization.

Ann Drinan: I am a violist with the HSO and the representative for the orchestra to the Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA). I’m a member of the board and have been since 1992.

Dwight Johnson: I am a past president of the HSO board and am currently a member of the executive committee.

Candy Lammers: I am a violinist with the orchestra, a member of the board, and currently chair the orchestra committee.

Arthur Masi: I am also a violist with the HSO and a former member of the board.

Millard Pryor: I am the president of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra board. Greig Shearer: I am principal flute of the HSO and a member of the board. Tom Wildman: I am currently vice president of finance of the HSO board.

Institute: Because this is not our first roundtable with the Hartford Symphony, Harmony readers know a good bit about your organization, its active efforts to bring about organizational change, and the long-term involvement of musicians in the governance of the orchestra. So give us an update as to how you are doing as an organization.

Pryor: In general, I would say that things are going very well. The good news is that we are making real progress in filling some organizational slots which have been unfilled, or inadequately filled, during the year. Our relationships, to my way of thinking, seem to be very strong. The bad news is that we ended the year with a small loss of $6,000, which reflected some incomplete budgeting and the lack of a director of development. I am optimistic about the next year, although we do have some strategic issues, the most important of which is what we are going to do about our summer series at Talcott Mountain. I am becoming concerned about the risk-reward ratio there.

Shearer: Millard has alluded to it, but I think it is important that your readers understand that the past year has been one of some administrative turmoil. Partly through coincidence, and partly on purpose, there has been a lot of turnover in staff. From a musician’s viewpoint, we have had a difficult operational situation because we have not had an orchestra manager. We’ve had the bizarre situation of having an orchestra manager who is living in California and doing his job by e-mail, if you can imagine! So there has been some frustration among the musicians which we think will be resolved shortly.

And one of our central issues is still to make sure that we try to involve more musicians in the process. There is still considerable reluctance among some of the musicians to get involved. There is still a sense among some that by being involved they are being co-opted. That is something that time will have to cure, and it is not as easy as one might like to think.

Those of us who are involved in the process, in the governance, are aware that there are limitations in our market and that people are doing their jobs as best they can. But there are still some musicians who think that things are not happening because people are not doing their jobs. Some of our frustrations are tied into our location in Hartford, which is having its own problems right now.

Masi: I would like to reinforce something that Greig just said about musician participation. Out of the 80 or 90 people in the entire group, we have pretty much exhausted the inventory of those who want to participate and serve. It is extremely difficult to get people who have not participated to even go to a board meeting. One of our challenges is to get people motivated and make them realize that they do have a voice and can make a difference. That is a major challenge.

Lammers: While I agree with Arthur and Greig, I have found that if I am working one-on-one with people, I can get them interested in specific tasks. If they are interested, they will go to meetings. For example, if the issue is touring, I am able to involve people who have been very vocal and very unhappy in the past because we haven’t done any touring. They are slowly beginning to understand that people do listen to what we, as musicians, say. It is a long, hard educational process.

Some of the musicians who are not involved are the very young players who came to the orchestra right out of school. So part of it is just an education and maturing process. Most of us were probably not that interested in governance when we joined our first orchestras because we were just excited to be in an orchestra and didn’t begin to realize everything that goes into actually running one.

Institute: Listening to you, it sounds as though musician and non-musician board members continue to work together well. Is that true?

Drinan: Yes, it is true. And let me give you an example. I am in charge of the ROPA conductor evaluation bank, and I talk with orchestras across the country that are doing music director searches, as we are. And I am thrilled and amazed at how wonderfully our system works by comparison. Greig and Tom are the co-chairs of our music director search—one musician and one non-musician. Candy and several other musicians are on the search committee, as are several other non-musician board members. We have a completely open sharing of information. What I have learned is that there are other orchestras that are doing searches where musicians are desperately trying to get their boards’ attention with evaluations of candidates, with no success.

We don’t even think about that issue any more. Cooperation is just the way it is. For us, a collaborative process is normal, and we need to be reminded that that is still somewhat unusual in the industry.

Shearer: We are arriving at a decision through consensus. Wildman: It is really hard for me to imagine doing it any other way. I think that

the symphony in Hartford would be in big trouble if we had proceeded any other way over the last few years, which have been difficult for many of the reasons Greig outlined at the beginning of this conversation. And when I looked back at the material that appeared in Harmony three years ago, it seemed like looking back to a distant time. The transformation in the governance of this organization has been huge in a relatively short period of time.

I do share the concern of the musician board members about the players who are not actively involved. Those who are involved are fully engaged in the process. They make substantial contributions to the organization and to the community as volunteers. At times, their work as board members puts them in awkward positions because they realize that not everything the musicians would like is attainable. If we have a tough issue down the road, I sometimes fear that not all of the musicians will be as committed to our process as those in this room are.

Johnson: I am gratified to hear that the musician board members feel that the process is still on track. Yes, there are still issues that we continue to struggle with. But I can’t imagine approaching those issues without the active involvement of the musician members of the board. It’s interesting to recall that not too many years ago, musicians were not given access to much of the symphony’s financial and other information, and some musicians believed that the symphony maintained two sets of books. Although we’ve got a long way to go, we have made important progress over the past decade.

Institute: What about volunteerism from the community? Are new people developing into leadership roles in the organization?

Johnson: Because we have a large board, the executive committee plays a key leadership role. In the last couple of years, we have brought some new people into the executive committee and I think that is a real plus. I have not seen any resistance by these new board members to the active involvement of the musician members. In fact, everybody seems to accept it as appropriate and natural. Is that a fair comment, Candy?

Lammers: I think it is. They are fascinated that we have voting roles. Seriously, really fascinated. They want to know what we do and to learn about the process. I explain that this is the only way we survived some very rocky times. We all need to be committed together in order to function. They accept that. “Wonderful” is the word I hear most often.

Drinan: We have a new member on the orchestra committee who has been in the orchestra for a long time, but not on the orchestra committee. At the last board meeting, he asked question after question after question. It was very gratifying to see some of the long-time, non-musician board members reassure him that asking so many questions was fine.

Wildman: I have to say that I have learned a great, great deal from the musicians involved. We all have. The musician to whom Ann referred has been consistently questioning the effectiveness of some of our marketing efforts. That is a very legitimate topic. Once again, I think this demonstrates the real benefit—not just the political benefit, but the real benefit—of the insights we get by having substantial musician involvement. It’s not a bad idea to have fresh views from time to time.

Pryor: Let me give you a concrete example of the real benefit of musician involvement. As part of our education effort, we went to see the superintendent of schools here in Hartford. One of the musicians who was part of our group brought his instrument. Right in the middle of the meeting, he played a small piece that was fabulous and a totally unrehearsed part of our presentation. I didn’t know why he had brought his instrument. I thought that he was on the way to a rehearsal. What an impact. What a masterful piece of marketing.

Johnson: Let me back up for a minute to our very talented player board member who asked some tough questions at a recent board meeting. He has a history of asking the tough questions and expressing opinions that to some board members may, at first blush, seem a bit outside the box. The questions that he asked concerning our marketing efforts made some of us uncomfortable. But we need that kind of input, and we “suits” have to keep our minds open to it.

Institute: Since we last visited, you have been through a contract-renewal process. How did that go?

Lammers: We have just completed year two of a four-year contract. The contract was done with an executive director who is no longer here and who, I think, really didn’t buy into the process. There were some wage increases, but not much other change. It wasn’t difficult, just frustrating, and we certainly didn’t break any exciting new ground.

Drinan: We had invited a couple of musicians to join us with the intent of showing them how the process works and perhaps helping them buy into the way we renew contracts as an institutional process. Among a minority of players, there is still a sense of needing to try to get back what was lost in the work stoppage of 12 years ago. And on that point, Arthur Masi did quite an assignment during our negotiations. Arthur, why don’t you explain.

Masi: I took on the task of looking at the wage scales from the prior contract and one contract before that, and comparing the increases over the years, and taking into account work stoppages, wage cuts, and so on. And I think one of the things we did that shocked management most during our negotiations was to come up with the wage level where we would have been if none of those things had happened. It wasn’t rocket science by any means, but it was obvious that no one in the administration had ever thought of looking at our situation from that point of view.

Drinan: What was interesting was how vehement some of the musicians were about “that is what I should be making.” They had no sense of “life happens,” or “life dealt us a bad thing,” or “this is more than 10 years later and can’t we get past it?” Even though Arthur spent a huge amount of time working with those numbers, the bottom line is that I don’t think we succeeded with those musicians. Maybe it’s only 10 out of 85. But there is still a small, but very vocal, group of players who cannot get past the sense of “what the symphony owes me.”

Wildman: I keep reminding myself that the full orchestra is about the same size as the law partnership of which I am a member. Almost never do we get agreement on anything. With that many people, you just don’t. Sure it is frustrating. But my guess is that there are a handful of people who will always be unhappy in this orchestra. That is just a reality.

Pryor: I did my first negotiation with the UAW when I was 24 and have had a lot of experience. I’ve never, ever found a circumstance where there weren’t a few people who just can’t get on board. I don’t think we will ever reach the point where there aren’t some naysayers. We shouldn’t organize our view of success as coming only when we get those people on our side, because we won’t.

Lammers: I would agree that we will never please everybody. But those people who hold their opinions long and hard serve another function. That is to remind those of us who are deeply involved how other members of the orchestra may feel. One night when Dwight was addressing the orchestra, I sat in the back of the hall, and was amazed at the different feelings coming from the musicians. It was a reminder that I have tried to retain. I need to step back and think of things from the viewpoint of a musician who is not involved and doesn’t necessarily care to be. If you cannot do that, you cannot ever hope to communicate effectively with those people. This process is difficult. It makes you think about and clarify the ways in which you deal with your colleagues.

Institute: Very well put, Candy. Now, let’s shift gears and turn our attention to how the Hartford Symphony is viewed in the community.

Pryor: When we are out seeking money, there are a certain number of people who remember the lockout with great displeasure and will not be distracted from it. The search for a new music director has opened up some people to look at the orchestra with more interest. We’re in better shape, but I can’t say we’ve made great progress.

Lammers: Millard is right. We have made some progress. We have done some social events tied to concerts that have been important steps in our money- raising. But I still don’t think the community understands that this orchestra is resident in the community. We pay our mortgages, our kids go to school here, our musicians teach music to their kids. We’re still too self-effacing. We don’t toot our own horn nearly enough.

Johnson: Recently, I have noticed that even some of the people who retained bad feelings from the lockout have been much more favorably inclined to contribute to the symphony, in both time and money. Almost all of the comments I receive are very favorable about the new relationship. This is a real plus and will continue to be a plus as it develops and becomes better known.

Wildman: I would agree with Candy and Dwight. Those who think about our recent progress think in increasingly positive terms. Our main challenge as an organization is by no means unique to Hartford. And it doesn’t have much to do with our system of governance. Our challenge is to interest a wider constituency.

Institute: And how about a quick review of your current financial situation. You mentioned a small deficit for the year that just ended.

Johnson: We’ve actually done quite well since our last conversation. Although we did have a small deficit this past year and are concerned about the coming year, in recent years we have generally been balancing our budgets. This is in part because of the extraordinary performance of the stock market. Unfortunately, we cannot count on it to perform similarly in the future. In addition, like most of our mid-sized peers, we have not figured out how to close the gap between what we would like to have available and what we do have available. That brings me back to broadening our constituency. I agree with Tom that we need to increase our support both in terms of performance revenue and in terms of contributed revenue.

Institute: We are nearing the end of our time together, but let’s take a moment to look ahead. Share with our readers your thoughts looking forward over the next few years.

Shearer: I want to respond to something that was said earlier. Because I am on the inside of the process, I find myself focusing on simply being able to continue as we are. We have succeeded tremendously if we can end the year with a balanced budget. But within the orchestra are a significant number of people who feel that their desires for increased service guarantees and increased compensation have been put on hold for many years. They’re frustrated that we are simply staying in the same place, whereas those of us who are involved in the process are relieved by that fact.

Pryor: Greig, I think we have some real opportunities. It is my observation that our development efforts have not fully matured, and that with the revisions in our staffing we have reason to be optimistic. We have also talked about marketing and I think we have some new opportunities there, too. The third area that gives me reason for optimism is touring. We have received a $200,000 grant from the state to play concerts outside Hartford and we are going to seek additional funding.

Having said that, we need to remember that this is Hartford, Connecticut. This is a small market that is close to New York and Boston and people have many entertainment options. But I hope the things I have outlined will allow us to meet the basic requirements of a group of people who are not well paid, which the board understands.

Drinan: A lot of players are very interested in Millard’s concept of us being the “Connecticut Orchestra” rather than the Hartford Symphony. Not that we would change the name, but there are areas of the state that are underserved. It is possible—if we can find the venues and secure local assistance with marketing— that we could expand the full orchestra’s schedule by four or five concerts a year, even if we just run out existing concerts.

Lammers: As you can see, there are a lot of forces pushing and pulling on us. And I would add our music director search to the list of reasons to be optimistic. We hope that the person we select will help give us some impetus, some direction.

Johnson: I, too, am optimistic about a new music director. The response has been very strong and we’ve seen excellent candidates. And I would wrap this up by saying that although we have a long list of things to work on, we need to remember how far we have come. Of course we have made mistakes. But we have also done a lot of things right. And, most importantly, we are all willing to keep trying.

Institute: We thank you for taking the time to give us this update. The Institute lauds your continuing efforts toward being an effective symphony orchestra organization.


Cultural Change in the Pittsburgh

Symphony Organization A roundtable discussion

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) faced harsh fiscal realities in early 1997. The orchestra formed a task force to review a revised business plan. A member of that task force, Tom Witmer, a PSO board member

and chief executive of a company widely recognized for its approach to total quality management, suggested the use of a Japanese planning method, “Hoshin.” The PSO adopted this technique to address specific goals toward which musicians, board members, volunteers, and staff could work jointly.

In the October 1998 issue of Harmony, we reported on the early stages of the use of the Hoshin process. Two years have passed since the Harmony report, and three years have passed since the PSO’s first Hoshin meeting. The Hoshin facilitation team recently met with the Symphony Orchestra Institute to review the organization’s progress, current status, and future outlook.

Institute: We are eager to learn of your progress since you adopted Hoshin. So please introduce yourselves and we will begin.

Scott Dickson: I’ve been with the orchestra for three years, and am currently the PSO’s manager of the Pops and Heinz Hall Presents series. I hold degrees in piano and voice performance and maintain an active performance schedule as an accompanist.

Hampton Mallory: I am a cellist in the orchestra and currently chair the Access Music team. I am also a board member of the American Symphony Orchestra League.

Ron Schneider: I am a horn player, and have served as chair of the orchestra committee, a representative to the PSO board, and a member of the board of advisors of the Symphony Orchestra Institute.

Linda Sparrow: I am vice president of education for the Pittsburgh Symphony Association, the orchestra’s largest volunteer organization. And I am also chairman of PSO Outreach for the Northern Allegheny area.

Bob Stearns: I’m the president of an organizational development consulting firm and the director of human resources for CoManage Corporation. I also serve the PSO as its Hoshin facilitator. My professional life is dedicated to developing and implementing strategies to develop high performing organizations.

Kathy Kahn Stept: I am a member of the executive committee of the Pittsburgh Symphony Society board and chair of the volunteer leadership committee.

Tom Todd: I am currently president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Society. In my “day job,” I am a partner with a law firm, practicing in the area of mergers and acquisitions.

Gideon Toeplitz: I have been executive vice president and managing director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 1987.

Rudolph Weingartner: I am a member of the Board of Advisors of the Pittsburgh Symphony. I’m a retired philosophy professor, former dean of arts and sciences at Northwestern University, and former provost of the University of Pittsburgh.

Institute: Think back and explain to our readers what life was like in the Pittsburgh Symphony in pre-Hoshin times.

Toeplitz: Before we started Hoshin, we were in the same position that many of our orchestral colleagues are today. We focused very much on labor relations and tried to resolve a lot of unnecessary confrontations. Our energy was going in directions which were not very productive for the organization as a whole.

Mallory: Our focus before Hoshin was always either on the present or the recent past in terms of political activity—of which there was a lot between the orchestra musicians and management. The musicians tended to be in the position of reacting to what we thought was either inattention or overt malice on the part of management. There was neither a time nor a vehicle to do anything different about the future.

Todd: During my first year on the board, we were in the middle of very difficult labor negotiations which came very close to a strike. I remember Hampton Mallory, who was then chair of the orchestra committee, speaking to the board. At that time, the idea of the orchestra committee chair speaking directly to the symphony board was probably unprecedented. Hampton was eloquent and nonconfrontational when he spoke and I was really impressed with what he had to say. The point is that this was the first time we had a chance to talk with a musician about the issues facing our organization. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that we did as well as we did back then.

Schneider: Without meaning to sound flippant, I can cite one objective measure. Before Hoshin, the musicians’ union legal bills were much higher. There were always grievances on the table. There was not a lot of trust and cooperation in this orchestra.

Sparrow: I’ve been a volunteer here for 10 years, and before that had been an orchestra volunteer in Toledo and Indianapolis. It was much easier to interact with the smaller orchestras. At the Pittsburgh Symphony, I felt I was a nameless, invisible person who worked in the building regularly. I was never acknowledged by senior staff and had no interaction with the orchestra.

Institute: Let’s move forward to today. Describe the changes that you see since you implemented Hoshin.

Sparrow: Hoshin has become much more than a planning technique for the Pittsburgh Symphony. It has also become synonymous with our culture. We have keystone principles such as the fact that every member of every constituency is important and is capable of bringing valuable ideas and insights to the organization. Communication is absolutely the glue that holds the organization together. And it is really okay to have differing opinions. The four constituencies must act together as a team. Today, we are really working together and having fun.

Dickson: I want to emphasize the word “team.” I joined the Pittsburgh Symphony just as we were beginning Hoshin. And I would observe that everybody has taken a psychological ownership of the institution. We do everything together— all of the constituencies—as a team effort. We communicate openly, we listen, and sometimes we disagree. We take the time to talk out our issues and ultimately come to better results.

Todd: Let me offer a concrete example of what Scott and Linda are describing. Our Hoshin number two is a task force from all of our constituencies which is currently focusing on how we can use technology to increase awareness of our classical music product outside the concert hall. In any particular discussion, I may focus more on the economics of a particular proposal or idea. David Gillis, who is a violinist, may be more concerned about the artistic integrity of the product. Susan Perrino, a member of the staff in charge of education and outreach, may have a point of view that reflects her concerns. Kevin DeLuca, our Web master and technology guru, might want to focus on technological goals. The multiplicity of knowledge and considered viewpoints increases the quality and value of what comes out of the discussions. This is not just a “feel-good” process. As an organization, we make better decisions because we have the accumulated wisdom of all our constituencies around the table to participate in those decisions.

Weingartner: Let me tack on another example. As a result of this Hoshin number two discussion, this symphony did something that I am sure no other symphony has done. We mounted a major conference right here in Heinz Hall on the relevance of music to the very earliest ages of childhood. This conference was attended by academics and practitioners from all over the country. It shed a tremendous amount of light on a topic that should interest all who have any interest in music. And it would not have happened without the Hoshin number two discussion in which there was representation from every part of the organization.

Stept: I’ll add an example from Hoshin number four which is trust and cooperation among the four constituencies. As a result of constituent surveys and roundtables, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the annual constituents’ meeting.

The idea is to bring the four groups together to showcase their accomplishments over the past year. The last two years, the four groups have created very humorous and original ways to present their materials. In the process of planning the event, friendships have developed between individuals who had had no reason to work together before, and there has been a strong sense of achievement, pride, and fun. I should add that this event also recognizes individuals for their terms of service with the organization.

Mallory: I want to come back to the idea of a changing culture. To me the most interesting part of the Hoshin experience is that we have dropped some of our defenses. Before Hoshin, if there were two or three orchestra members in a room with management, you never heard more than one opinion from the musicians about what to do. You never heard more than one opinion from the staff about what to do. It is now fascinating to watch people express their true feelings on issues. There may be a situation in which a musician and a board member are on one side and a staff member and two other musicians disagree. The decision that comes out of that process is really a much more informed one. We don’t react with knee jerks but with some really serious consideration of the issues we face.

Schneider: Hampton reminded me of another change that has taken place. The traditional view from those of us in the orchestra was that everything we did was always right; everything management did was always wrong. One of the things we have learned is to deal with the shades of gray. The Hoshin process doesn’t eliminate problems or difficulties. It is a good forum for actually dealing with problems and conflicts and resolving them. And I want to add another example that is not very common in orchestras. Two members of the orchestra committee sit in on the senior management meetings. Yesterday, as I walked out of one of those meetings, the general manager handed me a copy of the budget for this year and projections for the next couple of years. For years, orchestra committees tried to get that information, but it was a secret document. Everyone is working hard to make sure we are really communicating.

Weingartner: I’d like to make explicit something that has already been said but is worth saying more forcefully. In my observation, one important thing that has changed is the fact that the staff is more independent. In the past, the staff spoke when spoken to and put their ideas forth only in private meetings with people to whom they reported. Now, staff members take part in discussions and seem to be much freer in putting forward ideas. In that sense, the institution is getting much more mileage out of people’s talents.

Toeplitz: What Rudy is referring to is the fact that we have a much more democratic process. Some of my colleagues in other orchestras think that I have lost control over the organization. I have to assure them that my responsibilities have not diminished by an inch. I am still responsible for all aspects of our organization. It is just done in a much better way now. It really is more fun to work under a positive atmosphere than a confrontational atmosphere. But I would suggest that anyone who would consider entering the Hoshin process needs to understand that it takes time. You cannot do Hoshin between meetings. Hoshins are meetings. You have to rearrange your priorities to participate in the Hoshin process. Dictatorship doesn’t take time. One person makes the decision and you move on. A democratic process involves listening to other people’s opinions and building consensus which by nature takes time.

Institute: Bob Stearns, you have been the “inside-outsider” for the Hoshin process from the beginning. Share with us your observations of the changes that have taken place in the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Stearns: The best way I can describe the differences between now and two and a half years ago is that the culture of the PSO when I first met them was a culture of “or.” It was either this way or that way. If you were on the wrong side of the “or,” your ideas were not accepted at all. Today I see a culture of “and.” This is an inclusionary culture in which people are willing to listen to each other and to seriously evaluate ideas with which they may disagree in the beginning. In concert with the definition of Hoshin planning, the PSO uses the process to try to get breakthrough ideas on the table. And the PSO organization has internalized the process to the point that Hoshin is now used as an adjective to describe the way that work gets done. Hoshin has become much more than a planning process to the PSO, it has become the culture.

Institute: We get the impression that Hoshin has been and continues to be a learning experience for all of you. So what comes to mind as you look ahead? Might this organization be functioning even more effectively five years from now?

Weingartner: It is particularly important for us to be able to involve more members of the board in the Hoshin process. This is a very time-consuming process of which meetings are an integral part. It is not easy to harness board members for long meetings. In the future, there may need to be some compromises to shorten Hoshin meetings in order to involve more board members. I think that is an organizational necessity in the long run. In the short run, we have been immensely successful.

Schneider: I want to add something to what Rudy just said. About an hour ago, we were discussing some of our goals for the coming season. One suggestion was put forward which was efficient, but would have shortchanged the consensus-building process. But we all agreed that we can’t jump the step. The group needs to reach its own conclusion, to feel ownership. That’s part of the meetings Rudy is talking about. Even a leader who has a good idea cannot impose it on the group.

Mallory: One issue for the musicians is how do we communicate among ourselves what is going on? Communicating results of orchestra committee meetings is one thing. Now with musicians involved in so many aspects of the planning and work of the whole organization, it is even more important. And we haven’t yet taken full advantage of current technology. We hope that hiring a Web master will improve our ability to get the message across to everybody.

Stept: The two groups that have been most difficult to engage have been the board, basically because of their busy schedules, and the volunteers. Last year, the symphony hired a vice president of board and volunteer services. This senior staff member will help tremendously to engage board members and volunteers. I think personal attention, information sharing, and education will result in more interest and commitment to what we are doing here.

Institute: So you are saying that the Hoshin culture is helping people discover new roles that are supportive of more communication, more involvement, and more engagement, and that in itself is worth the investment of time.

Stept: Yes.

Toeplitz: I don’t want to put a timetable on this thought, but in the long term orchestra organizations will have much broader representation than they have had in the past. For 100 years, we have been governed by boards of directors representing limited parts of the community. If you think that in the past we have not listened to our constituencies inside the organization, we certainly have not yet listened to our constituencies outside the organization. We have not involved our audiences who are major contributors to our well being. As we look ahead, we hope to get more involvement from additional constituencies. We want to keep developing participative patterns.

Institute: All of you in this room have been involved with Hoshin from the beginning. How do you engage new musicians, or staff members, or board members, or volunteers in the process?

Stearns: One of our Hoshins addresses the new orientation procedure in all four constituencies. But there are several vehicles beyond that. Over the last year, we have done several training classes for staff on what we call internal customer- supplier relationships and teamwork. We have also done these same types of sessions with the orchestra. We have also generated three new Hoshins for the 2001-2002 season that will provide opportunities for people to get involved directly in Hoshin initiatives. It has been our experience that to really engage somebody, you have to get them involved in a specific activity so they can get the feel for what this is all about for themselves. We are trying to provide both educational and involvement opportunities to keep this an evergreen process. So far, I think it is working well.

Toeplitz: We have also done what we call Hoshin style. It is a way of saying we didn’t go through the formal Hoshin process but we still use the same concept. We have used the concept in the hiring of two vice presidents and in opening a store across the street. Each activity involved representation of all four constituencies. I think that speaks for the acceptance of the process not just for the formal Hoshin, but way beyond that.

Stearns: Let me add something to what Gideon just said. One of the challenges for any organization to extend its culture is how well you do with new people coming in. That will be a consistent challenge for this organization. What we do today is not necessarily the same thing we will do next year. This organization is well aware of the challenge and on top of it.

Dickson: As a younger staff member and one who has been here only three years, I am extremely excited about and motivated by the direction we are taking. Staff members in all departments interact with each other more frequently, both professionally and socially, and although not every staff member may have involvement in the artistic process, we all comfortably can be backstage interacting with the musicians as friends and colleagues. I foresee us being able to attract many young, topnotch people in all four constituencies who want to be involved in a progressive symphony organization.

Institute: Scott, that’s an enormously positive statement. As we are coming to the end of our time together, do any of you have any concluding thoughts you would like to share?

Toeplitz: There is something very important that Harmony readers need to hear and think about. Some people equate Hoshin with labor relations. Hoshin is not labor relations. Hoshin is complete organizational cultural change. Improved labor relations may be a byproduct of Hoshin, but are not guaranteed. To those who would say, “Let’s do Hoshin to improve our labor relations,” I would say, “You are on the wrong track.”

Todd: Let me see if I can sum up where the Pittsburgh Symphony is and where I think it is going. Our organization is dedicated to excellence—performance excellence in the concert hall, and now organizational excellence. To my mind, Hoshin fosters excellence in at least two ways. First, excellence requires extraordinary commitment which is more easily obtained when those involved feel empowered by the organization. The Hoshin process provides the opportunity for empowerment. Second, assuring that members of all constituencies have opportunities to be heard—not just as representatives of their own constituencies, but because of the value of their individual judgments and perceptions—improves markedly the quality of decisions. I don’t know that I can identify the five or ten key issues that we will tackle in the next five years, but I am certain that we will bring this process to bear on those issues. We will continue to be in the vanguard of excellence, both as an orchestra and as an organization. I am incredibly enthusiastic about the future of this organization.

Institute: We congratulate you on the substantive progress you have made as an organization since you began the Hoshin process and thank you all for adding yet one more meeting to your schedules to share your progress with our readers. The ease with which you come together and the very personal stories you share attest to the fact that you understand and are committed to organizational excellence. We look forward to visiting with you yet again down the road.


The Problem Solvers:

Orchestra Personnel Managers A roundtable discussion

As readers of Harmony know, the Institute believes that symphony orchestra organizations are unique and complex. No other organizational genre has been identified which, by tradition and extended practice, has such a complicated multi-party structure and diverse modus operandi. At the same time, symphony organizations as a whole have a quite homogeneous organizational structure which, in turn, perpetuates certain specialized roles involving almost generic duties. To understand how orchestra organizations function, and how they might better function, it is important to become acquainted with this standard organizational structure and the special roles it has engendered.

A special role in almost every North American symphony organization of any scale is the “personnel manager.” The personnel manager is generally responsible for overseeing all operating matters relating to orchestra personnel. Recently, the Orchestra Personnel Managers Conference held its annual meeting in Cincinnati, and we were fortunate to have seven personnel managers join in an elaboration of their day-to-day work and organizational roles. An edited transcript of that roundtable conversation follows.

Institute: Please introduce yourselves and share with our readers your background and current position.

Doug Hall: I am the personnel manager for the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Opera. I won a french horn position with the San Diego Symphony in 1988, and subsequently inherited the position of personnel manager with the San Diego Opera, where I was also a player, upon the retirement of my predecessor. I also served as assistant personnel manager for the San Diego Symphony, and also inherited that personnel manager’s position.

Llew Humphreys: I joined the Utah Symphony in1989 as a second horn, and have been orchestra personnel manager since 1994, serving as a player-manager.

Jeff Neville: My title is director of orchestra personnel for the Saint Louis Symphony which I joined in 1990, following 16 years as a trombonist with the Honolulu Symphony. During the last six of those years, I was also a playing personnel manager with the orchestra. In Saint Louis, I am a nonplaying personnel manager, a member of the staff.

Greg Quick: I joined the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra in 1977 as principal bassoon, and the additional job of personnel manager found me in 1995.

Carl Schiebler: I’ve been personnel manager for the New York Philharmonic since 1986. Prior to that, I was in Saint Louis where I joined the Symphony as a horn player in 1962. I was also playing personnel manager there from 1976 to 1986.

Linda Unkefer: I am a nonplaying personnel manager with the Milwaukee Symphony and have been since September 1990. I started as a cellist with the Canton Symphony, and after serving on that orchestra’s players’ council was asked if I would take the position of personnel manager. I said “yes,” and held the position for 13 years before moving to Milwaukee.

Russell Williamson: I am also a nonplaying personnel manager, and have been with the Atlanta Symphony for four years. I am a horn player and was a playing personnel manager with the Jackson Symphony from 1979 to 1982. I am probably the only one sitting here who actually left the symphony world and came back as a personnel manager. I worked for a chamber music group for eight years, and then looked at jobs totally outside the music industry. But I realized that I want to work with musicians because those are the people whom I understand and appreciate. So here I am.

Institute: As you introduced yourselves, you indicated that you were either playing personnel managers or nonplaying managers. Is that an important distinction?

Schiebler: No. I think that playing or not playing is a nonissue. There was a time when it was perceived as an issue, but I never agreed with that. I didn’t think it was an issue when I was a player, and I don’t think it is an issue as a nonplayer. It’s a staff position. We work for management. But our job responsibility is the health and welfare of our orchestras, of the musicians.

Quick: I agree with Carl. I’m a player-manager and can’t see any real difference. Except my wife reminds me that I have two full-time jobs! And my weekly schedule also reminds me of that.

Unkefer: The important point is how an orchestra is structured and what the workload is. As one who has been both a player-manager, and now as a nonplaying manager, I think I have a good understanding of what everyone does. My assistant personnel manager is a player and we divide our tasks with an eye to who is going to be more successful in a particular area.

Institute: To enlighten our readers about your unique roles within your organizations, can you define the role of the personnel manager?

Neville: My main job is to manage the members of the orchestra, to make sure that they are in the right place at the right time, and to create an atmosphere, or workplace condition, that is conducive for them to do the best job that they possibly can. It is also part of my job to act as the musicians’ advocate in management, to act as a communicator among the music director, upper management, and the musicians. To put it another way, my job is to facilitate the many circumstances that arise in the daily life of an orchestra.

Humphreys: Jeff, you pretty well nailed it on the head. But let me add that in Utah I am a player-manager with a symphony that is going through growing pains. I feel particularly sensitive to the issue of musicians who perceive management as inept in some way or other. I spend a lot of time communicating the abilities of the musicians to management, and I spend a lot of time explaining to musicians the circumstances under which management is operating. Two- way communication is very important, and I’m constantly chipping away at the wall.

Hall: I think that an orchestra’s budget makes a difference in what the personnel manager’s day-to-day role is. We went through a bankruptcy in San Diego and most of the musicians were hurt by the financial strain. I was one of them. So I am particularly happy to be part of the healing process. I can empathize with both the musicians and management. Part of my role is to make sure that the staff understands that the musicians have been through real hardships, and that the musicians understand that the staff did not go through those years and doesn’t bear those scars, and is trying to create a healthy orchestra.

Schiebler: You are so right, Doug. Us versus them doesn’t work. The stakes are too high. Orchestras reflect their communities, and whole communities have interests. The more we can facilitate communication, and openness, and trust, the better.

Williamson: Let me put it a different way, Carl. My job is to sit on the fence. I am paid by management to work for the musicians. What no one has said is that it is our job to follow the contract. We are the contract enforcers. We all have master agreements, and it is our job to make sure that everybody lives within the contract. We look after management’s interests and we look after players’ interests.

Institute: Let’s pursue that “us versus them” idea for a minute. Is that line disappearing? Are your symphony orchestra organizations becoming more unified?

Unkefer: As many Harmony readers know, the Milwaukee Symphony went through some very difficult times in 1992. As a result of the labor agreement that was reached at that time, musicians are now members of all of our board committees. So for the last eight years, the level of management and musicians working together has increased; the level of trust has increased. The comfort level of the orchestra has really grown. The fact that musicians know what is going on on a day-to-day basis and serve on long-term planning committees makes my life a lot easier.

Schiebler: But I think we need to acknowledge that for personnel managers there is some pressure that comes with establishing open communications. It doesn’t matter where the idea of open communications comes from—an orchestra committee, or a music director, or management—once the idea begins, there is pressure to come through. And I think a lot of times, personnel managers become the facilitators or communicators. We need to understand that the issues are changing. Today’s issues are much more complex than those of 20 or 30 years ago. And everybody is trying to grow into the issues of now. Today’s issues involve much more money and much more involvement from board members and professional staff. It seems to me that we need to examine today’s issues and those of the future, and concentrate on finding the most responsible manner to go about solving them.

Institute: In light of the complexities and changing issues that Carl just described, is the personnel manager’s role changing?

Hall: We are still facilitators of the contract. We may be experts about what changes should be made in the contract and we can make recommendations about things that do and don’t work, but we’re still facilitators.

Williamson: Doug, I think there is more to it than that. We have significant amounts of authority, or responsibility, to both our constituents—the orchestra and the management—to manage all of the things that aren’t in the contract. For example, a musician has a problem scheduling time off for a personal matter. We take care of that and management is never involved. Or management has a need that only musicians can fulfill. We talk with a few people who discuss it with their colleagues, and suddenly it’s a done deal. It happens because we make it possible.

Neville: I want to amplify the thought of complexity and changing issues. As you explained, we are currently attending a conference of orchestra personnel managers. And earlier today, we were talking about the family medical leave act and how it affects different orchestras. And it is mind-boggling how laws that affect us vary from state to state, and how each personnel manager must deal with those laws. So I think Doug and Russell put it very well. We are still facilitators and communicators. But, in dealing with musicians’ issues, I don’t think my job has changed that much since I first became personnel manager in Honolulu 16 years ago. Laws, however, have changed, and we have to adapt to those changes.

Institute: Let’s change our focus a bit and talk about how your jobs fit within your orchestras’ organizational structures. Does top management understand your job and give you the kind of support and authority that you need? And do you feel that you are contributing to the orchestra organization as a whole?

Quick: One of the best avenues of support that I get is coming to this conference. I am a personnel manager in a smaller orchestra and don’t have a lot of people with whom to discuss my issues. So this conference is an important source of information which I can take back to my orchestra.

Schiebler: But I think we need to acknowledge that for personnel managers there is some pressure that comes with establishing open communications. It doesn’t matter where the idea of open communications comes from—an orchestra committee, or a music director, or management—once the idea begins, there is pressure to come through. And I think a lot of times, personnel managers become the facilitators or communicators. We need to understand that the issues are changing. Today’s issues are much more complex than those of 20 or 30 years ago. And everybody is trying to grow into the issues of now. Today’s issues involve much more money and much more involvement from board members and professional staff. It seems to me that we need to examine today’s issues and those of the future, and concentrate on finding the most responsible manner to go about solving them.

Institute: In light of the complexities and changing issues that Carl just described, is the personnel manager’s role changing?

Hall: We are still facilitators of the contract. We may be experts about what changes should be made in the contract and we can make recommendations about things that do and don’t work, but we’re still facilitators.

Williamson: Doug, I think there is more to it than that. We have significant amounts of authority, or responsibility, to both our constituents—the orchestra and the management—to manage all of the things that aren’t in the contract. For example, a musician has a problem scheduling time off for a personal matter. We take care of that and management is never involved. Or management has a need that only musicians can fulfill. We talk with a few people who discuss it with their colleagues, and suddenly it’s a done deal. It happens because we make it possible.

Neville: I want to amplify the thought of complexity and changing issues. As you explained, we are currently attending a conference of orchestra personnel managers. And earlier today, we were talking about the family medical leave act and how it affects different orchestras. And it is mind-boggling how laws that affect us vary from state to state, and how each personnel manager must deal with those laws. So I think Doug and Russell put it very well. We are still facilitators and communicators. But, in dealing with musicians’ issues, I don’t think my job has changed that much since I first became personnel manager in Honolulu 16 years ago. Laws, however, have changed, and we have to adapt to those changes.

Institute: Let’s change our focus a bit and talk about how your jobs fit within your orchestras’ organizational structures. Does top management understand your job and give you the kind of support and authority that you need? And do you feel that you are contributing to the orchestra organization as a whole?

Quick: One of the best avenues of support that I get is coming to this conference. I am a personnel manager in a smaller orchestra and don’t have a lot of people with whom to discuss my issues. So this conference is an important source of information which I can take back to my orchestra.

Unkefer: In my first four years in Milwaukee, I had three different general managers. For the last six years, I have worked with the same person. So I think it is key to have a general manager and a personnel manager who work well together. When a general manager really supports you, and treats you professionally, and allows you to make decisions, the job is much easier. So I think it is important to find good people and keep them in their positions. That is a very good thing for orchestra organizations over the long run.

Schiebler: Personnel managers, by their nature, tend to be pretty inquisitive. We’re always responding to questions or players’ needs and we are pretty good at going outside our organizations to find answers and the support we need. Most of us became personnel managers in a kind of accidental way. I was trying to play a horn in Saint Louis and was on the orchestra committee, so I knew something about negotiations, but there was a lot I didn’t know. And over the years, I learned.

Quick: I think you find that it is probably fairly common that very early on many personnel managers had experience on an orchestra committee.

Neville: As a matter of fact, six out of the seven of us were on orchestra committees. But what I want to impress upon your readers is the fact that we deal with some very serious situations involving real people. Sure there are some formal courses we can take, but basically we need to keep our minds open to change. I think that if there is anything on which personnel managers get an A-plus it is dealing with change on a daily and hourly basis and responding to the needs of our orchestras.

Hall: Let me give an example. One of our players died and he didn’t have a will, which resulted in an unhappy situation. So we polled our musicians to determine how many had wills. The answer was not very many, and consequently we have planned a benefit education program that will include having a lawyer talk about wills and living trusts. I think that’s identifying and responding to the needs of the orchestra and being part of the organization.

Humphreys: I want to second what Carl said about getting into personnel management in an accidental way. Our personnel manager in Utah had some serious personal problems and our general manager asked me to step in. I had thought a lot about our problems, and had verbalized them to other people, and decided that it was time to put up or shut up. So I stepped in.

Quick: Although the circumstances were certainly not the same as the ones Llew just described, I was not expecting to be a personnel manager either. But the occasion arose, I was asked, and I said yes.

Neville: I’m a musician. I grew up loving music and I still love music. As a player-manager, and now as a nonplaying manager, I have a very strong sense of pride and dedication to the orchestras for which I have worked. From the contributions I have made, I have attempted to make them better organizations.

Institute: One final question. Can or should personnel managers take a more proactive role in improving communications throughout symphony orchestra organizations?

Neville: I think we need to focus on what we do best. Because if our part of the machinery works well, good things will come out of that. We can’t be executive directors. We can’t be general managers. We can’t be board members. We have to do our jobs as best we can and hope that others will take note and build from there. I feel pretty strongly about this.

Unkefer: I’ll second that. The better that we do our jobs, the more positive effect it will have on individual orchestra musicians. And from that, good things will happen.

Humphreys: I want to go back to what Jeff said about change. The whole process is evolutionary. The opportunities that I get to break down barriers between management and the orchestra are typically one-on-one opportunities, so it is important to remember that change does not occur very rapidly in symphony orchestras. As Jeff said, the best thing that we can do is to do our jobs well.

Williamson: I am probably echoing what has already been said, but we are the facilitators in the trenches. If we can convince one individual that there might be a different way of looking at a particular situation, we have made a contribution to the organization as a whole.

Quick: Being problem solvers is the most important thing we do as personnel managers, and is the way we advance our organizations. I have a job description that is 27 paragraphs long, but the bottom line of that job description is “just fix it.”

Institute: That really sums it up and we thank you for being a part of the Institute’s effort to educate readers about the standard structure of and specialized roles within North American symphony orchestra organizations.



As I reviewed the personnel managers’ roundtable discussion and compared its messages with those pervading the Oregon, Pittsburgh, and Hartford discussions, I found myself once again thinking deeply about the difficulties and challenges most symphony institutions continue to face if they ever want to become comprehensively engaging and highly effective organizations.

Let me provide some background for the personnel managers’ roundtable. In late 1993, when I was struck with the idea of forming an entity to address the organizational issues within the symphony orchestra institution, I exposed the idea to a few friends, asking them for the names of people with whom I should discuss the idea further. I was put in touch with Bill Moyer, former personnel manager and trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Bill and I had a very formative discussion about how symphony organizations are structured and function, and his enthusiasm for the idea of an institute devoted to this topic was instrumental to its subsequent creation. It was through Bill’s eyes that I first became familiar with the unique role of “personnel manager” in the North American symphony organization. My regard for Bill and his former duties was the genesis of regularly having a personnel manager be a member of the Institute’s Board of Advisors. Discussions with Bill were at the root of having a roundtable discussion among a representative group of personnel managers, a goal now accomplished with the enthusiastic assistance of Julie Haight, personnel manager of the Minnesota Orchestra, and a member of the Institute’s Board of Advisors.

As the personnel managers agreed, they were drawn or recruited into their roles because they understood orchestra musicians and could help management and players operate under a collective bargaining agreement. The participants emphasized their role as first-line problem solvers and two way communicators— almost mutual interpreters between parties who speak different languages. More than one participant reported that, as musicians, whether former or continuing orchestra members, they had high personal regard and great empathy for their playing colleagues, and it was their assignment to care and provide for the orchestra, on behalf of the institution.

As they quite accurately explained their role in their organizations, I was painfully reminded of the great gulf which still exists between the members of most orchestras, as the central component in a symphony organization, and the members of the other quite vital constituencies—the administrative and conducting staff, the board, and the volunteer group. Historically, and thus now embedded by tradition, we have built into our orchestra systems these widely spaced and boundaried constituencies, and have particularly maintained the wide space between the orchestra and management, and between the orchestra and the board. Then, we have come to rely on an elaborate legal document to describe and define this space and all the activity to be conducted over and through it. And finally, in essence, we have assigned, to a single person, the task of interpreting, facilitating, bridging, administering, and managing most of the human interactions and relationships which must take place across this no man’s land.

Except for a relatively few organizations, we are doing too little to mix, cross- involve and integrate all the human activity taking place in an orchestral workplace in order for this activity to result in sustained, growing benefits to the community being served, and in turn, growing recognition and increasing material awards to the organization’s participants. Too few organizations are learning how to bring about and then release a natural and boundary-free flow of multiple, widely inclusive human interactions throughout the organization which build trust, communications, and understanding, and which result in unified action toward a shared purpose. These processes extend infinitely beyond what one person and a document can achieve, never mind how necessary both may be in today’s world.

But we should be looking forward and finding new and better approaches, as is happening in Hartford, Portland, and Pittsburgh as well as in a few other cities. Orchestral organization workplaces need to be significantly more invigorating and engaging to all employees and volunteers. More organizations should be taking the concerted steps to achieve this better world. In the process, many of the rather singular expectations of the personnel manager will and should be shouldered by many other participants throughout the organization.

Paul R. Judy, founder and chairman of the Symphony Orchestra Institute, is a retired investment banking executive. He is a life trustee and former president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Judy holds A.B. and M.B.A. degrees from Harvard University.


About the Cover

For the cover of this issue, we have picked one of the most famous passages in all music, the opening of the Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, in order to highlight a signal moment in the history of American music. On February 10, 1866, Theodore Thomas conducted the American premiere of this revolutionary music, less than a year after the world premiere of Wagner’s opera in Munich. (The complete opera waited another 20 years for its first New York staging.) In this, as in so many musical matters, Thomas was a pioneer. When the critics railed against the Tristan prelude—the New York Times dismissed it as “absolutely without significance”—Thomas only

strengthened his resolve to keep playing the music of Wagner, whom he considered a genius on a par with Beethoven. Seven months later, Thomas led the American premiere of the Meistersinger Overture. In time, Beethoven and Wagner became the twin pillars of his programs.

Thomas had inaugurated a series of evening concerts with his orchestra in December 1864, a defining step in the career of this visionary American conductor and musical organizer. His intent in launching these “symphony soirées” was to bring the most important and “serious” music to the public. (The series immediately provided stiff competition to the New York Philharmonic: for a five-concert subscription, Thomas charged five dollars, substantially less than the Philharmonic’s eight.) The first season, which coincided with the final winter of the Civil War, Thomas lost money, but he made many new friends for orchestral music and attracted key supporters, including William Steinway (of the piano family) and Gustav Schirmer, the music publisher.

When Thomas announced his second season in the fall of 1865, he reaffirmed his commitment to presenting new scores “which belong to the modern school and have never been played in this country,” alongside the works of the “great masters.” Thomas recognized that Wagner and other progressive composers of the day “represent the growth and effort of our own times,” and he expected audiences to share his conviction and his curiosity. This was part of a programming ideology that would remain Thomas’s hallmark and set the policy for major orchestras in the future: a careful balance of familiar landmarks, little- known works by major composers, and new music.

Thomas’s orchestra didn’t even have a name at first; sometime during the second season, when the Tristan prelude was premiered, it became known informally, and then officially, as the Theodore Thomas Orchestra. It couldn’t claim a home base until the following season, when Thomas and the orchestra inaugurated New York’s brand new Steinway Hall. That season Thomas’s riskiest programming choice was his own transcription of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz. When the audience hissed the unfamiliar score, Thomas launched a tradition that persists in concerts of new music to this day: he simply turned around and played it again.

Phillip Huscher is the program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.



Wither the Audience for Classical Music?

The witty essay that follows had its genesis in an address that author Douglas Dempster delivered at the American Center in Tokyo in August 2000. While conceding that assessing the vitality of classical music is a complicated question, Dempster posits that classical musical activity in the U.S. is greater today than it was 20 years ago.

Prophets of Doom

Dempster opens his essay with a review of what critics have had to say in recent years about the declining condition of classical music in the U.S. He then begins to turn those assessments inside out. Using data from a series of government reports, the author guides readers toward the conclusion that while growth for live-concert classical music may have been modest over the last 20 years, there has been no decline.

He next turns his attention to the demographics of the classical music audience, suggesting that although the audience actually present in the concert hall may be aging, the overall audience for classical music is not. This leads to the conclusion that the overall audience for classical music is actually growing.

The Influence of Electronics

After reviewing statistics from the Recording Industry Association of America, Dempster points out that in a recorded-music market that has grown nearly 100 percent in 10 years, classical music sales have held their own, increasing from $237 million in 1989 to $453 million in 1998. He hazards a guess that the audience for classical music will also quickly embrace the emerging Internet-based sales and distribution of classical recordings. “Wither the Audience for Classical Music?” Doug Dempster says no.

Wither the Audience for Classical Music?

In recent years, the “death” of classical music—or at very least, its terminal illness—has seemed a foregone conclusion among America’s music critics. For many, the question was not whether classical music was dying so much as what, or who, had killed

it. A common sentiment among critics, and the impression left on their readers, was that a lively golden age, when classical music was still a popular art form, had passed away. Orchestras and chamber groups, audiences, schools, publishers, and recording businesses stagger along, driven by little more than cultural inertia, slowly withering away in favor of more lively, popular arts of our day.

I’m going to argue that nothing can be further from the truth. Contrary to what we hear from many critics, classical music activity in the U.S. is certainly greater today, by any tangible measure, than it was 20 years ago.

Before pressing my case, I also want to be quick to warn that the vitality of classical music is a large and complicated question. How are we to judge the health of something so vast, so culturally slippery, as “classical music”? One thing is for sure, the occasional grim anecdote, a critic’s wistful remembrances of better times past, even an ominous statistic or two tell us too little about a very large beast. Like the proverbial blind man trying to decide on the shape of an elephant from the roughness of its skin, we need to take a broader and less subjective perspective on the state of classical music.

A thorough study would give attention to the current state of the symphony orchestra as well as chamber music, to the state of music education and recreational musicianship, to the music publishing business, to training programs and employment opportunities for professional musicians and composers, and other relevant, tangible measures of the culture and marketplace for classical music. I’m going to focus in this essay on only one, albeit very important, part of that large issue: how robust is the audience for classical music in the U.S.? My claim is that the audience for classical music, far from withering away, is growing. However, I try to point out that it is growing in ways that are nontraditional, heavily influenced by technological, social, and demographic factors, and shaped by economic forces that may not preserve traditional institutions and conventions of the classical music world. Where the news is bad for classical music, I argue, the causes are rarely unique to or singularly significant for classical music; all culture is influenced by these forces and classical music is not immune.

The Critics: Prophets of Doom

Let me give a taste of what critics have been saying in recent years about the state of classical music in the U.S. In the politically conservative New Criterion, the late editor and music critic Samuel Lipman extolled the importance of classical music to “our” culture and witnessed its decline in morbid horror:

The classical music that we have celebrated has been for us the culmination of our civilization. Unrenewed, properly honored only in private, forced to justify itself to every demagogic politician, editorial- page writer, corporate mogul, and foundation executive, classical music now stands, for the first time in the modern world, on the periphery of culture . . . classical music today is in deep trouble. It is not clear whether we can do more than bear witness.1

Norman LeBrecht, music critic for the London Daily Telegraph, published in 1996 his lurid account of the classical music business, Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros,Managers,andClassicalMusic.2 Asmusiccriticsandjournalists,Lipman and LeBrecht couldn’t be more different. Lipman was every bit the cranky conservative. LeBrecht, by contrast, is a gossipy tabloid journalist who is fasci- nated by the personal and professional depravities of the maestros and managers who “killed” classical music. But they certainly agree on the crisis in classical music. LeBrecht wrote:

Ticket sales have tumbled, record revenue has shriveled, major players have lost their independence, state and business funds have dried up and artists who might formerly have looked forward to an independent solo career have gone begging for wage packets in the ranks of orchestras, themselves threatened with extinction. . . . The future of musical performance hangs in the balance at the close of the twentieth century.3

It’s not just the journalists who have foreseen the end. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcomb wrote a widely cited article in a 1990 edition of Musical America titled “Trouble in the Music World” in which he spoke for many contemporary composers4 when he warned that:

We are, it seems, currently witnessing a crumbling of the façade of the serious music scene in the United States. Concert sales are generally down. . . . The serious music publishing industry is almost defunct . . .sales of records and tapes are suffering . . . [and] it is nearly impossible to make a living exclusively as a serious composer.5

As if to underscore his forecast, Musical Americawent out of business only two years later, after 112 years of continuous publication!

Symphony orchestras, which make up so much of the total culture and market that is classical music in America, have come in for special attention from those who see in their problems the end of classical music. One writer in the New York Timessuccinctly summarized the problems and the despair in orchestras:

There is much unease today among those who head America’s orchestras. Statistics show that audiences are aging, and the collapse of arts education in the public schools makes it difficult to find new listeners among a younger, more ethnically diverse urban population. The repertory has grown stuffy and predictable, and daring ventures tend to alienate old, reliable subscribers. Finances are shaky in all the arts, but orchestras . . . are particularly vulnerable.6

Music critic Joseph Horowitz read into the troubles of orchestras the demise of the orchestral age:

[After World War I], America’s orchestras turned hostile to American music, to contemporary art, to creativity itself . . . . The glamour of . . . the “Platinum Orchestra age” was guaranteed not to last. The celebrity conductors died off. The canonized repertoire grew old and overly familiar. . . . By the 1980s the complacency of the classical music establishment was stultifying—except to the administrators and music businessmen who preserved the status quo.7

Turn these prophets of doom on their heads. Judging by the popularity and economic success of classical music we live in something of a classical music goldenage.8 Classicalmusicismorewidelyheardandavailable,performedata higher level of preparation and artistry, both in the U.S. and, I would wager, around the world, than it has ever been before. At very least, I’ll insist on this: if classical music is in some kind of trouble, it is trouble that is simply not evident in tangible measures of its popularity and availability.

Is the Audience Withering?

If there is any one “fact” that most captures our fear that classical music is dying, it is the withering away of the audience for classical music. The general impression in the world of music is that the audience for classical music performances, recordings, radio and video programming, printed music, and literature about classical music is disappearing. The traditional lovers of classical music are aging, it is supposed. They’re going to fewer concerts than before and buying fewer records than ever. Most worrisome of all, they’re not being replaced by younger generations of listeners who, like the middle-aged baby boomers, have a juvenile fixation on rock-and-roll or other popular musics. The audience for classical music is literally dying off. Or so the argument goes.

But where is the evidence to support this bleak prognosis? A careful look suggests that the truth is not so simple and not nearly so discouraging. While orchestras have struggled to fill concert halls during long concert seasons, the audience attendance at classical music concerts of all kinds has increased steadily over the last 20 years. The National Endowment for the Arts has sponsored several Surveys of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPAs), in 1982, 1985, 1992, and 1997. Some of the raw, noncomparative statistics from these studies make it difficult to believe that the fine and performing arts in the U.S. are in any kind of trouble. In the 1997 SPPA, 50 percent of all Americans surveyed indicated some audience participation in classical music, jazz, opera, musical theater, plays, ballets, or art museums. (In these studies, “audience participation” is defined as “attendance at a live performance at least once in the past 12 months.”) This was up from 41 percent in the 1992 survey.9

Of those surveyed in 1997, 15.6 percent indicated that they had attended some classical music concert over the last year, with an average number of 3 concerts attended by each.10 That’s an audience for classical music concerts of nearly 90 million concert tickets a year, and this does not include opera, ballet, or jazz.

These concert figures are dwarfed by the numbers of Americans who listen to classical music through various electronic media. The 1997 SPPA indicates that 41 percent of Americans listen to classical music at least once each year on radio. Of Americans surveyed, 34 percent indicated that they have listened to classical music at least once a year on recordings.

Of course, these numbers don’t tell us how serious or avid these listeners may be. They don’t tell us whether they’re listening to outdated recordings of Pachabel’s Canon or the latest recordings of premiere performances by living composers. The numbers don’t tell us whether radio listeners are using classical music as background music or whether they’re actively listening. But the sheer scale of the participation suggests that classical music is at least a casual interest for nearly half of all Americans. And if that’s true, then there must be a smaller but still very significant percentage for whom it is a serious enthusiasm.

An Economic Analysis

Astonishingly, by some measures, classical music and other performing arts are seeing healthier market growth than are the motion picture and spectator sports industries. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce) shows that consumers spent $9.4 billion on admissions to all performing arts events in 1998. In the same year, consumers spent $6.8 billion on movies and $7.6 billion attending spectator sports events.11 Spending on performing arts events, including classical music, increased by 16 percent between 1993 and 1998, in real, inflation-adjusted dollars. Total spending on movie attendance and spectator sports increased during the same period at somewhat slower rates.12 The same study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that during the same period, consumers were willing to spend more, on average, on the performing arts events they attended than they spent on movies and sporting events.

These studies tell us something about where the performing arts fit in the spending habits of Americans. Admittedly, it’s not all good news for the arts. Between 1993 and 1998, the average American spent a smaller percentage of his or her total recreation or entertainment dollars on the performing arts. In 1993, American consumers spent just 2 percent of their discretionary income on the performing arts. By 1998, that had fallen to 1.68 percent.13 But this has to be put in context. Other traditional categories of “recreational spending,” including movies, spectator sports, books, gardening materials, magazines, sheet music, etc., all saw declines in their share of the consumer’s recreational spending. Over the same six-year period, consumer spending on computer hardware and softwareincreasedbymorethan600percent.14 Addtothisobservationthefact that this was a period of great prosperity in America, and it’s clear that total consumer spending on the performing arts has very likely increased dramatically during this period. In context, one has to conclude that as a traditional form of recreational activity, the performing arts have remained a persistent choice for Americans enjoying great prosperity and ever-increasing options for their recreational spending.

These studies don’t distinguish classical music among the performing arts. While the performing arts in America would seem to be economically healthy, classical music may not be enjoying its share of that health. Is the audience for classical music shrinking in size in the U.S.?

Here again, studies and statistics make it hard to find even a modest decline in the size of audiences for classical music. The SPPA surveys clearly show that between 1982 and 1997, the size of the audience for live-performance classical music has held steady and more recently even grown, as a percentage of the total population. In 1982, 12.5 percent of Americans surveyed indicated that they had attended at least one classical music concert over the last 12 months.15 By 1997, the percentage had increased to 15.6 percent of all Americans. With an increasing population, these modest percentage increases mean significant increases in the overall size of the audience for classical music in the U.S. The adult population of the U.S. grew by approximately 15 percent over this 15- year period.16 Consequently, concert attendance for classical music concerts didn’t shrink at all, but actually grew by approximately 3.5 million.

Symphony orchestras, as one part of the classical music world, got a scare in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and since then have seen some encouraging trends. American orchestras have seen total concert attendance increase nearly 19 percent over the period from 1990 to 1998; that’s 5 million more seats filled each year for concerts than 8 years earlier. During the same period, income to orchestras from the sale of concert tickets increased by 37 percent.17 Taken together, these facts indicate that the audience for orchestra concerts is growing both in real numbers and as a percentage of the U.S. adult population. Increased ticket revenues can only mean either that there are more people attending each concert than ever, or that they are paying more, in real dollars, than they have before. The truth is likely to be a combination: more people attending the average concert at a higher average cost per ticket—very good news indeed for orchestras.

Many orchestras struggled to retain season or series subscriptions during the 1980s and 1990s. Concerts are, much more than in the past, filled by occasional ticket buyers rather than subscribers. This is both bad and good news for orchestras. It is harder to market and distribute concert sales to many more occasional listeners than to a smaller number of available series subscribers. But it also indicates that audiences are becoming broader and perhaps more diverseintheirinterests.18 That’sgoodnewsforthecultureoforchestralmusic in the U.S.

The growth of the audience for live-concert classical music has been modest over a nearly 20-year period, and it certainly hasn’t declined. On the other hand, the size of the audience for classical music heard through electronic media has grown at a stunning rate over the same period. Between 1982 and 1997, the percentage of Americans who reported listening to classical music on the radio increased from 18 percent to 41 percent of the adult population, an increase of approximately 50 million listeners.19 Similar trends are evident in the use of recorded media for listening to classical music. By these measures, the last 20 years have seen huge growth for the classical music audience through electronic media.

The Aging Audience

But surely the audience for classical music is aging, isn’t it? I’ve heard some version of this story dozens of times from worried musicians, concert producers, critics, and orchestra administrators: “When I was a boy, young musicians would sneak into concerts to hear the great orchestras, conductors, and soloists of the day; now when I go to the symphony, I see nothing but gray heads; I’m middle- aged and I’m often the youngest person at the concert!” The suggestion is that “in the old days,” audiences for classical music were young, vibrant, and growing, but that today they’re aging and withering. What do studies show about the aging of the audience for classical music?

In an influential study of concert attendance and other forms of arts participation published in 1996, a group of researchers concluded that the baby- boom generation20 is not participating in classical music and the arts generally at a level that would be predicted based on the participation rate of earlier generations.21 Whatthisgroupfoundwhentheylookedattheartsactivitiesof different age groups in the U.S. was that educational achievement and income were the two strongest predictors of a person’s involvement with the arts. For Americans born between 1946 and 1965, attendance at classical music performances was significantly lower than for older generations, even when factors of educational achievement and income were controlled.22 Also, participation rates fell off significantly as generations of Americans got younger: 17- to 26-year-olds attended classical music concerts much less frequently than did 37- to 46-year-old baby boomers. And finally, this analysis also seemed to indicate that younger generations did not increase the frequency with which they attended classical music concerts as they aged over the period from 1982 to 1992.23

The worry in these statistics is that the different participation rates in classical music concerts among younger-generation Americans reflects a declining interest in classical music and perhaps an even more fundamental cultural evolution away from classical music as we’ve come to know it. Some commentators have wondered and even celebrated the possibility that for many baby boomers, “classical music” has come to mean the music of Elvis, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. Is it possible that as Americans age, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms will be displaced by Berry, the Beatles, and “the Boss”?

A careful review of this research suggests a less startling conclusion. It is true that younger generations of Americans, especially the baby boomers, are not attending classical music concerts with the frequency of older generations. However, every generation considered in this study increased very significantly its listening to classical music through radio and recorded media over the 10-year period between 1982 and 1992. Americans born between 1916 and 1945 listened to classical music on the radio with greater frequency than younger generations. But growth in radio-listening habits was the very greatest in the baby-boom generation.24

As the entire American audience for classical music was shifting toward radio, at the expense of concert attendance, baby boomers, more than any other demographic group, were shifting their attention to recorded media: the LP record, the cassette tape, and the CD. Between 1982 and 1992, listening to classical music on recorded media increased for every age group of Americans.25 But it increased the most, during that period, for the baby-boom generation.

These complicated statistics tell us several things. First—and this should be no surprise—classical music consumption is heavily influenced by electronic technologies and media. Audiences have shifted, and will very likely continue to shift, their discretionary time and dollars toward new technologies for listening to classical music. Second and contrary to the critics, younger generations of Americans do seem to be “growing into” a more mature interest in classical music, but they will probably, much more so than their parents, satisfy that interest outside the concert hall. The audience in the symphony concert hall may be aging, in relative terms, but the overall audience for classical music is not.26 Third, the trends revealed by these demographic data have no special relevance to classical music; very similar trends can be found affecting a wide variety of other art forms and entertainments.

The Future of the Recording Business

But surely the news from the classical recording business indicates that classical music is in serious trouble, does it not? The classical music world has been rocked recently by the news that BMG Classics (a division of BMG Entertainment, which is itself a division of the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann) will consolidate and reduce its classical music releases, or so it has been rumored, from 200 to as few as 10 per year. The recording industry is dominated by a small number of large multimedia corporations which find it increasingly difficult to justify classical recording projects that often take years to repay production, marketing, and distribution costs. In the U.S., it costs approximately $200,000 to produce an orchestral CD that may sell, if it is successful, only several thousand copies worldwide andoverthelifeofdistribution.27 It’snosurprisethen that fewer and fewer orchestras can interest major labels in taking the risk of orchestral recordings.

However, the bad news coming from the major recording companies does not tell an accurate story about the general health of the marketplace for classical music recordings. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in 1999, the total value of recorded music distributed in the U.S., on all media, grew by a very healthy 6.3 percent, from a $13.7 billion market in 1998 to a $14.5 billion market in 1999.28 The American market for recorded music has shown phenomenal growth over the nine years between 1990 and 1999, approximately doubling in size over that period, when measured by the dollar value of all the recordings shipped to merchants by recording companies.29

How have classical music recordings done by comparison with other styles of music? Judging from the popular press, one would expect that the market for classical music recordings has declined enormously. That’s simply not true. In 1989, classical music recording sales made up 3.6 percent of the total market for records.30 In 1998, classical music record sales made up 3.3 percent of the market. That’s not quite a 10 percent decline in market share, but this is well within year-to-year fluctuations of the market for classical music recordings. It is important to remember that in a market that has grown by nearly 100 percent over 10 years, this 3.3 percent market share translates into a vast increase in total quantity and value of classical recordings in the marketplace. The classical- recording market in the U.S., according to RIAA statistics, was a $237 million market in 1989. With a slightly lower market share in 1998, that market for classical music recordings has nearly doubled to $453 million.

Having only 3.3 percent of the U.S. recording market, one might argue, is nothing to brag about. Even if there had been no decline in market share, some would see a crisis in the mere fact that classical music holds such a small share of the musical interest of Americans. But this has to be put in context. If market share is any measure of cultural health, the real crisis in American musical culture is in rock-and-roll, which sank from a 41.7 percent share of the market in 1989 to 25.7 percent in 1998. That’s what I call a sustained and precipitous decline. Jazz has lost half its market share, sinking in 10 years from 4.9 percent of the market to a tiny 1.9 percent. Pop and “new age” have lost one-third to one-half of their market shares over this period. Country music has approximately doubled in its share of the music marketplace, but still controls only 14 percent of the market. If there is any very clear trend in the sale of recordings in the U.S., it is a trend toward musical tastes becoming more fragmented and more eclectic. The marketplace for music recordings is now less dominated by any one musical style.

In a cultural marketplace of this kind, the remarkable fact is that the audience for classical music has grown along with the general growth of the recording industry.

Whither the Audience?

I haven’t offered anything approximating an exhaustive survey of the known data on the classical music audience. But the studies reviewed here make it perfectly clear that critics have, perhaps in a spate of millennial fever, greatly exaggerated the demise of classical music at the end of the 20th century. Even worse, however, they have witnessed very complex trends in the culture of classical music and reduced them to the morally simplistic calculus of “rise” and “decline.” Musical and cultural critics misinterpret economic, demographic, and technological changes affecting the world of classical music as signaling some spiritual decay in the culture of classical music itself. The audience for classical music is not withering, but technological, sociological, and economic forces are reshaping that audience in important ways.

To illustrate: it’s true that professional orchestras have struggled financially as they have reached various limits on audience size, cost-cutting, fundraising, and expansion of programs. However, at the same time that orchestras have struggled financially, chamber music is enjoying enormous growth in the U.S.31 While it’s not the whole story, the mobility and cost-effectiveness of chamber- music groups surely contribute very significantly to the comparative economic success of chamber music. The struggles of symphony orchestras are reported everywhere in the press, but one hears little about the growth of chamber music.

Consider another example. For-profit, commercial radio stations that broadcast classical music are now virtually nonexistent in the U.S. Only a handful of such stations still exist in only the very largest radio markets. They’ve gone the way of the old radio orchestras. The radio frequencies controlled by these stations have proved far more profitable as commercial rock, country, or pop music stations, which reach much larger audiences. Over the last 30 years, however, not-for-profit radio, which has a dedicated segment of the FM band, has grown enormously. Local public radio stations can be found throughout the U.S. and many of these provide classical music programming.

It is also true, of course, that major recording companies have begun to diminish their investment in the small market for classical music. This is a reflection of the generally more competitive nature of that industry than it is any intimation of the mortality of the classical tradition. Classical music recording projects, which were even in the best of times not very profitable, are harder than ever for recording companies to rationalize in the face of increasing competition and increased corporate accountability to shareholders. However, as the largest recording companies have reduced their stake in the classical music market, dozens of small companies have emerged to produce classical music recordings for small markets.

Internet-based digital technologies are revo- lutionizing once again the marketing and distribution of music. The clear trend in the recording industry is toward Web-based distribution of recordings, often directly marketed from the artist or record company to consumers. The licensing agreement between and several of the major record companies that had sued for copyright infringement is a startling indication of just how swift this change in the music industry may be.32 Early indications suggest that the audience for classical music, tending to be well educated, prosperous, and technologically savvy, will move quickly to embrace Internet-based sales, and even distribution, of recordings. There is at least the prospect that Web-based music distribution may stimulate the music industry, and especially classical music, as profoundly as did CD technology. For one example of this, the American Federation of Musicians has recently ratified a precedent-setting “Internet Agreement” that gives individual orchestras and their musicians much greater autonomy in negotiating agreements about Internet-based distribution of recordings than did past electronic media agreements.

For a second, more poignant illustration, consider that Musical America, the music magazine that had been published for 112 continuous years until 1992—the year in which William Bolcomb predicted the “crumbling of the façade of the serious music scene”—has now been successfully rejuvenated on the World Wide Web.

Douglas Dempster is dean of academic affairs and founding director of the Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Program at the Eastman School of Music where he is also an associate professor of philosophy. He also serves a member of the Board of Advisors of the Symphony Orchestra Institute.


1 Lipman, Samuel. 1992. Music and More: Essays, 1975-1991. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, p. 25. First published in New Criterion, 1991.

2 LeBrecht, Norman. 1997. Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros, Managers, and Classical Music. Secaucus, NJ: Birch Lane Press.

3 LeBrecht, pp. 5 and 12.

4 Music critic and composer John Warthen Struble, wrote that “[w]e may acknowledge that the symphony, opera, ballet, and chamber music have ceased to speak to our culture in any vital way.” Struble, J.W. 1991. Musical America 111 (7): 26-27.

5 Bolcomb, William. 1990. Musical America 110 (3): 20. 6 Schwarz, K. Robert. 1993. The Crises of Tomorrow are Here Today. New York

Times, October 31, “Arts and Leisure”: 31-32. 7 Horowitz, Joseph. 1995. The Post-Classical Predicament: Essays on Music and

Society. Boston: Northeastern University Press, pp.#198-199.

8 For the purpose of this essay, I assume, uncritically and unwisely, that the term “classical music” is meaningful in some ahistorical, timeless sense that allows us to refer sensibly to this body of music or the culture that supports it across historical periods. That raises an important question that begs, on another occasion, to be answered.

9 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Research Division. June 1998. Note #70. (See <>.)

10 Ibid.

11 NEA Research Division. March 2000. Note #75. (See < pub/>.)

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid, p. 3.

14 Ibid, p. 3.

15 NEA Research Division. October 25, 1993. Note #50. Public Participation in the Arts: 1982 and 1992, p. 3.

16 170.6 million U.S. adults in 1982 to 195.6 million in 1997.

17 See American Symphony Orchestra League Web site: <http://>.

18 I owe this nice observation to Paul Judy.

19 See National Endowment for the Arts Research Division. June 1998. Note #70. 1997 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts: Half of U.S. Adults Attended Arts Performances or Exhibitions, Table 3, p.7; and NEA Research Division. October 25, 1993. Note #50. Public Participation in the Arts: 1982 and 1992, Table 2, p. 9.

20 In the year 2000, this group included Americans aged 35 to 55, making up more than half the adult population of the U.S.

21 Peterson, Richard A., Darren E. Sherkat, Judith Huggins Balfe, and Rolf Meyersohn. 1996. Age and Arts Participation, with a Focus on the Baby Boom Cohort. NEA Research Division Report #34. Santa Ana, CA: Seven Locks Press.

22 Ibid, pp. 16-19. 23 Ibid, pp. 24-28. 24 Ibid, p. 59. 25 Ibid, p. 63.

26 The baby boomers, as a generation, have tended to have children later in life and have tended to be two-career families. The Peterson et al. study also points out that these trends may explain the lower participation rates among baby boomers in classical music concerts. Add to this the facts that America has, during the post–World War II period, become “suburbanized” and that the real-dollar cost of attending live performances has gone up significantly over a 30-year period. Taken together with the vast improvements in audio technology over 30 years, there should be little surprise that younger audiences are not getting their classical music through concert performances in urban centers at the same rate as their parents’ generation.

27 Waleson, Heidi. 1997. CD, Symphony, January-February:, 46. 28 See Recording Industry of America (RIAA) at: <


29 Ibid. The number of “units” (e.g., CD, CD single, LP, Cassette, DVD, etc.) shipped in 1990 was 865.7 million. By 1999, that number had grown to nearly 1.2 billion, a 34 percent increase. This means that the cost to consumers of recordings has gone up as preferences have shifted from LP and cassette to CD and, now, DVD. So the growth in terms of records has not matched the growth in the market value. By the same token, these new media typically contain much more content than conventional LPs

and cassettes, greatly increasing the amount of music available to consumers on each record.

30 See RIAA. 1998 Consumer Profile. At <>.

31 Supportive data on chamber music activity is hard to come by. The only good data I’ve been able to find documenting growth in the chamber music culture in the U.S. is from the U.S. Census Bureau. The bureau did a census of service industries in 1982 and 1987 as part of a five-year Economic Census. Between 1982 and 1987, the number of “chamber music organizations” counted in these studies increased 2.5 times. Even as the number of groups was growing rapidly, average revenues for these groups increased (not adjusted for inflation) by 32 percent over that same five- year period. This indicates a huge increase in the total economic activity surrounding chamber music performance in the U.S. (The total number of chamber music organizations counted in these census studies was very small, e.g., 75 in 1987. The study is careful to point out that the census greatly understates the number of active chamber music groups. The census studies counted only groups with a significant tax identity which excluded all groups with annual revenues below $25,000 and any group organizationally subsumed under a larger organization such as a university. Also, 27 percent of the “classical music organizations” considered in the 1987 study did not “self-designate” as one of the three categories: symphony orchestra, opera company, chamber music organization.) See National Endowment for the Arts Research Division Note #47, September 30, 1993.

32 As I complete this essay, a federal judge is considering a potentially fatal punitive damage award for copyright infringement against


Symphony Orchestra Organizations in the 21st Century

About a year ago, the Institute initiated a review of its own strategic development. Since our mission is to help symphony organizations become more effective through positive organizational change, we decided that an important element in our planning should be to learn more about how persons in and closely observing symphony organizations viewed the future of these organizations.

As a step in this direction, we turned to our Board of Advisors, saying: “We are gathering views about the future environment for symphony organizations and how they might be functioning in that environment, including attaining a better understanding of the factors and forces which will foster or impede organizational change.”

We provided our advisors with11very challenging questions, thoughtful responses to which would clearly take a commitment of time and intellect. We also promised those who participated that we would feed back to them their collective views. We were pleased and grateful that 13 current and former advisors stepped up to our challenge.

With the tireless assistance of a volunteer, Dr. John Boaz, a retired faculty member and administrator at Illinois State University, we integrated these responses into a report for our board which was shared with the participating advisors, and obtained from them permission to share the report with the readers of Harmony, and more broadly, with all those who are interested in the future of symphony organizational development into the 21st century.

The full report is posted on the Institute’s Web site in a format that can easily be downloaded and printed. Below, almost in the form of a “slide presentation,” are the 11 questions addressed in this report and a set of sentences which, in a highly condensed form, characterize whole series and sets of responses by the participants. From these “bullet point” summations, we hope to convey to our readers a hint of what is available in the full report on our Web site, <>.

In order to provoke even more thought about the symphony organization of the 21st century, we have interspersed in the condensation below a range of quotations about the future environment in which symphony organizations and their audiences will function. These quotations will be more fully referenced in the full report available on our Web site.


  • Consumer demographics will not change.
  • The customer’s basic reason for coming to the symphony will not change.
  • But their musical interests will be more complex and demanding.
  • The trend away from subscription sales will continue.
  • And real “customer service” must be at the top of the agenda.
  • The limited number of young people in today’s symphony audience should not be disconcerting.
  • But educating children to symphonic music is the key to assuring future audiences.

And orchestras will play a more direct role in their music education.

“World population is now about 6 billion, and a century from now is likely to be around 10 billion and growing only slowly.”

– Anonymous

“Never. . . have so many races, nationalities, and cultures mixed, and the combinations have only begun.”

– G. Pascal Zachary

“[L]ife spans of 100 years or more could become common.”

– David Gardner

“ [T]he Census Bureau predicts that the over-85 population will grow to 18 million in 2050 from 5 million today.”

– Anonymous

“The mental capacities of our grandchildren . . . will be dramatically greater, on the average, than our own.”

– Christopher Wills


  • Community preferences in programming, scheduling, and even locations will change.
  • People are returning to the city, and arts organizations can stimulate economic development.
  • Several communities will receive major funding and become centers of symphonic music.
  • There may need to be a different funding template altogether.
  • There will be more community-based orchestras. And many present city-based orchestras will become state- or region-based.


  • Technology will change the way symphony organizations do business.
  • But the orchestra industry will probably resist technological change.

Technology will be used to bring customers to fairly traditional concert experiences and will not fundamentally alter the experience.

“We all have this huge schizophrenia: We hate sprawl, but we also hate density. We want the freedom of the suburbs.”

– Hooper Brooks

“Leisure is becoming more embedded in people’s lives.”

– David Yeske

“In five years, most Americans will be enjoying broadband Internet from home, maybe 100 times as fast as dial-up modems and always on . . . .”

– Bob Metcalf

“. . . as people live longer, lifetime learning invariably plays a larger role in their quality of life.”

– Laura D’Andrea Tyson

“[T]otal giving by individuals—which reached nearly $135 billion in 1998— could well top the $200-billion mark in the next 10 years.”

– Henry Goldstein


  • Symphony orchestra organizations’ core service will still be to provide great works of music performed at the highest levels of excellence.
  • Programs should appeal to smaller “special interest” groups.
  • Education and outreach may not be the whole answer.
  • Symphony orchestras must become teaching and learning organizations.
  • The impersonal manner in which the business with audiences and the community has been carried out in the past will not be the model for the future.

And symphonies will need to become very savvy about technology.


The following will be helpful:

  • Commitment to core purpose will be vital.
  • Communication will be essential.
  • Balance between fiscal conservatism and daring innovation will need to be struck.
  • Symphony organizations must serve customers at a much faster rate.
  • Symphony organizations must become more effective or face extinction.

The following will be hindrances:

  • Hierarchical structures pose a major obstacle to needed change.
  • Goal ambiguity leads to poor results.
  • Isomorphism can be damaging.
  • Human relations practices need to be improved.
  • Narrowly focused audition and hiring protocols should be reexamined.
  • Structures that hinder tapping the full potential of people must be dismantled.

“The increased communications bandwidth that’s coming is going to have a huge impact. To be able to move visual images and voice with high fidelity and high quality will create possibilities that are hard even to imagine.”

– Kim B. Clark

“By 2007, high-quality virtual reality with convincing artificial environments, virtually instantaneous rendering, and high-definition displays will be comfortable to wear and available at computer game prices.”

– Ray Kurzweil

“If Bach were alive now, he would be all over the synthesizer, especially the sequences. All over it!”

– Quincy Jones


About overall symphony orchestra organizations:

  • Orchestra organizations should become flatter and more holistic.
  • Artistic decision making should involve more teamwork.

As to boards of directors:

  • Board members should be active and independent.
  • They should be educated about music.

“The term [sound art] seems to connote the activity of working directly in sound, without musical notation or interpretive musicians as intermediaries. . . . As digital technology invades all aspects of music making, the line between ‘music’ and ‘sound art’ is already blurring, and unlikely to hold. . . . Soon all new music may be sound art.”

– Kyle Gann

“[T]he producers of products and services based almost exclusively on the output of human brains is going to increase.”

– Arie de Geus

“Cyber-savvy composers create symphonies and string quartets on their PCs with the help of sophisticated graphic notation software. The only thing computers cannot (and should not) do is supply the musical inspiration.”

– John von Rhein

  • They should use their background and skills.
  • Boards should be smaller, include nontraditional members, and be progressive.

Suggestions regarding management and staff:

  • Symphony orchestra organization staffing should be flatter, more flexible, and more cross-functional.
  • Staff members should have new skills, particularly technological. Thinking about the orchestra:
  • Orchestra members should be involved in core decision-making processes.
  • Musicians should define the artistic mission of the institution and share a common enthusiasm for ensemble performance.

About music directors and other conducting staff members:

  • Music directors should be more significantly involved in the business- decision process.
  • And this requires longer residency than is currently typical among music directors.

“The source of commercial value will be people’s attentions, not the content that consumes their attention. There will be too much content, and not enough people with time for all of it. That will change our attitudes to everything; it will bring back new respect for people, for personal attention, for service, and for human interaction.”

– Esther Dyson

“A musician who uses computer/instruments to make music in live performance is in essence doing the same thing as a musician who uses any other kind of instrument. . . . [However,] the interaction of a group of people in live performance is a distinctly unique aspect of music-making that simply cannot always be effectively reproduced [electronically].”

– William L. Cahn

“Classical music has to trust in its material while at the same time divesting itself of the pomposity inherent in old rituals.”

– Bernard Holland

Regarding volunteers:

  • We need to cultivate a younger pool of talent and friends.
  • Volunteers should be involved in crucial and high-level tasks.
  • And they should be more integrated into the overall organization.


  • All constituencies should be involved in product development processes through cross-functional leadership teams composed of blends of representatives of each constituency.
  • There is widespread recognition that the relationship between management and musicians must be improved.
  • Musicians should become more directly and actively involved in board and management decisions.
  • The board should feel a sense of ownership and pride in the orchestra.
  • Management should understand that survival demands developing a new style and method of doing business.

“An organization is no longer just [a] legal . . . entity. It’s the entire web of people and groups who contribute to conceptualizing, designing, making, selling, distributing, serving, and even using the products and services. Call [it] the virtual organization. . . .”

– Patricia A. McLagan

“Success will belong to [organizations] that are leaderless—or [more precisely] whose leadership is so widely shared that they resemble beehives, ant colonies, or schools of fish. [Organizations] that thrive will be ‘led’ by people who understand that . . . no one person can ever really be in control.”

– John A. Byrne

“Insiders resist paradigm shifts. Why? Because they are good at what they do and a paradigm shift requires you to give up what you are good at and learn something new.”

– Joel Barker

  • There should be more team-based processes.
  • There should be more inspired leadership.


  • Symphony orchestras need to be more flexible and responsive.
  • Including being more responsive to consumers.
  • Being more flexible means different things to different people.
  • Symphony orchestras need to be more innovative.


“[I]t is safe to say that human nature has not changed in the last 100,000 years, and maybe farther back than that.”

– Edward O. Wilson

“ [N]ow we have a conscious, rational, intellectual way of explaining both the [resistance to] and the necessity of change . . . companies [can] say, ‘We are going to institute a paradigm shift.’ It is a conscious, purposeful, anticipatory act.”

– Joel Barker

“If [leaders] are really focusing on the present tense, you have a problem.”

– Joel Barker

“What will people be listening to in the year 3000? That I cannot say. The technology of our times already gives us sounds that we haven’t heard before.”

– Kurt Masur


  • Service organizations have a profound impact on the field.
  • They are an integral part of our national political support system.
  • Their main advantage is independent vigor; their main danger is sectarianism.
  • They should become more focused but their roles may be reduced.
  • They should become catalysts for positive change.
  • They are all here to stay, for better or worse.
  • There should be more dialogue among them.

“In 2099, your great-great-great-grandchildren will be able to quiz a reconstituted you about what it was like to work with computers so big and clunky they had to be held on your lap.”

– Otis Port

“One of the next century’s great challenges will be coping with the awesome power that will become ours as we slowly read the surprising stories in our twisting strands of DNA.”

– John Carey

“[W]e are not simply reaching out into space to use extraterrestrial resources and create opportunities here on Earth. Rather, we are laying the foundations for a series of new civilizations that are the next logical steps in the evolution of human society.”

– Frank White


  • Inertia is a major force against change.
  • Complacency, fostered by a currently robust economy, inhibits change.
  • Contributors could influence the pace of change.
  • Fiefdoms lead to inward thinking.
  • Traditional stereotypes will impede change.


  • A supportive external environment needs to exist.
  • Bold leadership needs to be exercised.
  • There needs to be a strong sense of joint ownership.
  • Musicians need to be considered as individuals.
  • Positive attitudes and organizational pride will contribute to successful change.

“It is not enough to say that life has simply evolved and gotten more complicated. Life—the ‘it’—is now in some crucial ways a new substance, and this basic fact must be contemplated deeply.”

– Sven Birkerts

“In the next century, technology will transform our lives, even more than it has in this century. It has already given us many choices, and in the next century it will give us many more. But the new choices will not drive out the old choices. Often, the old choices will still be the best.”

– Paul Raeburn

“The future is not an overarching leap into the distance. . . . It begins in the present.”

– Daniel Bell

  • It is vital to have trust and respect among participants and constituencies.
  • Excellent, continuous communication is also vital.
  • Organizations will need to take a broader view of mission.
  • And yet maintain fiscal realism.
  • Audience attitude and taste will also drive change.

The Symphony Orchestra Institute wishes to express special thanks to the 13 current and former members of the Board of Advisors who generously contributed their time and intellect to the project which culminated in the report which is summarized here, and to Dr. John Boaz, who spent enormous hours evaluating, organizing, annotating, and preparing the report.


Symphony Orchestra Organizations in the 21st Century

In this section of our Web site, the Symphony Orchestra Institute is pleased to present a report which looks ahead to the symphony orchestra organization of the 21st century, with special emphasis on the future environment for and organzational functioning of this institution. The report integrates the written views of 13 very thougthful and knowledgeable people working in various roles within and around North American symphony organizations, each addressing the same set of basic questions about the future of symphony organizations.

In its form, the report is rather unique. It is an amalgamation of a wide range of ideas and insights, many similar and reinforcing, some opposing and conflicting. Almost all the views submitted have been included somewhere in the report with minimal filtration, conveying real authenticity with occasional ambiguity. As will be clear, the report does not present anyone’s position, including that of Institute. The report does, however, carry out a goal of the Institute which is to foster steady dialogue about how symphony organiza- tions function and might better function, especially given the fast-changing environment in which they operate. We hope the report will stimulate broad thinking about the future of symphony organizations, and that it will be useful in strategic planning within these institutions.

As background, about a year ago, the Institute initiated a review of its own strategic development. Since our mission is to help symphony organizations become more effective through positive organizational change, we decided that an important element in our planning should be to learn more about how persons in and closely observing symphony organizations viewed the future of these organizations.

As a step in this direction, we turned to our Board of Advisors, saying: We are gathering views about the future environment for symphony organizations and how they might be functioning in that environment, including attaining a better understanding of the factors and forces which will foster or impede organizational change.

We provided our advisors with 11 very challenging questions, thoughtful responses to which would clearly take a commitment of time and intellect. We also promised those who participated that we would feedback to them their collective views. We were pleased and grateful that 13 current and former advisors stepped up to our challenge.

As we read through the multipage responses which began to flow in, it became clear that we needed some special approach to organizing these clearly excellent insights into a document that would maximize our and the participants’ comprehension. At this point, we turned to a volunteer, Dr. John Boaz, a retired faculty member and administrator at Illinois State University. With John’s assistance, along with the wonders of computer word processing, we first grouped together for each question the separate advisors’ responses to that question. Next, John reviewed all the responses for each question and identifed various themes or common dimensions, and set about to further organize, deconstruct and reconstruct, and edit (very modestly) the responses into these subgroupings, keeping as a unit the phrases, words, and paragraphs of any one respondent, in order to provide the reader with the maximum flavor of the author’s point. We also decided to include somewhere in the report all the thoughts provided by advisors, and not to make judgments as to what expression to include or exclude.

Following our policy and our understanding with the advisors, and so that ideas could stand on their own, John and I also edited the responses so that no expression could be linked to any individual advisor or to his or her organiza- tional constituency. As final steps, John developed single sentences or phrases which highlighted in the most cogent form the main idea of associated paragraphs, and the whole report was then fine-tuned by Marilyn Sholl and me.

As the overall report began to shape up, and with the permission of the participating advisors, we decided that, when completed, it should be shared with the readers of Harmony, and, more broadly, with anyone interested in the future of symphony organizational develoopment into the 21st century.

Following are the 12 questions to which members of the Board of Advisors responded. Page numbers indicate on which page of this PDF answers begin.

Table of Contents

1. Who, in your view, will be the “customers” of these organizations? How will customers and their needs change over the next 25 to 50 years? Page 5

2. How will communities (in which symphony organizations function) and their needs and expectations change over the next 25 to 50 years? Page 6

3. How will technology (and other advances which will directly and indi- rectly impact symphony organizations) change over the next 25 to 50 years? Page 8

4. Given your predictions above, what services and products do you envision the symphony organization of the future will need, or have the opportunity to provide, if it wishes to be successful and sustainable as an organization? Page 9

5. What aspects of the ways symphony organizations typically behave, function, do work, and are structured will help or hinder their ability to be successful and sustainable in the 21st century? Page 11

6. What organizational forms will either be needed or should be considered to address the evolving demands, expectations, or opportunities sym- phony organizations will face in the 21st century? Specifically, do you envision the need or advisability of shifts in the form of any or all of the reasonably differentiated organizational groups (namely, the board of directors; the management and staff organization; the orchestra; the music director and conducting staff, including guest conductors; and the volunteers) which currently exist in the typical North American sym- phony organization? Why do you have this view? Do you envision the subdivision, disappearance, blending, amalgamation, integration, and so forth of any of these groups, or other changes of organizational form, to better address the changes you envision in the first question above? Why do you have this view? Page 14

7. In connection with your views on the above questions and topics, do you envision symphony organizations needing to consider or make any changes in their overall decision-making processes, and if so, what changes, why these changes, and how might these changes be made? Page 18

8. Some people have speculated that symphony organizations, as we move into the 21st century, will need to become more “flexible” and more “responsive.” What do these words mean to you specifically? Do you agree? If so, what specific changes will symphony organizations need to make or should consider making? Page 21

9. There are various associations and other groupings within, surrounding, and serving “the symphony orchestra industry.” These entities include such associations as the American Symphony Orchestra League [ASOL], the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians [ICSOM], the Regional Orchestra Players Association [ROPA], the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians [OCSM], and the American Federation of Musicians [AFM] and its locals, and subgroups within these larger groups. There are various “professional role groups” within or serving the industry, such as the associations of personnel managers, orchestra librarians, music critics, and so forth. There are for- profit business groups which regularly work within and around the industry, such as artists’ representatives and presenting organizations. All these groups are part of and contribute to some degree to the mainte- nance of traditional patterns of how symphony organizations function. In your judgment, what impact, either positive or negative, might these associations or groupings have on individual symphony organizations and how they function in the future? Page 23

10. What forces will be at work within symphony organization participants as individuals, the organization as a whole, or the world in which the organization functions to keep things from changing at a pace required? Page 25

11. In your overall judgment, what forces or conditions need to exist for positive change to start and be sustained in the typical symphony organization? Page 27

1. Who,inyourview,willbethe“customers”oftheseorganizations?How will customers and their needs change over the next 25 to 50 years?

“I believe our customers will be basically the same group we attract now, the upper-income, highly-educated, older, white population. We should just be comfortable with who we are and lower our expectations about increasing audience base.” A concurring advisor says, “I’m more sanguine than most about the staying power of the symphonic classics and think that the core ‘subscriber base’ for the classical concerts will remain fairly stable for many years to come. Another advisor amplifies: “Customers will be fewer than two percent of the population, and they will live in fewer and larger metropolitan areas. They will come, then as now, from the same high-income, highly educated, over-55 age group.” Regarding income levels, another advisor predicts, “There will be more affluent people. They will look and act differ- ently from today’s affluent people, but in most cases they will also be educated and mature.”

“Our audience and our community will always look to the symphony orches- tra for deep artistic experiences (even philosophical, spiritual). This is funda- mental and primary . . . to any discussion involving the symphony orchestra.” Another advisor predicts, “Patrons will engage the symphonic art form because of the live, acoustic experience and the preservation and interpretation of the literature. Granted the same is said of today, but the future may be a more clinical and sterile environment and live, versus synthetic, will cultivate an appetite the likes of which are completely unknown to us now.”

“Their tastes will change with respect to the serious and demanding music that they like, to include stuff which we traditionalists find unpleasant,” one advisor predicts. Another thinks, “The future growth (i.e., financial health) of any professional orchestra will require adding new artistic products and services to the successful traditional concert series.” Another believes, “The enlightened symphony orchestra patron will be educated and influenced by a methodology vastly different from our experience. The electronic forum will further accelerate at warp speed in the areas of education, pedagogy, informa- tion, and recreation. Another says, “I believe that their interests in music, as in other things, will be more complex, and hence more receptive to demanding and serious musical offerings.” And still another hazards, “They will need to be able to have quick and easy access to the music, and they will probably need to have it be interactive and entertaining to some degree.”

“As even loyal patrons select the specific concerts they wish to attend rather than take the traditional approach of buying the entire package, subscription sales will decline. Patrons will be particular not only about the program, but also about when the concert will take place as the demands on their time increase, along with their choices for other cultural events which might be more user-friendly.”

“The contemporary concern shown for the customer throughout all areas of human commerce should be well shared throughout symphony orchestra organizations. At the present time, we don’t know enough of what our customers need, want, or expect. We know that symphony orchestras need more ticket-buying, concertgoing customers. I believe that we can really get more customers more efficiently and effectively by listening—really listening—more to our customers. Far from becoming more and more irrelevant, symphony orchestras are positioned to provide what people will need more of as the future unfolds: value.”

“Everyone is concerned about the lack of interest among young people in classical symphonic music, stating that the concert hall is full of gray-haired people. But this is always true. As folks age and the music of their youth is no longer played, they realize they don’t like the music of their children and many turn to classical music. For some it’s a new adventure, for others, a rediscovery of music they learned as small children.” Another advisor supports this view by adding, “Although some predict that eventually there will be no audience left, there are reports that the average age of the audience (attending concerts of one of our major orchestras) has stayed about the same for the past 50 years. Maybe classical music appeals to more people as they mature! However, our interest in developing a younger audience should not lead to a neglect of our present customers.” Another advisor summarizes evidence by asserting, “There are no longitudinal studies that prove there has been, as popularly reported, a substantial aging of the audience for symphonic music. The data from audience participation studies, such as they are, leave room for reason- able disagreement on the ‘aging audience’.”

“If the trend of the past 25 years of reduced music education in schools continues, orchestras will need to devise ways of attracting audiences from a population which is even further removed from an introduction to classical music in their youth. Historically, one of the indicators for attending classical concerts as an adult has been participation in bands or orchestras in school. As these programs have been cut, orchestra organizations have fewer people with that experience to draw in as audience members. It seems that the needs of the customers will increasingly include more education, but packaged in a nonthreatening entertainment environment which will welcome the uniniti- ated to classical music.” Another advisor believes, “The (finally) rising tide of interest in renewing music education programs in America’s schools will eventually restart the engine of interest in orchestra music that has been stalled for a generation.”

“Outside a few first-tier institutions, orchestras will align themselves with local schools, often through formal arrangements, and will in many cases take over the educational function as it pertains to instrumental training and orchestral performance in schools. This model is already working in the world of ballet. Increasingly, it will be the key to both public and private funding.”

2. Howwillcommunities(inwhichsymphonyorganizationsfunction)and their needs and expectations change over the next 25 to 50 years?

One advisor observes, “Communities will change as they always have, by making choices, whether actively or passively. Symphony orchestras will survive or flourish in direct relation to how effectively they are able to create the taste by which they are to be appreciated.” Another describes these communities as “a new-age group demanding ‘pertinent’ repertoire.” Another advises, “Orchestras well be challenged—by consumer demand, competition, and the need for revenue—to become more flexible organizations that can meet the demand for concert music in jazz, chamber music, new music, and non-Western music. Yet another adds, “Orchestral institutions must find ways to become more responsive to their communities. The traditional approach has been to determine the concert times and programs primarily based on the availability of the hall, the orchestra’s internal schedule, and simply, past practices. Orchestras need to investigate changing community preferences in programming, scheduling, and even locations. The goal should be to integrate the orchestra into the community, as a relevant, accessible, and necessary part of its cultural life.” Yet another suggests, “There will be increasing demand for more music-educational services.” More specifically, describing the changes in the needs of end users, one advisor says they will have “less time available,” there will be “more good competition and competitive offerings for their scarcer leisure time,” they will be “more demanding of customer service,” and it will require “more tailoring of musical offerings and venues required to suit them.” Regarding location, yet another advisor observes, “While the total experience of attending a symphony orchestra concert in an exquisite concert hall will remain unparalleled, I do think [orchestras] need to go to the com- munity, too. Making appearances in unexpected venues, casual venues, and in easily accessible circumstances will keep [orchestras] uppermost in the community’s mind.”

“The ‘return-to-the-cities’ movement that seems to be taking hold across the nation is very encouraging, most notably in cities such as Pittsburgh, Philadel- phia, Seattle, Charlotte, Denver, and Cleveland. Only a few years ago we were afraid that continuing white flight would make suburban venues necessary. Now we see the development of upscale residential housing, restaurants, and boutiques providing a supportive community for urban arts organizations and, indeed, a whole new role for urban arts organizations as economic develop- ment engines.” However, one advisor believes to the contrary: “Suburbani- zation will continue to sprawl and symphony orchestras will find it increas- ingly difficult to attract audiences to a city center. They will encounter increas- ing pressure toward suburban tours or suburban ‘virtual’ orchestras.”

“A dozen or more orchestras nationally, many of them in communities not presently considered centers of symphonic music, will receive large endow- ments and be thrust into leadership ranks,” one advisor predicts.

“Because the art form may be embraced as an outward symbol of an inward depth of artistic and spiritual expression, the need for a different approach to funding and guardianship may change. Communities may have to return to municipal, state, or even corporate undertakings.”

Three advisors anticipate that fewer communities will support full-time orchestras, although amateur and semiprofessional (community) orchestras may flourish in smaller communities, as is the case now in Great Britain. In the words of one of these advisors, “More community-based orchestras built around amateurs and semipros with a core of professionals will arise.” And many present city-based orchestras will become state- or region-based while a few will have satellite homes.

However, one respondent articulates the difficulty in predicting these changes. “If one believes, as I do, that community for this purpose equals the geographic area in which a live musical performance can be heard easily; then the commu- nity will not change. Expectations and demands will change, but it is not clear to me how.”

3. Howwilltechnology(andotheradvanceswhichwilldirectlyandindi- rectly impact symphony organizations) change over the next 25 to 50 years?

“Web-based compression and encrypting technologies will create a sea change in the ways that music is accessed and purchased,” says one advisor. Another adds, “The great technological changes now taking place should be pursued primarily by the symphony orchestra to expand its own efficiency, manageri- ally and developmentally, and to broaden public awareness of its activities.” Another advisor believes, “Technological advances will make change possible in methods of product distribution, in administrative productivity, and in reduction of production costs.” Still another observes, “The Web will also greatly change the informational and educational resources of an orchestra, allowing orchestras to expand their educational services to the community.” “However,” cautions one advisor, “perhaps the greatest technological impact on symphony orchestras will be extremely indirect. Technology is and will continue to create new and more refined forms of entertainment that will compete with traditional arts and entertainment for discretionary dollars. Orchestras will find the entertainment field ever more crowded with products and marketing strategies.” Another concludes, “Therefore, symphony organi- zations need to be aware of these technologies, vigilant, and willing to experi- ment with new musical products, offerings, and venues, and to embrace change as a core competency of the organization.” Paraphrasing one of the advisors, all of these changes will have the effect of limiting the cost competi- tiveness of regular live concerts, excepting the large “one-nighter,” such as the Boston Pops at the hockey rink.

As one advisor laments, “Whether these advances will have a significant impact on the orchestra industry is questionable, primarily because of the resistance to change.”

“By its very nature, technology should not impact the fundamental thing that is a symphony, which is full of acoustic instruments. Certainly recording technology will improve, as will sound reinforcement, and symphonies will participate in new media, such as CD-ROMs and interactive Internet Web sites, so how people experience symphonic music will change, but hopefully symphonic music itself will not change. Obviously technology will have a great impact on new compositions.”

Here again advisors comment on the difficulty of predicting technological change and its impact. One notes, “Technology has already changed mas- sively. The Internet, the death of the recording industry, hence the [ready] availability of recorded performance is causing a structural change in the way we can acquire and hear music. [The future] will be interesting but [is] essentially unpredictable . . . Obviously, there are a number of [parties] trying to [make predictions] with considerable specificity right now!” Another responds, “This is an area where creative people are just starting to focus their efforts. To guess where we will be in 50 years is impossible. Will we be listening to concerts at home on the Internet instead of going to the concert hall? Or will the technology be simply a fun way to play with the music while we learn more about music? Will orchestras be recording everything for a video-hungry audience which prefers the comforts of staying home and enjoys being able to put the music on ‘hold’ if necessary? The technology is advanc- ing so rapidly that we may only be restrained by our vision.”

4. Givenyourpredictionsabove,whatservicesandproductsdoyouenvisionthe symphony organization of the future will need, or have the opportunity to provide, if it wishes to be successful and sustainable as an organization?

“While orchestras need to go to and reach out to potential ticket buyers ( to put it crassly but realistically), orchestras need to be less aloof and elite. They need to break out of the box on occasion (San Francisco and Metallica). Supertitles in the opera hall were regarded as controversial and rude when they first came into use. Maestros speaking to the audience from the podium were shocking. Good grief. Practicality convinces them to do what they must to survive. However, I think that in our enthusiasm to reach new audiences, we must not let our raison d’être escape us. Performing great works of music is the reason . . . musicians choose this profession. Hopefully, performing great works of music is why symphony orchestras exist. Yes, they are museums. Yes, they have an obligation to perform works of contemporary composers. Performing popular culture repertoire is on occasion enjoyable, entertaining and quite probably supports their mission. . . . It is very easy to cheapen ourselves in the pursuit of survival.”

“Orchestras will probably need to develop programs which appeal to smaller ‘special interest’ groups, perhaps offering concerts to those who want to hear baroque, contemporary, romantic, and other styles. Making use of the orches- tra in smaller parts such as a chamber group would be an effective way to tailor the many resources of an orchestra to a particular audience. Concert packages will need to appeal to a customer who wants an a la carte approach to ticket buying.” Another advisor advocates “more relevance of products, more excitement attributed to them promotionally, a stronger role of market- ing in fighting the increased competition and targeting customer niches.” This same advisor also recommends “more variety in offerings” and “total organiza- tional commitment to work together to satisfy end-user needs regardless of what they are and to adopt the attitude that ‘the customer is always right’ no matter how ‘musically illiterate’ the customers might be.” Another believes, “There will be efficiencies in service extension due to technology, and product beyond the major/standard repertoire will suit demographic appetites, all of which will strengthen sustainability.”

As another advisor puts it, “The constraints that I foresee among symphony organizations will be that successful organizations must adapt to the cultural and musical ecology of their particular communities, and that the larger the symphony organization, the more diverse range of products and services it will need to provide to its community. This suggests that symphony orchestras will need versatile staffs of multitalented musicians and administrators.” This advisor continues, “Symphony orchestra organizations, especially those that own their halls, will increasingly become ‘presenting’ organizations that manage concerts and concert series that are not symphony concerts. The orchestral core personnel will be utilized in a variety of chamber music configurations and for educational services.

“The au courant response to this question is more education and outreach, but I’m not convinced that either will produce new audiences or be sustainable economically,” says one advisor.

Another notes, “More attention will be given to ‘entry audiences’ and younger listeners, especially the revival of school concerts, which will become a major ‘frontier’.” Still another advisor states, “Peripheral services such as community activities, educational activities, and outreach activities all will be desirable, possibly necessary, elements in the success or failure of the organization.”

Further, “Symphonies may need to take over a great deal of the music educa- tion function in communities as the schools cease teaching music as part of the curriculum.” And another says, “Symphonies should also do outreach to the minority groups in their respective cities, not to do crossover music but to bring these communities into the classical music world.” Still another believes, “The programs which involve education or outreach have been an excellent way to build personal relationships among the staff, musicians, and commu- nity. A final observation: “There already is and will be even more a need for quality, innovative educational activities. I feel the key to educational success in our area is individual focus. This is labor intensive, but it works. Not all communities, cities, classrooms, and individuals within classroom are the same, and since our art is both highly personal and highly public…the overall rule is that there is no overall rule or formula.”

“It will be the individual and group personal connections which will enhance the experience for the audience, musicians, staff, and board members.” Another advisor adds, “Within symphony organizations, we need to ask with greater interest and to listen more intently to what it is the other constituen- cies need, want, or expect. Effective communication is the most secure foundation for a successful and sustainable organization.” Another remarks, “Although greater numbers of people will spend increased time at their computers, they will still look for opportunities which provide a sense of community.” This advisor advocates, “symphony orchestra support groups which focus on and cultivate specific interests, such as ‘Mozart lovers’ and ‘friends of the viola section,’ and shorter concerts, perhaps without intermis- sions, with the opportunity for postconcert socializing.”

“Symphonies will need to become very savvy about the Internet. An initial, obvious challenge is in customer service, in terms of providing ticket sales and concert information over the Internet. Web sites can further provide a wealth of information about the institution, the musicians, the board, and so forth.” Another advisor adds, “Technology will play a very important role in sym- phonic music—how we hear it, experience it, and what we do with it.” And still another advisor declares, “Sooner or later, each orchestra will be faced with how and when to use technology, and whether it should be a leader or a follower. Tremendous opportunities await those who are in a position to offer their product to a fast-growing market.”

Symphony organizations “need to grab top technology industry entrepreneurs and get them involved—on the board or board committees—to help discuss changes, how to respond to them, and to help boards and managements lead in the future in response to such significant changes.”

5. Whataspectsofthewayssymphonyorganizationstypicallybehave,function, do work, and are structured will help or hinder their ability to be successful and sustainable in the 21st century?

Advisors considered the following to be helpful aspects:

“I think that the organizational commitment to its core purpose will be the principal factor for success or failure in the 21st century. If the structure of the organization hinders its ability to adapt, then success will be elusive. If, on the other hand, structure is flexible outside the framework of core purpose, then achieving success is possible.” Another advisor adds, “This is a beautiful, great art. Humans will always need this. It is live, real, and acoustically satisfying.”

“Communication. As in personal relationships, it is essential to success. I don’t think it will be less necessary in the 21st century. Managements and musi- cians, boards and staff, boards and musicians all need to talk, educate each other, and generally stay in touch. [How many times has one heard colleagues say] ‘What are they doing to us now?’ When all are stretched too far in doing day-to-day battle, it is easy to let this one go. I know a member who was rotated off the board to let another have a turn. As close as he was to the inside circle, he was suddenly out of the loop and consequently out of the receiving end of information. Ninety-eight percent of musicians are equally uninformed. This is not a good thing.”

“Nothing is gained without daring innovation, without dreaming—this involves financial risk. Who can balance these two valid ideas and get the best of both of them? But it can be done. A healthy endowment, for example, gives much greater latitude to daring thinking. Of the two, the second (daring) is primary.”

“In order to be successful and sustainable in the future, our organizations will need to be able to serve our customers at a much faster rate. The current need for instant information will become even more important.”

“What we can do is become more effective as organizations. This is the primary message of the Symphony Orchestra Institute, so I don’t need to explain further. But, I will say that I am impressed with some of the methods for doing this that are explained in the new Letts, Ryan, and Grossman book [Christine W. Letts, William P. Ryan, and Allen B. Grossman, 1998. High Performance Nonprofit Organizations; Managing Upstream for Greater Impact. New York: Wiley.] on high-performance organizations which calls for increasing adaptive capacity and knowing when and how to change programs and strategies so that the organization is delivering on its mission.” Symphony orchestras must “reach decisions about what they do through research and consensus (the servant-leadership model).” Another advisor recommends improving professional management through standards and certification and involving musicians deeply in the decision-making process within organiza- tions. And a third says, bluntly: “Those boards that prove incapable of leading the crucial transitions listed above will, in many cases, see their institutions die.”

Or as another advisor sees it, “Producing symphonic concerts is labor inten- sive, not only due to the obvious number of musicians required, but also in organizing the numerous details for each event. In order to grow and reach more audience, streamlining the structure and the details will be essential. Dialogues between musicians and management, musician participation, and musician ‘buy-in’ are needed to allow for creative activities. Rigidity in union contracts might hinder the ability of orchestras to respond to the needs of the communities they serve. Organizations will be more successful when the boards of directors, management, musicians, and volunteers regard themselves as partners in the enterprise.”

Advisors enumerated the following aspects as hindrances:

“Today’s typical management structure is hierarchical, and tends to be rather unresponsive to the needs of both the community and of the musicians. As long as the financial side of the institution is in order, there is probably little incentive to change this structure. Because of their ability to raise money, the bigger orchestras are often better insulated from having to change as quickly or as profoundly as the smaller ones have had to. They have thus been able to maintain control of both the artistic and managerial aspects of the institution. Often, it is a financial crisis which forces change, such as a sharing of con- trol—but is it necessary? The goal of improving an orchestra’s morale and self- image, and ultimately the quality of the music, should be reason enough to provoke a change.”

Another advisor observes, “Historically, our organizations have been run in a very ‘top down’ manner. If one looks at industry, that model has and is changing, and I believe we need to make that change as well if we want healthy organizations. In general, I think the environment will need to be much more collaborative in all areas, internal as well as external. Communica- tions and flexibility will be very important, as will be the ability to change without constantly causing upheaval.”

Or, as another advisor puts it, “Certainly the ability to encourage the board and orchestra to work as partners and owners of the institution will be critical to the long term success of orchestras. We can no longer leave it to the management to lead the orchestra and board. The management should be working for the board and orchestra as a manager works for an owner.” A third advisor sees it this way: “The greatest threat to necessary, effective change is the routing of continuing to do things because that’s the way we’ve always done them. We cannot flourish, and may not even survive, if we only continue by doing the same things a little differently. Rather, we must week to discover how we can do things with significant difference, and more signifi- cantly, what different things we can do.”

And a final advisor enumerates the negative aspects of hierarchical structure: “Lack of teamwork; compartmentalization of thinking or actions; hidden agendas or different groups; lack of good, frequent, and open communication; elitism (‘we know better than our customers do’); lack of creative, change- seeking leadership; lack of respect for each individual in the organization; and lack of empowerment and involvement of all constituents” of the organization.

“I think we could learn much from the thinking of Paul Dimaggio on the behavioral consequences of ambiguous goals: the lack of accountability (he says we like it that way); the resulting inability to know what works and what doesn’t; the tensions between boards and musicians, between professional staffs and musicians, and between boards and professional staffs.”

“Our rigid one-size-fits-all homogeneity, which forces small and midsize organizations to try to look like big ones in structure and hierarchy, is very damaging.”

“High turnover, low pay, burnout, 60 to 80 hour weeks—all endemic to the nonprofit sector—are within our ability to change. Letts, Ryan, and Grossman [cited above] call for human relations practices that link jobs with mission and results, and for getting over our unwillingness to invest in rewarding high performance.”

“A singular obstacle to change in symphony orchestras is the audition and hiring protocols for musicians. Orchestra musicians are asked and expected to provide many services and to be involved in many ways that go beyond playing in the orchestral section. This would suggest the need for the hiring process to weigh a variety of talents. It does not seem, however, that the hiring/audition process is becoming more comprehensive. If anything, it is becoming more narrowly focused on blind screening of excerpt auditions.”

“Because technology is changing so rapidly, the organization must look for expertise wherever it exists. Tapping into the knowledge, contacts, special skills, and so forth, of the musicians and board members will be imperative. The traditional structure of the staff managing, the board raising funds, and the musicians performing must be turned into a collaborative process. Every- one must be seen as a potential resource—musicians, community leaders, and so forth. The work rules in musicians’ contracts must become based on common sense, not historic precedents.” Another advisor puts it this way: “Restrictive policies toward employees and orchestra members incredibly hinder [potentials]. Musicians have a lot to contribute managerially and artistically.” Concluding, still another advisor believes it a hindrance to “perpetuate the pathology of the long-outmoded negotiating style that fosters mistrust and dysfunction, and perverts good will, energy, working relation- ships, and environments.”

6. What organizational forms will either be needed or should be considered to address the evolving demands, expectations, or opportunities sym- phony organizations will face in the 21st century? Specifically, do you envision the need or advisability of shifts in the form of any or all of the reasonably differentiated organizational groups (namely, the board of directors; the management and staff organization; the orchestra; the music director and conducting staff, including guest conductors; and the volun- teers) which currently exist in the typical North American symphony organization? Why do you have this view? Do you envision the subdivi- sion, disappearance, blending, amalgamation, integration, and so forth of any of these groups, or other changes of organizational form, to better address the changes you envision in the first question above? Why do you have this view?

About overall symphony orchestra organizations, advisors responded:

“There is a need for blending of the board of directors, orchestra, music director, and the conducting staff (more than the guest conductors). These groups need to realize the importance of a holistic approach to all decisions. The music director cannot continue a hierarchical structure that fails to consider the whole organization—from marketing to ticket sales to fundraising—as well as the effect on the community.” Another advisor says, “In our organization, there is a blending of several of these organizational groups. Orchestra members serve on the board of directors, meet regularly with staff, and assist the volunteer group. Artistic direction is set collaboratively by the music director, orchestra members, and staff, with input from volunteers. In my view, this is a model for the future, although we certainly have not yet perfected it.” This advisor goes on to say, “The labor versus management mentality has no place in the future of successful orches- tra organizations. Communication and cooperation among the typical subdivisions in orchestra organizations can strengthen the structure. I do not envision the disappearance of any of the groups, but rather more integration, interaction, and shared responsibility for the success of the organization among the groups. Again, a sense of partnership among all the constituents in determining the future of the organization will enhance the possibility for flexibility and responsiveness.”

Another advisor believes “the ‘artistic-team template’ will have more and more adherents. Why? Because quite frankly I think that those people who are drawn to the art form—be they musicians, board members, volunteers, or staff—are far more listened and learned than was the case when the ‘maestro myth’ was given life. The conductor . . . is obviously vital. But in areas of programming the shape and taste of a concert or series, it need not, or perhaps should not, be the exclusive domain of one person. Collegial buy in has far more positive energy than autocratic dictum that is often badly abused. Most who orbit around the symphony world are virtual musicologists and not to hear their thoughts and voices in the process is irresponsible. Positive synergy from a motivated, mobilized, energized, and fully franchised artistic team can unleash innovation and be bold.”

As to boards of directors, advisors said:

“An orchestra, like a corporation, needs an active, independent board which is not dictated to by the management.”

“Board members need to be educated about music as well as the business of music.”

“Their experience on the board should make use of their background and skills as well as encourage them to become advocates for the institution. Orchestras are money-eating animals. The demands to raise even more money and to stretch even farther can lead to frustration and burnout, and there must be a better understanding of the needs and concerns of these volunteers. Too often board members are asked for money, but not for their ideas or suggestions. I believe people want to be used for their skills and not just because of their financial resources. Their experience must be fun and they must feel appreciated.” Another advisor declares, “Membership should be limited to those individuals able to contribute both time and money and who have a committed desire to make significant impact or contribution in at least one specific area.”

“Because Americans have less and less time for volunteer activities and because we have learned that large boards result in lack of personal ownership and responsibility, we need to create smaller core groups that comprise the leadership of the organization. This core will be surrounded by and supported by task forces who take on special assignments and responsibilities. We will learn that we do not have to put people on the board in order to garner their loyalty and support.” Another advisor agreed. “I see the board of directors shrinking to perhaps 15 members at the most, including the orchestra. I believe the way in which the board conducts itself will need to change, also. Board meetings may be conducted around a video camera or whatever the future holds in that area, with members not all together in one room. I think the structure of the organization will become one in which task forces will be working on side issues, and the board of directors will carry on the fiduciary responsibilities of running the organization. A third advisor added, “You need the moneyed interests. You need the daring thinkers. In most cities there are individuals who are both. So let’s get progressive, moneyed board members.”

Suggestions regarding management and staff included:

“This internal organization will need to become a flatter, more flexible, more cross-functional, team decision-making structure, more reliant on the exper- tise and contributions of each individual. Why? Because we cannot continue practices such as competing departments, uninformed staff, and lack of communication if we want to keep good people and be effective.” Another advisor puts it this way, “The staff and management also feel under-appreci- ated. A strictly top-down management structure may do very little to encour- age creativity. Senior managers with skills in working with, motivating and leading people are just as important in a nonprofit organization as in a dynamic and competitive business. We have heard the reports from ASOL (American Symphony Orchestra League) which call for more training and development of new managers, particularly people with experience in other businesses. The ‘grapevine’ reports that managers are not pleased with this initiative, because they do not see any weakness in their ranks and they believe that orchestra management is unique. (‘Successful managers in other fields could not do our job’). I believe that our industry is not so unique and orches- tra managers need to be as innovative as their counterparts in the for-profit world.” Another advisor concluded, “Management must be the principal entity leading the charge to break down barriers among all elements and constituencies.”

“Management and staff will need to be highly creative. They will need to be the ones thinking outside the box, as they will be working day-to-day in the organization and getting feedback from the community as to what the community wants from the organization. Staff will spearhead the changes that need to happen and be the creative force behind what the organization does.”

“Administrative staffs should get larger and more diverse as the range of performance and educational products offered by an orchestra grows. This need or tendency will compete with the reflex to balance budgets of eliminate deficits through reductions in administrative staff.”

“The management or staff will have people with different skills particularly those with skills in the new technologies.”

Thinking about the orchestra evoked the following observations:

“We must involve players in the decision-making processes of the core leadership. Player representatives should have voting seats on the board and should serve on cross-functional teams with management and staff. Why? Because otherwise our organizations will be eaten alive by union problems, and we will be missing a key element in the creative capacity of our organiza- tions to take decisive actions and meet our goals.” Another advisor states, “The board and community want great music and the musicians want to play great music. The staff should be working to bring these forces together and facilitate a mutual vision. Presently, musicians are seen more as employees than as partners, and the board and management often feel frustrated when confronted with traditional union responses. This unproductive relationship needs to be changed for the good of the institution and the music.”

And still another advisor observes, “In some—not all—communities, in some—not all—orchestras, . . . the cooperative model can work most effec- tively . . . at least to the extent of having orchestra musicians on the board and having a strong artistic committee. If handled with energy and commitment, this approach revolutionizes an orchestra’s spirit and sense of realism, as well as creates real benefit to the administration. The co-op model is not for every orchestra, or community. Some musicians feel they do better if they don’t have to worry about finances, programs, or artistic decisions. Also, there is no question that at times, when a true, strong leader appears—such as a Mahler, a Stokowski, a Koussevitsky—an organization can thrive for a while as an autocracy or oligarchy. Who could argue that? But, in general, who could disagree that true musician involvement—musicians having a stake in the health of their organization—will energize and greatly benefit a symphony orchestra association.”

Another advisor “envisions orchestra members being a part of the creative force, as well as becoming much more integrated into the community through teaching and community service activities and receiving direct feedback” from the community.

And yet another states, “except for the largest orchestras, musicians will have to become more invested in the strategic management, and even in the day- to-day programming and operations of orchestras. Player-owned and man- aged orchestras will probably not become the norm, but something of the spirit of commitment and responsibility found in musician-managed orches- tras will be essential to the future health of many mid-sized and smaller orchestras. (The largest orchestras will continue to enjoy budgets and markets that sustain large organizations with traditional divisions of management and artistic labor.)”

“Musicians like to think they are different from everybody else, but they are not that unique. Every working person shares the goals of job security, satisfaction, appreciation, and respect. What are musicians willing to do to achieve these goals? They have insulated themselves from some realities by negotiating more complicated contracts. Are they happier and more fulfilled? Do they resolve difficulties, or only exchange them for different and maybe bigger problems? Musicians must begin to define the artistic mission of the institution.”

Of music directors and other conducting staff members, advisors said:

“We have a real problem here. Orchestras compete with each other for the biggest names they can get, and have created a system in which one of the key leaders of the organization is not in residence and is not involved in helping to run the business. I don’t think this will change in the next 25 years. We are stuck. The best we can hope for is that as we all come to understand how important conductors are to the business-decision process, we will find ways to involve them more significantly.”

“The role of the music director needs to change. Is it conducive to developing a quality artistic and working relationship to have the artistic leader at the helm for about 30 percent of an orchestra’s working weeks? What corporation, sports team, or other high-performance organization would want to operate under those conditions? Where are their interests if not with their orchestra? What role do their managers/agents play in the industry’s instability? How would a music director’s relationship with the community change if he or she were truly a resident of the community instead of a visitor? And, even more importantly, do music directors even recognize all this as a problem which they need to address?” And one advisor believes that some music directors will become more full time. “Outside first tier orchestras and a few on the second tier, the role of music director will become more ‘full time,’ more community- based, much more closely linked [to] pedagogy of all types and levels, and akin to the traditional director of urban music familiar from German experi- ence. Smaller communities will astonish the country with the quality and intensity of activity possible under such committed leadership.” Another advisor, less optimistic about change, states, “It is hard to see a change in the trend toward ‘fly-in’, short-term music directors. This will continue to create problems [and] some risk to the artistic product. But the greater problem is that when there is an absent music director, the orchestra’s most public face is not in the community on a daily basis. Orchestras need to explore new ways of establishing and sustaining artistic identity through the absence and turnover of conductors.”

Regarding volunteers, advisors had the following suggestions:

“The role of volunteers has been changing. With more women in professional roles are orchestras also making changes? Are there more women on the board or does there still exist a structure where the men make the decisions on the board and the women’s volunteer groups do the grunt work? There needs to be more effort directed toward involving younger leaders to participate— even those who are not CEO’s of corporations. The pool of talent and friends needs to be cultivated and educated.”

“As the volunteer world continues to undergo fundamental change, we will have to attach more importance to administrative practices and volunteer management. Museums have a lot to teach us about how to structure mean- ingful and sustainable volunteer programs and how to use volunteers to accomplish some of our most crucial and high-level tasks.”

“The volunteer groups, I hope, will be more integrated into the overall organization. And their role will be more greatly appreciated. If not, there will be no volunteers.” Another advisor sees volunteer groups becoming “foot soldiers in bringing classical music to the public,” “out advocacy group,” more “highly organized with specific tasks to be performed, and “integrated” into the overall organization.”

7. In connection with your views on the above questions and topics, do you envision symphony organizations needing to consider or make any changes in their overall decision-making processes, and if so, what changes, why these changes, and how might these changes be made?

“All of these groups could blend in cross-functional teams. One of the most important functions of the leadership core would be to create teams of representatives from each of these groups to engage in product development processes.”

Or as another advisor puts it, “The key to the future is a collective sense of everyone belonging to an organization. The division of labor among all the constituencies must become blurred. I am familiar with a music director search in which a number of musicians . . . are fully involved in all aspects of the process in a truly collaborative fashion. The good feelings within the organization have begun to spill over to the community. There was an ex- tremely successful endowment gala where suddenly everyone realized that the symphony is the ‘happening’ arts organization in town. . . . Just before the concert, the board president thanked the players for donating their services, and they received a three-to-four minute standing ovation. Major gifts have been materializing, unasked for, from donors not usually involved with this organization but who now want to be part of it. I doubt this would be hap- pening . . . if this organization were following traditional patterns. The volunteer organization has changed as well—it’s not the monthly ‘ladies tea’. Instead, this organization wants to create a list of volunteers who can be called in to help out on an event basis. To this end, a new staff person has been hired to coordinate volunteers and work on events. Hopefully this will make the volunteers feel more a part of the organization and attract younger volunteers (from both genders). Music directors must be more involved in all aspects of the organization, and must take direction from knowledgeable persons within the organization. The days of the benevolent dictator are long gone. Program- ming by committee is not an option, but there must be an awareness of what is appropriate for the community, what new things should be tried . . .”

One advisor suggests concretely the use of cross-functional leadership teams: “First, identify the area for discussion, see who the topic affects, and incorpo- rate those people or representatives affected to share the views of their larger constituencies. A meeting is then held, interests are shared, and decisions or next steps are identified. At the end of the meeting, everyone should under- stand what decisions still need to be made. A reassessment should be made to assure that the correct people were at the table. If people are missing, include them at the next meeting. While it can be a lengthy process, in the long run the use of cross-functional teams creates a much healthier organization, one in which all the different constituencies are on the same page and understand why and how decisions come about.”

A second advisor sees musician involvement as the key to change: “Provide for voting participation of musician representatives on the board of directors (more than one or two ‘token’ musician members), but establish a clear and effective reporting structure and define how decisions will be made. Allow for musician input and responsibility in artistic planning. Encourage musicians to participate in all committees of the board of directors. In order for musicians to be engaged in the success of the organization, they need to be informed and to gain knowledge of the organization as a whole, not only from the perspective of the performer.” Another advisor focuses on artistic and pro- gramming decisions, reminding that these decisions “have become less the automatic authority of conductors and include an assortment of administra- tive and artistic staff. This will and must continue.”

Yet another advisor sums up, “Although each group maintaining their au- tonomy and identity is good, there should be a concerted effort for each group to find projects which cross over into the other constituent groups. The board needs to help the volunteers, staff, and orchestra in their projects and should receive assistance from the others also. A family relationship? It isn’t hard to have this view after watching the organization work against itself for so long. Each group feels they are right and knows what is best. I believe that if we all had the same information and understood one another, we would find we have more in common than we have differences. And, our differences can be discussed in a manner which brings all parties together rather than separating them.”

“Although the relationship between management and musicians seems to go in cycles, there is no doubt we are presently in a period in which there seems to be an almost widespread recognition that the relationship needs improve- ment. Some orchestras have brought in outside consultants to facilitate the process of learning to work together and advance mutual goals. . . . Changes in this direction are very necessary to keep the industry healthy.” Another advisor argues, “Master agreements have to be negotiated in such a way as to allow orchestras to build educational programs around musicians. Some program initiatives have to arise from musicians themselves and have to benefit those musicians in some way.”

“First- and second-tier orchestras will engage musicians more directly and actively in board and management discussions, but collective institutions will be rare and a transitory phase for orchestras emerging from crisis.” Another advisor says, “My hope is for the musicians to become a major part of both the artistic and administrative decision-making process. The board needs to be educated that the musicians are a major source of talent beyond their perfor- mance skills on-stage. Musicians need to feel about their orchestras as owners feel about their businesses. The problems which torture personnel managers (musicians calling in with questionable illnesses, bad attitudes, trying to take advantage of the system, and so forth) would diminish. The quality of the music would also improve as each musician took ownership of the product.” If musicians are to assume a broader, as another advisor reminds us, “Hiring practices for musicians will have to become sensitive to the more eclectic nature of being a symphony musician if the organization is to be successful in providing a wide range of services in the community.”

“The orchestra’s quality is a direct reflection of the board’s commitment to music. Board members should feel connected to the musicians personally, as well as through a shared mission. It is the board’s dedication to this revolution which will bring about changes in the management structure. They are the ones with whom the authority ultimately resides and . . . the ones who need to understand how important and necessary changes are. The article in the Fall 1999 issue of Harmony has a wonderful discussion on this topic . . .”

“Management should understand that the survival of the industry depends on their developing a new style and method of doing business. The good old days may have been when raising money was easy, halls were filled, and they were left alone to do as they pleased. (Sort of like running a Fortune 500 company in the 1950s—you couldn’t not make money). The managers might find all of this new information sharing to be time consuming and burdensome, but it is a critical step in building a new coalition of orchestra leadership for the next generation. Trust, cooperation, and information sharing need to be the rule, not the exception.”

“Change is essential and . . . a team-based process is needed. I am afraid that these changes will not be made until we are forced by threats to our survival to make them. I wish . . . that Harmony and the efforts of the Symphony Or- chestra Institute would bring about fundamental change, but we are all alike in our institutional inertia: short of a truly inspired leader or impending doom, we will just do business as usual.” Another advisor maintains, “Symphonies need to become more democratic—more inclusive of all constituent groups. Obviously, some key people will be charged with making final decisions, but having a music director or executive director making decisions in a vacuum and forcing these decisions upon everyone else is an outmoded paradigm. A task force of key people from all aspects of the organization, analyzing the local market, the future direction of the organization, what works and what doesn’t, can be very helpful. However, the music director and the executive director must listen to the findings of the task force.”

“The best answer lies in inspired leadership. We have a few good models—we need more.” Or as another advisor observes, “We should hypothesize and dream more about symphony orchestras, so as to have another pole around which to work to improve the real, day-to-day problems, omens, and portents. Having established ideals—and a forum for expressing, arguing, agreeing, collecting, and disseminating them—how do we connect at the hip what we believe must be with what is?”

8. Some people have speculated that symphony organizations, as we move into the 21st century, will need to become more “flexible” and more “responsive.” What do these words mean to you specifically? Do you agree? If so, what specific changes will symphony organizations need to make or should consider making?

One advisor defines terms: “Being flexible is the ability to change as quickly as possible, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities. It fosters creativity. Responsive means the ability to make a decision. As far as changes to the organization, I think we need to assess our current decision-making process. Our organizations need to understand the necessity to be open to ideas, to have a forum for exploring opportunities, and to have a process which is inclusive, ending in a decision that all constituencies can buy into.”

A second advisor says, “Most of all, symphony organizations must be respon- sive to the market needs and demands for the artistic and educational prod- ucts they offer. And it means being flexible about how the organization can reshape itself to meet those demands. Expanding educational programs will especially challenge the traditional orchestra’s self-identity as primarily a symphonic presenting organization.”

Another adds, “There is little doubt that all parts of the institution need to become more flexible and responsive to market demands. Twenty years ago, many steel workers were unable or unwilling to make changes and their jobs were eliminated. . . . Musicians (with superficial knowledge of the issues) often complain that the management is incompetent and that a wholesale change is needed. If the musicians were more involved, they would have a better understanding of the types of changes which would improve the health of the institution. Schedules with soloists and conductors seem to be set years ahead. The orchestra receives a tentative working schedule for the entire year about three months before the season. Changing anything can be very difficult. A sign of good health (both as an organization and as individuals) is the ability or willingness to adjust and make changes as needed in an environ- ment of mutual trust. If management wants more flexibility, it should present its case convincingly, and the orchestra should evaluate the request based on its merits (rather than on antagonism toward management). Not having tried something before is not a valid reason to be negative.”

“ I believe being more responsive means having a consumer orientation instead of a product orientation. We need to have extensive and ongoing customer contact. In order to do this we need to put our marketing depart- ments in the forefront of our decision processes.” Or as another advisor expresses it, “To deserve the increasing support of their various customers, symphony organizations must be willing to listen more to those who have traditionally listened to them. They must be more responsive to them and flexible in both meeting and molding their needs. The key to accomplishing this is to increase ongoing, invigorating communication with those who have not been much considered in the past.”

“The term ‘flexible’ has become synonymous—among musicians—with the concept of service-conversion, in which musicians are given a service ‘credit’ in exchange for fulfilling a non-musician task, such as giving a lecture-demon- stration, teaching in community music schools, performing in some aspect of music education, assisting in fundraising events, and so forth. . . . A lot of the problems the industry is having with this concept is that people are not straightforward in how they discuss the issue. Musicians feel threatened when asked to do things, professionally, that they’ve not done before and perhaps have no training for. Managers feel frustrated when what seems to be such a logical, even exciting, avenue is ‘shot down’ without even being considered. Those orchestras that have approached this issue openly have had some good success. Many musicians, particularly section players, are frustrated by the lack of control in their lives—tempo, phrasing, bowings, and the like, are deter- mined by someone else and all that players need do is execute someone else’s instructions! Participating in a new ‘flexible’ or ‘responsive’ symphony organi- zation may release all sorts of hidden talents in musicians, but they must be made to feel comfortable in the effort. Some orchestras have begun the process on a voluntary basis, and the success and satisfaction of those partici- pating has encouraged others to come on board. Before any of these new approaches can work, however, symphony organizations must open the lines of communication and get the different constituencies to begin to trust one another, at a fundamental level. How this is done will probably differ, organi- zation to organization.”

Here are two examples of innovation: “Contemporary techniques, such as collaboration with jazz, rock, rap, or dramatic artists, should include, as much as possible, the prominent participation of orchestra musicians, and not as a ‘backup’ group to some superstars, even if such events are designed to bring in revenue. Secondly, audiences have been proven to be attracted to special festivals of a particular type of music, or even one special composer. Look at the amazing results of the New York Philharmonic’s recent ‘Completely Copland’ festival. Here is an American composer of this century whose works were exclusively presented over a three-week period. Everyone learned a lot about Copland. The proof of the pudding? They say that the hall was packed every night. Now, you can’t do that in very community, naturally . . . but nobody thought it could be done in New York City either.”

Another advisor, seeking to specify areas in which responsiveness and flexibil- ity will be required, says, “Responsiveness and flexibility will be called for among musicians and artistic decision makers about experimenting with unusual repertoire, collaborative performance opportunities in dance, opera, film, and theater, and in presentations that involve newer technologies. New music will challenge the traditional ‘core’ instrumentation and hiring deci- sions. Early and new musics will challenge musicians to become more diverse in their knowledge of performance practice issues. The suburbanization of America will not likely reverse any time soon, forcing orchestras to go to their audiences and to find appropriate venues other than traditional symphonic concert halls. Changes in electronic recording and broadcast media will challenge traditional thinking about copyright and recording royalties.

Recordings and broadcasts are likely to become marketing or public relations expenses rather than sources of earned income. Fundraising efforts will need to be more flexible and responsive to the new cultures of philanthropy that are emerging.”

A third advisor speaks of the difficulty in deciding what specific changes are needed and how to achieve them: “We are caught between the necessity to plan 18 to 24 months in advance and the flexibility we seek to modify the schedule to be innovative. This dilemma is present in all aspects of the organization—continuing to do things as they have been done versus the risk of trying a new approach. Information gathering to make the best-informed decisions is time-consuming and often labor intensive.” However, this advisor concludes, “Better communication skills throughout all groups of constituents should aid in achieving flexibility and responsiveness.”

9. There are various associations and other groupings within, surrounding, and serving “the symphony orchestra industry.” These entities include such associations as the American Symphony Orchestra League [ASOL], the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians [ICSOM], the Regional Orchestra Players Association [ROPA], the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians [OCSM], and the American Federation of Musicians [AFM] and its locals, and subgroups within these larger groups. There are various “professional role groups” within or serving the industry, such as the associations of personnel managers, orchestra librarians, music critics, and so forth. There are for- profit business groups which regularly work within and around the industry, such as artists’ representatives and presenting organizations. All these groups are part of and contribute to some degree to the maintenance of traditional patterns of how symphony organizations function. In your judgment, what impact, either positive or negative, might these associa- tions or groupings have on individual symphony organizations and how they function in the future?

One advisor affirms, “They have an enormous impact through lobby initia- tives and mutual-interest representation, as well as advocacy and support within the industry.” Another added, “Service organizations have a profound impact. One salient example of this is the impact of the ASOL classification system that encourages the hierarchical and competitive nature of the field.” Another advisor says, “The various groups mentioned have an enormous impact, collectively speaking. Obviously, their various influences on individual organizations are a mixture of good and bad. To some extent, they represent entrenched antagonisms between labor and management.”

“These service organizations need to be more sophisticated about their role in the political advocacy process and more helpful to individual symphony organizations in understanding how to structure political partnerships.” Another advisor states, “Antagonisms among these groups weaken their collective political influence on public funding and public policy decisions that affect symphony organizations.”

“Many of us observed firsthand the dangers—tragedies even—of sectarianism . . . in the political movements of the 1960s and 1970s. A horror! There is no easy answer. Independent, specialized groups can contribute vastly to a cause as long as a main, common goal is firmly kept in mind and agreed upon— such as communicating love of, excitement about, and commitment to, the actual art of music.”

“The ASOL will become more focused as a service organization to boards and managers, and will engage music directors, but not musicians, more actively. One organization will serve orchestral musicians, but it will not be the AFM. The role of all these entities will probably be reduced as new models of successful orchestral organizations emerge and as direct communi- cation improves among the organizations.”

“Service organizations could be catalysts for positive change. Instead of being protectorates for “business as usual,” they could become clearinghouses for information, advocating and supporting efforts to provide symphony organi- zations with necessary education and training programs to prepare them for the future.” Another is convinced, “If these organizations are willing to embrace change and accept innovative models, symphony orchestras might be able to effect more change. It is difficult to overcome the perpetuation of a more bureaucratic structure; it is easier to articulate what cannot be done and harder to articulate how it might be done differently.”

Another advisor concurs, but cautions with regard to union groups: “As for all the union groups, unless they themselves change and become more responsive and flexible in their rules and regulations, I see them as a negative force. I think that symphony musicians should have their own representation.”

“It is interesting to think about what will happen to the trade organizations and labor unions as time goes on. I don’t think labor organizations or the collective bargaining process are going away. Hopefully, as we continue to search, frequently without success, for a civil society, we will also find a way for different interest groups to bargain in more productive fashion than we have in the past. That may very well be the utopian view . . . [the] existing patterns of bargaining, if continued, will price many symphony orchestras out of the market place. I do think the trade organizations are evolving . . . they will have a role . . . their principal useful function today is the lobbying function. Training, job search, the exchange of ideas in a collegial setting are important peripheral activities. They will continue.”

“All of the groups can contribute greatly to the future of orchestras. Enlisting the support and participation of the various special-interest groups contributes more to a strong future than fighting or ignoring them. These groups rarely interact. ‘Cross-functional’ sessions would foster discussions incorporating many perspectives, and would certainly be in the interests of all parties. Although ideal situations may be used as models, the industry is not filled with model situations. There are agendas within each of the special interest groups which may not promote what is best for the industry. Does a particular organization serve a bureaucracy (itself ) or its members? There is a need for more dialogue between and within the conferences (ICSOM, ROPA, OCSM) and the AFM. . . . On a more local level, there needs to be greater understanding between orchestra committees and orchestras’ members. There are many layers of communication and sharing which need to take place to change the industry. There must be some momentum. Trying to alter the direction of a ship with no wind is impossible. It is up to the leadership of each group to work out a plan which will capture the interest and imagination of all parties. One group cannot be successful without the participation and success of the others.”

Another advisor observes, “My sense is that some of the antagonisms of the late 1980s and early 1990s between and among these labor and management associations has been displaced by a recognition that problems are real and need to be addressed in a more cooperative spirit. It would be great if some of these organizations would collaborate explicitly on reform initiatives.” An- other advisor concludes, “ . . . clearly, there is a need for change within our industry, if not only for improved working environments, but for survival itself. . . . This need for change must be recognized among all aspects and organizations associated with symphony orchestras. . . . Separation of and non-communication among all parties is one of the great problems we have.”

One advisor chose to include music schools in this area of discussion. “If we want musicians to be much more involved in our organizations, doing a variety of activities from fundraising to board work to music education, they will need some training. I believe music schools should provide a broader base of training than just musicianship.”

On the other hand, one person is convinced these associations and groupings should have no role in the future. “So many of the groups developed out of distrust. They would be rendered useless in a consensus-built environment. Sunset most of them . . .”

10. What forces will beat work within symphony organization participants as individuals, the organization as a whole, or the world in which the organization functions to keep things from changing at a pace required?

“Symphony organizations don’t want to change. Why would they? Who does? Symphony organizations want circumstances to change so that they can go on doing what they have always done.” Another advisor believes, “Crisis will continue to be the major force for change. ‘Man learns by being thrashed’, (Goethe, epigraph to Dichtung und Wahrheit). At the same time, a very few model institutions will emerge and be everywhere emulated. The chief retardant to change will be the ability of many orchestral organizations to ‘muddle through,’ albeit barely.”

Another advisor maintains, “Orchestras would be wise to experiment with organizational change, programming expansion, or diversification while the sun is still shining. It is much easier to find the leaks when it is raining, but it is much harder to patch the roof! The risks of experimentation are less extreme in a period of relative prosperity. Orchestras are inherently hierarchi- cal organizations, which promotes efficient communication, defines clear chains of command and accountability, and encourages subordination of individual initiative to the collective mission. To many in the business world, this is an admirably efficient organizational structure. It is one that is very well adapted to a stable mission in a fixed landscape of challenges. On the other hand, this same hierarchical organization can develop so much institutional inertia that change becomes difficult or impossible even in the face of monu- mental challenges, which is why we have seen orchestras literally go out of business rather than change their ways of doing business. It is hard to imagine symphony orchestras developing non-hierarchical organizational structures that have become popular in other industries. But it is essential to the future prosperity of these organizations that their organizational structures are not deterrents to innovation.”

This same advisor speaks further of inertia from the standpoint of personnel. “To some extent, organizations change only as quickly and radically as new blood, literally, can be brought into the organization. Many orchestra musi- cians and administrators have been working in orchestras for 20 to 30 years, having gotten their starts in the 1960s and 1970s when orchestras expanded rapidly in the U.S. The struggles of the late 1980s and 1990s were a real shock to the system for many in the orchestral field who entered the profession during a period that rewarded expansion rather than adaptation, emulation rather than innovation, and division of responsibility within organizations rather than cooperative ownership. Many feel the imperative to shift these tendencies in the face of changing realities of the culture and marketplace for the symphony orchestra. Young professionals now being trained in conserva- tories and music schools must be educated with a new set of expectations. They must be innovators and consensus builders who recognize and avoid the organizational pitfalls that prevent experimentation and change.”

Another advisor thinks, “Human nature will work against change. Change can be difficult. It exacerbates insecurities. It is the unknown, and many people are more comfortable with an unpleasant situation than with the unknown. In an orchestra with which I am familiar, the musicians were recently offered a choice of two schedules. One of them was ‘by the book’ and the other was an experiment. The experimental version was voted in. . . . Afterwards, the orchestra was surveyed as to their feelings about the change. While most of the respondents liked the choice, there was a minority who expressed the view that we should not try these things ‘because it is not in the contract’. What made this response even more interesting was that a number of those who expressed their opposition . . . were not affected by the change in any way at all. This survey said more about those individuals than about the experiment. We are comfortable with what we know and that with which we are familiar.”

“None of us wants to preside over the demise of programmatic growth. We all want to be remembered for maintaining status, not for instituting internal processes which made survival possible.”

Another advisor concludes, “If we continue to drag our heels in trying new things or don’t question how or why processes are being done certain ways, then we will change at a slower rate.”

“One of the forces that keeps symphony organizations from changing is the continuing financial support of an older generation of upper-class donors whose largess in the recent market upswing has fostered complacency. We all know that this generation is dying off, but not in time to affect current employees’ careers.”

Another advisor says, “Certainly, for mid-sized orchestras in markets that are not expanding rapidly, the economy itself will be the principal agent of change. . . .In an expanding economy, it has been possible for many orchestras to keep pace with the increasing costs of musical talent. Many major orches- tras are settling five-year contracts that greatly increase base salaries. These contracts seem predicated on very optimistic assumptions about a continuing expansion. But eventually, the expansion will slow or stop, earning power for orchestras will slow, and gift income will be harder to find. Many orchestras will once again face the situation of the late 1980s and early 1990s, trying to winnow out expenses in order to balance the books. Economic necessity will become the mother of organizational innovation.”

“Most professional orchestras are dependent on outside gift and investment income for 40 to 60 percent of annual operating revenues. Corporate, founda- tion, and private donors have enormous influence over the organizational function and programming of orchestras that are anxious for these gifts.”

“Fiefdoms are killing our organizations. . . . Focus on the audience.”

“Traditional stereotypes will continue to impede change. As long as people ‘think inside the box’ and perceive others in the old roles, little will change. Musicians must forget the grievances they carry from 10 or even 20 years ago and begin to take ownership in the institution. Staffs must lose their parochial attitudes towards musicians and perceive them as resources, even potential colleagues, working towards the same goal. Board members must foster these new relationships and get to know their orchestras’ musicians.”

11. In your overall judgment, what forces or conditions need to exist for positive change to start and be sustained in the typical symphony organi- zation?

In one advisor’s words, orchestras will need “an external environment (e.g., donor support, community support, public funding) that rewards positive changes rather than being indifferent to them. A symphony organization well-adapted to the cultural needs and market realities of its community does not need to change, at least not for the community. But something is very wrong when there is no external reward for an organization that attempts change to meet the perceived needs of a community. Too many orchestras, I fear, are in this predicament. They take affordable risks with their concert programming, outreach, educational programming, and performance venues in response to criticism and encouragement, but they receive little reward or benefit for doing do. This understandably drives administrators, artistic directors, and musicians back toward more conservative decisions—the tried and true. Orchestras have become such institutionalized assets in many communities that their continued existence is taken for granted.”

Ironically, advancing technology may bring about the condition conducive to that external support, as one advisor states it, “reaffirmation of that which makes us better as a community. Despite the isolation of individuals caused by advanced technology, man seeks to be part of a layer of society. The symphony orchestra is a community within the larger community it serves, enhancing that community, and enriching the lives of the individuals it engages.”

“Only crisis and impending doom can precipitate change, but I would like to think that we are training a cadre of leaders who understand the economic, political, and social environment for the arts in America and are prepared to abandon unworkable modes of operation and provide leadership designed to apply best practices and avert crises.” Another advisor put it this way, “The key variable for the success of any orchestral organization will increasingly be leadership. This might arise from within the board, from a manager, or, as I expect to be the case increasingly, from the music director. . . . But it will be individual, not collective. The central activity for all those interested in fostering positive change should be the identification of such leaders and the dissemination of information about what they are doing.”

And another advisor believes, “Proposing and effecting change, and overcom- ing the apathy and inherently conservative nature of the organization, requires inspired leadership from all groups. We will need guidance from all interested parties working together in an atmosphere of trust, respect, and cooperation. It may take a major crisis to convince certain groups within the industry or individual orchestras that they must change or they will not survive in their present form. As a natural disaster can bring people together to work for the common good, so too can a crisis be a catalyst for an orchestra. Challenges can bring out the best in people. In a situation where things are pretty good, there is probably little reason or inspiration to change. Maybe the leadership needs to sound an alarm before the crisis has arrived at their door.”

Still another advisor, along these lines, concludes: “We need to recruit people who are excited about change and can see the good that it brings. These people need to be disciples who proselytize what this can mean for an organi- zation and what will need to happen in order for us to stay up with the times. They need to be visionary about the future possibilities for symphony organi- zations.”

Another advisor says there needs to be “greater involvement of musicians in strategic planning in ways that lead to a stronger sense of joint ownership and cooperative mission.” Continuing, this advisor advocates “finding new ways to cultivate and sustain appropriate involvement of boards and volunteers. There is something dysfunctional about the typical board arrangement. Board members are usually expected to ‘give or get’ gifts to cover operating expenses. However, board members are usually board members because they want to do something more than simply donate. Administrators are often plagued by meddlesome board members who ‘don’t know their place’. This sort of arrangement is bound to devolve into frustration and failure.”

One advisor advocates “finding ways to individualize musicians’ contracts in ways that make the most sense for the individual and the orchestra. This could, of course, lead to abuses and inequities that, some would say, are the very reason for the existence of the AFM and ICSOM. But if orchestras are to make better use of the diverse talents of their musicians for wide-ranging program offerings, there has to be more flexibility in negotiating the terms of employment with individual musicians.”

“For positive change to occur . . . I think all parties need to do a good job. This is not as simplistic as it sounds. If the . . . executive director does well, and consequently so does the staff, positive change in the form of optimism will result. If the musicians do a good job, the product improves. This is equally true for the music director, who must also project a positive attitude toward the organization and its potential for success. Mutual respect leads to mutual success. But, attitudes of anger, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and the like, are rampant among musicians.” Another advisor adds as an essential force for change “universally shared pride in their organizations.”

“Nothing will truly change if the constituencies don’t trust each other. Once the conversation begins, anything is possible. But having that first, really honest conversation is the hard part.” Another advisor believes that “mutual respect across all lines” is needed, along with a “genuine respect for the capabilities of every individual” in the organization. Still another concludes, “The authentic attainment of mutual respect in the working partnership between the musicians and staff is the most important force for change. A house at war with itself cannot attain the development of innovative program- ming and artistic presentation that is convincing enough to leap over the footlights to do justice to repertoire or to sustain patron loyalty. Footsteps hasten past a house that constantly argues and is permeated with internal pathology.”

“Excellent, continuous, open, and honest communication. Effective conflict resolution. Free exchange of ideas. Willingness to change and experiment with new ideas.” Or as another advisor puts it: “Systems and processes to empower all constituent individuals to enable them to blossom and contribute all they are capable of contributing, and an intense desire to embrace and respond to and take advantage of the Internet age.”

One advisor advocates the “preeminence of audience development and education.” Another recommends “a more radical review of organizational missions. The range of programs and services now offered by a typical symphony organization reduces the performance of symphonic literature to one-among-many offerings and sometimes to a ‘minority’ offering (as mea- sured by audience participation, budget, and musician service). Yet perfor- mance of the symphonic literature is still, for most orchestras, the core mission of the organization, with other programs and services being audience develop- ment offerings, or worse, necessary evils. I wouldn’t advocate for performance of symphonic music becoming peripheral for orchestras. But I would argue that other goals (e.g., education and community building) need to share pride of place in the core mission if they are to consume so much of the energy and resources of the organization.”

“Orchestras need to be realistic about finances. Costs for simply sustaining an orchestra’s quality, its musicians, staff, and operations, will tend to go up at rates that are hyper-inflationary. Endowments must be created that can grow at a rate to cover these cost trends for orchestras, as many colleges and univer- sities have done. These endowments need to be used at very modest rates to cover annual operating expenses. The scale of programming and operations in an orchestra must then be proportioned appropriately to the endowment resources of the organization.”

In conclusion, one advisor reminds us that “attitude and taste will drive change. The best barometer of the need for change is found at the box office.”


About the author

Allison Akins