Issue No. 16: October, 2003

Publisher’s Notes by Frederick Zenone
A Bold Experiment by Bruce Coppock
Good Governance for Challenging Times: The SPCO Experience by Lowell J. Noteboom
Contract Renewal Process: Through Musicians’ Lenses
A Bold Experiment: The Processby Paul Boulian
An Orchestra Outside of the Box by Marianne C. Lockwood
About the Cover by Phillip Huscher
Toward Meaningful Change by Catherine Maciariello
Confluence: Leadership, Collegiality, Good Fortune by Marilyn D. Scholl
The Elgin Symphony Orchestra: Growth with a Plan
Orchestra and Community: Another Look by Markand Thakar
Walking in Two Worlds: A Librarian’s Perspective by Karen Schnackenberg
From Challenge to Success: What Must Change? by Gideon Toeplitz
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Strategic Plan
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra 2010 Vision Statement

Publisher’s Notes

While we read almost daily about the financial challenges that American orchestras are facing, we rarely read in the popular press about a range of challenges that some orchestras are facing in collaborative and imaginative ways. In this issue of Harmony, in addition to reporting about the dramatic progress that one orchestra has made in addressing its financial crisis, we direct your attention to other orchestras engaged in addressing the challenges of changing roles, shared responsibilities, inclusive governance, bold vision, and collaborative planning. In the long term, it is likely that the core work of boards will still be governance, staff members will still manage, and musicians will still make music. But there is a new dialogue about the limitations of rigid boundaries for those roles and responsibilities.

In 2002, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) completed an 18-month strategic-planning exercise that included representatives from all orchestra constituencies. Through that exercise, the organization had decided who and what it wanted to become. It now faced the question of how to get there. During the course of their strategic-planning work, members of the organization had developed a taste for rigorous cross-constituency deliberation. The SPCO invited the Symphony Orchestra Institute to help its constituencies develop a deliberative process that would take the strategic plan from words on paper to actions, while at the same time undertaking a renewal of the collective bargaining agreement between the SPCO and its musicians.

To undertake such an examination as an organization is challenging; to do so while intending to arrive at a contract renewal is an unusually bold step because it requires careful reexamination of positions and practices that have been in place for a long time. Those who participated in the SPCO’s contract renewal process became introspective in deeply deliberative, collaborative, and inclusive ways. Much of what the Contract Renewal Group addressed in Saint Paul has rarely been addressed within American symphony organizations, and if it has been addressed, the work has been done on a much smaller, single-constituency level in which it could be assumed that people were of like opinion.

In this issue of Harmony, there are four articles prepared by some of the leaders of this journey. Bruce Coppock and Lowell Noteboom have written from their respective positions as president and board chair of the SPCO. The five musicians, Kyu-Young Kim, Tom Kornacker, Sarah Lewis, Charles Ullery, and Herb Winslow, who served as members of the Contract Renewal Group, share their thoughts through an Institute roundtable. And Paul Boulian describes the process that the participants used to acknowledge their shared values and to move in the direction of making decisions as one constituency without feeling threats to their individual identities.

Trust and its care and feeding are central to the success of this kind of journey. So, too, is a belief that tension and disagreement are not necessarily destructive. Both conditions existed in Saint Paul. The SPCO’s bold experiment produced a plan unlike any other we know in American orchestras. We hope it will provoke serious thinking about our orchestra world. It is bound to produce vigorous conversation.

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s represents a different model of how an organization began and how it grew. As Marianne Lockwood, St. Luke’s president and executive director, explains, it began as a chamber music organization and only later became an orchestra. Along the way, the organization took with it the values of inclusiveness, collaboration, and shared goals that are common practice in the world of chamber music. As audience members, we know what those values produce in chamber-music performance. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s gives us a glimpse at what those values produced at an organizational level.

It is notable that as is preferred by the musicians, St. Luke’s remains a per-service orchestra. Working from a core of players, the organization adds and subtracts personnel from a select cadre of musicians on an as-needed basis, depending on the repertoire. It’s a practice reminiscent of the larger- scale London Symphony Orchestra in its earlier days as was described in Harmony #13. This structure has also been the practice of orchestras in many smaller U.S. cities. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s is a flourishing example of this model.

For the past three and one-half years, 15 American orchestras have participated in an initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The effort is intended to bring meaningful change to the orchestra industry by sharing what is learned in the 15 orchestra “laboratories.” Catherine Maciariello is the foundation’s program officer for the initiative. This past June, she addressed many in attendance at the American Symphony Orchestra League’s conference in San Francisco. We are pleased to share with Harmony readers her remarks about the genesis, results to date, and future challenges of this program.

The Saint Louis Symphony could be the “canary in the mine” metaphor for many of us. And in this case, the canary has returned to the surface to sing. This orchestra has been ambitious in striving toward excellence and ambitious to present its excellence widely. The organization created practices and programs that were imitated models, but ultimately found its high ideals and broad ambitions truly beyond its financial grasp. The crisis was sobering. Harmony editor Marilyn Scholl chronicles the organization’s journey from near catastrophe toward stabilization and a bright future. It is a story of leadership, sacrifice, difficult choices, and the awakening of community conscience, all directed at saving a great community resource.

The suburbs of many American cities are homes to dozens of smaller- budget orchestras playing the classical repertoire regularly. Elgin, Illinois is one of those suburbs. The Elgin Symphony Orchestra came to the Institute’s attention by virtue of the rapid growth of its budget. When we began to inquire, we learned that the organization attributes its success to a rigorous, collaborative, annual strategic-planning process—a process that includes representatives of all constituencies—that focuses on matching a goal of ever- stronger artistic product with financial reality. We thank Doris Gallant, Michael Pastreich, Emanuel Semerad, Tim Shaffer, and John Totten for participating in an Institute roundtable to take readers inside the organization’s planning process.

In Harmony #15, we published a speech that Penelope McPhee, vice president and chief program officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, had delivered to a gathering of participants in the foundation’s “Magic of Music” initiative. We invited reader response to “Orchestra and Community: Bridging the Gap.” Markand Thakar accepted our invitation and offers his views as to why orchestras are reluctant to make the changes for which the Knight Foundation calls. Thakar brings to his essay his dual perspectives as music director of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota and co- director of the graduate conducting program at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. We thank him for taking keyboard in hand to remind us of the value of differing opinions.

We also thank Karen Schnackenberg, chief orchestra librarian of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Institute’s Board of Advisors, for reminding us that not all collaborative, cross-constituency undertakings need be vast of scale. Karen is a strong proponent of the notion that orchestra librarians are both musicians and administrators, and that thought comes through clearly in her essay to describe two successful initiatives in her orchestra.

In this issue’s final essay, Gideon Toeplitz challenges readers to consider seriously what must change if American symphony orchestras are to survive and thrive. Gideon is a 30-year veteran of orchestra management and many of these thoughts have been on his mind for a long time. It was Gideon who oversaw the introduction of Hoshin to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (as reported in Harmony #7) and his passion for the music, as well as his determination that American orchestras work smarter, resounds in his essay.

For nine years, the Symphony Orchestra Institute has published Harmony as a periodical. This 16th issue is our largest. Harmony has become the central forum for information and discussion about better-functioning symphony organizations

However, we at the Institute have come to a time when we must ask difficult questions and make difficult decisions about how to use our resources. As you will note in the statement that follows, we are no longer able to meet the human and financial demands of periodical publishing. We do intend to pursue activities that will merit publication from time to time, whether in print or on the web.

This year, for instance, we have worked with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. The work with the SPCO is reported in depth in this issue. We think it is some of the most important field work we have done. The Institute will continue to undertake different kinds of fields projects where it is felt we can be effective.

We are proud of the 16 issues of Harmony that are now archived, with search capabilities, on our website. Our newly expanded bibliography, also available on the website, is a vital resource for information about symphony organizations and their development. It will be useful for many years ahead.

This final issue of Harmony and the prior 15 issues were produced only with the time, dedication, and hard work of many. Those who have written for the journal have been reflective, informative, and often provocative while always pointing us toward positive change. We want to acknowledge the passion and expertise of Harmony editor Marilyn Scholl and the dedication of David Scholl and Katie Byrne for their work with publication, distribution, the website, and communications. Many thanks also to Phillip Huscher whose erudition and cover choices have 16 times reminded us and our readers that this is indeed a great art we serve.

To Our Readers

This 16th issue will be the final publication of Harmony by the Institute, in its present form and on a regular, periodic basis. The Institute has concluded that the content-development process, management and operational requirements, and expense of publishing Harmony on a regular, periodic basis are now beyond its human and financial resources.

We will maintain our website, <>, and an archive of prior Harmony content, including that of this final periodic issue, will be posted there.

Looking to the future, we plan to continue to post on the website reports, articles, dialogue, and other content—in downloadable and printable form— which we believe address, describe, and foster, in especially pertinent ways, transformational change within symphony orchestra organizations and the industry as a whole. We may from time to time publish, print, and distribute such material under the Harmony name, whenever that communication avenue will be especially effective.

The Institute will also continue to foster and pursue various forms of consultation and facilitation efforts in the field, to nurture positive changes within symphony organizations and the industry as a whole, toward the preservation and enhancement of symphony orchestra organizations and the essential musical and cultural services and value they provide their communities.

Editor’s Thanks

The Institute’s decision to discontinue publication of Harmony as a periodical is, as you can imagine, a cause for sadness on the part of this editor. But having edited all 16 issues, I also find it an occasion on which to offer my deepest thanks. To the 61 authors, dozens of roundtable participants and interviewees, writers of letters to the editor, and countless supporters of this publication, kudos! Your can-do spirit and willingness to share your work and your thinking in these pages has energized and emboldened an entire field.

I am in particular debt to Phillip Huscher who has 16 times carried forth our idea of gracing the cover of Harmony with a classical score fragment and dared you to guess what and why. Also to Beth Judy for her black- and blue- pencil proofreading of thousands of pages. And to my business partner (and spouse) David Scholl who has completed every inch of typesetting and every detail of design and production for these 16 issues. My final thanks go to Katie Byrne, our communication specialist, who has demonstrated amazing agility in knowing who you, our readers, are and where you are. You are a decidedly mobile group of more than 6,500.

Nine years ago, Marilyn Scholl was a 25-year subscriber to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a woman who knew and loved the music, but one who had little knowledge of orchestras as organizations. In the intervening years, you have welcomed me into your concert halls and into your conversations. My life has been enriched. For that opportunity, heartfelt thanks.


The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Beginning in 2002 and continuing into 2003, representatives of the Symphony Orchestra Institute worked with members of the Saint Paul

Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) family as that organization undertook a journey to take a strategic plan from words to actions and simultaneously to complete a musicians’ contract renewal. Paul Boulian and Fred Zenone designed and led the process from beginning to end. In the special section that follows, we present four views of that work.

The section opens with a sustained essay written by SPCO president Bruce Coppock, who sets the stage for the work and explains the content of the many sessions in which participants engaged. Coppock also shares the consequences of nasty financial surprises, as well as those of an extraordinary opportunity that presented itself at an awkward moment. He concludes with a compendium of the success of the organization’s “Bold Experiment.”

SPCO board chair Lowell Noteboom shares his thoughts about “Good Governance for Challenging Times.” He suggests what governance is and what it is not, and reviews pertinent literature to demonstrate how thoughts about nonprofit governance have changed over time. He then takes us step-by-step through the development of the organization’s strategic plan and contract renewal. He concludes with thoughts about the dramatically changed ways in which the organization will do business as musicians assume new levels of involvement in all aspects of the SPCO’s work.

The five musicians who served as members of the Contract Renewal Group share their thoughts about the collaborative process via an Institute roundtable. They tell us about their experiences as participants and explore how their lives as musicians will change as a result of the terms of their new contract. They conclude with thoughts for other orchestras to consider.

The final entry in this section is written by the “design guy,” Paul Boulian. Long-time readers of Harmony are familiar with Boulian’s work with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (as reported in Harmony #5) and with the Philadelphia Orchestra (as reported in Harmony #14). Here he explains in detail how the work in Saint Paul began, how it evolved, and how it was completed.

Our Saint Paul authors present challenging material that requires thoughtful reading and reflection. We extend our thanks to them for expending the extraordinary amounts of time it took to prepare this material to share with the field.

A Bold Experiment

During the 10 months between August 2002 and May 2003, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) undertook a bold experiment in contract negotiations. By design, and without predisposition as to the result, eleven members of the SPCO organization—five musicians, three senior staff members including myself, and three board members—embarked on a process to produce a collective bargaining agreement for the SPCO using a new approach, having agreed in advance that we did not wish to negotiate in the traditional way, and recognizing our fairly well-developed ability to “get along” and work well together. The SPCO environment has traditionally been warm, cordial, and polite, Minnesotan for sure, but also cohesive enough that we did not require “remedial” work in labor-board- management relations. We all were motivated by the desire to do it better than we had before, while admittedly not quite sure what better might look like.

After the orchestra and staff had agreed in the spring of 2002 that we would seek an alternative approach to our negotiations, we discussed a number of possibilities. We had recently completed a strategic-planning process that involved approximately equal numbers of musicians, staff, and board members. Demystifying the board—and its attitudes and motivations—had been very helpful during our planning. Orchestra members and staff suggested imitating that format for negotiations, and the board leadership concurred and agreed to participate. After considerable discussion, we agreed to engage Fred Zenone and Paul Boulian to lead a renewal dialogue. The SPCO’s recent background of comparative financial stability, artistic excellence, cordial organizational dynamics, and focused strategic planning all contributed to Fred and Paul’s interest in the SPCO project, as did the SPCO’s demonstrated energy to try a new approach.

The contract renewal process was by any measure extraordinary. It was an emotionally engaging, exhaustingly challenging roller coaster ride for all involved, including the orchestra with whose future we were struggling. Importantly, the process was not an outgrowth of an immediate financial crisis, although a serious financial situation did emerge and nearly upstage the contract renewal process midway. It was not a response to an artistic crisis or the departure of key personnel, although at some basic level, artistic issues turned out to be at the heart of our discussions. It was not a response to an institutional failure, such as a strike or a lockout, a decline in attendance, or bad press about artistic or organizational matters. Each of those nightmares—or worse—was, however, a possible outcome if we failed to address the SPCO’s challenges effectively.

Rather, the work of the Contract Renewal Group (CRG), and the results we produced, were our responses to something far less tangible: together we felt deep down that the SPCO simply must become better than it already is, artistically, organizationally, financially, and culturally. That was the very essence of our first stated value of excellence, as we had defined it for ourselves in our 2002 strategic plan: striving for peak performance individually and collectively throughout the organization. Not merely good performance, or even very good performance, or God forbid, good enough performance. Through our strategic planning process, the whole organization had committed itself to strive toward peak performance together collectively as an organization, and individually as players, managers, trustees, leaders, and colleagues.

Before we began this extraordinary journey in August 2002, even without the benefit of the rigorous analysis, introspection, and struggle that ensued, each of us in the Contract Renewal Group understood that grappling with the issue of excellence would demand an enormous effort from each of us. We did not yet understand what would be required of us collectively to function as an organization bound together by a deeper commitment to excellence, having intentionally and collectively made a commitment to individual and collective peak performance. That is why we sought Fred and Paul’s assistance to facilitate our discussions.

Wasn’t the SPCO just fine as it was? Hadn’t we balanced our budget for nine consecutive years, one of the longest such runs in the industry? Wasn’t the SPCO quite widely recognized as a first-rate chamber orchestra? Of course it was and is. But deep down, we all felt our organization had to be better. Success in meeting our aggressive goals would be the result of the SPCO stretching and reaching for them, not providence bestowing them upon us. We were reminded of the ancient Chinese proverb: “A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in.”

At some level, to struggle openly with questions of our excellence seemed negative, self-defeating, and downright dangerous. However, three external forces, when combined with an overarching—and widely agreed upon—goal of becoming preeminent among the world’s chamber orchestras, forced us into this painful and exhilarating journey. It was a journey of reexamination of all of our organizational behaviors, our comparative standing, internal rituals and mythologies of the orchestra world, and the contract rules by which we live.

First, we operate in the most densely saturated orchestral market in the country. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are the only metropolitan area in the U.S. with two first-rate orchestras offering full concert seasons. As a result, there are more orchestra tickets for sale on a per capita basis by a factor of two here than in any other market in the country (including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco). Unlike nearly every other major U.S. orchestra, the SPCO is not the only show in town. We not only compete directly for audience with another fine orchestra, but we also compete directly for funding, board members, and a place in the community psyche.

Second, during the past 30 years, there has been a worldwide explosion of chamber orchestras. Even more daunting for the SPCO, this proliferation has predominantly taken the form of specialty ensembles: original instrument Baroque orchestras; classical chamber orchestras; contemporary music ensembles. Check the roster of “SPCO competition” circa 1975: there wasn’t much. You won’t find many of the staples of today: the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Ensemble Modern, Tafelmusik, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and many others. In a suddenly crowded and very competitive field, the SPCO finds itself generalists in a world of specialists.

Third, geography and local culture. In addition to being Midwestern, generally a liability in our industry with its coastal biases, Minnesota is cold! Furthermore, Minnesota is the land where everyone is, as Garrison Keillor tells us, “above average,” which makes an overt effort toward artistic preeminence suspect.

We had gained some understanding of these dynamics during our strategic- planning process. For example, the only vote taken in 20 months of planning meetings was about whether our vision statement should articulate the future SPCO as “the” beacon of quality or “a” beacon of quality. The advocates of “the” prevailed by a single vote! Minnesotans are uncomfortable with the idea of openly trying to be the best at something; it seems snooty, and perhaps somewhat unnecessary. Indeed, some of our musicians and board members wondered aloud why the strategic plan so aggressively urged us forward to be the best; wasn’t “among the best” good enough? Wouldn’t we offend people by suggesting that we wanted to be seen as the preeminent chamber orchestra in the world? So how would that Minnesotan modesty—deeply embedded in the SPCO culture—position the SPCO to attract the most superior talent, talent worthy of the world’s preeminent chamber orchestra? After all, it takes a lot more than “very good” to attract superior artists from bucolic European homes and bustling major international cities. And where is our competition based? New York, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, etc. The only factor we can employ to overcome geography and culture is superior performance. The artists we seek as regular members of the SPCO, and as conductors and collaborators, need a special reason to come to Minnesota: the excellence of the enterprise in all of its facets.

Fierce local competition, recently developed international competition, and the challenges of geography and culture. These were three important factors over which we had little or no control, but to which we had to find powerful responses.

Early Meetings: Feeling Our Way through Murky Stuff

Early discussions about our challenges quickly came down to understanding that overused word “excellence.” Excellence is something that we in the orchestra business tend to stipulate, even to the point of dismissiveness, perhaps because it makes everyone a little uncomfortable. Listen to orchestra managers talk: “Of course, the orchestra played excellently.” Listen to artist’s managers talk: “So and so was just fabulous . . . received a standing ovation and talk of re-engagement.” Listen to orchestra players talk: “Our orchestra can play anything fabulously . . . provided the right person is on the podium!” And listen to conductors talk: “The orchestra played fabulously for me.” And listen to what our institutions bombard our publics with: “world-class, superior, first-rate, without equal.” We act as if, with all the perils facing orchestras, the excellence of what we do should not and cannot be questioned. Is it just possible that our audiences, the very lifeblood of our organizations, are far more discriminating that we think? Even if they are unable to verbalize what was or was not compelling about a concert, at some visceral level, audience members will respond—by deciding to attend our concerts again, or by deciding to try something else. Given our highly competitive arenas, the CRG thought that examining our own behaviors around excellence was an important line of inquiry. As Tom Morris, executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra, who was a consultant to our strategic-planning process, had often reminded us, “Nothing succeeds like great concerts.” We began to allow ourselves to say out loud that maybe the SPCO was giving too many good concerts and not enough great ones.

We were struggling with very difficult issues and increasingly gaining the courage to face ourselves head on. While constantly reminding ourselves of our many successes over 44 years, we were beginning to coalesce around the idea that something wasn’t quite right at the SPCO—at its core. Maybe we ran the risk of talking the talk about the SPCO, but not walking the walk. Maybe we were indeed giving far too many good concerts and not enough great concerts; maybe we talked a lot about how, as a chamber orchestra, we are different, but we rarely acted really differently from a symphony orchestra; indeed, our collective bargaining agreement read essentially as that of any of the largest 25 symphony orchestras in America. Maybe we just weren’t as jazzed up about being the SPCO as we needed to be. In the Contract Renewal Group, we had to find a way to come to grips with all these ideas to make the pursuit of our vision of artistic preeminence a daily reality. The contract with our musicians—in the very broad sense that it defines the work to be done—had to be a central vehicle to focus our organization on addressing these tough issues.

In varying ways, each of us in the CRG struggled with these and many other issues, consciously and unconsciously, directly and indirectly during the first few meetings. As we readied ourselves to tackle each issue more specifically, none of us really knew where we would or should end up. As Fred and Paul guided us in feeling our way, we slowly became more open and candid with each other. A sense developed that there was a critical mass of readiness—some combination of dissatisfaction, a sense of adventure and purpose, and serious commitment to the betterment of the organization—that gave us the courage to explore ourselves in ways we never had before.

Where Did This Process Lead Us? What Did We Achieve?

Our process achieved a significant and early success in the form of a four- year collective bargaining agreement between the musicians of the SPCO and the Society, ratified by a narrow majority of musicians three months prior to the expiration of the prior agreement. By some measures of excellence, that constitutes success, but there is nothing novel or so special about that result, for it has been achieved many times before, here and elsewhere. Thus our success really resides neither in the contract’s ratification nor in its early completion. Rather, the success we wish to share really resides in the fundamentally different ways in which we agreed to address our many challenges. Furthermore, we ended up agreeing to very substantive changes to the scope and nature of SPCO musicians’ work, to our institution’s governance, and to organizational decision-making responsibility. We also agreed to a radical shift in the locus for artistic responsibility, and instituted a comprehensive process for feedback and professional growth for our musicians.

This new contract creates methodologies for realms of activity and organizational interaction unique in our industry. It is a bold and idealistic experiment, rooted in common values and common resolve. Its success, however dramatic, nonetheless still exists only in form: it codifies methodologies and systems for a strategic response to our circumstances as we understand them. It will be up to everyone in our organization to use these new methodologies to create more great concerts, and fewer good ones. As this article is published, we have taken some baby steps in the implementation of our new systems, and the initial results are quite positive, but it is still very early.

To suggest that progress was linear in arriving at this important base camp in our long, tall climb would be disingenuous. To suggest that critical mass sufficient to win ratification implies universal agreement would be downright dishonest. The very narrow ratification majority of the orchestra speaks to the challenges our new contract provides for all of us. There is no question that each of us in the CRG is passionately committed to this path. There is equally no question that our new agreement has angered some, threatened others, bewildered many, and exhilarated and inspired several, both within our orchestra and around the industry—musicians, managers, and trustees alike. The intensity of the responses to the new agreement tells us, at the very least, that something extraordinary did indeed take place in Saint Paul. Thus, we are keenly aware of the tenuousness of our “critical mass” and how vigorously we will need to strive to sustain this work. The initial vigor with which the many musicians of the orchestra have undertaken the new work of the SPCO is very gratifying, especially since several of the musicians now most involved were as skeptical of the CRG’s approach as they were of its results.

The Process

The process we used was devised largely by Paul Boulian and Fred Zenone, with substantive input from Herb Winslow, Lowell Noteboom, and me, in our respective roles of negotiating committee chair, board chair, and SPCO president. The CRG also participated in formulating work plans for each meeting. The process is described in detail in Paul Boulian’s companion article in this edition of Harmony. It therefore does not merit much further comment here, except to underscore the importance of process to the results we achieved. Some in the orchestra industry have dismissed our success as merely a process, signifying nothing. Others have dismissed our success as a function of the SPCO being merely a chamber orchestra. These are both erroneous suggestions. Those of us involved directly in this saga would agree that several other factors—the readiness factors—played far greater roles in making the process a successful vehicle for substantive changes to our organization.

The Readiness Factors

Five factors played vital roles in setting the stage for our agreement, and helped to create the right environment for success. Readiness factors were essential underpinnings, like a solid foundation for a house, without which we almost certainly would have failed. They are emphasized here largely to underscore their importance. Three years of readiness work preceded the contract renewal process.

Common vision. Through the highly inclusive strategic-planning process that preceded these discussions, which in its own right lasted 20 months from September 2000 through May 2002, we had together gained a common under- standing of our envisioned future. Using our own adaptation of Jim Collins’s conceptual template for institutional vision (outlined so compellingly in his book, Built to Last, co-authored with Jerry Porras), and most ably assisted by two consultants, Tom Morris and Ronnie Brooks (director of the Institute for Renewing Community Leadership in Saint Paul), we developed a clear and ambitious vision for the SPCO. Over those 20 months, this vision’s core val- ues, BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals), and descriptions of our envisioned future began to penetrate our organizational language forcefully enough to provide real context and framework for daily decisions. (A copy of the full plan, including the one-page vision statement, is available at < reading/index.shtml>.)

Committed, courageous leaders. To share our story accurately requires acknowledgement of the courage of the musicians and the commitment of the board and staff members who participated in the contract renewal process.

Herb Winslow and Tom Kornacker, negotiating committee chair and orchestra committee chair respectively, provided outstanding leadership to their colleagues and to the institution. Along with their three other orchestra colleagues on the CRG (bassoonist Chuck Ullery, violinist Kyu-Young Kim, and cellist Sarah Lewis), and ultimately with many other members of the SPCO, they deserve the highest praise for the quality and courage of their efforts. They engaged themselves intellectually in the artistic and strategic challenges, they listened carefully and thoroughly to the many voices from the orchestra, and they opened themselves up to highly threatening concepts. Throughout the process, these five musicians demonstrated integrated thinking skills of exceptional levels. Herb was extraordinarily adept in leading several full meetings of the orchestra.

We were the beneficiaries of equally committed leadership from three trustees, led by Lowell Noteboom, our board chair and president of the Minneapolis law firm, Leonard, Street & Deinard. He was joined in this effort by board members Don Birdsong and Sallie Lilenthal. It is one thing for management (whose job it is) and musicians (whose future it is) to devote 40 extra full days to such an enterprise. It is altogether something else for busy volunteers to demonstrate this level of commitment. The tenacity, intellectual capacity, and strategic acuity of our board members were important factors in…



Providing innovative discovery and distinctive experience through the brilliant performance and vigorous advocacy of the chamber orchestra and chamber music repertoire.


Excellence: Striving for peak performance individually and collectively throughout the organization.
Intimacy: Striving to create powerful, deep connections between and among performers and audiences through music; fostering close collaboration and respect among all internal constituencies.
Innovation: Aspiring toward versatility and the ability to invent and do whatever is needed; being willing to risk failure.
Continuity: Aspiring intentionally to stay the course in pursuit of long-term goals.


To be widely recognized as “America’s Chamber Orchestra”

• Sold-out series in key American cities of artistic significance

• Unavoidable presence at major world festivals and concert halls

• Regular high-profile European touring

•Unanimous national and international critical acclaim

• The international organization of choice for special artistic projects

To be clearly distinctive in purpose and artistic profile

• Clear and focused profile as a chamber orchestra, not a symphony orchestra; three discrete repertoires (Baroque, Classical Viennese, Music of Our Time) with distinctive performance styles

• Serving the community and music in myriad ways: education, community service, collaborations, technology; extensive community engagement, out reach and education

• Innovative labor relations, and willingness to do business together in non- traditional ways

• Strong centers of concert and program activity in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis

To be the symbol of cultural excellence in the Twin Cities

• Enthusiastic, trusting and overflowing audiences • The symbol of excellence in the community • Center of the community’s broader psyche • The SPCO Board is the board of choice

• Endowment to operating costs in ratio of at least six to one • Robust financial foundation of annual revenues that support artistic initiatives, both local and international • Own or control a distinctive, innovative and acoustically superior facility (or facilities) that supports the SPCO’s unique repertoire profile and acts as a magnet for superlative musicians, composers and conductors, administrators, board members and audiences.

…our success. Their involvement in what was at its core a contract negotiation broke one of the cardinal industry rules: never let the board members into the negotiating room. Contrary to conventional wisdom, their presence contributed mightily to the outcomes we achieved.

Those of us on the staff who participated deserve credit as well, particularly my colleagues Barry Kempton (vice president and general manger) and Beth Villaume (vice president for finance and administration). Each brought to this process fervor, passionate belief in the vision, a willingness to sacrifice many sacred cows, and tenacious attention to “homework assignments” throughout.

There is a compelling thought in Jim Collins’s second book, From Good to Great, in which he debunks the notion that people are a company’s greatest asset. Rather, he asserts, having the right people “on the bus” is one of several essential factors in getting from good to great. Further, he suggests, companies that made the leap did so by getting the right people together first, and then letting them figure out the strategies that would provide for growth and improvement, rather than the other way around. We had the right people on our bus.

A common desire for change. Although we may have initially sensed things differently, we all seemed to grasp the notion—intuitively at first and more and more empirically as the process developed—that something was not quite right at the core of the SPCO. That core, it turned out, was hit upon in a burst of understanding—a true “aha” moment—about a month into our work. In the middle of a particularly angst-filled session about attitudes and frustrations, Paul Boulian leapt up and drew the following chart.

In seeing that chart, we all realized that it was the musical and emotional spirit of SPCO musicians that was blocked—the very people most critical to the SPCO’s ultimate success. Our united task became to define how to unlock that spirit again. However hokey, or perhaps embarrassing that may sound to some, we knew, in one of those seminal moments, that in acknowledging our broken spirit, we had faced the bitter truth head on—yet another of Jim Collins’s axiomatic factors in moving from good to great. A dispirited orchestra was not an orchestra that would make the leap we described in our plan. We were motivated to find the best ways to unleash the orchestra’s spirit anew. We were further motivated by the belief that taking the easy way out and doing nothing major to the contract was a far scarier proposition than whatever new path we might develop. We would have to make big changes to overcome the malaise of blocked spirit. The diagram in Figure 2 showed us the cycle we needed to break.

Frustration with traditional bargaining. At the end of the 2001 negotiations, musicians (and their lawyer) and management (and its lawyer) were agreed that the traditional approach used had resulted in nothing better than a stalemate. That approach produced tension, secrecy, and suspicion on both sides. Even more importantly, it had failed to advance the strategic needs of the SPCO. Even though an agreement was ratified early, and was rarely contentious, its traditional mindsets and framework produced traditional results. That frustration had fueled our common aspiration to approach 2003 differently.

Safety, candor, and willingness to live by the ground rules.Many of the members of the CRG had participated actively in the strategic-planning process during 2000, 2001, and 2002. We had come to know each other pretty well. In fact, we had become accustomed to the idea that our culture was a cooperative one, especially by American orchestra-industry standards. Our old Minnesotan notion of “above average” might have misled us into the idea that there wasn’t room for big improvement. Here, Fred Zenone and Paul Boulian brought rigor, standards, and methodologies that helped us to develop safer, deeper, and more candid conversations. Over the course of the process, our group basically clicked: we like each other, we respect each other, we appreciate each other’s limits and strengths, and we manage to tolerate each other’s idiosyncratic obsessions. Further, we followed rules of engagement that we developed together with Fred and Paul’s assistance. They were vital in developing the right atmosphere for our work. Paul discusses these principles in his article beginning on page 57.

The Discovery Phase

The first eight or ten meetings following our organizational ones were spent in discovery. How did we believe we really stood in relation to achieving our BHAGs? How well did we really live our four values? Who is our national and international competition? How do they operate? Who plays in those chamber orchestras? Who is our local competition? How do we stack up against them? What competitive advantages do they have? What competitive advantages do we have? Through the varying lenses of musicians, board members, and staff, what is the SPCO’s relative competitive position, and what critical success factors could we identify?

To discover what we thought of ourselves, each member of the CRG answered the question, “How close is the SPCO to achieving its big, hairy, audacious goals?” by rating each of our three BHAGs on a scale of one to six, with one representing “very far away” and six representing “very close/almost there.” However subjective and flawed the methodology might be, our poll told us something of crucial importance: a cross-section of the SPCO leadership—musicians, board members, and staff—believed we were somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the way toward achieving our goals. We had a long way to go.

We then turned our attention to our stated core values by addressing the question: “How well-imbued into the fabric of the SPCO are its identified values (excellence, intimacy, innovation, and continuity)?” Again using a scale of one to six, in which one represented “scarcely imbued” and six represented “very strongly imbued,” we determined that we were slightly more than 50 percent of the way toward developing a culture based on our values. We acknowledged the work to be done.

We moved on to a variety of questions, using similar methodologies, to rank ourselves vis-à-vis our many competitors. We ranked ourselves in the arenas of musician, board, and staff recruitment and retention; we ranked ourselves against national, international, and local competition. We ranked the SPCO on such quantifiable variables as annual salaries and such ephemeral ones as “organizational sizzle.” We used highly subjective evaluation methodologies, including three versions of the smiley face—from severe frowning to intense smiling—to create a visual scale of one to five. The SPCO received overall rankings ranging from slightly better than severe frowning to slightly better than a neutral face. In general, our competition fared better, in our estimation. The point is that we looked at ourselves and our competition very closely, and we emerged from the exercise convinced that our competition was real, was farther along toward our goals than we were, and that we had to do something about it.

Perhaps we were, as a group, too hard on ourselves, but the empirical evidence and our ready agreement on qualitative matters were both startling. We likely thought more highly of our various competitors than they perhaps thought of themselves, if they could be as honest as we were trying to be. But that was not the true purpose of these exercises. What we were really doing in creating all of these competition matrices was testing ourselves over and over again to see the SPCO’s situation through different lenses and to see if we were truly ready to address the reality of our position.

Remember, our instincts had told us there was something out of kilter between our “talk”—our vision statement—and our “walk”—the ways we really functioned as an organization in the many orbits in which we compete. These exercises were invaluable in solidifying the CRG’s understanding of where we stand and provided a critical platform from which to begin to build our fabulous future. These exercises also provided the first building blocks of safety in our meetings. Painting our competitive position in such an unvarnished manner did not mean that the SPCO isn’t a very good chamber orchestra. It just sharpened us up to tackle the challenge that we had set in the strategic plan in stating so boldly that our common aspiration was preeminence in our field.

The Nature of Artistic Leadership

Before we could focus fully upon a developing vision that described precisely the nature and scope of the life of a SPCO musician, we simply had to deal with an issue that has vexed our organization for many years: the institution of the music director. Since its founding in 1959, the SPCO has had five music directors: Leopold Sipe, Dennis Russell Davies, Pinchas Zukerman, Hugh Wolff, and Andreas Delfs. Briefly, between 1988 and 1992, the SPCO also undertook an important experiment in a different form of artistic leadership: the Artistic Commission, composed of three distinctly different musical leaders: Hugh Wolff (principal conductor), John Adams (creative chair), and Christopher Hogwood (director of music). In this seminal departure from traditional American artistic leadership models, the SPCO established new territory, completely consistent with its value imperatives of innovation and differentiation, as well as its multiple repertoire missions. But the Artistic Commission was disadvantaged by the organization’s failure to maintain continuity of board and management leadership. For more than thirty years, SPCO management and board leadership has changed on the average of every two to three years, contributing to inconsistency of vision and artistic points of view. In addition, the Artistic Commission simply redistributed among three conductors and the management the prior responsibilities of the music director, without addressing the opportunities the commission might have provided for musicians to play a more active role in their artistic future. The Artistic Commission was a vitally important experiment which ended during the financial crisis of 1993, when Hugh Wolff agreed, at the board’s request, to assume a reestablished traditional music directorship.

In the CRG, we struggled hard with the difficulties that have compromised the relationships the SPCO musicians have had with their music directors over the past 40-plus years. We struggled with how a fundamentally hierarchical and traditional music directorship fit with our desires to have the musicians own greater responsibility for the artistic outcomes.

We concluded that the music director, as an institution, justified or not, had become the lightning rod for the orchestra’s blocked artistic spirit. The music directorship had become the repository for too many of our frustrations, our blame, and our excuses for not achieving “the next level.” These frustrations, of course, were disproportionate with the “sins” of any music director, past or present; each has in fact brought a distinctive artistic voice and made important contributions to the orchestra. We began to understand that we would need to consider doing something dramatic to break this cycle.

We began to ask whether we should not learn from the conceptual strengths of the Artistic Commission and better understand why it had not quite worked. That learning might provide the springboard for unleashing the orchestra’s spirit. What we were getting at was that the traditional music director model for a symphony orchestra—in place at the SPCO for many years—was not appropriate for us and now seemed antithetical to the artistic aspirations of the SPCO. We came to the powerful conclusion that having a traditional music directorship was simply at odds with what we wanted to achieve at the SPCO.

This is not written lightly, for it flies in the face of 40 years of SPCO tradition and might also be seen to be disparaging of the five music directors who have devoted enormous time, energy, and talent to the SPCO during their tenures. On the contrary, we all value the many contributions of our music directors. We were, however, now actively questioning how the positions they had held had brought the unintended consequence of stifling the artistic spirit of the orchestra.

Indeed, Andreas Delfs, appointed to the SPCO music directorship in 2000, quietly and thoughtfully behind the scenes, encouraged us—and in so doing gave us permission—to think of our future differently and without a traditional music director. Presciently and astutely, Delfs intuited both the spirit of the SPCO musicians and the structural nature of the problem. He suggested to us that we should fully explore various models for artistic leadership that envisioned shifting responsibility for many artistic matters from the music director to the musicians and staff. Delfs deserves enormous credit for his leadership in this, and for his selfless understanding of the SPCO’s dynamics.

Thus, an important conclusion of the CRG was that the power dynamics of music director and musicians had to change. Because the notion (somewhat mythological, but nonetheless real in our culture) of music director “power” was antithetical to the idea of unleashing the spirit, there was another very important dimension to our conversations: power vested in the music director was responsibility removed from musicians. We came to believe that if charged with far greater responsibility for artistic matters, our musicians would rise to the occasion. Ultimately, we decided together that the best path for the SPCO was to do indeed that: vest the musicians of the SPCO with the greatest possible responsibility for their own artistic future by transferring many of the music director’s “powers” to the musicians themselves, transforming the SPCO’s music directorship into something more akin to the position of principal conductor. While not uncommon in Europe, this system scarcely exists in America.

We also knew that whatever its official name, the concept of multiple leadership, so thoughtfully and brilliantly embodied in the Artistic Commission 15 years earlier, could vibrantly address the challenges of the SPCO’s multiple repertoire missions. We concluded that the near-term transformation from a music directorship to a principal-conductor model might even lead farther as our organization developed.

So, could the SPCO devise a different leadership model? Yes. Provided board and managers were willing to develop greater continuity and, more importantly, to delegate to the SPCO’s most stable constituency—its musicians—substantial responsibility for many of the duties of the music director. And further provided that the musicians, trained otherwise, and channeled by culture away from the difficult choices and decisions inherent in artistic leadership, would take up the mantle.

We’re not entirely sure yet what this means. But certainly it means that just as the job descriptions for musicians in the SPCO are now radically different from those of musicians in nearly every other orchestra in America, so too will the job descriptions of conductors with whom we have important relationships change radically. During the course of the next few months, we expect to develop the form that new podium leadership should take.

Does this mean we expect the orchestra to vote on every artistic decision? No. We have delegated that decision-making responsibility to a pair of joint musician-management committees called the Artistic Vision Committee (responsible for artists, repertoire, tours, media, etc.) and the Artistic Personnel Committee (responsible for auditions, tenure, dismissal, leaves of absence, seating, rotation, etc.). This shift will require much adjustment on everyone’s part.

Does it mean that the conductors have no say? No, but it does mean that they need to work directly with the two committees, and that together, we will reach decisions.

The hardest aspect of this change will be the leadership challenge for our musicians, which is, quite frankly, new and somewhat controversial within the field at large. Musicians serving on our two artistic committees are indeed working directly with the staff to make many decisions about the SPCO’s artistic future, about everything from who is in the orchestra to what conductors, collaborators, and soloists we engage, to the orchestra’s long- range artistic planning. There will be tension between traditional roles and these new ones; there will be absence of an all-powerful music director against whom to push; there will be tension between decision making based on good personal judgment informed by thoughtful discussion with the orchestra at large and mere “popular vote” representation of the orchestra’s views; there will be tension between one’s artistic responsibilities and the responsibilities of friendship and collegiality. There will be tensions and stresses innate for anyone (conductor, musician, or manager) in undertaking these solemn responsibilities on behalf of the institution.

To the credit of the SPCO musicians, these challenges have been undertaken with vigor and a very true appreciation of all of these tensions. But we should not suggest in any way that there is unanimity on these matters. There is indeed anxiety throughout our organization about the implications of the path we have chosen; nevertheless, we have chosen that path, with our eyes open to its challenges and we have done so with a critical mass of people saying yes.

We don’t yet understand how leadership, decision making, critical mass, majority votes, and minority voices all interact. Truly! But kudos to a majority of our musicians for being willing to undertake the challenge! Kudos to Andreas Delfs for embracing this radical and open-ended view of podium leadership and for encouraging us to be bold. And kudos to the board for believing enough in our musicians to include them powerfully in decisions about all artistic matters.

There is much we don’t quite understand yet, and we may need help achieving that understanding. For example, will an idea die because someone objects? Does a concept become reality because a couple of “powerful” people think it should? Are we only to do what everyone agrees to? Where is the right place on the continuum between the two unacceptable poles of leaving decision making completely to the committees and throwing every decision open to the organization for a vote? We are committed through dialogue, process, and trial and error to find that right balance.

Acceptance of the idea that a lead conductor of a group of conductors could possibly act more like a principal conductor in a European orchestra means the orchestra really has to acknowledge its responsibility for its artistic future and its artistic quality. It also means staff members must “come out of the closet” on artistic issues, bursting mythologies that managers play little or no role in shaping artistic results.

The ramifications of all this were broad and deep: the myth of music director “power” was shattered; the role of the musicians in the artistic decision making at the SPCO was redefined with broad responsibilities; the staff’s artistic responsibilities were more out in the open; and critically, the board’s responsibility to be responsive in hiring artistically proficient management in the future became paramount.

In short, these discussions implied seismic shifts of dynamics within our organization.

◆ No longer can the music director be praised or blamed for the results;

◆ No longer can the staff “pass the buck” on artistic successes or failures to the music director; and

◆ No longer can the musicians consign responsibility for the artistic results to the music director.

Thus, through changes to our contract, our musicians’ roles in the artistic future of the orchestra shifted from passive to active.

Leadership Evolution: From Directorship to Partnership; from Duties and Authorities to Responsiveness and Responsibility

In conceptualizing a structural framework for SPCO artistic leadership, we grounded ourselves in the concept that the SPCO would play its best—in its various repertoire missions—when led by specialists in their fields and when led by “play-and-conduct” collaborators making music interactively with the orchestra. This means making careful choices, but it also means removing power from the equation of artistic collaboration. We do not wish to remove inspiration or desire to please or being worked hard from the equation, but we certainly want to remove fear and power from it. Hence our choice of language to describe what we sought in our relationships: partnership, not direction; responsibility for, not authority over.

As we have begun to develop our concepts for podium artistic leadership, we have asked ourselves some litmus-test questions:

◆ Do our concepts serve to engage the orchestra meaningfully in the business of key artistic leadership functions of programming, choice of collaborative artists, and selecting and developing SPCO members?

◆ Are they clear about which responsibilities have been transferred from the conductors to the musicians and senior management?

◆ Do our concepts provide the opportunity for motivated SPCO musicians to become deeply involved in planning and developing the artistic future of the chamber orchestra?

◆ Can we function in real time?

◆ Do they allow for the possibility that the artistic profile and spirit of the orchestra will be a reflection of the orchestra’s players’ spirit rather than a reflection of one person, e.g., a music director?

◆ Will it be possible —in the absence of a traditional music director— for the SPCO to develop several strong artistic relationships with important conductors and soloists?

The answer to all of these questions, in our minds, is a resounding yes, but with some cautionary notes—the most prominent of which is, at this writing, that we have not completely settled on precisely what form this leadership should take.

◆ Decision making is inherently difficult—perhaps dangerous—in committees; learning to find the balance between judiciously seeking and incorporating input from the orchestra, and simply doing something because someone suggested it will be a steep challenge; we will have to learn to be decisive and courageous in our choices.

◆ Developing working relationships in our Artistic Vision and Artistic Personnel Committees (which will allow for strongly held opinions to be voiced and disagreement to be expressed with safety) will require patience and a willingness to learn new methods of interacting with each other.

◆ The SPCO will have to be more aggressive than ever in pursuing artistic relationships with conductors, collaborators, and soloists.

The “Stuff” Phase

Having grappled with really tough issues about our competitive position, our spirit, and the fundamental structure of artistic leadership, we now turned our attention to the real “stuff” of the contract. We set about developing a vision that described what a SPCO musician actually does, or needs to do, and how much of that “stuff” should be outlined in the contract.

In the CRG, we decided that we had to present our colleagues in the orchestra with a bold vision of what life in the SPCO could be like if we had the courage to move the orchestra, board, and artistic leadership in that direction. We knew that the SPCO musician’s life we envisioned was not described in the current collective bargaining agreement. We knew that simply changing the current collective bargaining agreement would not fly. And yet we were determined to give this new vision a chance, without unduly threatening members of the orchestra who thought that things were just fine as they were. Here, Paul Boulian and Fred Zenone came to the fore, proposing the idea of presenting a vision of the orchestra in 2010—a date far enough away to both provide comfort for those who thought this was too radical and to allow our thinking to be abstract. It was a brilliant idea. Thinking about 2010, rather than next year, was liberating for all of us. “In 2010, we can be X. In 2010, we can be Y. In 2010, we can be anything we want to be.” The ideas flowed, quickly and fluidly, from musicians, trustees, and staff alike. If someone was uncomfortable with an idea someone else expressed, the immediate retort of the group became: “Yes, but this is 2010!”

We started thinking about what a SPCO musician really needs to do to be a member of our orchestra. A few things became clear quickly.

A SPCO musician needs:

◆ first and foremost, to be a superior instrumentalist;

◆ to have time and energy to practice;

◆ the stimulation of playing great music with wonderful colleagues, led by inspiring musicians;

◆ to play chamber music—a lot of it—to maintain ensemble skills at the highest level, and more importantly, to be inspired by that music’s inestimable pleasures;

◆ to have an outlet for individual artistic interests—teaching, solo performance, composing, arranging, conducting, and perhaps other activities;

◆ to have the opportunity to grow artistically, stimulated by formal and informal feedback;

◆ to be challenged to be better, through the demands of repertoire, organizational culture, or individual drive;

◆ to understand what is going on in the larger environment of the orchestra world (listening, reading, observing);

◆ to know what is going on in the SPCO organization, its opportunities, and its challenges.

In short, SPCO musicians need and deserve a lot!

As members of the CRG, we had an obligation to figure out how to develop a collective bargaining agreement that answered these needs and truly reflected, allowed for, and compensated for this wide range of needs. This was especially true because we had already agreed that the SPCO’s success in achieving its goals depends on our musicians doing all those things extremely well. We simply cannot succeed without the invaluable resource of the orchestra itself striving constantly for peak performance. We had a duty to create the conditions for that to happen.

By New Year’s, we had reached a fair consensus about what the 2010 vision looked like, and we were eager—and apprehensive—about sharing it with the full orchestra, which we did on January 23, 2003, in a six-hour retreat. The full vision document that we shared is available at the Institute’s website. In the vision document, which was elaborately edited, we sought to define our work so far in a way that the orchestra could begin to understand and begin to challenge the results. The vision document did not in any way attempt to be a collective bargaining agreement; rather, it described our agreed-upon views about the roles and responsibilities of musicians, staff, and board within the broader SPCO organization, and went on to describe, subject by subject, what we thought the specific responsibilities of SPCO musicians should be (in 2010).

The members of the CRG were all quite nervous about the January 23 retreat, and there was understandable concern that the first meeting of the orchestra during which the negotiating committee was to explain the direction of our work would be made even more challenging by our intention to have the entire CRG—musicians, trustees, staff, and consultants—in attendance. Finally it was decided that trustees, managers, union representatives, and consultants would sit in a second row behind the orchestra members, who were seated around a large rectangular table. The setup was the idea of the musicians in the negotiating committee, and it worked brilliantly. Nearly all of the orchestra members attended, and all but three of those in attendance participated vigorously in the six-hour discussion. The participation was perceptive and thoughtful.

Prior to the January 23 orchestra meeting, the CRG worked to understand the purpose and desired outcomes of the meeting. Using the format we had developed in our 2010 vision statement, we developed a vision for the January retreat:

The purpose of the January 23 retreat is to engage the SPCO musicians collaboratively in the renewal process in a way that builds trust and allows their voice to be heard; opens them to the possibilities; makes them feel free to express their fears and misgivings so that the musicians can embrace the ideas of the 2010 Vision and have enthusiasm for implementing as many of them as possible as soon as possible.

We also outlined what we considered to be the desired outcomes of the retreat:

◆ That SPCO musicians might see the advantages of this new approach.

◆ To help SPCO musicians begin to think in terms of principles and beliefs, rather than in terms of rules and regulations.

◆ To encourage SPCO musicians to think about unleashing their spirit.

◆ To create a sense of possibility about the future.

◆ To provide the CRG with new ideas to enhance the process.

◆ To encourage the CRG to “go for it.”

◆ To build confidence in this process and its participants.

◆ To gain an increased commitment for musicians’ involvement.

There were several key concepts we wanted to share and to test with the musicians because they were the core elements of our 2010 vision. These concepts had to do with the scope of work and aligning what the collective bargaining agreement provided with the demands of the strategic plan. The CRG agreed that SPCO musicians had three kinds of responsibilities: core artistic responsibilities, core organizational responsibilities, and affiliated responsibilities. The latter included such items as concert programming discussions and planning; tour discussions and planning; rehearsal and concert hall scheduling; and chamber music, small ensemble, and orchestra casting assignments. Each SPCO musician would be expected to participate in some affiliated activities, with the explicit understanding that no musician would be required to participate in any particular activity. We also shared our belief that the SPCO contract had to contain provisions for a more complete audition and player-selection process, a more rigorous tenure review, significant revisions to the musician-dismissal process, and, most importantly, the contract had to create a platform for consistent and ongoing feedback for every musician of the SPCO.

If we could establish agreement around these concepts of responsibility, then the CRG would have clear direction about its work. During the retreat, there seemed to be agreement, with some musicians objecting to some ideas, others supporting them vocally, and others just asking lots of questions. But the CRG had its fundamental answer: to forge ahead. At the end of the retreat there was some powerful testimony. One long-standing member of the orchestra said, “I joined this orchestra believing that what you have just described was what my future looked like, and I have been waiting 25 years for it to come true.

We must find a way to make this happen. I am only sorry that I will soon be retiring and won’t be here to enjoy it.”

We had our answer from the orchestra. We had fervently hoped that the SPCO musicians would embrace our work sufficiently to send us the signal to keep going. The retreat was a remarkable event, and by the end of the day, after musicians and the negotiating team met alone, there was a clear set of signals sent by the orchestra: keep going, tell us more about what this means in contract-specific, concrete terms; respond to some of our biggest concerns; and keep us informed of what is going on.

There were many questions of how, how fast, and to what degree. But there was no longer a question of whether. We were all committed to bringing 2010 in some form into 2003. We felt that we had passed a major milestone in our work.

Tough Financial Developments: A Major Intrusion

When we began the contract renewal process in August 2002, the SPCO had just completed its ninth consecutive year with a balanced budget. While celebrating that remarkable accomplishment, everyone also knew that balancing the budget had been extremely difficult to achieve in each of those nine years, particularly the last two. We spoke often of the fact that balanced budgets did not imply financial stability. Further, even comparative financial stability did not imply financial robustness, which we defined as the ability to invest tangibly in the artistic and organizational development of the SPCO. For precisely these reasons, our 2002 strategic plan had explicitly outlined the need for $50-60 million in endowment, and an additional $12-15 million in special funds to sustain the organization over the next few years.

However, no one in the organization had accurately anticipated the impact that the economic downturn of 2002-2003 would have on our ability to sustain the SPCO’s basic revenue structure. Accordingly, as we entered the contract renewal process, we had relatively high confidence that money discussions would be of secondary importance to “stuff” discussions. We all expected modest cost-of-living increases to be part of the settlement.

Right around New Year’s, the SPCO received a series of serious financial setbacks that not only threatened the financial well-being of the orchestra, but also threatened to undermine our contract renewal process. During the 30 days between December 20 and January 20, more than a million dollars in projected foundation support evaporated for the current fiscal year (FY03) and for the two years following. Simply put, the SPCO for several years had been quite heavily dependent on special foundation support (over and above annual fund and endowment-draw support) to balance its budget. Largely due to the recession that began in 2001 and the attendant stock market declines, expected foundation giving and the SPCO’s own endowment draw would be drastically reduced from both budget and long-term projections.

We knew by the end of January, immediately after our retreat, that this financial challenge was of an order of magnitude and character altogether different from those the SPCO had faced annually since 1993. The evaporation of expected foundation support was deep enough that, when combined with annual-fund challenges and endowment-draw limitations, it became quickly clear that “just increasing revenues” would be a flawed response. Reducing expenditures was the only recourse.

This was a major blow, dispiriting and discouraging. It felt to all of us like “déjà vu all over again.” But it was real. Responsible stewardship of the institution demanded an aggressive and immediate response. We began with a thorough discussion of the SPCO’s finances, its sources of revenue, and its categories of expense. Over our next 10 or so meetings, we dealt extensively with all aspects of the financial circumstances of the SPCO. Some of those meetings lasted as long as eight hours. We also did our best to share the financial information completely with the orchestra. The orchestra also received formal presentations about financial planning, endowment management and planning, and the full scope of marketing, public relations, and development programs. Within the CRG, everyone became satisfied that the numbers and analysis were real, and that the framework for our work on compensation needed to be that of significant cuts, not cost-of-living increases, or a wage freeze.

Within the CRG, we eventually agreed that an overall organizational cut of 15 to 20 percent was required; more broadly, the executive committee, finance committee, and senior staff concurred. In late February, we reduced the size of the staff by 10 positions, a 25 percent body-count reduction. Significant other cuts were made to the FY03 budget in an attempt to reduce the size of the projected deficit. Senior management took an immediate 10 percent pay cut.

There was agreement within the CRG that the orchestra should participate in expense reduction; there was agreement that it should be fair and proportional, and that it should be matched by senior managers and the artistic leadership. There was also an expectation that the guest artistic budget would be reduced by at least 10 percent. The challenge was to weigh all of the many variables and their differing impacts on orchestra musicians individually, the orchestra collectively, the staff individually and collectively, and the overall ability of the SPCO organization to continue to deliver very high-quality concerts to the community. Obviously, the retention and recruitment implications for both staff and musicians were of paramount importance, since approximately 60 percent of SPCO expenditures are tied to fixed expenses.

Together we ran many different scenarios, testing the many implications of solving our problem one way or another. We looked at differing levels of orchestra participation, staff participation, program and promotional budget participation, and ultimately settled on a target amount for the orchestra, which formed a frame of reference for making our choices.

During these many hours of meetings, staff and board members disagreed openly with each other; board members disagreed with each other, as did staff and musicians alike. It was painful for everyone. We ultimately settled upon an 18 percent reduction in SPCO orchestra costs, including salaries, benefits, and the costs of extra and replacement musicians. The staff as a whole took a 23 percent cut. Some within the senior management volunteered to take second cuts to match the orchestra percentage.

This is not the place to debate whether we made the right choices, for we will really only know the answers to those questions five to ten years from now. No one can accurately predict how the most important factors, recruitment and retention, will play out. However, the CRG believes that it made thoughtful and responsible choices for the institution, knowing as we did that the choices we made during this process would have direct impact on the SPCO’s ability to achieve its stated goals, positively or negatively. The stakes felt very high to all of us.

Paul Boulian and Fred Zenone were helpful in devising the right exercise through which to frame our choices. We divided into groups, with each group to consider one of four possible outcomes: insolvency, survival and status quo, progressing, and thriving. We then defined the conditions that would lead to each scenario, the implications of each, and the likelihood of each. We then tested our beliefs about financial stability. In the short term (2003-2006), we agreed:

◆ That we must accept the reality of a deficit in 2002-2003.

◆ It is fundamental that the SPCO have balanced budgets aggregated over the three years from 2003-2004 through 2005-2006.

◆ That the SPCO must make major progress on endowment funding.

◆ That there be no accumulated deficit at the end of 2006.

Which, in turn, led to an important discussion: what was the relationship between the need to reduce orchestra costs and the expansive discussions we had just completed in drafting the 2010 vision? It was a complex and delicate conversation, and one that ultimately concluded with the CRG’s consensus: if we truly believed that the 2010 vision was vital to the future of the SPCO absent the current financial difficulties, it was equally, if not more, vital to our future given the financial difficulties.

The exercise showed us that we had to forge ahead. Insolvency was an unacceptable result, and the status quo, while possibly more comfortable in the near term, ultimately led, in our view, to insolvency, and was therefore unacceptable. Progressing and thriving were the only two acceptable scenarios, and each required action on the 2010 vision and the strategic plan to stimulate the financial interest the SPCO requires in ticketing, the annual fund, special funding, and endowment funding. Progressing and thriving were our bridges to the future. But we could not progress or thrive if we lived too close to the edge financially, supported by too much as yet unsecured and precarious special funding. Cutting expenses in the right places and putting in place the contractual aspects of the progressing and thriving scenarios was, we agreed, the best path to pursue.

We thus resolved to forge ahead on two tracks, working toward a financial settlement within the larger financial framework we had agreed upon, and putting contractual language around the beliefs and principles we had espoused in the 2010 vision.

We will never know if some of the reactions to our contract renewal process, in the field and within our orchestra, would have been different had there been no severe financial challenge to face. We suspect that the regrettable salary and benefit cuts have colored much of the reaction. What we do know for sure, though, is that by acting quickly and expeditiously, with board, managers, and musician leaders working closely together and in agreement, we surely avoided both a public spectacle and a financial crisis that could have done irreparable harm to the SPCO.

A Contradictory Opportunity: The Roast Duck Flies In!

Pages ago in this essay, I cited an ancient Chinese proverb: “A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in.” Even as we were wrestling to complete a collective bargaining agreement in the face of trying financial times, the roast duck appeared.

As part of the 2002 strategic plan, we had created a venues task force which was charged with creating a long-term plan to meet the SPCO’s facility needs: new performance locations, acoustical needs in existing venues, the historically vexing challenge of rehearsal space, and the twin problems of appropriate space for organizational cohesiveness and new programming. Remember, the SPCO does not own a home. We are “guests” in our performance halls, our rehearsal and practice spaces, and our offices.

Early on in the venue task force’s work, there had been strong advocacy for the concept of building a centralized, SPCO-specific venue in the Twin Cities—a Cité de la Musique in Minnesota. Over time, acknowledging that the costs of a centralized home were prohibitive, the idea took hold that the SPCO’s performance venue approach had to be one of “music on the move,” as a key differentiator between the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra. Our organization thus chose to embrace wholeheartedly the multiple-venue approach—ruling out a central hall—and seemingly ruling out the non- performance benefits a central home would provide: control, efficiency, and organizational cohesiveness. To some of us, this was a major disappointment. It was hard to imagine building an interactive organizational culture if we were isolated from each other.

At this point, Barry Kempton, our vice president and general manager, suggested an approach some British orchestras were taking to solve this same problem: the creation of a center for everything except full-orchestra performances. The City of Birmingham Orchestra and the London Symphony have recently completed similar projects. Locally, the Minnesota Opera has taken this approach with considerable success. The idea was enthusiastically embraced by the venues task force and was appropriately dubbed “Barry’s Barn.” As we undertook needs assessment and a feasibility study, the costs— $18 to $45 million after land acquisition costs—quickly brought us back to the reality of our financial situation, and the dream of creating space seemed dead, or at least necessarily deferred for the next 10 years.

Then, early this year, just as we were preparing for our January 23 retreat, we learned that sitting in the very office building in which we rent space was a vacant space that might meet our needs. Our offices are housed in a spectacular building in downtown Saint Paul. The building was built in 1919, with offices wrapped around a 1,900-seat theater which had been demolished and slabbed over during the 1960s to create more office space. Downtown Saint Paul has experienced high office-vacancy rates during the current economic downturn, and the space in question had been vacant for three years. Amazingly, it contained a critical component we required—a large area with a 30-foot ceiling.

In the 90 days between January 15 and April 15 of this year, we learned that all of the necessary components of a deal were possible. The current owner of the building was enthralled by our organization’s idea to convert the space into the SPCO center and was willing to support our vision with a combination of philanthropy and modest rent, making it highly affordable. The 36,000 square feet would easily accommodate the programming needs our venue task force had identified. Our board was unanimous in its support to move forward. A roast duck had truly flown in!

Even though we were able to move quickly—a key dimension of this story—because our planning had helped us to be clear about what we needed, Barry’s Barn was a tough concept to embrace in the context of the financial discussions we were having about cutting expenses by nearly 20 percent. How could the SPCO undertake this new financial obligation while, at the same time, cutting salaries, reducing staff, and eliminating other positions?

The conversations about this with our musicians were difficult, to put it mildly. Both at the time, and to this day, our plan remains contradictory to some musicians, and understandably so. The concept that “Barry’s Barn” could be funded from sources that would otherwise not support the SPCO, and thereby not cannibalize core funding, was difficult to communicate. But it was simply true. Funds that could otherwise be used to support higher salaries and artistic projects would not need to be diverted to build walls. Furthermore, Barry’s Barn would create a much stronger organizational platform from which to raise annual and endowment funding. By late spring—when we had to provide the building owner with a commitment or walk away—we were confident that the our musicians, on balance, understood the very real advantages Barry’s Barn would create for our organization. We moved ahead.

Tying It All Together

By mid-April, it was time for decisions. Time was running out to complete a collective bargaining agreement, and although we failed to meet our original (and self-imposed) deadline of April 15, May 15 was now carved in stone. The orchestra would begin its annual summer diaspora on Memorial Day, and we simply had to bring this to closure prior to the end of the season.

We had worked a lot together by now, had weathered a lot, and had learned a lot. The orchestra had narrowly defeated a motion to return to a more traditional format by bringing in lawyers to complete the negotiations. We were feeling a lot of pressure from all sides to deliver a new collective bargaining agreement, and we were quite frankly getting tired. But everyone in the CRG stayed the course, with comparatively few frayed nerves on display and with vigorous determination to finish.

There was much to do to convert the 2010 vision into an agreement, even after we had agreed that nearly all of “2010” could be pulled into 2003. We were dealing with three huge topics around which we had conceptual agreements, but no precise agreements: salaries and benefits, the structure of artistic leadership, and scope of work (“the stuff”). Each was in and of itself an enormous topic and each ended up being resolved to the mutual agreement of the CRG. Ultimately the contract was ratified narrowly, by a vote of 19 to 15.

The best description of the results resides in the summary that was provided to the board and musicians and in the new master agreement itself, summaries of which are also posted on the Symphony Orchestra Institute’s website. Following is a summary of the highlights:

◆ We succeeded in creating structure and methodologies to vest the musicians with very significant responsibility for the artistic future of the SPCO.

◆ We succeeded in redefining the responsibilities of SPCO musicians with structures and methodologies to include feedback, professional developments and far greater involvement in the functioning of the entire organization.

◆ We succeeded in aligning the contractual scope of work with the artistic activities inherent in and essential to being a musician in the SPCO.

◆ We succeeded in making chamber music a much more integrated part of the day-to-day life of SPCO musicians, fully cognizant of the vital role that chamber music plays in our musicians’ artistic satisfaction and growth, and cognizant of the wealth of differentiated programming possibilities such a commitment implies for the SPCO.

◆ We succeeded in opening up an essential conversation about the artistic future of the SPCO, and put in place through the collective bargaining agreement the structures and methodologies to sustain that conversation.

◆ We succeeded in dealing collaboratively with very tough financial issues, including how much money was available to commit and the priorities which defined how and where to spend the available dollars.

◆ We succeeded in letting go of old “hobby-horse” issues, those generated from within the SPCO and from the field at large. Managers, musicians, and board members alike all had to slaughter lots of sacred cows along the way.

But one success in this contract renewal process stands out as the most astonishing of all and is ultimately the most powerful testament to the spirit of the SPCO musicians. For more than 20 years, the SPCO musicians and the organization have been at loggerheads over the size of the orchestra. For the past several years, that size has been fixed at 33 musicians. The specific flashpoint for this tension has been the status of three “Regular Additional Musicians”: the second flute, clarinet, and trumpet. This issue has been raised at every negotiation in recent memory and has always been dropped for lack of sufficient funds to support wages and benefits for the existing 33 members. During our strategic planning process, the issue became so emotional and elevated that a failure to address it there could have derailed the entire process. In the end, the strategic plan called for the SPCO organization to solve the problem.

So it is simply extraordinary that in the midst of all the challenges— philosophical, artistic, financial, Barry’s Barn, and others—two of those three positions (the second clarinet position is currently vacant) were upgraded from part-time to full-time as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The musicians who occupy those chairs have become full-time members of the SPCO, as probationary members, and will be eligible for tenure in two years, as if they had just won the auditions last spring.

There was much emotion around all of this, and there is no question that the pay cuts accepted by SPCO musicians as part of this collective bargaining agreement were made significantly larger by upholding the unswerving commitment the organization had made in its strategic plan to resolving this historically nettlesome issue. This was the most outstanding example during this adventure of how shared vision, common understanding of the facts, good culture, having the right people on the bus, and strong process combined into a powerful force to propel our organization forward.

We’re very proud of what we did.

Bruce Coppock is president and managing director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.


Good Governance for Challenging Times: The SPCO Experience

What do we mean by “governance” anyway? In the traditional structure utilized by many nonprofits, including many orchestras, it has been generally accepted that governance is something that the board does, management is something that the staff does, and musicians don’t do either one. In that traditional context, governance is some combination of setting policy for the organization, hiring and evaluating the CEO, and being responsible fiduciaries of the overall financial health, legal compliance, and ethical behavior of the organization.

Reliable, transparent governance is critical to fostering and preserving the community’s confidence in the organization. In turn, that confidence creates the fundamental trust that is necessary to attract much- needed donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies. It is the governance structure that brings stability and continuity to the organization.

Governance responsibility properly belongs with the board of directors (sometimes called the board of trustees) of the organization. Applicable state and federal statutes prescribe the basic duties and responsibilities of those boards. Ultimate legal responsibility for the organization cannot be delegated away. Indeed, collaborative governance does not in any way diminish or dilute the responsibilities of the board. Rather, more collaborative governance simply implies broader membership on the board by representatives from other constituencies (i.e., senior staff and musicians) and greater interaction, communication, and collaboration between the board and those other constituencies.

By the way, governance does not include raising money, although that is an important responsibility of most boards. The fundraising function, while critical, is not in fact a governance function. When board members raise money, they are really serving as volunteer extensions of the development staff, not as governors.

Governance is Governance: The Dayton Model

As recently as 15 years ago, the traditional model was not only widely accepted, but strongly encouraged by those who thought and wrote about governance in the nonprofit sector. The seminal publication on the fundamentals of nonprofit governance—what it is and what it is not—was written in 1987 by Ken Dayton, then the CEO of the Dayton-Hudson Corporation (now Target Corporation). Ken, who died earlier this year, and his wife Judy have been the most generous and most thoughtful philanthropists in our Minneapolis-Saint Paul community for the past 50 years. They have been singularly supportive of the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and myriad other arts and cultural institutions in the Twin Cities.

Dayton’s 15-page monograph was entitled “Governance is Governance.”1

Dayton drew upon the traditional corporate governance model employed in the late 1980s. He advocated for a relatively narrow role for trustees in their governance of nonprofits. He basically said that trustees should:

◆ set policy;

◆ hire and evaluate the CEO in his or her performance and achievement of the policy; and

◆ raise money.

If that was governance, then management was, by definition, everything else and was the exclusive province of the hired staff. Dayton urged trustees in general, and board chairs in particular, not to rush in to fill voids left by management. He reminded his trustee audience that the hired CEO really was the chief executive officer and, as such, was the person who made the decisions about, and was responsible for the management of, the organization, its finances, and its personnel. In this traditional structure:

◆ the CEO, not the board chair, is the CEO;

◆ the board chair is the CEO’s partner;

◆ the trustees’ role is to support, encourage, challenge, and stimulate the CEO;

◆ the CEO must avoid leaving management “holes” that trustees might be tempted to fill; and

◆ the trustees must avoid the temptation to fill any “holes.”

The Dayton monograph was a much-needed piece at a time when the nonprofit community had not really addressed the concept of governance in a disciplined way, and there was little or no developed literature on the subject. Those of us who today have read articles and books on the subject of nonprofit governance may find it difficult to remember a time when there was nothing available to read, no consultants to hire, and no resources like the National Center for Non-Profit Boards (now known as BoardSource).

It was really Ken Dayton who first taught the nonprofit sector to respect its managers, to let them manage, to let them be CEOs, and, in that now overused term, not to “micromanage.”

The Expanded Understanding of the Governance Role

However, since publication of Dayton’s important treatise, our understanding of both corporate governance and nonprofit governance has expanded dramatically. In the current post-Enron era, with Sarbanes-Oxley the new law of the land, everyone accepts the fact that boards need to be far more actively engaged in their organizations than ever before. In a recent PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer special on the corporate scandals surrounding Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, ImClone, Global Crossings, and others, Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, Inc., and a highly regarded Minnesota CEO, put it this way:

I’ve served on I think nine boards over the years. And they’ve been very good boards, but I feel somehow our boards have not done the job in terms of governance . . . and have really conceded too much of the power to the CEOs. . . . I think we need to move on a much broader front than just trying to extend jail terms for criminals and to strengthen our systems of governance.2

The same is true in the nonprofit sector. The evolution there began a decade ago, in 1993, when Christopher Hodgkin, writing in the journal Nonprofit Management & Leadership, challenged Dayton’s approach. In an article entitled “Policy and Paperclips—Rejecting the Lure of the Corporate Model,” Hodgkin argued that the very nature of nonprofits demanded that the trustee’s role be broader than the corporate model Dayton had proposed in 1987.3

Another significant contribution to the governance literature appeared in 1996 in the Harvard Business Review: “The New Work of the Nonprofit Board.” This important article (which later blossomed into a book) was written by two academics, Richard Chait and Thomas Holland, and a consultant, Barbara Taylor. The authors chastised traditional nonprofit boards, saying “effective governance by the board of a nonprofit organization is a rare and unnatural act. . . . Nonprofit boards are often little more than a collection of high-powered people engaged in low-level activities.”4

Taylor, Chait, and Holland (TC&H) contended that what was needed was for board members to discover the new work of the board, noting, “new work is another term for work that matters.”5 Rejecting the traditional corporate model urged nine years earlier by Ken Dayton, Taylor and her colleagues said:

The new work defies the conventions that have regulated board behavior in the past. Whereas the customary work of a nonprofit board is limited to scrutinizing management, the new work requires new rules of engagement and unorthodox ways of fulfilling a board’s responsibilities. The pressures on most nonprofits today are too great for the old model to suffice.6

They suggested three ways for trustees to focus on what really matters.

◆ Find out what matters by making the CEO paint the big picture, getting acquainted with key stakeholders (e.g., musicians, concertgoers, donors), and reading and talking to experts in the field.

◆ Act on what matters by being involved not only in setting policy but in implementing the parts of that policy that really matter (e.g., applying trustee expertise in marketing to help shape the organization’s marketing plan).

◆ Focus meetings on what matters by avoiding discussion of anything the staff can and should do on their own (e.g., whether to add an acoustic shell behind the orchestra) and spending sufficient time on the real issues facing the organization (e.g., why attendance has declined or the size and shape of the next endowment campaign).

More recently, another important commentary on nonprofit governance has been released. Written by Maureen Robinson (former director of education at the Center For Non-Profit Boards), it is entitled Nonprofit Boards That Work: The End of One-Size-Fits- All Governance.7 Robinson’s book is a practical guide to doing what Hodgkin had urged as a more flexible model and what Taylor, Chait, and Holland had proposed as the “new work.” Her basic premise is very much like theirs, i.e., that governance and management are overlapping, interlocking functions, and her most important point is that the governance solution has to be uniquely fitted to your organization and its present circumstances. One size does not fit all.

I am a strong subscriber to the view that there is no one perfect governance model for any nonprofit organization. I believe that the governance solution must be flexible enough to allow for and reflect the current strengths and weaknesses of the staff, the particular challenges and opportunities that the organization is facing at the moment, the organization’s strategic plan and the priorities it prescribes for the future, and the strengths and weaknesses of the current board. It cannot be a formulaic approach. One size does not fit all.

And regardless of the model selected, the old tightly defined boundaries between management and governance must be replaced with collaboration and partnership. In the orchestra world, that raises new and interesting questions about the role of the musicians. These were questions we attempted to identify and answer in our recent contract renewal process at the SPCO.

Collaborative Governance In The Orchestra Setting: What About The Musicians?

Musicians’ Historic Role as Bystanders to Governance. There are some unique dimensions of governance in the context of an orchestra, and they relate to the role (or historic non-role) of the musicians. In most of our orchestras, it is the musicians who have the greatest tenure of all. Many of them have been there longer than any board member, and far longer than either the CEO or the music director. They have been there through good times and bad. In some cases, they may have been through strikes or other forms of turmoil or crisis. It is, in a very real sense, their orchestra.

And yet, in the areas of governance and manage- ment, they have traditionally been bystanders or very marginal participants, holding token positions on committees (and sometimes on the board itself). Artistic decisions have traditionally been made by the music director (or some artistic committee that may include a musician or two in an advisory role). The staff and board have made financial decisions. In that environment, musicians understandably develop an employee attitude that is anything but collegial. An article on that subject in the April 1996 issue of Harmony8 is worth reading for a better understanding of

this subject. Robert Levine, the long-time principal violist with the Milwaukee Symphony, and his father Seymour Levine, a professor at Stanford, reviewed the research in the field and summarized it this way:

◆ Orchestra musicians are under enormous and relatively unusual stress, for example:

❖ performance anxiety or “stage fright”;

❖ the physical demands of what, for most, is an “unnatural act” that imposes extreme stress and strain on their bodies day in and day out (until they are 65 or older);

❖ the fear of disability, and

❖ self-imposed standards of perfection and resulting low self-esteem for many.

◆ The biggest stressor of all is their lack of control over their own working environments, reinforced by the largely mythical notion of the supreme music director with the power of life and death over them. Said another way, the traditional orchestra hierarchy has been very patriarchal, with the music director as father and the musicians as children. As the Levines observed, we should not be surprised, then, that this hierarchy frequently leads to childish behavior.

While the Levines thought many of the myths were exaggerated, they did not dismiss their effect on orchestra dynamics. Neither should we. Particularly troublesome was the suggestion that a feeling of chronic helplessness leads not only to general unhappiness, but also to depression. And, of course, it is the feeling of not being able to control the work environment that long ago led to unionization of the field.

This is the background against which those of us who believe in collaborative governance must find ways to make important decisions together, to develop fundamental strategies together, to make difficult financial choices together, to set artistic priorities together, and (most difficult of all) to maintain high artistic and administrative standards and to intervene with those who are not meeting them together.

And yet, try we must. It is certainly true that, in the traditional model, the trustees governed, the CEO and staff managed, and the musicians performed. The trustees set direction and policy; the CEO and staff implemented it; and the musicians delivered the product—or, perhaps more accurately—they were the product. Just as the trustees never performed on stage, the musicians were never expected (or allowed) to govern. Everyone had his or her place and was expected to stay in it. If the performance was bad, blame the musicians. If too little gift income was raised, blame the staff. If there was scandal, blame the board.

But, if we have learned anything at all about good governance over the past 15 years, it is that those traditional boundaries have little or no place in the nonprofit world any longer. That is especially true in the orchestra world, particularly when so many of us find ourselves in very challenged environments. In these circumstances, none of the key constituencies gets a free pass from sharing in the responsibility for understanding the problems or helping to design and implement the solutions. Nothing short of collaborative governance can be truly effective. If any one constituency fails to own its fair share of the challenge, the organization’s chances of surviving the crisis are seriously reduced.

Musicians on Boards. More attention has been paid in recent years to the need to involve the musicians in orchestra leadership. But not much has actually been done about it. Henry Fogel, the new CEO of the American Symphony Orchestra League and long-time CEO of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, made the case for musician involvement in governance in his April 2000 article in Harmony entitled, “Are Three Legs Appropriate? Or Even Sufficient?”9 He pointed to the traditional turfs that have existed in

orchestras and the classic tension between music director and musicians, as well as to the labor-management tensions between musicians on the one hand and the trustees and senior managers on the other. Except for their collective bargaining leverage during contract negotiations, the musicians were relatively powerless. The real power, suggested Fogel, resided in “an uneasy truce among the three legs of the stool [board, managers, music director], and just how [that power] was allocated depended to some degree on the personalities involved and how they interacted.” If the music director resided permanently in the community and was on the podium for all or most of the season, artistic power resided with him (or her). But, of course, these days music directors are absent more than they are present, i.e., one of the legs of the stool is frequently missing.

Fogel correctly noted that, in this environment, musicians tended to be mistrustful of all three: the music director, the managers, and the board, and that their mistrust has grown deep roots over the years. He argued for a different model, one in which musicians are included as the fourth leg of the stool; fully informed of all relevant information about the orchestra’s strategy, finances, and challenges; and participating meaningfully in setting direction (i.e., governance), determining artistic programming, and fundraising.

But not everyone agrees about whether musicians should serve on orchestra boards. In the June 2003 issue of Senza Sordino, two interesting and opposing views on the subject were presented. Leonard Leibowitz, long- time legal counsel for the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), strongly discouraged board membership for musicians, but unfortunately did so without confronting the advantages of collaborative governance or the value of true partnership between and among manager, musicians, and board members. Taking a rather traditional union view that there is greater value and potentially greater rewards for musicians in the tension inherent in collective bargaining, Leibowitz worries that musicians on boards will simply be tokens with no real clout or, worse yet in his view, that the musician board members may have divided loyalties when tough issues must be resolved.

For me, the worst of it is the subtle but perceptible transformation from rank-and-file musician to board member which almost always occurs after a period of time spent sitting through board meetings and being subjected to the constant barrage of board ‘realities,’ board perceptions, board pessimism, and board failure to bear in mind the mission of the organization—that it is not ‘just like their profit-making business’ and that the ultimate goal is not a balanced budget but the communication of an exquisite art form.10

His view seems short-sighted in an era where the very art form he values is at considerable risk, with orchestras filing for bankruptcy and going out of business. Solutions will require not only the continued dedication of all the constituencies, but more than ever, thoughtful cooperative, collaborative solutions. It is a time to be working more closely together, not a time to be retreating to traditional adversarial positions.

Fortunately, his is not the only view on the subject. Robert Levine, in a companion article entitled “Musicians on Boards: A Useful Tool,” acknowledges that musician service on orchestra boards is controversial and has not been supported by most labor unions. He also recognizes the potential that musician-board members may appear to approve a decision they actually opposed or may be co-opted by the other members of the board. However, Levine makes a solid case for the advantages of board service by musicians, contending it is the best way for musicians to understand the board’s internal dynamics and attitudes towards the orchestra and musicians.

Serving together on a board or committee is also the best way for the board members to get to know musicians as other than faceless and fungible instrument operators. Perhaps most important, serving on a board provides a formal avenue—and can create many informal avenues—for board members and musicians to interact directly on substantive issues. . . .11

Levine believes that for this arrangement to work best, the musician board members need to be clear about their essential responsibility to represent their colleagues and to communicate what they learn back to the orchestra and to the orchestra committee.

It will, of course, come as no surprise that I strongly prefer the Levine view. While our collaborative process at the SPCO was under way well before this issue of Senza Sordino appeared, our working premise was very much aligned with that espoused by Robert Levine. Collaboration is best. Allow me to describe briefly how the SPCO has addressed collaborative governance generally and the role of the musicians in particular.

Collaborative Governance: The SPCO Experience

By the fall of 2000, the SPCO was poised to redefine its future. We had, in the previous 12 months, hired a new president and CEO, Bruce Coppock, who had strong prior experience as executive director of the Saint Louis Symphony, as well as having held the number-two position at Carnegie Hall, followed by a stint on the staff of the American Symphony Orchestra League. With Coppock’s leadership, we had also completed a search for a new music director who joined us in mid-2000. While the music director search had included musicians, staff, and board members, it had been a relatively traditional process, with a small committee taking the lead and identifying

the finalist. Everyone else (i.e., the broader membership of the board, staff, and musicians) was then asked to ratify that decision. While the process was healthy enough, it was by no means a perfect model of broad collaboration, particularly for a decision that was so important to the SPCO.

Meanwhile, the financial picture at the SPCO was encouraging, at least at first glance. After a near bankruptcy in 1993, the chamber orchestra had enjoyed eight consecutive years of balanced budgets and a steady growth in its operating budget from $6.3 million in the 1993-1994 season to $9.8 million in 2000-2001. We had also successfully completed a $20 million endowment campaign, the largest in the SPCO’s history.

However, during that same eight-year period, ticket sales had moved up and down year to year, with earned income accounting for only 34 percent of total revenue. The endowment, which had grown to $23.8 million, was still relatively small and, assuming a traditional 5 percent draw level, was able to provide only 12 percent of our annual operating revenue.

Coincidentally, the SPCO had been selected as one of 15 orchestras to participate in the Orchestra Forum, an ambitious program launched and generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and intended to assist the selected orchestras in developing more collaborative operating models. We began our participation in the Mellon process in the spring of 2000. Our learning there has contributed in important ways to our approach to collaborative planning and to the contract renewal process.

The Strategic-Planning Process: The First Step in True Collaboration When Bruce Coppock was hired to be our new CEO in the fall of 1999, he was charged by the board with taking the SPCO “to the next level,” although no one had defined just what was meant by that phrase. Coppock was committed to the notion that, as a chamber orchestra, we needed to be very clear about our distinctiveness (i.e., to fully understand what it meant to not be merely a smaller version of a symphony orchestra). He imagined a working relationship with the musicians that would be far more flexible than the traditional symphony model, with a broader scope of work that included much more than rehearsals, performances, and educational activities.

Coppock also aspired to a different approach to labor negotiations that would be less confrontational and fractious. However, his first year as CEO had not allowed enough time to fully sow the seeds for a nontraditional bargaining process and, by December of 2000, it was necessary to begin negotiations with the musicians for renewal of their contract (which was to expire in seven months). As a result, those negotiations were very traditional, lawyer-led, and rather contentious, leaving all constituencies (musicians, board, and staff) ultimately feeling as if we were not on the same team. It reinforced our notion of not wanting to continue doing business with each other in that way.

Indeed, several months earlier, as we had set out to redefine our unique role as the only full-time, professional chamber orchestra in this country, we had concluded that all constituencies would need to be fully involved in our strategic-planning process and that we wanted to work very inclusively and cooperatively in intensive self-evaluation and development of a strategic plan. We knew that all of us in the SPCO needed to build a shared vision for our chamber orchestra. We needed to take a fresh look at ourselves and determine together what we really wanted to be by 2010 (the SPCO’s 50th anniversary). We also agreed, consistent with our discussions at the Mellon Orchestra Forum sessions, that not only the planning process itself, but also the new operating model we would design, had to be “collaborative.” While we used both the “inclusion” and “collaboration” labels in those early planning days, it later became clear that we had only just begun to understand what collaboration really meant and what it would require to get there.

The strategic-planning process began in September of 2000 and continued for 18 months. It was interrupted in early 2001 by the labor negotiations described earlier. That interruption not only delayed the planning process, but was also a temporary setback for us on the road toward true collaboration. Nevertheless, all of the SPCO constituencies—the board, the musicians, the staff, and our volunteer organization—were active participants in all phases of our planning. Before it was over, we had spent 39 full days over an 18- month period looking at every aspect of the SPCO and identifying audacious goals for our future.

The Steering Committee, where much of the hard work was done, included the senior staff (CEO, general manager, vice president for finance, vice president for development and marketing), the board leadership (chair, chair-elect, and several key committee chairs), the music director, six musicians (including the concertmaster, the chair of the orchestra committee, and the chair of the negotiating committee), as well as representatives from the community. All the key constituencies were at the table. That committee held 12 daylong meetings and wrestled with thorny issues, including what might be required to be truly distinctive and to be widely recognized as “America’s Chamber Orchestra.”

In addition, we had 13 “town hall meetings” where larger groups were invited, to hear updates and offer their comments and suggestions.

We also held three institution-wide retreats at a local country club. Those retreats lasted for the entire day, were facilitated by outside professionals (Ronnie Brooks, director of the Institute for Renewing Community Leadership, and Tom Morris, CEO of the Cleveland Orchestra), and were attended by the entire board, the entire staff, and all of the musicians. Attendance was excellent and the discussion was animated and engaged.

There were two additional all-day retreats for the musicians only, but with the board chair, the CEO, and the general manager present to listen and answer questions.

Midway through the strategic-planning process, we held a series of six focus-group meetings for our audience members. Long-time subscribers were invited to attend. Many did and told us exactly what they liked and did not like about their concert experiences and their relationships with the SPCO. Their insights were invaluable.

Altogether, we held nearly 40 in-depth meetings, most of them consuming entire days. By the end of that period, we were not only very practiced on cross-constituency collaboration, but were well aware that it was very time- consuming.

Since this article is focused on governance and the process of good governance, the actual content of the SPCO’s strategic plan is not relevant here, except as it relates to the way in which we set the table for the new collaborative model and redefined the way all constituencies would do business together in the future. Suffice it to note here that

◆ we identified our core values;

◆ we agreed upon big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs);

◆ and we established key program initiatives.

More important to our collaborative model, however, was the way in which we approached our mutual desire to improve the SPCO’s artistic product and the individual and collective performance of the musicians. On the one hand, everyone was rightfully proud of how good the orchestra really was; on the other hand, when we were really honest, we knew it could be better. The musician members of the Steering Committee were able to get comfortable with talking freely and openly about their desire for more consistently high- quality performances and more commitment from their colleagues. It was a breakthrough for us.

We also recognized the importance of collaborative implementation of any plan, i.e., that it was something the staff, board, and musicians would have to do together as a team. Specifically, we said that our BHAGs for the next 10 to 30 years included “innovative labor relations, and willingness to do business together in non-traditional ways.”12

Finally, we were very clear about our commitment to this new culture.

Throughout the planning process, there has been much discussion about the institutional goals of fostering a more collaborative culture and engendering more participatory problem-solving within and among all SPCO constituencies, including the Board, management, musicians and Friends [the volunteers]. Successful pursuit of these goals mandates deep mutual understanding of the goals, opportunities and constraints within and between each constituent group; more aggressive, early, ongoing and open communication throughout the organization; and an acknowledgement that all constituent groups together must be held accountable for the overall institutional success. (Emphasis supplied.)13

On May 15, 2002, we officially adopted the plan and celebrated our success. We distributed vast numbers of bound copies to all our subscribers, donors, and friends, replete with summaries of the process, photos of the musicians, and a ringing endorsement of the plan by the chair of the orchestra’s negotiating committee (who had also been a committed member of the planning committee throughout the 18-month process).

What is exciting for the musicians about the strategic plan is that it provides a framework designed to focus the entire organization on the goal of excellence in all aspects of who we are and what we do. It envisions new paradigms of labor-management-board relations; it recognizes that risk is an important and acceptable part of the growth process. . . . It is our fervent hope that there is a long-term commitment to this strategic plan. (Emphasis supplied.)14

It was then time to turn our attention to implementation of the new plan and all the attendant implications and challenges, not the least of which was the need to negotiate a new labor contract over the next 12 months. We did not fully understand at that time just how much collaboration would be required of us before that contract was final.

Chapter Two: Contract Renewal

Elsewhere in this issue of Harmony, readers have the opportunity to explore extensive material about our contract renewal process, and the content of that process, written by Paul Boulian, one of the professionals we retained to aid us in uncharted waters, and by Bruce Coppock. But a few words from the governance perspective are appropriate here.

At the time we began the contract renewal process, we believed that the toughest issues would be some combination of:

◆ the musicians’ discomfort in assuming much greater responsibility for artistic programming and artistic personnel decisions (including intervention and possible termination of colleagues who were not performing at the new standards);

◆ redefining the musicians’ scope of service to provide far greater flexibility; and

◆ engaging the musicians in some parts of governance that had traditionally been the sole province of the board.

Those issues did, in fact, prove to be tricky. But the toughest issue of all presented itself about three months into the contract renewal process.

It was at about that time that we began to realize that, for the first time in nine years, there was a very real chance the SPCO would not be able to balance its budget. Worse yet, it was growing increasingly likely that the budget for the coming year (the 2003-2004 season) would have to be slashed dramatically, probably by 15 percent or more. Most challenging of all in the contract renewal context was the growing realization that the musicians would probably have to take a significant pay cut.

As that reality grew and spread among the musicians, those who had been most skeptical about this new collaborative process and the proposed fundamental changes in the culture began to see ghosts. This strange facilitated process in which everyone was trying so hard to develop consensus and from which the lawyer-warriors had been excluded was now beginning to feel like it would produce very troublesome economic results for musicians, the first pay cut in 10 years! In their view, there must be some direct connection between this unfamiliar process and this very bad result.

Those of us who believed in the process (and who knew that the SPCO’s financial surprises were driven by the economy and were largely the same as those faced by many orchestras and other nonprofits across the country) urged that we stay the course. We believed that the economic issues, challenging as they were, could be better and more fairly solved in a transparent, collaborative process than in a traditional shootout. The musician members in the Contract Renewal Group agreed and set off to convince their colleagues. Those days were the roughest and most unpredictable of our nine-month-long process. Understandably, some of the voices from national union headquarters expressed grave misgivings about continuing without lawyers under these circumstances. Eventually, the musicians had to decide. The members of the orchestra voted to stay the course and continue the facilitation. Those of us who had invested so much in the process were grateful.

In the end, we have dramatically changed the way we will do business together and have committed ourselves to a whole new level of involvement by the musicians in all aspects of the SPCO’s life—in artistic programming, in their own professional development, and in governance. We also faced up to our own structural deficit and found ways for the musicians, staff, and board members to each take ownership of a solution that has included staff reductions, reductions in musician pay, and the need for a major endowment campaign.

We have direction, we are clear about our values, we are committed to a plan, we have made tough financial decisions, we have revamped our approach to governance, and—perhaps most important of all—we have raised the trust and cooperation levels.

The Governance Components of the New Contract

Some of the biggest changes in this contract have to do with the role musicians will play in the artistic leadership and the governance of the SPCO. The new contract provides: “Musician participation in committees is vital to the success of the SPCO organization. Due to the year-round nature of the work of many committees, musicians who volunteer to participate in committee work are expected to make their best efforts to attend meetings throughout the contract year.”15

We anticipate active involvement by musicians in all of the SPCO’s working committees: finance, development, marketing, public relations, and investment, as well as on various ad hoc task forces. It is there, in the regular, ongoing work, that we will realize what Robert Levine described as “the best way for the board members to get to know musicians” and “to interact directly on substantive issues.”

Perhaps most dramatic of the governance changes is the creation of two new permanent committees charged to provide leadership in two areas previously in the purview of the music director. In the future, the artistic direction of the SPCO will be principally in the hands of a new Artistic Vision Committee, with the majority of the members selected from the ranks of the musicians. Similarly, all personnel policy has been vested in a new Artistic Personnel Committee, which is also composed of a majority of musicians. While the details and management implications of that new structure are spelled out in Bruce Coppock’s companion article, a few highlights are worth noting here.

◆ The Artistic Vision Committee, composed of three musicians and two managers, will have primary responsibility for all aspects of programming, selection of all guest artists and conductors, rehearsal schedules, tour and recording planning, and development of a plan for feedback and observations about the quality of SPCO performances. All decisions of this committee are to be achieved through collaboration and consensus; if voting is necessary, a super majority of four is required to make a decision.

◆ The Artistic Personnel Committee, composed of three musicians and two managers, will have primary responsibility for all aspects of orchestra personnel: auditions, tenure review, and dismissal as well as regular, ongoing personnel matters. In addition, and significantly, we have added new programs to develop ongoing feedback to and from SPCO musicians about their individual performance, the framework for developing professional growth plans for SPCO musicians, and a structured intervention process for any SPCO musicians deemed not to be upholding the performance standards of the SPCO. All decisions of this committee are to be achieved through collaboration and consensus; if voting is necessary, a super majority of four is required to make a decision.

◆ The Orchestra Committee will remain in place as usual. Its primary responsibility is to be the liaison between the orchestra and the rest of the SPCO organization on contractual matters.

◆ Executive Committee. Three musicians, one each from the three committees, will be chosen to serve on the SPCO’s executive committee, which includes all of the officers of the SPCO board and the trustees who chair major board committees. We feel this is a major step forward in bringing the board, staff, and orchestra more closely together in organizational decision making.

If the musicians are now fully vested in key committees of the SPCO, which includes having three votes on the executive committee, where do they fit in the informal structures of the organization? During our contract renewal discussions, the questions that were asked included: Where does the real decision making take place? Will the musicians be there too? From a governance perspective, the good news is that SPCO decision making doesn’t happen in the back room. Ideas are typically generated in committee, find their way to the executive committee and board, and are implemented by the staff. Nevertheless, every organization has informal communication networks, and that is true at the SPCO as well.

One of the important informal processes is the weekly meeting between the CEO and the board chair. Bruce Coppock and I have been meeting every Wednesday morning since I assumed the position as chair in June 2001. We meet for breakfast; Bruce prepares a brief list of points to be covered; I usually add a point or two of my own. He updates me on developments, identifies priorities and challenges, asks for assistance. I offer feedback and suggestions. On any given Wednesday, the topics can range from personnel issues to fundraising challenges to the details of the new construction project we have recently undertaken and a hundred other things. It is here that we brainstorm with each other about assigning the right board members to the right committees or how to make sure we retain key personnel or whether to reconsider a European tour that is financially challenged. Final decisions on major policy issues are never made during these sessions. But they are always discussed here before they go to the executive committee or the board.

Where do those Wednesday morning meetings fit in our new collaborative structure? The short answer is that Bruce and I have invited the president of the orchestra committee, Tom Kornacker, to join us on a regular basis at those breakfast meetings. Tom has been an SPCO musician for 26 years and its co-principal second violinist. He has been an active participant in our strategic-planning process and also served as a member of the Contract Renewal Group. In short, Tom has been at center stage in all the collaborative initiatives we have undertaken in the last three years. Having him at the table on Wednesday morning is perfectly natural. The three of us share a common respect for each other that will serve us well as we move forward.

Both the informal and formal governance processes have been expanded to include musicians as integral players in the ongoing decision-making process. While much of this is in its infancy, we know each other well and we are building on a foundation that has been well laid.

Ingredients for Effective Collaboration

Looking back over these past 30 months, it seems that the road to greater collaboration has required several essential ingredients or building blocks, and that they needed to be established in the following sequence:

Shared Goals. When we started, we knew we needed to readdress our fundamentals. All of us wanted to take the SPCO “to the next level” and were determined to discover together just how to do that in the best and most exciting way. By the time we started the contract renewal process, we likewise shared the goal of turning that 38-page strategic plan into a reality based on an entirely new way of doing business together. We shared the goal; we just did not know how to get there.

Shared Information. In order to make any progress in this type of process, everyone had to have all of the relevant information, and everyone had to have the same information. No secrets. No partial disclosures. In the past, management assembled its background data for contract negotiations, and the musicians did the same. This time we did it together.

Civility.Working toward collaboration is not about winning debates or scoring points. It cannot be built on putting the other guy down in order to appear to be raising oneself up. It does not allow for getting personal in a negative way, regardless of the level of honest difference of opinion on the essential issues. We agreed on the first day of a nine-month journey that we were committed to dealing with others in this way, and we did.

Familiarity with Each Other. Strangers cannot collaborate. You need to have worked together for hours and days in order to become comfortable at a personal level. You literally need to live together long enough to develop an understanding of each other as people.

Commitment to Honesty and Candor. Both honesty and candor are required. The honesty piece is obvious. Anything less is unacceptable and is quickly discovered. Candor goes beyond honesty. The honest person is truthful in everything that is said and every question that is answered. Candor requires voluntary disclosure of important, relevant information even when no question has been asked. The road to collaboration requires both.

Trust. Over time, given the five preceding elements, trust will arrive naturally. It is a precious, and sometimes elusive commodity. It requires consistent reinforcement. If it is broken, it takes enormous time and energy to regain it. We built it fairly early and never lost it.

Willingness to Take Shared Risks. Once genuine trust has been established, there is much greater willingness to take risks together. You are willing to take a chance together, that you would not take alone. You have the confidence that it will not backfire on you and that, if you make a mistake, you will be able to fix it together.

Shared Solutions. Finally, shared solutions will be achieved. Sometimes taking a risk together will yield an unacceptable result. But when that happens, constituencies that trust each other, have all the same information, and are committed to the same goals can back up together, change course together, and move forward again. At the end of the day, true collaboration is not about guaranteed success and zero failures. Rather, it is about a mutual process that draws on the best from all the players and finds solutions more often and far more effectively than when everyone stays on his or her own turf and waits for the other parties to solve the problem.

As nonprofit governance has been studied and practiced over the past 16 years, thoughtful commentators, consultants, administrators, and trustees have more and more come to accept the notion that management and governance are not so easily compartmentalized or separated. It is far too simple to think of governance as policymaking and management as profitmaking.

That, of course, underscores the fundamental importance of a close collaborative working relationship between and among the board, the staff, and the musicians in any orchestra. Likewise, between and among the board chair, the CEO, the music director, and the musicians’ selected leader. And, of course, between and among the trustees, senior staff, and musicians.

It is not unlike the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. In order for orchestras to realize their true potential, all the constituents in the orchestra “village” must work together cooperatively and collaboratively. It is not about turf. It is not about pitting one constituency against another. It is about working closely together to figure out where we want to go, how we want to get there, how to remove the barriers in our path, and how to accomplish our orchestra’s mission together!

Lowell Noteboom is president of the Minneapolis law firm Leonard, Street and Deinard. He also serves as board chair of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and as vice chair of the board of the American Symphony Orchestra League.


1 Dayton, Kenneth N. 1987. Governance is Governance. Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector.

2 George, William. 2002. Cleaning Up?: Discussion with Paul Solman. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS, July 12.

3 Hodgkin, Christopher. 1993. Policy and Paperclips: Rejecting the Lure of the Corporate Model. Nonprofit Management & Leadership 3 (4).

4 Taylor, Barbara E., Richard P. Chait, and Thomas P. Holland. 1996. The New Work of the Nonprofit Board. Harvard Business Review (September- October).

5 Taylor et al.

6 Taylor et al.

7 Robinson, Maureen K. 2001. Nonprofit Boards That Work: The End of One-Size-Fits-All Governance. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

8 Levine, Seymour, and Robert Levine. 1996. Why They’re Not Smiling: Stress and Discontent in the Orchestral Workplace. Harmony April 2: 15-25.

9 Fogel, Henry. 2000. Are Three Legs Appropriate? Or Even Sufficient? Harmony (April 10): 11-34.

10 Leibowitz, Leonard. 2003. Musicians on Boards: Must We? Senza Sordino. (June) 41 (3): 6.

11 Levine, Robert. Musicians on Boards: A Useful Tool. Senza Sordino (June) 41 (3): 7.

12 2002. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Strategic Plan, p. 11.

13 Strategic plan, p. 27.

14 Strategic plan, p. 3 (Attributed to Herb Winslow).

15 Master Agreement between the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Twin Cities Musicians Union Local 30-73, for seasons 2003-2004, 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007. Ratified May 27, 2003.


Contract Renewal Process: Through Musicians’ Lenses

Staff and board members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) chose to share in Harmony their constituencies’ experiences during the contract renewal process through single-author essays. The five musicians who served as members of the Contract Renewal Group (CRG) chose to share their experiences through an Institute roundtable. What follows is an edited transcript of that roundtable.

Institute: Please introduce yourselves and describe your involvement with the SPCO.

Kyu-Young Kim: I am the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s associate concertmaster and am on sabbatical leave this year. I have been a member of the orchestra since 2001.

Tom Kornacker: I have been with the orchestra since 1977. I was principal second violin for 23 years and am now co-principal second violin. I am also the current chair of the orchestra committee.

Sarah Lewis: I am a cellist and have been with the orchestra for five years. Charles Ullery: I am the SPCO’s principal bassoon and have been a member of the orchestra for 28 years.

Herb Winslow: I joined the orchestra in 1981 and am the orchestra’s principal horn. I have been involved in negotiations since 1987.

Institute: The contract renewal process that the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra used to reach its most recent collective bargaining agreement included representatives from each constituency who worked collaboratively from beginning to end. From your perspectives as members of the orchestra, describe for our readers what you consider to be the important elements of working in this way.

Ullery: I’ve been in this orchestra for nearly 30 years, and probably the most important element of the process for me was the fact that there were no trades made in this negotiation. We looked at each and every issue in light of what was good for the organization and reached consensus on each issue. But let me back up a bit. Because many of us who were involved in this process had been involved in negotiations in the past, initially we wanted to be in caucuses to ask ourselves what we should say, to decide whether we should be frank. By the time we reached the end of the process, we were in the position that anyone could say anything. In fact, what might be viewed as strange alliances developed on some issues. On any given issue, we might have an orchestra member and a board member debating heatedly with another musician and a staff member in our quest to get at the truth. The process encouraged devil’s advocacy and pushing back, and we all participated. It really did become a process in which one did not think of oneself as only a musician. Each of us had the opportunity to give the orchestra a very positive direction.

Winslow: Our ability to interact with the board directly was new to me in this process. In past negotiations, anything the musicians wanted to say to the board, or that the board wanted to say to the musicians, was filtered through a member of the staff. As a result, there were always open questions as to whether what one was hearing was really the other side’s true feelings about an issue. In my opinion, the fact that the process we used in this contract renewal encouraged speaking directly with board members to let them hear the musicians’ issues and concerns, and then having board members address us directly to share their perspectives, opened up the thought processes for all of us. In this instance, in this orchestra, we had a convergence of people in positions of leadership that offered opportunities for very open and honest conversations.

Institute: Herb, what I think I’m hearing from you is a ringing endorsement of what was a very long process.

Winslow: That’s correct. This time around, I don’t think it could have been done in a shorter time because we really wrestled with issues that we had never addressed before. Having gone through the process, we will have less wrestling with issues in the future and more determining where we want to go and what steps we need to take to get there.

Kornacker: Let me add that there was an incredible educational component to the whole process. We had the opportunity to learn directly about board members’ views of us. And we had the opportunity to educate board members directly about what the life of a musician truly is. We learned where each of us was coming from and how we had gotten into the room; we learned how to work on a thorny issue together; we created a document together that went out from the room. We must not underestimate the importance of this education because it will be of great benefit to the organization in the future.

Winslow: Lest anyone misunderstand, during this process, one could have private conversations with anybody on the committee. But we had agreed to “rules of engagement” such that no one could cut a deal outside of the room and bring it back as a fait accompli. There were times when we thought we had agreement, or near agreement, on an issue, and then one person would ask a question which would take us back to wrestle the entire issue all over again. We also agreed to rules about the ways in which we would use e- mail, and we used e-mail a lot. When anyone sent out an e-mail, it went to the entire CRG. And when one replied to an e-mail, one also replied to the entire committee. Everyone had the same information at the same time. That was an important piece to avoid anyone feeling that there was “back room” negotiating taking place.

Institute: Let’s turn our attention to the agreement itself. From your perspectives, what is new, or unique, or significant about this collective bargaining agreement? And how will your lives as musicians be different as a result of this new agreement and the new paths the SPCO has chosen?

Kornacker: What is new is that the orchestra has taken upon itself enormous responsibility for the future of the organization. We have done this in conjunction with a very strong and significant working relationship with both the board of directors and the managers. In the orchestra world, this is not ordinary by any means. It is a new responsibility for the orchestra members which is questioned by some, but very enthusiastically embraced by others.

Lewis: This may sound a bit odd, but out of those of us who served on the CRG, I have the second least experience in the orchestra, and I had, frankly, neglected to get to know the old collective bargaining agreement very well. So I thought a lot of what we have just agreed to was going on already. I thought people were on committees and involved in the process. I’ve had quite an education.

Ullery: Sarah, it is interesting to hear your perspective on this because it is true that we have had committees forever, and we have gotten more creative about committees. We’ve had an artistic advisory committee; we’ve had conductor search committees; we’ve had tenure committees; we’ve had audition committees. We have also had musicians sitting on board standing committees as orchestra representatives. The orchestra committee chair has been able to attend board meetings. But all of that activity was advisory.

Now we have two committees, the Artistic Vision Committee and the Artistic Personnel Committee, in which the musicians have real responsibilities. They sit where the buck stops. Musicians will make decisions about every program we play, every soloist, every conductor. Musicians will think about touring not in terms of their own careers, but in terms of the orchestra’s career. Musicians will think about recording in the same light. That’s what makes this a revolutionary document.

Winslow: In terms of how our lives as musicians will change with this new agreement, we already have musicians who are saying, “My every spare moment is involved in a committee meeting.” And for some, that is probably true. But they are learning much more about how the organization functions. They are having much more impact on what the future can be. I see this as spreading out musicians’ talent. We not only are responsible for great performances, but we are also responsible for understanding the business side of the organization, for balancing business with artistic. In the final analysis, musicians are going to have a much greater say in what their jobs look like.

Kornacker: Let me approach the changes in our lives in a slightly different way. There is no question that in the past, the artistic values of the organization have been filtered by those who held total artistic responsibility. We have now empowered people who sit in the orchestra to made decisions. Decisions will be made by people who are not career-driven, not ego-driven. Rather, decisions will be driven by the musical intent and the artistic quality of the organization. Let’s be clear. This is not an easy responsibility. But we will sit on the stage knowing that we have ownership of what we are doing. We will choose the music we are playing. We will choose the people with whom we will work. We are confident that this sense of ownership will translate into greater quality throughout both the performances and the organization.

Kim: What we’ve done here in the last year has really shaken things up a lot. Even before we began the contract renewal process, we were doing some artistic things that were very challenging. We were doing Baroque music and new music with challenging conductors. The musicians were feeling that preparation and performance were more demanding than they had been. But the decisions about that repertoire and those conductors had been made by someone else, not by the musicians. So it was easy to point a finger, to blame someone else for something you didn’t like. With our new agreement, musicians have the responsibility to decide what we will play and with whom we will play. That takes away the opportunity to blame someone else for something you don’t like, or if you do blame someone else, it’s not just the managers, but your fellow musicians on the committees we have created. That is very different from being able to point a finger at management. In essence, we have asked the musicians to put a lot of trust in themselves and their colleagues to make some very important decisions.

Kornacker: There is another piece in the agreement that probably deserves mention. We have added what are called informational services. We think it important that information be given to the whole orchestra so no one can say that he or she didn’t know or didn’t understand. But beyond that, we hope that more real interaction between orchestra members and managers will encourage orchestra members to challenge and question what they hear. That’s what we mean by wanting to become a more collaborative organization. It is going to take time, but in my mind, this is what is revolutionary about our new agreement.

Institute: In your new collective bargaining agreement, feedback is an important element. Describe the scope of the changes and the roles musicians will play in this area.

Winslow: Let me start with a few thoughts about individual feedback. I think there are some orchestras that handle this better than others. Their culture is such that one musician can make a comment to another about his or her playing and it is not taken personally. Ours has not been that kind of culture and, as a result, individuals get very little feedback about their performances except from their friends, and that’s generally positive. What we are trying to do is to create a situation that helps musicians grow as individual musicians, but that also makes it less of a surprise if there ever comes a time when intervention is needed. What we want it to be is a humane way for individuals to find out about both small and major issues early, in a way that doesn’t place them at risk for their jobs.

Another important element of what we did with feedback involves the whole orchestra in a way that’s a bit like Monday morning quarterbacking. It’s a plan to look back on a week we have just done, with the whole orchestra participating, to talk about the positives, and the negatives, and what might have been done differently.

Kim: I agree with Herb that the idea is to try to create a culture in which feedback is part of the daily rehearsal process, part of the daily institutional way of thinking. The intent is for everyone to help one another in constructive ways. That is a hard place to get to in an orchestra. Initially it feels very unnatural and uncomfortable, and it requires caution in how one says something. But what we need to remember is that it is all geared to raise the level of excellence in this entire organization, which is something everyone wants.

Winslow: Because the ratification vote was close, there is a hazard that morale will suffer. But I agree with Kyu that status quo is not good enough. We cannot get to a different place if we don’t take some risks. I think as individual musicians we recognize that. What we are trying to do is get to a different place for the entire orchestra, for the entire organization.

Institute: Your mention of the closeness of the ratification vote prompts me to ask you to discuss why you all decided to go ahead with the artistic changes and the expanded roles for musicians even though you knew that unexpected financial strains would require a reduction in the musicians’ total compensation.

Kornacker: During the process, we worked on a visionary and idealistic view of what this orchestra would be in the year 2010. The discussions that we had with the full orchestra during the process revealed a lot of interest in these ideas on the part of the players. There did not seem to be a great division among our colleagues about instituting these ideas for 2010. As a matter of fact, some of our colleagues wondered why we could not institute all of the ideas now.

When the need for serious financial cutbacks became apparent, some of our colleagues became very concerned that somehow our vision of 2010 was leading to the financial cutbacks of 2003. Those of us who served as part of the CRG sincerely believed that we had looked at these issues as two separate things. We had looked at every item under a microscope for many months. Although we knew the vote might be complicated by the financials, and that the financial result was not one that any of us would have wished for, we still believed it was very important to institute the well-received artistic ideas as soon as possible.

Winslow: Some of our colleagues were concerned that the financial hit that we took was because of our use of this process, and that we would not have been so affected had we used a traditional negotiating process. What I want to say about that is that if we review the settlements that have occurred all around the country this year, they range from pay freezes to cuts of 20 percent. And those settlements were reached whether attorneys were present or not. The financial realities of this time are what they are.

But I believe we came out of these negotiations stronger because we did not have a great big issue that led us toward a strike, or even the hint of a threat of a strike. The support of the board members and the community at large to raise the money that will be needed to do what we hope to do with this orchestra will come only if those people believe their money is being spent wisely.

Kim: Your readers need to understand that between the strategic-planning process and the contract renewal process, members from every constituency of this orchestra had spent nearly three years examining this institution and charting its artistic future. If we ignored that part of it in light of tight financial times, nothing would change.

Winslow: To me, the fact that we decided to continue with the process in which we had invested so much shows the courage of this orchestra and its belief that there is something better out there. Despite the financial reductions we all took, we decided that we were willing to walk down this new path we had created.

Institute: If another orchestra were to contemplate undertaking a comprehensive, process-driven self evaluation, what thoughts would you offer them?

Ullery: I’ve thought about this a lot. It is important for others to understand that before we began this contract renewal process, we had spent two years engaged in serious long-range planning. That planning was authentically cross-constituency and gave every member of the organization the opportunity to share his or her thinking about the direction the SPCO should be going. As part of that process, we had day-long, organization-wide retreats that included all the musicians, the entire staff, the entire board, and even audience members and funders. I would encourage other orchestras to spend the money to do this type of inclusive, serious planning. When we began the contract renewal process, we went back to the long-range plan and reviewed each piece of it asking ourselves “what does this really mean here and now?” But I would say to others who might be looking at a new way of approaching a contract renewal that to do what we did required starting from having undertaken that long-range planning process.

Winslow: I would absolutely second what Chuck has just said. I would not recommend that an orchestra use a contract renewal as the first place to try to begin working collaboratively. What I would recommend to orchestras that might undertake a similar process is to realize the importance of not letting those who are actively engaged get too far ahead of their constituents. Even though we had full orchestra meetings to try to share what was going on in the Contract Renewal Group, in retrospect, we did not do enough. You need to allow enough time for all members of the constituency to have full input.

Kornacker: We also did extensive cross-constituency reporting which I would recommend. As orchestra committee chair, I was included on the teams that reported to the board and to the executive committee, as well as to the staff. Board and staff members were included on the teams that reported to the musicians. And I agree completely with Herb that communicate, communicate, communicate is advice to be taken seriously.

Kim: This may sound very obvious, and of course we had no idea when we began our process, but I would recommend that an orchestra not try the type of process we used to do a contract renewal in financially troubled times.

Ullery: I’m not sure I agree with you on that, Kyu. Because we were renewing our contract in a tough financial climate, we were forced to focus on real artistic issues, without thinking about extra compensation to smooth the way. None of us was in the position of being able to offer additional compensation to soften the resistance against going along with a new idea or way of doing things. We were always forced to answer the question “Is this good for the organization artistically and financially, or not?” And that was very positive. So I guess what I would recommend is that an orchestra, and the whole organization behind it, try as well as it can to understand its financial and artistic circumstances before it undertakes this way of doing a contract renewal.

Institute: You have all, indeed, participated in a revolutionary process and we thank you for sharing your thoughts. We wish you well and will follow your progress as you proceed together down your newly chosen path.


A Bold Experiment: The Process

In the spring of 2003, an extraordinary marriage among strategic plan, vision, values, and a collective bargaining agreement was consummated through the work of the musicians, staff, and board members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO). The ambitions proposed in the organization’s strategic plan were translated into specific contract language that will help the SPCO achieve its vision of the future as “America’s

Chamber Orchestra” and as a preeminent chamber orchestra. Through a comprehensive and systematic process, members of the board, staff members, and musicians agreed on significant changes in the roles of managers and musicians in artistic and personnel matters. In addition, they agreed on increased collaboration on financial matters and governance. Further, they addressed long-held views about the nature of musicians’ work, working conditions, and work rules, molding them to better serve musicians, the audience, and the SPCO Society. These changes were made in what emerged as a potentially threatening financial situation that required action. The Symphony Orchestra Institute, through the work of Fred Zenone and Paul Boulian, assisted in this collaborative process.

In truth, reaching agreement on the collective bargaining agreement in many ways was less about a “labor agreement” and more about defining and clarifying relationships and practices in order for the SPCO to achieve its vision, BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals), and strategic plan. The agreement itself, which in many ways is the only codified, concrete enabler or disenabler of the evolution of the orchestra, served as a vehicle to explore in depth the future of the SPCO and what would be required for it not just to survive, but to thrive and excel as a chamber orchestra.

The overall work required more than 40 days of meetings over a 9-month period with the Contract Renewal Group (CRG), composed of orchestra members, staff members, and board members. Upon hearing of the many days spent working on the future of the SPCO and the collective bargaining agreement, many individuals in and out of the SPCO have expressed alarm, confusion, and admiration. They invariably ask two questions: “How could it take 40 days to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement?” and “How could the organization afford the time?” The reason for 40 days is connected to several things.

◆ The ambition to achieve the vision and strategic plan of the SPCO and to have the collective bargaining agreement serve as an enabler in the future.

◆ The number and complexity of topics discussed and wrestled to agreement.

◆ The desire to have an outstanding result in terms of content, quality of outcomes, and quality of relationships.

◆ The recognition that the collective bargaining agreement is a key factor in determining how the SPCO moves into the future.

◆ The belief that the tough work done now would save many hours in the years ahead.

For all of these reasons, the way the work was carried out—the process— was very important and required good planning and thoughtfulness from beginning to end.

The Initiation of the Negotiation Process at the SPCO

In mid-2002, the SPCO negotiating committee—composed of five elected members of the musicians’ negotiating committee, three members of the executive committee of the board, and three members of the senior staff— decided that they wanted to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement consistent with the SPCO’s espoused values, in order to help achieve the SPCO’s strategic plan and to use the knowledge they had gained as participants in the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Orchestra Forum. After considering options, the committee decided to explore with Fred Zenone, president of the Symphony Orchestra Institute and a former chairman of ICSOM, and Paul Boulian, a board member of the Institute and partner in LodeStar Associates, whether Fred and Paul would assist the Contract Renewal Group to address how the SPCO will thrive in the most heavily arts-saturated community in the country, to explore the possibility of contractual solutions to make the musicians’ positions more attractive artistically, and to create an opportunity to build on the success of the planning process. Furthermore, at the time, the SPCO assured the Institute that survival or crisis management was not an issue.

Although the Institute had adopted a policy of not assisting in contract- related issues, Fred and Paul determined that the unusual challenge created conditions and opportunities at the SPCO that warranted serious consideration.

The board, staff, and musicians were intent on determining how a collective bargaining agreement could facilitate, if not drive, the outcomes envisioned in the strategic plan, through a process consistent with the espoused values of the organization. Fred and Paul visited Saint Paul in the late spring 2002, to assess for themselves the level of commitment to the charge. Soon thereafter, the SPCO and the Institute reached agreement to proceed down this path together. Three factors were critical to the Institute’s decision to participate in this effort:

◆ the demonstrated high level of commitment and intention on the part of all 11 individuals involved;

◆ the desire to see how the SPCO’s strategic plan could be supported by a collective bargaining agreement, and

◆ the recognition that, to be successful, a great deal of work would be required with musicians, staff, and board members who were not involved in the specific contract process to get them “on board” with whatever outcomes the CRG chose to pursue.

Together, these reasons were compelling enough for Paul and Fred to agree to work with the SPCO.

To facilitate a successful start-up of the work, a “design” committee including the chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee, the president and the board chair of the SPCO, and Paul and Fred was formed to develop and review the overall process and specific meeting designs. In this way, from day one, the principal leaders of the SPCO would be in the driver’s seat regarding the direction of the work to be done.

During the summer, the “ideal” overall process that would be used to generate the substance of the agreement was mapped out:

◆ initial ground laying for the group;

◆ in-depth reflections about the challenge of the strategic plan and espoused values;

◆ understanding of the dynamics of the orchestra industry and the SPCO’s competitive position within it;

◆ creation of a hypothetical 2010 collective bargaining agreement consistent with the strategic plan and values;

◆ translating the key concepts from the hypothetical 2010 collective bargaining agreement into specific language for 2003; and

◆ detailed language writing.

An initial total of 28 days over 6 months was allocated for the work and the parallel stakebuilding process with constituency members (three months and additional days were later added).

The design team also agreed that, prior to each set of meetings, telephone conversations and/or e-mail exchanges would clarify the specific work that needed to be done and any issues that needed to be addressed. Based on these exchanges, Paul and Fred would provide suggestions on how to proceed, designs for specific work activities, and overall guidance regarding the dynamics that needed to be managed in order to explore a given topic. Once the design committee reviewed the plans, improvements were made, and the designs were sent to the entire CRG with preparation assignments. In this way, all participants could comment in advance on the proposed meeting design and would be knowledgeable of the topics to be discussed.

Getting Started

In September and October 2002, we held initial working sessions over four days. These meetings were designed to build a shared foundation of understanding of both process (how the group would do its work) and content (what the focus of the work would be). Through telephone discussions, it had been agreed that the “work” would start by focusing on a set of principles (concrete standards of excellence) that could be used to guide personal and group behavior (Figure 1) and on what personal behavior would look like if it were to live up to the SPCO’s shared values (what is important to us)(Figure 2).

The shared values had been developed through collaborative work among board, staff, and musicians as part of the SPCO’s strategic-planning process during 2001 and 2002. But some of the shared values had remained on paper and had not been fully translated to real action. The group chose to start this way because the principles to guide behavior, once agreed to, provided a standard of excellence for discussions about whether particular behaviors were consistent or inconsistent. They made it unnecessary to say “I like” or “I do not like” what you said or did. They also created a basis of personal accountability for one’s own behavior and provided feedback about personal actions within and outside the group. These practices, in turn, helped to ensure the highest level of trust among the participants.

This initial process discussion was also necessary because the values the organization had espoused during the strategic-planning process had been only partially translated into acceptable specific behaviors and actions. Thus, in order for the process to be effective, it would have to reinforce and be consistent with the espoused values. As a result, the group worked on how the espoused SPCO values would translate into behavior in the CRG and more broadly. It was during this initial discussion that the name of our work…

Figure 1: Principles for Personal and Group Behavior

✦ Contribute distinctive and additive thoughts/ideas to all conversations and the overall effort.

✦ Always add positive energy and take accountability for what I do and don’t do and what I say and don’t say.

✦ Face up to and accept my limitations and not blame others for those limitations.

✦ View every situation as an opportunity for my personal learning and growth.

✦ Support others in their efforts to build understanding and to achieve results.

Figure 2: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Espoused Values

Excellence: Striving for peak performance individually and collectively throughout the organization.

Intimacy: Striving to create powerful, deep connections through music between and among performers and audi- ences; fostering close collaboration and respect among all internal constituencies.

Innovation: Aspiring toward versatility and the ability to invent and do whatever is needed; being willing to risk failure.

Continuity: Aspiring intentionally to stay the course in pursuit of long-term goals, through thick and thin.

…was changed from “negotiations” to “contract renewal process.” “Win-lose” behavior was inconsistent with the values the group wanted to reinforce.

After extended discussion, the group agreed to use the principles outlined in Figure 1 to guide personal and group behavior and to reflect continually on how both the content and the process of the work were reinforcing the SPCO espoused values (Figure 2).

To more fully understand this work, an example is appropriate. In reflecting on this example, it may help to remember that these renewal discussions were more than contract discussions. They were intended to bring to life the strategic plan, the espoused values, and new thinking for the SPCO.

Let’s explore the espoused value of “intimacy.” What does intimacy mean in the context of working relationships? How is it manifested on a daily basis? What does it mean in the context of the contract renewal process?

The Contract Renewal Group defined intimacy in the following ways:

◆ by establishing a schedule of all-day meetings to be held on two to four consecutive days;

◆ by scheduling all-day meetings with the full orchestra throughout the process to receive input and to offer time for reflection;

◆ by agreeing that all work would be done jointly by representatives of each constituency; and

◆ by agreeing that e-mails would always be directed to all members of the group.

Multi-day meetings would ensure that the group would have the “face time” to explore important topics in depth, deliberately, and with focus, and without interruption or distraction. The meeting process did not preclude caucuses or one-to-one discussions between individuals. It did preclude “deals” being made outside the group and the “naming of names” for positions taken and points made in the group to individuals who were not members of the CRG.

Intimacy also involved reflections, and feedback and receptivity to these reflections and feedback. This was translated into reflections at the beginning and end of each day or work session and encouraging participants to challenge thinking and behavior that violated the principles or any of the values. The first day of work evolved into an intimate discussion about the characteristics of outstanding personal behavior and working relationships, as well as about process.

During our initial discussions in September, a few key points were highlighted.

◆ In order to become something different you must be and act differently consistent with what you want to become. In other words, you cannot become collaborative by being separate; you cannot be open by being closed.

◆ The vision of the future (established through the strategic plan) would be the guiding light; all ideas and thoughts (content) would be tested against this vision. If an idea accepted by the group contradicted the vision, the group would then have to ask whether the vision must be changed. Contradictions could not and would not be maintained and supported. Thus, alignment between the vision and implications of present decisions would always be maintained. This was a tall order.

◆ A good, guiding, and inspiring collective bargaining agreement could not be developed unless all participants truly understood and embraced the higher purpose of the SPCO and what the strategic plan implied.

◆ The roles of the participants were very important. The CRG members were accountable to bring their best thinking, insight, and reflections to the process; to challenge themselves and each other as to their beliefs; to represent the range of views voiced within their organizational constituency, and to be true to themselves.

◆ As third-party resources, Paul and Fred were accountable to develop a process consistent with the principles, values, and vision; to challenge thinking and bring new ideas to the table; to create processes to reconcile differences when they occurred; and to ensure that agreement was true agreement.

Once agreement was reached regarding how the group would work together, the meeting continued over the next day and a half by looking at the strategic plan, its implications, and the competitive environment of the SPCO.

Understanding the Higher Purpose of the Work

There is a belief espoused in organizational development literature that, with rare exceptions, there is always a higher purpose, which if found, can serve to reconcile deep differences among people. Finding the shared purpose of the work of the SPCO, at least on the surface, appears relatively straightforward. It is the accomplishment of the organization’s three BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals).

◆ To be widely recognized as “America’s Chamber Orchestra.”

◆ To be clearly distinctive in purpose and artistic profile.

◆ To be the symbol of cultural excellence in the Twin Cities.

Moving beyond the surface level to the implications and meanings inherent in these BHAGs was a different matter. Only after a full discussion and challenge, could the CRG members embrace the BHAGs as the content focus of the work.

To embrace these BHAGs required exploration of a whole series of questions associated with them. For example:

◆ Why is the SPCO not widely recognized as America’s Chamber Orchestra? Is any chamber orchestra recognized as America’s Chamber Orchestra?

◆ What makes a chamber orchestra distinctive?

◆ What is the difference between being “the” symbol of cultural excellence versus “a” symbol of cultural excellence?

One might ask, in a contract renewal, why it is important to examine, understand, and embrace the BHAGs and the key ideas of the strategic plan. The answer is both straightforward and complex.

The collective bargaining agreement is the only document in an orchestra organization that specifically defines future behaviors that can directly enable or disenable achievement of the vision. In almost all collective bargaining agreements, the behaviors that are defined (and there are many) dictate not only what is acceptable, but also how these behaviors should be played out over long periods of time. Further, the defined behaviors are most frequently based on past unacceptable practice or on fears about future practice. Thus, in order to develop a collective bargaining agreement that enables a vision, the desired behaviors need to be fully understood and ultimately codified.

Within the SPCO’s Contract Renewal Group, this was a profound realization. The committee had to make a choice: create a contract that would ultimately lead to the vision and help achieve the BHAGs, or tweak the current collective bargaining agreement and risk pushing the “future” out another three to five years (not 2003, but from our hypothetical 2010 to 2013 or 2015), a point in time that would not be meaningful for many of the current musicians in the orchestra. The CRG members agreed that they could not have it both ways: they could not keep the collective bargaining agreement much as it is and meaningfully pursue the strategic plan. It was at this point that the committee began to pursue a broad and deep discussion of the future of the orchestra. The current contract would not be revisited for many months.

Finding Common Ground

To create unity and common ground, it is critical to understand the different perspectives, goals, and ends that various people bring to a discussion. Through this approach, it is possible for individuals to understand one another and the different stakes that each holds dear.

To this end, the members of the CRG concluded that they must have a shared “vision” of the future. Vision work done well is unifying and energizing. Vision work done poorly (as most is) is time-draining, enervating, and discouraging.

A vision is an operational description of a future time that has several important characteristics:

“ The collective bargaining agreement is the only document in an orchestra organization that specifically defines future behaviors that can directly enable or disenable achievement of the vision.”

◆ it must pull us into the future to a place we have not been;

◆ it helps or allows us to see or imagine our place in the future;

◆ it provides us with insight into the ideas that we value or that are important to us;

◆ it is big enough to encompass a total picture; and

◆ it serves to bring us together, not pull us apart.

A vision statement is not “To be the best darn orchestra in the Twin Cities.” This statement either violates or is inconsistent with nearly every characteristic described above.

An operational description has grip and gives traction. To “see myself in the future,” the vision must be concrete to the point that one can actually imagine himself or herself there. It is hard to see oneself concretely in the “best darn orchestra” statement. Further, vision cannot be projected too far out into the future. I can envision next week, and I can fantasize about 50 years from now. But for vision to be effective in a strategic-planning context, five to seven years is a good time frame.

A vision created by more than one person serves to help each of them understand where views about the future are similar and where they differ. Without a discussion of vision, it is hard to understand why some suggestions about how to move forward are viewed negatively or positively by those hearing the ideas. Vision provides a group with an anchor relative to its future. It permits the group to take any idea from present and to project out what that idea might look like if it were taken into the future.

A good vision statement relative to feedback on staff performance in the future might read something like, “All individuals in the organization understand the expectations, performance objectives, and principles to be embraced by the staff, and any individual (board member, musician, music director, or other staff person) may provide feedback and input to individuals and/or groups of staff regarding their performance or behavior at any time in any place. Those providing feedback would also adhere to principles in giving the feedback to ensure that the engagement builds positive relationships and energy.”

Making the SPCO Vision Operational

The SPCO’s strategic plan expounds numerous ideas about the future. It espouses a new set of values, it establishes BHAGs, and it talks about specific ideas for the organization’s future. But as our work in Saint Paul began, these ideas had not yet been taken to an operational level. They remained “high level” and conceptual. The SPCO had not yet actively and collectively considered the behavioral dimensions of its vision. Thus, a key piece of work was to make the SPCO’s values and BHAGs operational. This required the Contract Renewal Group to carry out a strategic analysis of the SPCO, in order to determine the challenges to achieving the BHAGs and values and to understand the requirements for achieving the BHAGs.

A reminder as to why this work is necessary for negotiations is as important in this article as it was with the CRG because old beliefs continue to raise their heads: “This is not part of negotiations.” We must remind ourselves that the collective bargaining agreement is the key, daily change (or non-change) vehicle in the organization. In Saint Paul, understanding what contractual language would move the organization toward the vision was critical to creating a new collective bargaining agreement.

To understand the future of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the CRG carried out a qualitative assessment of its competitive and market positions. This was done not only to create the shared base of understanding about the SPCO in its competitive environment, but also and more importantly to dispel any illusions that the task of achieving the BHAGs would be easy or straightforward. For example, if the SPCO was to become “America’s Chamber Orchestra,” the group needed to understand with whom the SPCO competes, what those organizations’ qualities are, and where the SPCO stands competitively. This work required looking at approximately 15 chamber orchestras from throughout the world, understanding their programming, media activity, touring, and quality of musicians, and then, against criteria we established, determining the competitive position of the SPCO relative to these other chamber orchestras. This encouraged a great deal of soul searching and honest exchange. If the SPCO were truly to become “America’s Chamber Orchestra,” it would have to increase its touring, improve its artistic quality and the quality and stature of its collaborators, and increase its media presence, among other things. Understanding these requirements (and others) helped create perspective on the nature and the extent of changes that would be required in the collective bargaining agreement.

The CRG reached some very important conclusions as a result of this qualitative analysis. The group decided that staff and musicians needed to be included in these discussions and insights. It became clear just how difficult accepting this reality would be when members of the CRG, along with Fred and Paul, met in small separate groups with musicians and staff to take them through the same exercise on competitive position that the CRG had experienced. Facing up to how effective a competitor the SPCO is for the entertainment dollar and for the discretionary free time of potential audiences, and how it is positioned relative to other chamber orchestras created palpable tension.

In total, the group spent about 30 hours examining competitive and strategic questions for the SPCO. With this level of appreciation, it was obvious to all

Contract Renewal Group members that achieving the BHAGs would require significant changes in the overall operations of the SPCO, and that these changes would require a great deal from everyone in the organization. In retrospect, all CRG members agreed that this “facing up” was essential and that it took on added importance as part of the foundation for the collective bargaining agreement.

Creating a View of 2010

To link the strategic plan, the values, and the competitive analysis to a collective bargaining agreement required a new way to think about the agreement itself. The following question made the link: What would a collective bargaining agreement look like in 2010 if it were a driving force behind achieving the vision of 2010? The year 2010 had been chosen for several reasons.

◆ The SPCO will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2010.

◆ The distance from today was sufficient to encourage everyone to “let go” of the present.

◆ 2010 is at least two and possibly three agreements away from the present, allowing everyone to see that movement could be a progression toward a vision.

The discussion of the agreement in 2010 begged an important question. “What is the purpose of a collective bargaining agreement and what should it provide and enable?” The CRG agreed that in 2010 the agreement should ultimately be an “inspiring stimulus for outstanding artistic achievement.” The group agreed that it should also be:

◆ a covenant that reflects the mutual commitment to artistic and organizational growth;

◆ a vehicle to enhance each individual’s work experience;

◆ an enabler for musicians to lead fulfilling professional and personal lives;

◆ a vehicle for empowering the SPCO;

◆ a guide and support for the entire organization towards its stated goals;

◆ a reflection of the positive level of trust and communication among the constituencies;

◆ a living, breathing document rooted in the desire to be outstanding.

The CRG approached this work by first defining the key or core topics of importance to 2010. These included: venues and locations for performances; the size and repertoire of the orchestra; programming, touring, and runouts; artistic quality; media activity; community relations and outreach; governance; staffing; organizational culture; financial structure; and endowment. Behind these topics were questions about ensuring artistic quality; musicians’ compensation; musicians’ roles in governance; and the realities of musicians’ work lives.

But the group also appreciated that once the “paradigm” (belief system) for 2010 had been established, alignment and consistency in the topics would become increasingly easy to establish. This meant that the beliefs that would drive one topic would necessarily drive others and eventually all of the topics would be linked in new ways with a new set of underlying beliefs. Implicit was the fact that the first topics would be the most difficult.

The group decided to start with the topics of artistic quality, excellence, and programming, the core product of the orchestra. The following process was used to discuss each topic.

◆ Define and set the boundaries for the topic so that there was no question about the content of the topic—what was included and what was not.

◆ Determine what facts were available relevant to the topic.

◆ Develop the beliefs that would have to be in place in 2010 to support the vision in 2010 and achievement of the BHAGs.

◆ Develop the principles and strategies needed to achieve the beliefs in 2010.

◆ Develop specific ideas or language that would be in a collective bargaining agreement in 2010.

One might ask why all this detail and “talk.” First of all, this process of discussion helped create a standard way of talking about difficult subjects. Every member of the group understood that we would not move ahead with a topic until we understood the topic, but more importantly, would not move ahead until we had reached agreement on basic facts and beliefs behind the topic. Often, groups give lip service to beliefs and then do not understand why they have great difficulty reaching agreement on the details. By reaching agreement on the basic facts and beliefs, everyone was on the same page. This process also broke down whatever parochial views existed within constituencies about a particular topic.

For example, in conversations about retirements and pension contributions, the process broke down the differences in view among board and staff on one hand, and musicians on the other, regarding the level of the pension contribution. It is easy to state the following beliefs: “I believe our pension contributions are too high and should be reduced” or “Musicians should have larger pensions and therefore the contributions should be increased.” But talking jointly about what was behind these beliefs and the facts relative to the dynamics of a musician’s life (e.g., the difficulty of making a career change once a person has committed to an orchestra), the CRG members all shared a belief that pension, retirement, career opportunity, and income security were all related topics and required extensive discussion and thought. Had they not held an in-depth discussion of beliefs and facts, the CRG would still be arguing about the correct percentage contribution to the pension fund. As it was, the group reached philosophical agreement that was different from where nearly everyone had started. The following shared belief evolved: “The career evolution and choices that musicians have as they mature as artists requires that they have increasing income security and stability.”

Working in this way did not ensure smooth sailing. In fact, it ensured that conflicts and differences would be exposed. Thus, it was necessary to have an understood process for reconciliation. This process combined logic and deduction with passion and intuition. First, when differences in beliefs surfaced, a straightforward (but challenging) discussion of root cause ensued. The question “why” was asked enough times so that everyone understood the core thinking behind the belief. For example, an initial belief was “every orchestra must have a well-known music director.” When this line of thinking was pursued in depth, it became clear that this belief was held because individuals could not envision a successful orchestra without a person as a musical symbol of excellence. Understanding this underlying reason permitted the group to begin to examine in depth the role of the music director, and the relationship between the music director and the collective bargaining agreement of 2010.

Once the framework for the 2010 agreement was established, the group then looked at the entire picture from several perspectives.

◆ Did the 2010 agreement framework support and drive the 2010 vision and BHAGs?

◆ Could a path from 2003 to 2010 be seen as possible?

◆ Could stake in the 2010 framework be secured from the musicians, board, staff, and music director?

Taking 2010 into 2003

Having a framework for a collective bargaining agreement in 2010 is a great intellectual exercise, but it does not force the “rubber onto the road.” Taking the 2010 framework into 2003 is what becomes real. The group developed several standards to bring 2010 into 2003, and looked at every topic from one of four perspectives.

◆ Could the 2010 language and thinking be brought directly into the 2003 collective bargaining agreement?

◆ If the 2010 language could not be brought directly into the 2003 agreement, what language in 2003 would set the conditions and ensure that by 2010 the language would be in the collective bargaining agreement?

◆ What language from 2010 could be made voluntary in 2003 and up to the discretion of individual musicians or staff members to carry out? Widespread universal voluntary adoption would help ensure formal adoption, if required, by 2010.

◆ The 2010 language does not need to be translated back into 2003 because it should not be a topic for the collective bargaining agreement. (Ultimately, very few topics fell into this category.)

Each topic area was discussed in terms of these four categories and appropriate language was agreed to. Creating a progression of language from 2003 to 2010 for some topics was not only difficult, it tried agreements that had been reached about 2010. The challenge for the committee was to reconcile 2003 language that could be agreed to, if not embraced, by musicians and staff and ultimately be ratified by musicians and board with language that would also ensure a sound path to 2010.

To develop the 2003 language, the CRG used the following process:

◆ the basic inviolate concepts of 2010 had to be clear, because if these concepts failed to be embedded in the 2003 language, the chance of evolving language over time to 2010 would be much more difficult;

◆ language would be developed for 2003 that reinforced the concept;

◆ the concept would be tested to see if a progression of language could be developed to ultimately get to the 2010 language.

For example, in the area of artistic excellence, a key concept was joint musician-staff accountability. The CRG believed that full-fledged joint accountability for artistic excellence in 2003 was not possible, but that elements of it had to begin to be developed in 2003 and beyond so that by 2010, musicians would be fully and jointly accountable. It would be unacceptable to keep things as they were, namely, with the music director holding primary accountability and the musicians having the ability to reject his or her decisions. Thus, in 2003, it was agreed that accountability would start in two arenas: beginning a process of voluntary individual feedback on a one-on-one or sectional basis, and orchestra assessments of overall performance. Feedback would evolve into a requirement, then into plans for personal performance enhancement, and ultimately to performance improvement requirements. To test the progression, the committee mapped out increasing accountability over time until ultimately the 2010 language and vision was achieved. In this way, the CRG was confident that, over time through succeeding contracts, the language could be evolved as desired.

After all of the topics on the group’s original list had been translated to 2003, the “new” 2003 collective bargaining agreement was still not in an acceptable form for ratification. Not all topics that needed to be covered in the agreement had been discussed in the 2010 work, including a number of specific work- rule areas. As a result, the committee took the current agreement and, section by section, determined what language had to be changed. This process was relatively easy, because most of the important topics had agreement. Over a period of two days, new or amended language was added to all sections of the collective bargaining agreement.

The group exchanged ideas about possible new language, and as an individual suggested language to express the ideas, the group adopted or changed the general direction of the language and assigned it to one or more individuals to write the exact language to be included in the agreement.

Keeping the Stakeholders on Board

From the outset, the CRG had several concerns:

◆ to keep the constituencies connected to the process;

◆ to ensure that the CRG did not so far outrun the awareness and knowledge of the constituents that the latter could never catch up;

◆ to ensure that the ideas the CRG developed were not viewed as so outlandish by one or more constituencies that the working group or a subpart of it would be discredited; and

◆ to ensure that each constituency maintained its integrity, both within and outside the CRG.

On numerous occasions throughout the contract renewal discussions, the SPCO held full orchestra meetings. In most cases, the entire CRG attended these meetings, and the chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee led them. They generally took the following form: presentation of ideas by the chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee or other musician members of that committee; solicitation of questions which were recorded to be addressed during the meeting; and discussion of answers to the questions. The process of generating questions assured that if an individual orchestra member desired anonymity, it was available, although few musicians felt the need for anonymity. These meetings lasted from four to six hours, and conversation was intense and frank. Musicians expressed skepticism, anger, joy, and anticipation and posed difficult questions. Questions that could not be answered immediately were referred to the CRG, with answers to be brought back to the musicians at a subsequent meeting.

The musician members of the CRG also met on numerous occasions with the full orchestra between rehearsals to share ideas and to receive comments. While these meetings were short, they provided a continual feel for the pulse of the orchestra. The musician members of the CRG also held one-on-one conversations, in person or over the phone, with members of the orchestra throughout the process. These conversations also provided good information exchange and feedback.

The executive committee of the board was kept abreast of progress during monthly meetings (the chair of the orchestra committee is a voting member), as well as at a board retreat during which CRG members provided an update of the proceedings. The board chair and others briefed nonparticipating board members regularly.

During the process, staff members received brief updates although, with the exception of the early meeting on competitive and market position of the SPCO, they were not formally consulted or involved as a group.

From a stakebuilding perspective, it was clear that the board would generally agree with the guidance provided by the committee, and that staff input would come through the staff members on the committee. As a result, the core of the stakebuilding activity was focused on the musicians. This point will be addressed more fully in lessons learned.

A Fly in the Ointment

In providing this overview of the process, I have, for several reasons, deliberately not discussed the impact of the dynamic financial situation the SPCO began to face. Almost all of the important conceptual work—including discussions of beliefs/vision in 2010 about artistic matters, compensation, and benefits—had occurred prior to any appreciation of the looming financial condition. The process that the CRG had used earlier to address the financials and their implications for the orchestra was not changed to address compensation and benefits issues for 2003.

In January 2003, it became apparent that, despite nine years of balanced budgets, the potential deficit for 2002-2003 had mushroomed into a major imbalance (as in many orchestras). For many years, the SPCO had used “special funding” as a means to bridge revenue-expense gaps. In late 2002, there had been no reason to believe that 2003 and beyond would be any different. However, in January, funding that had been anticipated from corporate donors, foundations, and government entities for the seasons from 2003 through 2006 began to evaporate or to be significantly reduced on a near weekly basis. The potential income-expense imbalance grew to nearly $2 million on a budget of $11.5 million. The CRG (as well as the finance committee of the board) determined that immediate action must be taken or the orchestra would be at significant financial risk. Senior managers immediately took action to cut staff and expenses. The CRG faced the unpleasant task of determining how much musician funding would have to be cut. This process took days, and included meetings with the musicians to discuss the situation and options. All of these discussions required extraordinary trust, openness, patience, understanding, and empathy.

During this period, the CRG faced a very key decision: Should it retreat from the ambitious work it had done on 2010 (and for which there was general orchestra-member agreement, as well as staff and board agreement) and leave it for another day? Or should it embrace the work and bring the musicians and other constituents on board with the understanding that major pay and benefits cuts were going to take place. This decision was not straightforward because it required the musicians’ negotiating committee members to address the growing chorus of musicians who were unhappy with major changes in the approach to the orchestra if pay cuts were in the offing.

But the CRG faced a reality in which everyone needed to share and understand. The probability of recovery and the achievement of the strategic plan would only come through doing both—proceeding as originally intended and taking pay cuts. In this way, the board and community could and would rally around the orchestra and begin to reverse the financial tide.

The CRG strongly held the view that the staff, musicians, board members, key donors, and the community at large would be far more supportive of the SPCO’s efforts if the changes that were originally conceptualized for 2003 based on the 2010 vision were brought into reality and not delayed. There was a strong belief that the engine to propel future development of the SPCO required not only fiscal responsibility, but also bold action in the areas of artistry, programming, and working conditions. The collective bargaining agreement that was ultimately submitted for ratification reflected this belief.

Lessons Learned

I could write an entire article on the lessons learned from this work at the SPCO. Let me share a few of them here.

Big ambitions and a broad scope of topics require dedication and time. The CRG’s ambition to work the strategy and BHAGs, to live to the values, and to create a new collective bargaining agreement set a task definition that required, if not demanded, a significant investment in time. The 40 or so days involved in the discussions and stakebuilding with musicians and staff could only have been reduced by changing the scope of the work and the ambition of the committee, or by deciding that fundamental understanding and agreement could be compromised. It is also likely that the next round of contract renewal conversations will have a foundation in this experience that will inform the evolution of language, sharply reducing the time commitment required.

One might ask whether third-party support of the process lengthened it. The answer is “yes” and “no.” It is “yes” because Fred and Paul strove to ensure that the group pursue the initial charge and not assume agreements or understandings. The process assured that stones that needed to be turned were turned. The answer is also “no” and can be expressed in an old adage:

“You can pay me now or pay me later. If you pay me later, you’ll pay a lot more than if you pay me now.” By ensuring that the CRG had understanding and true agreement, many of the consequences of “incomplete” discussions or assumptions of agreement were eliminated. In the long run, this will save extraordinary time.

The “right” leadership means maintaining constituency integrity and broader purpose. The three constituent leaders (negotiating committee chair, president, and board chair) were, each in his own way, the ultimate representatives of their constituencies and of the SPCO. Their ability to reconcile issues while maintaining their integrity as constituency leaders gave the entire CRG confidence that the often conflicting interests could be resolved. Further, the three leaders developed a level of mutual respect and trust in one another that permitted them to model honesty and openness within the group.

Nearly all of the members of the CRG had attended one or more of the Mellon Foundation’s Orchestra Forum sessions. This experience had served to reinforce a foundation of appreciation for group work and collaboration, and an understanding that respectful interaction requires time and patience. Furthermore, the CRG members were intent on creating an environment in which they could openly discuss ideas with the confidence that the more open and challenging they were, the safer, more trusting, and respectful they would become. This paradox should not be lost.

A final lesson is the importance of building and maintaining stake. In hindsight, it is clear that more effort and time needed to be spent to ensure that the key constituent-group members were on board. The ability to bring to life the agreements reached and voted on still requires a firm commitment and involvement of many new individuals who have not been party to the intense committee discussions. This, in turn, requires a process that at a minimum informs with understanding the nuances of thinking, if not regenerating the experience of the discussions.

A Few Final Thoughts

Upon reading an early draft of this article, one member of the renewal group commented, “Paul, you did not talk about the most important aspect of the process: the trust that developed among members of the committee.” My early response to this was that that was true and deliberate. But in thinking about it further, I concluded something needed to be said about trust. It is hard to talk about trust. The work of the CRG, in its own way, speaks for itself. No group could have endured the time, trials, challenges, highs, and lows together without having a high level of mutual trust, respect, patience, and forgiveness. We all know that trust is fragile and that it is built person by person. This is a core challenge of any collaborative work that proposes to take an organization to a new place. The group that evolves the work develops this trust, but those who are stakeholders, even if they agree with the direction, may not have the trust in each other and in the “leaders” to allow their vulnerability and faith to take over and “trust” that the process will work for them. Furthermore, the experience that the CRG went through created confidence that permitted previously impenetrable boundaries to be passed. For some board, staff, and musicians, these boundaries remain.

The path this committee took is a demonstration of personal courage and fortitude. Pioneers are always faced with extraordinary personal demands. They will have arrows in their backs. Yet without these pioneers, new paths are never blazed. For some staff and board members, the attention this process required violated demands from their “day jobs.” Yet, every committee member gave the ultimate for the SPCO with no expectation of personal return.

Over the months and years ahead, many in the industry may examine, question, and watch the progress of the SPCO. Leaders in other orchestras should ask not whether the SPCO is a model or the model, but what SPCO participants are doing intentionally to make their organization more viable, their music and presentation more outstanding, and their work and working relationships more satisfying. Only in this way will new possibilities for communities, boards, staffs, musicians, and music directors be explored, developed, and ultimately implemented. Only in this way will the elusive dream of stable, growing, and artistically satisfying orchestras be achieved.

Paul Boulian is a partner in LodeStar Associates and is also a director of the Symphony Orchestra Institute.



An Orchestra Outside of the Box

We would be willing to hazard a guess that most readers of Harmony number among their discography several entries recorded by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. But we would be equally willing to guess that most readers know little of this orchestra as an organization.

In the essay that follows, author Marianne Lockwood, the orchestra’s president and executive director, gives us an inside look at the New York orchestra organization that thinks outside the box because, as Lockwood tells us, “we don’t even have a box.”

Lockwood has been on the scene since St. Luke’s founding as a chamber ensemble in 1974. She chronicles the organization’s growth and development and details the many partnerships in which St. Luke’s engages. She also explains the control that the musicians have over their working lives.

For the first 10 years of its existence, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s did not have a music director. Lockwood tells readers about the ongoing evolution of the organization’s thinking about artistic direction. In a final section, she discusses the growth and development of the governance structure and the ways in which the orchestra is planning for its future.

This is an enjoyable read, but it is also one that invites readers to ask, “Are there aspects of this model that might work for us?”

An Orchestra Outside of the Box

“A s Funds Disappear, So Do Orchestras.”1 “How to Kill Orchestras.”2 “Orchestra Survival: It’s Not Simply the Economy Stupid.”3 Headlines from three articles that appeared recently in the New York Times, purportedly chronicling a decidedly gloomy outlook for our orchestras.

I have been on the periphery of the mainstream orchestra world for some time and have helped create an organization that looks at this world from a different point of view. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, in New York City, has evolved differently from most other American orchestras and may offer a valuable alternative model, given its basic philosophy and operating practices.

St. Luke’s was created in 1974 as a large chamber ensemble of mixed winds and strings (approximately 15 musicians). It came into being with the lofty mission to play all repertoire—from Baroque to contemporary—in many configurations: chamber ensemble, chamber orchestra, chamber opera. Michael Feldman, who was the artistic director, the musicians, and I were soon told that we couldn’t do this; we couldn’t be all things to all people.

Luckily this did not deter us and within two years, we had also started a large arts education program consisting mostly of fully produced small chamber operas (Haydn, Handel, Offenbach). Within five years we had enlarged the ensemble enough to constitute a large chamber orchestra (50 to 60 musicians) that came into full being as the resident ensemble at the Caramoor Music Festival in nearby Katonah, New York.

We continued to play chamber music and to produce operas for children, but our presence at Caramoor changed the face of the orchestra. We found ourselves performing with world-renowned conductors and soloists who recognized that there was something different about this group: the musicians listened to each other as much as they listened to the conductor. In fact, they played as if they were a chamber ensemble.

For example, at his first rehearsal with the orchestra, Leonard Bernstein stopped after a few measures and asked how many of the musicians had gone to Marlboro? He later told me that he had done more with St. Luke’s in two hours than he had done with another orchestra in two weeks.

And so the word went out that this was a rather unusual orchestra. Our ensemble came to the attention of Carnegie Hall and we were engaged to perform some of their Handel, Bach, and Strauss festival productions. As an orchestra, we never looked back, and Carnegie Hall became our primary home.

From the beginning, it was clear that we would have to structure ourselves in a different way if we wanted to create a special place for ourselves in a city as difficult as New York, and if we wanted to keep these musicians together, happy, and aware of their distinction. Three main categories that describe this structure: collaborations, artistic leadership, and the organizational structure.


Early on in our evolution, we realized that as a part-time, freelance orchestra (musicians paid on a per service basis), with minimum resources for self- produced concerts, it behooved us to find as much work as possible to keep our musicians playing together as St. Luke’s, while we also helped them, and us, pay the rent. We soon became known as the premier orchestra for hire in the city, and this gave rise to an extremely varied mix of artistic experiences.

The majority of our musicians deliberately choose to work this way. They accept the risks of less financial and job security in return for the freedom to pick and choose the work they want.

From the beginning, the organization and the musicians were free to take or reject any work that came our way. The downside of such an arrangement was the occasional engagement of questionable artistic merit and the “orchestra for hire” stigma. The upside was being able to provide unusual, challenging repertoire; conductors and soloists we could never afford ourselves; often high-profile events; a steady stream of recordings; and financial stability. The musicians have to this day never tired of the extraordinary scope of activity this means for them. As Simon Rattle said about us a few years ago, “It would be hard to find a group that was so comfortable playing Bach one day and Ellington the next.” Or Mozart and Metallica (yes, with St. Luke’s at Madison Square Garden!).

Not only is the repertoire diverse and varied, the venues are also. Churches, synagogues, museums, galleries, schools, parks, and other public spaces host St. Luke’s. Our community is as upscale as Carnegie Hall and as downscale as P.S. 19 in Queens. Our audience knows that they can hear us play Baroque music in Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side or new music downtown in the Dia Center in Chelsea. We are not confined to, or defined by, the four walls of a concert hall. It has probably been easier for us to think “outside of the box,” because we don’t even have a box!

Of course New York provides a special landscape for this varied existence, but even smaller communities contain a myriad of activities that could benefit from such a versatile ensemble.

This nomadic life started out as a necessity when the Church of St. Luke’s, our original home, burned down, and we were forced to find other places to perform. This way of life is now integral to who we are and has earned us the sobriquet: New York’s own chamber orchestra.

One of the most important aspects of this way of doing business is that, in many cases, these venues become partners. We develop relationships whereby we work with our host organizations to bring them programs that speak to their needs while also addressing ours. Rarely, if ever, do we pay rent (including our series at Carnegie Hall). So not only do these collaborations bring us new audiences, they provide us with a much more economically viable way of doing business.

Most of the partnerships consist of series in which we have artistic input and subsidize the direct costs of the performances. The other collaborations in which we take part range from strictly “fee engagements” (which are usually one-shot events with no input from us) to long-term relationships such as the Caramoor Festival where, although we have no formal artistic input and bear none of the costs, we and the presenter nevertheless have stakes in the outcome. We will work more closely with our long-term presenters to accommodate their schedules and, where possible, to help them with marketing. In all of our collaborations with outside presenters, we provide a comprehensive production support system—contracting, library, scheduling, space, and instrument rentals.

Under these various arrangements, we perform almost 100 events a year— a sizable season for a so-called small- to medium-sized organization. For example, the 2002-2003 season consisted of 96 performances, as follows:

◆ 45 performances for which we selected and provided all artistic forces and collaborated with another institution in the presentation, including:

❖ 4 full orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall and 3 at other venues,

❖ 21 chamber music performances at various venues, and

❖ 17 educational performances.

◆ 40 performances for which the orchestra was hired by another organization that generally provided conductor and/or soloists and assumed all costs of presentation. These included:

❖ the Caramoor Festival,

❖ Carnegie Hall for its choral workshop and family and educational series,

❖ the Maazel/Vilar conducting competition,

❖ various choruses, and

❖ the City of New York for its 9/11 memorial celebration.

◆ 4 recording sessions where all artists, including the orchestra, and all other costs were paid by another party, for example, Renée Fleming’s most recent release for Decca.

◆ 2 recording sessions during which we self-produced a CD.

◆ 1 brief tour to Mexico.

In addition to these 92 events, the musicians were paid for associated rehearsals for the orchestral events. Rehearsals for the chamber music events were included in the fees paid.

Artistic Leadership

Because the group was originally constituted as a chamber ensemble, it was imbued with some of the characteristics that would continue to inform it as an orchestra. The musicians were vocal about their needs and desires. There was originally an artistic director who identified the musicians and programmed the seasons, but did not conduct; there was actually no music director until much later. From the beginning, there were no minimum attendance requirements, and the musicians themselves were responsible for the hiring and firing of their colleagues. These ways of working subsequently became part of a master agreement between St. Luke’s and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).

A word might be in order about this master agreement which we negotiate with the musicians and AFM Local 802. It covers much of what the other single-engagement orchestra agreements do: wage scales, working conditions, hiring and firing practices, etc. Where it differs from most other agreements is in the musicians’ control over hiring and firing, and the fact that there are no minimum attendance requirements and no formal audition process. Nowhere in the agreement was there reference to a music director until very recently. The agreement recognizes the unique structure of St. Luke’s with reference to its three divisions: the A list composed of the 21 chamber ensemble members who have the right of first refusal on all engagements, and who receive significant over-scale compensation and health benefits beyond those provided through the basic union contract; the B list composed of 20 orchestra members who get first call after the A list, and who are entitled to over-scale payments; and the C list composed of 56 orchestra members who get first call after the B list to fill out the orchestra. The C list members are paid the negotiated minimum scale.

The master agreement calls for two committees: an artistic committee of seven musicians elected by the chamber ensemble members, and an orchestra committee elected by the A and B list players. Contract negotiations take place with the orchestra committee, representatives from the union, and the administrative staff. Given the relationship we have with the musicians, St. Luke’s has never needed to have a lawyer present at these negotiations.

Almost 10 years after the creation of the orchestra, the musicians realized that they did want, and could benefit from having, a music director. Their (and the key word is “their”) first choice was Sir Roger Norrington. Our musicians had been blown away when he first conducted the orchestra and felt he had the sensibility they were looking for. Since we had relatively few concerts of our own to offer him, it was clear from the start that his role would not be a traditional one. He was quite happy with that. When illness precluded him from continuing with us after three years, the musicians decided to take their time looking for his successor and were satisfied with various guest conductors. There was one, however, who would have their unanimous support if we could engage him: Sir Charles Mackerras. To our delight and surprise, he was happy to take the post as long as it didn’t involve much more than conducting a few concerts. Of course, this fit in very nicely with our own needs, and we had three very happy years with him.

Then an interesting thing happened. The musicians had begun to realize just how difficult it was to run themselves. They were beginning to face some difficult personnel issues; we were approaching our 25th year, and a large number of the players had been with the orchestra from the beginning. They were also aware of the importance of a clearer artistic identity. They began to think about someone who would indeed be more involved with them. Of course, they still wanted that someone to be a colleague, not a supervisor.

It seemed unlikely, if not impossible, that such a person could be found. So it was some surprise to me when they started talking about Donald Runnicles. “He is a musician’s musician.” “We don’t play under him, but with him. He is directing, but it is a shared journey.” “It’s like playing chamber music.”

And apparently this was mutual. He in fact wanted to play chamber music with them. He wanted to be involved as part of a team to work on a shared vision, repertoire, and personnel. He didn’t want this to be a position in name only. He also, very shrewdly, didn’t want the title music director, because he felt that we hadn’t really defined that position yet, and that perhaps this was something we would all work on together. Instead he would be our principal conductor.

The musicians recognized the validity of this thinking, and have started the process by including him in the hiring and firing clauses of the master agreement—the first time ever that they have agreed to do such a thing. Runnicles, along with the ensemble members, can suggest new ensemble members, and he has two votes to their one. Likewise, he can initiate non-reengagement for artistic reasons. He also has two votes to each ensemble member’s one should the situation require the determination of a review committee (composed of seven ensemble members from the affected section—strings or winds/brass). The existence of this new process has already helped us deal with a very sensitive and difficult situation.

Through the artistic committee, the musicians have regular meetings with Runnicles, usually with me and our artistic administrator present, and often a few board members as well, to discuss all aspects of the organization. These meetings happen at least three times each season, supplemented by informal gatherings over food and wine. The committee also meets separately as needed to discuss the more day-to-day issues.

I recently came across an interesting memo from one of our musicians talking about the role of the music director in today’s orchestras. This musician serves on both our artistic and orchestra committees and also plays principal in a major orchestra, so he sees both sides of the picture. The memo was written almost three years ago, just after we had appointed Runnicles as principal conductor. In the memo, he refers to a conversation with board members and musicians from two other major orchestras:

I suppose that I could officially say that this discussion was thought- provoking, since I’ve been thinking about it ever since. A major problem is that, by-and-large, these guys [music directors] are not there most of the time. The void many orchestras feel is left by the ‘part-time’ music director has not been a great problem for us, since it has normally been filled here by St. Luke’s and the artistic com- mittee in conjunction with our administration. We should continue in these roles, even in matters where the music director has the final authority. The traditional music director (who is an anachronism today) has not felt the need to explain himself—that level of control implies a certain responsibility to the organization that should never be exercised in isolation. No major decision should ever be made by a music director without first discussing it with, and hearing com- ment from, the artistic committee. I feel it’s important for us to adopt this policy in the context of granting a music director the final say in certain artistic decisions. In this way, we can obtain the focus and leadership we desire without worrying about conflicting purposes within our organization.

I think this defines very well the musicians’ and our approach to this sometimes sensitive issue. And it’s interesting to note that so far this has not been a problem for us with Runnicles. I keep expecting the honeymoon to end, but we’re about to start our third year together.

In addition to the role of the artistic committee and Runnicles’ role as principal conductor, artistic leadership comes on a day-to-day basis from me and from Elizabeth Ostrow, our director of artistic programming. Together we help shape, prod, and mold St. Luke’s. Not knowing any better, my rather naïve philosophy has always been that there are no limits to what St. Luke’s can do. What started as a lofty (and to many an unrealistic) mission has in fact been surpassed many times over.

“Flexible” and “versatile” are two words we hear over and over again describing St. Luke’s. I think they apply as easily to the musicians as to the way we look at the whole organization.

Organizational Structure

St. Luke’s started with two and a half administrators (myself, our artistic director Michael Feldman, and a part-time secretary) and a group of young, virtuosic musicians. Our board of directors was composed of our three closest friends. The organizational structure was loose to say the least! We evolved more or less organically with this structure expanding as needs and finances made it possible.

At this time, we have a staff of 15 that works very much as a collegial team with me as the leader and often with daily contact with the musicians. The artistic committee meets on a fairly regular basis with our director of artistic planning and me, and with our principal conductor whenever he’s in town. A great deal of informal meeting goes on as well.

The board eventually enlarged itself to 24 members and constituted executive, artistic, finance, development, education, and operations committees. The board also produced expectations for each trustee. These include first and foremost a love of music and attendance at the concerts. There is a minimum give-or-get financial obligation and the understanding that trustees will fundraise on our behalf. In several cases, trustees have professional skills that are helpful to the organization, especially in the area of financial controls.

This board also works in a very collegial fashion, with the chair and me acting as co-leaders. Because I have been with St. Luke’s since the beginning, I ultimately make many of the major decisions following discussion and consensus from the staff and the board. I am extremely lucky in that I have the trust and respect of the board and know that they will support me even when I might be taking the definition of “flexible” a little too far!

There are two musicians on the board, and I encourage active participation from other musicians at every board meeting. Most of the trustees know many of the musicians personally and regularly end up backstage following performances.

St. Luke’s has not had an operating deficit for the past eight years, and our accumulated deficit was the result of a settlement payment to the founding artistic director when a remarkably amicable parting of the ways occurred about seven years ago. That deficit has been substantially reduced, and we have begun a three- pronged campaign to raise $15 million in support of new projects, arts education, and general operations.

With the help of the Mellon Foundation, as part of its orchestra program, we have worked on several initiatives that relate directly to our organizational structure. Given that one of the objectives of the Mellon program is to improve organizational culture and the relationships among musicians, staff, and board members, I decided that part of our grant should go directly to the musicians, and that they should decide how to spend it. This proved to be a very interesting exercise! The artistic committee members (musicians, staff, and board members) met six times over the course of the first year to work on this. We considered several different scenarios and finally decided that part of the funds should be used to provide the musicians (A, B, and C lists) with bonuses. Since each musician’s bonus was based on the number of engagements he or she had accepted over the course of a year, it was also conceived as an incentive—the more you played with St. Luke’s, the larger your bonus would be.

We also agreed that funds would be used to pay for additional artistic planning time with Runnicles and the musicians. Although the musicians on the artistic committee are not paid for their regular meetings, the feeling was that given the additional number of meetings now required, they should be paid an honorarium. Finally, we also covered the costs of the trips to the various forums held by the Mellon Foundation over the course of the year.

These forums turned out to be a wonderful education for me. For two and a half days, the board chair, the executive director, and two musicians from each Mellon orchestra met with consultants to explore various issues identified by the participants. This was the first time I had had occasion to spend such concentrated and focused time with my colleagues in other orchestras and to get a sense of how they were governed. The musicians and I all came away from the first of those forums quite surprised at what we learned: many of the issues these other orchestras were grappling with (i.e., the role of the music director as described above by our musician, the often confrontational interactions of musicians with administrators, etc.), were not issues for us at all. In reflecting on how they perceive our structure, the musicians themselves have this to say.

An ensemble member says: “St. Luke’s is a culture in which the exchange of ideas is encouraged. Frank discussions about everything from production issues to fundraising to artistic goals happen regularly. We are a group, a family so to speak, in which everyone benefits from the work of our individual members and constituent groups.”

And from a musician on the B list: “The rewards of working with my colleagues are increased manifold by nearly everyone’s effort to more fully participate in decisions that affect the long-term health of the group.”

We began to realize that while we were already, instinctively, doing many of the things these other orchestras were working towards, we were doing it in a rather amorphous way. To be much more effective, we needed to formalize and codify our structure. The Mellon forums are giving us the tools and the guidance we need to establish what St. Luke’s does in a more defined, systematic, and proactive way.

For instance, by the end of last year, it had become clear that one of the tasks we needed to undertake was a strategic plan. We had successfully completed a long-range plan several years ago. But with the various developments taking place (new principal conductor, new board chair, a much more active artistic committee, an endowment campaign, several new artistic initiatives, and my eventual retirement), it was time to pull this all together and provide a cohesive structure for it.

Exactly what that structure will be is yet being worked on, but as we begin to look at our structure in a more deliberate way, there emerge some patterns that would seem to apply to groups of varying sizes and abilities.

Musicians can find an artistically satisfying and financially stable lives in a freelance situation. If a group of musicians, and this could be anywhere in this country, is provided with a varied and flexible musical life (chamber music, educational programs, accompanying dance and opera, orchestral performances), each member will be busy and productive.

The organization must obviously be entrepreneurial, not institutionally based. It must actively seek collaborators (schools, churches, museums, opera, and dance companies), and it must put itself in the position of offering services that forward the artistic interests of other organizations. As such, it can and should operate efficiently, with a small staff and low overhead (at St. Luke’s more than 85 percent of all revenues are spent directly on program expenses).

Since there are no minimum attendance requirements and the musicians are not on salary, there is no minimum annual cost for players. Therefore, the organization is not put at risk in an economic downturn. It can contract without threatening the musicians’ livelihoods. For example, last year we needed to reduce our budget by almost 10 percent to offset funding losses. We were able to do that internally by trimming overhead and some nonessential services. The musicians were not affected in any way. Of course, if the number of “fee engagements” is reduced during hard times, that will affect the musicians. Over the last couple of difficult years, we have been able to maintain our productions at the same levels.

An entity that promises artistic excellence, effective management, and a great deal of flexibility, along with imaginative programming and an entrepreneurial spirit can provide year-round employment, a solid revenue stream, and access to classical music for diverse communities. While I do not propose that the St. Luke’s model replace the symphony orchestra, I do suggest that there are many communities that might give it a second glance.

Marianne C. Lockwood is president and executive director of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, which she helped found in 1974.


1 Kinzer, Stephen. 2003. As Funds Disappear, So Do Orchestras. New York Times (May 14, Section E): 1.

2 Holland, Bernard. 2003. How to Kill Orchestras. New York Times (June 29, Section 2): 1.

3 Oestreich, James R. 2003. Orchestra Survival: It’s Not Simply the Economy Stupid. New York Times (June 29, Section 2): 33.


About the Cover

The music on the cover of this issue—the mysterious opening of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—is one of the most celebrated passages in all of music. It still grabs our attention today, and that was surely Beethoven’s intention, since this is the work he wrote to reach a wider audience and to make even the most complacent of music-lovers sit up and listen.

These first measures strive mightily, as the com- poser himself so often did, to arrive at a perfect symphonic theme. In fact, the struggle to com- municate is the thread that unites this symphony, as Beethoven finally makes clear in his choral finale—the famous “Ode to Joy”—when sound is literally given voice. The entire symphony shows Beethoven using all the subtlety and mastery of his craft to touch people as never before. He meant for it to be a breakthrough work—music’s first crossover composition. And in the text he picked for the finale—Schiller’s apostrophe to universal broth- erhood—Beethoven found his ideal of an inclusive society—a place where people set aside their differences in order to reach a higher goal.

By 1824, when he finished his Ninth Symphony, Beethoven was almost completely deaf. He had long ago given up playing the piano in public, and although he was the announced conductor of the new symphony for the May 7 concert and did indeed appear to beat time and turn the pages of his score (and according to some accounts, even indulge in some over-the-top theatri- cal gesturing), the players and the singers had been warned beforehand to pay him no attention. Instead, they all followed the discreet, utterly reliable beat provided by Michael Umlauf, the concertmaster.

When, in one of the most famous accounts in all music, the audience burst into applause, Beethoven could not hear the ovation. Only when his contralto soloist tapped him on the shoulder and turned him around, did he see his public applauding wildly. Like many important artworks, Beethoven’s grandest symphony and most influential composition was not recognized at first as a landmark, and on the night of the premiere, Beethoven went home in a funk over the meager profits. For several years after Beethoven’s death, the Ninth Symphony was considered too difficult to perform (and too long to program easily). It was not established in the repertoire until the middle of the 19th century.

In more recent times, the humanistic message of this symphony has been welcomed far and wide, from Japan, where New Year’s sing-along perfor- mances are as popular as our Messiahs—the German freude is often learned phonetically, to sounds that mean roughly “getting out of the bathtub”—to Berlin, where, to celebrate the destruction of the Wall in 1989, Leonard Ber- nstein changed freude (joy) to freiheit (freedom). Beethoven’s Ninth has also been raided for the disco and for television commercials, and it has been appropriated for all manner of political purposes. But it has the power to transcend the here and the now. Nearly 200 years after it was composed, Beethoven’s Ninth is one of our icons—a work of almost universal appeal, and a score that reminds us of the indispensable role music plays in our lives.

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



Toward Meaningful Change

In 1999, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation undertook a planned 10-year initiative designed to help a selected group of symphony

orchestras examine many aspects of their work. These orchestras are intended to serve as diverse “laboratories” which can address questions important to the field.

The 15 orchestras taking part are: the Baltimore Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Richmond Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Toledo Symphony.

Catherine Maciariello has served as the foundation’s program officer for this initiative since its inception. Earlier this year, she addressed a session of the Orchestra Forum held in San Francisco during the American Symphony Orchestra League’s annual conference. The Institute is pleased to publish her remarks.

After explaining the roots of the initiative, she spoke of the strategies on which the participating orchestras have focused during the first three years. She then outlined six key questions that run throughout this investigation. She offered her view of progress and challenges, and concluded her remarks by detailing eight beliefs that the experiences to date have confirmed.

The Mellon Foundation’s initiative has engaged hundreds of participants in both cross- and single-constituency exploration. We encourage readers who are not members of “Mellon orchestras” to consider how Maciariello’s thoughts might apply to their own organizations.

Toward Meaningful Change

Good morning. Often, when we are together like this, we are inclined to congratulate ourselves on our achievements, and to sympathize with each other in the name of camaraderie and mutual support. This is a very good thing. Today, however, our intent is to expose vulnerability, because we believe that an honest consideration of our weaknesses is the first and most important step in eliminating them. So today, we are going to say some things that may surprise you. They may even frighten you or make you angry. You may be inspired by the ideas or resistant to them. Make no mistake: We join you in acknowledging the tremendous contributions orchestras make to the world; in saluting the dedication, professionalism, and passion each of you brings to the field; and in bearing witness to the transformational power of classical music. We believe in all these things or we would not have become so deeply involved with you.

But self-congratulation is not enough, and we are here to encourage a look at our less attractive, and more vulnerable, side. In the end, it is only by examining and understanding this vulnerability that we can shape a truly distinctive and invigorating future—one that is cognizant of the past, alive with expectation, and relentless in pursuit of excellence. To invert Dickens’s familiar words, “these are the worst of times and the best of times.” In difficulty and stress we find renewal and fortitude, and we implore you in the face of seemingly daunting circumstances to aspire to new vision. This is a really important moment in our history—not one to find us napping in false security or fretting with hopelessness or rummaging around in the familiar territory of tactical short-term decisions, but rather one to unleash our boldest initiatives, our grandest gestures, and our most radical experiments.

The Mellon Foundation’s program for orchestras began in 1999, following an extensive planning period that solicited information and feedback from approximately 100 orchestras, the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA). The program is based on the assumption that there is a positive relationship between effective organizational culture and compelling artistic vision and performance. It is a 10-year initiative designed to help a limited number of symphony orchestras examine their artistic roles and missions, understand the cultural values and behaviors that influence institutional performance, explore their relationships to community and to the art form, experiment with new operational models, and build more effective working relationships among their constituencies.

Understanding that this work is complex and challenging, the foundation has tried to establish a reasonable number of diverse “laboratories” in which important questions can be addressed on behalf of the field. Substantial grants to 15 orchestras over an extended period of time provide orchestras both incentive and flexibility. Regular convening of cross-constituent teams and individual constituency groups (the Orchestra Forum), as well as an exchange program and on-site consultation, help solidify learning within individual orchestras and among the grantee orchestras as a whole. Opportunities such as this one today enable us to share what we have learned with the field and to receive feedback regarding the program’s fundamental ideas, goals, and progress.

The Quest for Adaptive Change

In our experience so far, we have observed two significant leverage points in the quest for adaptive change in orchestras. By “adaptive change” we mean change that is generally policy-based, structural, and philosophical, and that is undertaken thoughtfully over time in response to a growing understanding of the conditions, community expectations and values, and the economic environment in which orchestras operate. Those leverage points are:

◆ the strengthening of internal relations among orchestra constituencies, leading to alignment around an agreed direction, effective communications, and the full deployment of all institutional assets (human and financial) in support of a shared vision; and

◆ the quality of constituency leadership, including the ability to create conditions for meaningful change, and the skills needed to enroll colleagues in finding organization-wide solutions to problems.

The long-term impact of the Orchestra Forum—through difficult times like the present, as well as in less turbulent periods when complacency proves the biggest threat to creativity—will ultimately be measured in terms of its success in stimulating sustained progress in these two areas, in identifying the hard evidence that change has occurred, in generating broad-based interest in the work, and in sharing what is learned with participants across the field, including those in orchestras, service organizations, unions, and others.

In the first three years, the Mellon orchestras have focused on the following strategies:

◆ strengthening leadership at all levels within the organization;

◆ integrating artistic and institutional planning;

◆ creating coordinated programming across all activities of the organization that reflects and advances the organization’s artistic aspirations, develops strong bonds between the orchestra and its community, and advances the art form;

◆ developing a lively and diversified work environment that promotes job satisfaction throughout the organization and taps the potential of musicians to act as artistic resources;

◆ creating a collaborative organizational culture that promotes alignment around common goals and encourages each constituency to act responsibly to promote those goals in ways that are appropriate to their roles in the organization.

Although these issues touch all orchestras, the foundation understands that the most effective solutions to problems are likely to emerge from an orchestra’s careful examination of its own relationship to its community and markets. Therefore, the program does not seek to intervene directly, but rather to present values, methodologies, and tools that can be used effectively by orchestras to stimulate dialogue, inspire cohesion, and evoke transformation that makes sense for them.

Several key questions run throughout our investigation:

◆ Is the American orchestra capable—within the bonds of current organization and practice—of functioning effectively in artistic, financial, and community terms?

◆ Are symphony orchestras the best organizations to preserve and advance the classical music tradition?

◆ What are the proper roles of creators within the organization?

◆ What constitutes effective leadership within symphony orchestras and where does it (or should it) reside? What role does the music director have in advancing the mission of the orchestra and in serving the larger orchestra field?

◆ How are local cultural and educational values incorporated into an orchestra’s decision-making? How can an orchestra invite and foster active participation from its community in order to ensure true relevancy? What does it mean to listen actively to one’s community?

◆ How do we define excellence and measure success?

Orchestra Forum Content

To create an environment for this kind of exploration, the foundation has brought to the Orchestra Forum renowned speakers, artists, facilitators, and teachers from outside the orchestra field to promote dialogue; identify values and norms; understand organizational myths, behaviors, and culture; conduct systems analysis; contemplate the nature of leadership and the structures that encourage it to emerge; and encourage creative teamwork.

To demonstrate how slow the work can be, it has taken us three years to get to a point where participants no longer object to those who come to the Orchestra Forum with alternative language to describe familiar practice. As institutions (please excuse the generalization), orchestras have not been particularly adaptable. Our systems are rigid, and our practices are entrenched and often antiquated. We are resistant to seeking solutions, learning, or models from outside the field, hiding behind our particular uniqueness and preferring to be precious instead of curious. We are also woefully ignorant of forward-thinking literature about organizational behavior, creativity, leadership, and change, and we are negligent in bringing a theoretical analysis to our own daily operations, finding it easier to do things as we have always done them because such behavior is safe and predictable, even if it is not rewarding and does not maximize organizational performance.

The Orchestra Forum’s goal has been to broaden the landscape, to provoke questioning, and to test organizational myths and practices whenever possible. How stimulating might our institutions be if nothing were assumed, save service to the art form, quality of performance throughout the organization, and meaningful, rewarding work for all involved? The question we find ourselves asking in this context is, “Can we preserve our wonderful musical traditions while freeing ourselves from the conventions that limit thinking and possibilities, isolate us from our communities, distance us from our artistic centers, and ultimately risk making us irrelevant in a rapidly changing world in which musical innovation is more likely found in other places?”

The experience of the Orchestra Forum, including a discussion of progress and remaining challenges, is contained in my interim report to foundation trustees, which can be found on our website at <>, along

with the original document outlining the research that led to the program. Briefly, those accomplishments (what is observable among participating orchestras) and challenges are as follows. Some of the achievements are radical and some are simply tactical adjustments, but together they represent an agenda for continued work toward meaningful change.


◆ There is more substantive discussion of institutional values, vision, and strategy, as well as a greater effort to understand the relationship of values to artistic identity and organizational culture.

◆ There is a growing sophistication about how to shape organizational culture and a greater desire for organization-wide coaching and learning.

◆ There is broader involvement from all constituents in discussion of organizational and artistic issues. In particular, there is a growing respect for the value of musician input, as well as new mechanisms for encouraging participation, rewarding involvement, and providing ongoing professional development in order to strengthen individual commitment and ability.

◆ Individuals are feeling more empowered than before, and this is leading to greater participation, organizational and personal enrichment, behavioral change, and an emerging sense of individual responsibility for institutional artistic success.

◆ There is more discussion about the value of risk-taking, as well as a general sense that a better way to do things not only exists, but is attainable.

◆ Improved communication, dialogue, and cross-constituent work have enabled orchestras to better manage crisis.

◆ Enriched planning, more deliberate consideration of community needs, greater involvement of musicians, and more discussion of artistic issues suggest a tentative, but increasing, alignment of artistic initiatives with organizational goals.

◆ Orchestras are becoming learning organizations. They are developing an understanding of the value of investing in process to reach important decisions; an appreciation of the time required to change traditional patterns and to build sufficient trust to change organizational culture; a respect for the contributions each constituency can make, as well as the unique perspective each brings to the process; a realization that talk does not necessarily lead to action in the absence of strong leadership; and an awareness of the necessity to manage often diverse and complex expectations in order to be successful.


◆ An inclusive process is slow, difficult, and messy. The higher the knowledge and awareness, the higher the anxiety.

◆ Change is hard. Myths seem impossibly intractable, and in organiza- tions without a strong learning culture, they threaten to undermine good work being done.

◆ Participants in the Orchestra Forum have trouble transferring infor- mation and learning to their colleagues at home.

◆ Achieving alignment between cooperative processes, such as those undertaken as part of the grants, and more traditional processes, such as labor negotiations, is difficult.

◆ Most music directors continue to be uninvolved in the process.

◆ Creating conditions that stimulate leadership is difficult to sustain when constituencies are unable to let go of traditional roles or to share control.

◆ Musicians who assume non-traditional leadership roles must often contend with union distrust and skepticism.

◆ The current economic climate is testing the resolve of orchestras to continue such complex and challenging work as pressure to solve short-term financial problems gets in the way of adaptive change meant to achieve long-term results.

The Mellon Foundation’s orchestra program is a work in progress, and we have only just begun to undertake some of the most substantive artistic work originally imagined. We have many more questions than answers. Yet the positive results are encouraging, and they provide us with a firm basis for our agenda over the next three years. Specifically, our experience has led us to believe even more strongly that:

◆ A high-performance, collaborative culture in which standards of responsibility and excellence resonate through all constituencies maximizes institutional creativity, responsiveness, and performance, both on stage and off.

◆ The development of skill sets and ongoing training are necessary to support an organization’s capacity to build these working relation- ships. Involvement builds commitment when systems of reinforcement and training are in place.

◆ Personal leadership, including vision and critical thinking, is crucial. Individual talent is not enough. There must be systems in place to foster effective and ongoing dialogue, and it is the responsibility of leaders to develop them.

◆ Each constituency must raise its own capacity to provide leader- ship and guidance within its own group if it hopes to influence and shape organizational performance, long-term vision, or institutional policy.

◆ The relationships that are built among constituencies in an effective organization depend on core values and joint aspirations.

◆ Opportunities for the interchange of ideas and experiences overcome isolation.

◆ Organizations must conduct continued self-assessments and have clear ideas of how to measure their success.

◆ Different models can succeed, and orchestras need to be encouraged to think independently.

Change is upon us whether we like it or not. In 50 years, the country’s demographics will be completely different. Population centers will shift. Money will be in different hands. Models and practices that were designed 100 years ago will no longer serve us effectively. This may, in fact, be the most inspiring, interesting, challenging, and exciting time in our long and auspicious history. How will we respond? And what legacy will we leave for those who follow us?

We challenge you to make no decision because it is the easy one. Easy decisions close doors, but choosing the difficult path or pursuing the big idea leads to growth and opens doors to possibilities we might never otherwise imagine.

Catherine Maciariello is a program officer of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Confluence: Leadership, Collegiality, Good Fortune

Many Harmony readers know something of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra’s (SLSO) recent history: a brush with bankruptcy and an outpouring of community support; an extraordinary challenge gift to build the orchestra’s endowment; the illness and sudden departure of the orchestra’s music director. We at the Institute had observed the Saint Louis organization from afar, but recognized that the time had come to learn more about the organization and the processes it has developed to regain its health.

In June of this year, Fred Zenone, Marilyn Scholl, and David Scholl spent two days in Saint Louis, engaged in lively conversations with representatives from all orchestra constituencies. I am pleased to be able to share what we learned.


To the outside world, the SLSO was an orchestra of international artistic repute. The musicians toured regularly and their recordings had garnered six Grammy awards. In addition to performing both classical and pops series, the SLSO operated a music school, conducted nationally recognized community outreach and education programs, and provided seven weeks of music services to the local opera.

But behind the doors of Powell Symphony Hall, financial duress was a constant reality. For nearly 20 years, the organization had been quietly overspending as it expanded its arena of artistic activity. Annual operating losses, when analyzed to exclude nonrecurring revenues, had grown from $500,000 in the early 1980s to more than $7 million in 2000-2001, making it impossible to approach an “angel” benefactor to balance the books at the end of each year. The endowment had been raided often to cover operating expenses and stood at only $18 million (compared with $120 million or more for peer orchestras).

Compounding the financial woes were $9 million in underfunded pension liabilities, a $6 million bank loan, a multimillion-dollar liability to donors of annuity gifts, and an estimated $10 million in deferred maintenance to Powell—a gem of a building which dates to 1926, and which the SLSO has owned since 1966.

Looking to assess blame, many in the community questioned the decisions made by prior boards of directors, staff members, and music directors. The current organization answers that criticism with the observation that had those charged with responsibility not had the highest artistic goals, there would have been far less worth saving. Those who held the high artistic ambitions built a great orchestra, one the community wanted to save. The organization had also dealt with the defeat of a 1989 tax referendum, one from which it would have benefited substantially, by making concerted efforts to be more responsive to the community. They built strong programs, such as the community outreach program that serves as a model for the field and is widely imitated.

In 1999, the SLSO engaged a new chief financial officer whose initial assignments were to install new accounting software and to address potential Y2K issues. In 2000, his charge was broadened to include a review of the SLSO’s financials using a conservative audit model. Late that year, his efforts provided some stunning information to the finance committee and to the board as a whole.

◆ The music school was losing $500,000 to $700,000 each year.

◆ The summer pops programs were losing $160,000 per year on a marginal basis.

◆ A single performance at Carnegie Hall lost $150,000; international tours had posted losses of more than $1 million each.

◆ The SLSO was paid $500,000 per season to provide services to the opera, but the cost of those musicians’ services was $1.3 million.

◆ The symphony’s own recording label lost $500,000 over two years.

◆ Perhaps most importantly, projected cash flow for the organization was permanently negative after December 2001.

Parallel Tracks

The year 2000 will be remembered as a watershed for the SLSO. Early in the year, the board engaged Henry Fogel (then president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association) as a consultant to analyze the current situation. Fogel’s advice was terse: “You need a transformational gift.”

At the same time, a group of senior Saint Louis business leaders were reviewing what they considered to be the important elements of a quality lifestyle for area residents. SLSO board member John Jordan, a retired vice chairman of Price Waterhouse, was executive director of this group, and he reports that the symphony was identified as a “distressed organization which should receive special understanding.” Andy Taylor, chairman and CEO of Saint Louis-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car, was also a member of this civic committee, as well as a trustee of the SLSO.

Even as the business leaders’ group analyzed the needs of the Saint Louis community, the Taylor family itself was considering ways in which it could contribute significantly to its hometown, and in December 2000, the Taylors made a $40 million one-to-one challenge grant to the SLSO, at the time the largest grant ever made to an orchestra. If successful, the challenge would add $70 million to the orchestra’s endowment and $10 million for operating expenses. Ironically, it soon became apparent that this gift alone would not save the institution.

In early 2001, the SLSO engaged Randy Adams as a consultant to develop a long-term business plan for the troubled organization. Adams’s analysis and advice sparked considerable interest from the board: he was asked to serve as interim executive director of the SLSO when the then ED resigned, and he is now president and executive director of the organization.

It is instructive to review the options that Adams developed and presented to the executive committee of the board during his consultancy. And it is also instructive to know a bit about Adams’s background. He had served in several senior executive positions with the Saint Louis-based Mercantile Bancorporation (now U.S. Bancorp), including as chairman and CEO of both Mercantile Bank of Saint Louis and Mercantile Trust Company. Prior to joining Mercantile, he was a senior partner with a Chicago-based management consulting firm for 17 years. In that capacity, he dealt with planning and strategy issues for both corporations and nonprofit organizations. He was well-known and respected among Saint Louis business leaders.

Adams candidly admits that although he had extensive experience on nonprofit boards of directors and holds a master’s degree in public policy, as well as an MBA, his only relationship with the SLSO at the time he was engaged to develop a long-range plan was as a season subscriber.

Hard Landing or Soft?

Upon completion of his assessment of the organization’s condition, Adams, in July 2001, presented to the executive committee of the board two options, which he described as “hard” and “soft” landings, because it was now apparent that the SLSO was regularly attempting to do more than it could afford. The organization needed to find a way to balance artistic ambition with fiscal responsibility.

The hard landing called for expense reductions over six months to balance known revenue with expenses. Among the steps required were:

◆ Impose 20 to 30 percent pay reductions for musicians.

◆ Reverse previously agreed upon retirement pay increases.

◆ Shorten the season from 52 weeks to 35 weeks.

◆ Eliminate all pops and opera performances, as well as most special events.

◆ Reduce the music director’s salary by 20 percent.

◆ Reduce administrative expenses by 20 percent.

◆ Sell the music school to a third party.

◆ Eliminate major portions of the education/outreach programs.

◆ Eliminate all out-of-region tours.

The soft landing called for reduction of losses from $7.5 million to $1.7 million in one year, followed by a gradual elimination of losses as endowment earnings increased, reaching break-even by 2008-2009. Among the steps required were:

◆ Obtain voluntary agreement from the musicians to pay reductions of 10 to 15 percent.

◆ Restructure the musicians’ retirement plans and defer retirement pay increases.

◆ Shorten the season from 52 weeks to 42 weeks.

◆ Sell the music school to a third party.

◆ Preserve the relationship with the opera, but eliminate nearly all pops concerts.

◆ Pay down commercial bank debt and create reserves for unfunded pension liabilities.

◆ Raise $29 million from the community—in cash—within six months (beyond the funds being raised for the Taylor challenge). These funds would be used for debt repayment and to subsidize planned losses in future years.

It is worth noting that after much discussion, the soft landing also preserved the organization’s education and outreach programs. As Adams explains, “We came to a very deliberate decision that the SLSO needed to continue to connect to a broad base of our community, one that goes well beyond simply our patrons and donors.”

Board Action

Even as analysis and option setting were under way within the SLSO’s administration, there was forward-thinking activity afoot within the board of directors. The current board chair, Virginia Weldon, a retired physician, had previously served on the finance committee and as the board’s chair-elect. In 2001, one of her first acts as chair was to oversee the paring of board size from 88 members to 49. This was accomplished through a combination of attrition and creation of a Board of Overseers.

The board also undertook writing of a board- expectation document which clearly delineates trustee expectations for commitment, advocacy, fundraising, and vision. Under Weldon’s leadership, the number of board committees has also been reduced, and the format of board meetings has been changed to reserve time to teach about the organization. Among those teachings have been explanations of the audition process for musicians, staff explanations of the myriad elements that go into presenting a performance, and extensive tours of the hall to assure that trustees were aware of the maintenance needs of the physical plant.

Further, two musicians had been named to the board as full voting members, one to serve on the executive committee, one to serve on the finance committee.

It was against this backdrop of self-assessment and change that the executive committee received Adams’s options of hard and soft landings. Our conversations in Saint Louis revealed that the executive committee was initially divided in its reactions to the options. There were concerns about a loss of “world class” status and the potential loss of talented musicians. Most daunting, however, was the thought of raising $29 million in cash in six months, an unprecedented goal for a Saint Louis cultural organization. However, the board ultimately opted for the soft landing and went to work. As Weldon puts it, “I was not going to preside over the downfall of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.”

Weldon explains that it quickly became apparent that the $29 million would need to come from individuals, not corporations, because the orchestra needed immediate cash, not pledges to be paid over several years. Though aspects of “fessing up” to the orchestra’s true financial condition were potentially embarrassing, both board members and senior managers concluded that they needed to be very forthright and candid with the community. “We needed to convince our prospective supporters that we were serious about doing business in a different way,” she says. Andy Taylor, along with Randy Adams, convened a small group of wealthy individuals to make their case, and a convincing case it was.

In stark contrast to prior efforts to raise significant sums, and reflecting the organization’s efforts to become more responsive to the community coupled with a business plan that cut costs significantly (cutting $7 million from a budget of $28 million), individuals responded strongly, and ultimately the SLSO reached its goal, raising more than $29 million within the allotted time frame.

Musician Response

In November 2001, the musicians formed a five-member negotiating team to tackle the difficult issues they faced in light of the board’s adoption of the soft landing business plan. The members of this team describe their initial reactions as ones of shock. As one team member told us, “We were initially stuck and wrangling among ourselves. We couldn’t find a consensus.” Another observed that, based on past experience, the musicians had to convince themselves that the numbers they had been given were accurate. “We sought outside audit and actuarial advice as we worked on our response to pay and retirement issues.”

But here, too, board and administration leadership changes were beginning to pay off. “We learned that we did have comprehensive, believable numbers. We knew that the financial data was honest,” said one team member. There was also a growing trust of the executive director’s intentions. Another team member told us, “Initially, we weren’t sure about this guy who had no background with orchestras, but his door was always open and he answered every question we asked.”

After much thought and discussion, the musicians and the board agreed to a restructured contract that met the requirements of the soft landing. To reach agreement, the musicians’ negotiating team and senior managers held 14 sessions to work jointly toward solutions. These were not negotiating sessions; the work was done without the presence of lawyers and accountants; and the organization did not reopen the current collective bargaining agreement.

Though musicians express some sadness about the shorter season, and the loss of touring, recording, and radio broadcasts, they express confidence in the future of their organization. One team member summed it up: “We needed to develop trust. It happened. We needed to work without lawyers. It happened. We needed all parties to work at the same table. It happened.”

Staff Response

By the time the soft landing plan received approval, staff size had already been reduced and remains small today, especially when compared with similar- budget orchestras. But during our conversations, staff members, too, expressed enthusiasm for the future of the SLSO. “We have had amazing opportunities to reconnect with all segments of our community,” said one. “It has been refreshing to be able to deal openly and honestly with our executive director and our board members,” observed another.

There is no question that a smaller budget, shorter season, and lack of a music director have affected operations at the SLSO. As the vice president and director of artistic administration, Kathleen van Bergen, expresses it, “We must match our artistic planning to the realities of our budget, which does present challenges. But everyone in the organization is learning to take responsibility for what we do. Our experiences of the past two years have taught us a lot about our community and what the community will support. That is very positive.”

Stephen Duncan, the vice president and director of marketing, concurs and adds, “One important thing that has changed around here is that Randy Adams makes sure we get credit as individuals for what we do.”

A Sidebar on Music Direction

At the time of our visit, the SLSO had just completed a season without a music director and will do so again in the 2003-2004 season. Put another way, during a 31-week classical season, the SLSO hosted 29 guest conductors. That reality has been an added stress for an organization that already had a great deal on its plate. But in the same way that the organization is working its way though financial challenges, so, too, is it defining what it seeks in a music director.

A 12-member committee composed of equal numbers of musicians, trustees, and staff members is conducting the search. They readily admit that they need the artistic leadership of a music director, but also agree that they are seeking a leader who will be a participant in the organization. As one member of the committee phrased it, “We are seeking the active participation of an envisioned leader.”

Looking Ahead

The Saint Louis Symphony story is still very much a work in progress and serious challenges remain. But the major players bring to the table spunk and determination. Are there lessons to be learned here? We think so.

Lesson number one comes from board chair Virginia Weldon, who describes very succinctly the reasons for paring the board from 80-plus members to 49. “With the large board, we needed to ‘invent’ committees to give volunteer trustees something to do. Many of those ‘somethings’ were busywork which was annoying to both volunteers and staff.” She explains that the board is now very focused on the primary mission and vision of the organization. “Our board committees now understand fiduciary responsibility, governance and nominations, and the points at which our entry into continuing artistic excellence count.”

Lesson number two comes from executive director Randy Adams. “To function effectively, orchestra organizations must put fiscal responsibility and financial planning hand-in-hand with artistic planning.” He cites a need for active participants throughout the organization to have full information and a current understanding of the issues. “It is only when we all work with honesty, candor, and full access to information that trust can develop and progress be made.” Further, he acknowledges that there are outside forces within the orchestra industry that can affect the rate of progress for an individual organization. “We must always make our case clearly and deal with perceptions of our orchestra which may not be accurate.”

The musicians themselves offer lesson number three. They wholeheartedly salute the honesty with which they have been dealt. Among our interviewees, to a person they acknowledge that Weldon, Adams, and senior staff members have given them “straight stuff.” And although they still worry about the future, they are vociferously on board to participate in finding solutions. As one said, “We have watched both trustees and staff members take risks, and we realize that for this orchestra to survive and thrive, we need to take some risks ourselves.”

The final lesson comes from the senior staff. When the “near death experience” reared its ugly head, several staff members resigned. Adams was determined to build a lean and flat organization. And he has. Staff members acknowledge that they work hard and long. But they make those statements with pride. In his or her own way, each expressed the importance of open communication. One put it this way, “We are all working to learn to give and take criticism, to make a point of acknowledging others’ contributions, and to think of this as one organization, not a collection of departments and committees.”

In Saint Louis, the confluence of leadership, collegiality, and good fortune has led to a renewed energy at Powell Symphony Hall. When faced with a choice, the community said “yes, it is important that Saint Louis have an artistically adept orchestra.” Over the past two years, more than 10,000 individuals have made gifts to the orchestra, ranging in size from $5 to the Taylors’ $40 million. When offered the community’s support, those on the inside—both staff and musicians—said we will work enormously hard to earn your trust. And they continue to do so.

A number of questions have not yet been answered. Although Itzhak Perlman has provided a steadying hand as an artistic advisor, entering a second season without a music director raises questions about the orchestra’s ability to maintain its artistic quality. The Taylor challenge is not yet fulfilled and remains an item of concern. The organization has currently matched $31 million and has until December 2004 to raise a final $9 million to meet the $40 million challenge. And the economic forces that have taken a toll on nearly every U.S. orchestra have not exempted Saint Louis. Annual giving for the fiscal year that ended this past August 31 fell short of its target. That shortfall has necessitated expense adjustments to the 2003-2004 budget.

But the Institute considers the Saint Louis story an important one. This story is about an organization that said, “Let’s not just cut expenses; let’s restructure and focus on what we do best.” The story is about an organization that took deliberate steps to make itself an entity in which the community was eager to invest. The story is about an organization that has opened lines of communication in every direction. We will continue to follow the Saint Louis story and will report again in future issues.

We extend a special thanks to the members of the SLSO organization who graciously participated in our conversations.

Marilyn D. Scholl is president of Scholl Communications Incorporated and the editor of Harmony.


The Elgin Symphony Orchestra: Growth with a Plan

The Institute follows the organizational fortunes of a universe of more than 200 professional orchestras, and when we discover practices that improve an organization’s effectiveness, we often explore them in some depth. Several years ago, the Elgin (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra came to our attention by virtue of its rapid growth. It is now the second largest orchestra in Illinois, its budget grew from $875,000 in the 1995-1996 season to $2.2 million in the 2002-2003 season, and its 2002-2003 schedule included more than 50 performances. To what does the organization attribute its success, we wondered? We set out to learn.

A Brief History

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra (ESO) can trace its roots to 1917, though the organization as it exists today dates to 1950. In 1971, Margaret Hillis was appointed music director for the ESO. Hillis, known worldwide as director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, provided the energy and expertise to allow the symphony to experience unprecedented artistic and organizational growth. She served as music director of the ESO until 1985.

In 1974, Robert Hanson was named the ESO’s associate conductor. He became co-music director with Hillis in 1983 and was named music director upon Hillis’s retirement in 1985. In that same year, the ESO became a fully professional orchestra. Today, the orchestra plays annually for more than 45,000 concertgoers from northeastern Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The ESO’s music education programs reach more than 10,000 students each year.

It’s a Matter of Planning

To achieve and sustain its growth, the ESO relies on an annual strategic planning process that involves representatives of all orchestra constituencies and includes the music director as an active participant. Harmony editor Marilyn Scholl sat in on two of the 2002-2003 strategic planning sessions. When the updated strategic plan was complete, she held a roundtable discussion with several ESO participants in November 2002. We present here an edited transcript of that roundtable.

Institute: Please introduce yourselves and describe your role with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra.

Doris Gallant: I am office manager for the organization and also serve as executive assistant to the executive director. I am celebrating my first anniversary with the orchestra.

Michael Pastreich: I am the executive director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and have been with the organization for seven years.

Emanuel Semerad: I am a retired orthopedic surgeon, and I became president of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra board in January 2002.

Tim Shaffer: I am the principal bass in the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and this is my seventh season with the orchestra. I have participated in the large- group planning sessions for the last two years.

John Totten: I am a past president of the board and currently serve as the vice president for planning. I have been on the board for nine years and chaired the strategic planning process for 2002.

Institute: Explain for our readers the location of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, and the challenges and advantages your location poses.

Pastreich: Elgin, Illinois, is a far western suburb of Chicago, and one of many suburbs that calls itself home to a symphony orchestra. Chicago itself, of course, is home not only to the massive Chicago Symphony Orchestra organization, but also the Chicago Sinfonietta, Music of the Baroque, the Grant Park Symphony, and many other classical music entities. While we are certainly challenged by the fame of the Chicago Symphony, we see our location as providing more advantages than challenges.

Not long after I became executive director, we agreed as an organization that our job was not to attract musicians and staff who would remain with the organization forever, but rather to attract highly talented individuals with the understanding that it was all right if they eventually moved on to larger organizations. This formula has served us well up to this point.

At the same time, we had a board member who argued successfully that we needed to change our focus from selling tickets to people in Elgin and concentrate our efforts on selling tickets to people throughout northeastern Illinois.

Totten: Seven years ago, we sold 49 percent of our tickets in Elgin; today, that number is less than 25 percent. The gratifying part of that is we are serving more people in Elgin that ever before, and we are also serving almost three times as many classical-series subscribers who come from as far away as Wisconsin and Indiana.

A definite advantage of our location in a suburban area near a major orchestra is our ability to produce a very strong artistic product and offer our concertgoers the opportunity to experience that product in an easy-to-reach location at a modest price. And over the last five or six years, we have more than doubled our numbers of classical, pops, and family subscribers.

Pastreich: Adding to what Doris just said, I would note that Chicago has one of the best pools of freelance musicians in the nation. So we operate from the premise that if we can get the best available musicians on the stage and produce an outstanding artistic concert, everything else in the organization— ticket sales and fundraising—will also grow. That’s upside down from the conventional wisdom practiced by many suburban orchestras of putting fundraising and ticket sales first, but it is working well for us. We’ve added concerts to our schedule in each of the last six years. That translates to more weeks of work for our musicians, which, in turn, brings us better musicians.

Shaffer: Speaking from a musician’s perspective, there is no question that the message that comes through to us is that we are extremely valued. The staff also understands that when we are offered more money for work elsewhere, we sometimes need to take it. Their attitude is, “One of these days, we are going to be able to offer you more than they’re offering you.” As a consequence, we musicians think this is a gig worth holding onto. As a matter of fact, I’ve turned down subbing opportunities in the Chicago Symphony more than once because I needed to fulfill my contract in Elgin and I thought it was worth it in the long term. This season, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra is offering us about 13 weeks of work.

Institute: This litany of success that you have all just described did not just happen. So explain when and why you established your strategic planning process.

Pastreich: When I arrived, there was a plan that had been around for several years. Soon thereafter, one of our board members, who at the time was the president of a large suburban newspaper chain, stepped forward and took the lead in instituting a much more organized planning process. One result of that initial effort was to get members of every constituency on the same page. Our initial process included only board and staff. We added the volunteers, and then the musicians were added three years ago. We must admit that the musicians were added in anticipation of what we expected to be a difficult master agreement negotiation. Of course, the musicians initially viewed their invitation with great suspicion, but as we have

reiterated this process each year, they have participated in growing numbers and with growing enthusiasm. We added the musicians as a pragmatic move to improve negotiations and learned that we have a group of people who care about the long-term health of the organization and know the field intimately.

Shaffer: The first year that the musicians were invited to be part of the strategic planning group, I must admit that my reaction was: “What is this?” But as the years passed, I realized that I owed the organization something and I began to participate. What I have learned is that something really interesting goes on in this process and that everyone’s voice is actually heard. I have also learned a great deal about the very high aspirations that the board and the staff have for this organization.

Pastreich: We are very impressed by the significant number of musicians who drive from Chicago to Elgin multiple times, without pay, because they consider our strategic planning process valuable to the overall organization and especially to the artistic product.

Totten: Getting back to the question of why an annual strategic planning process was instituted, there is no question that we needed to force the issue of looking ahead at our financial plan. We developed a process to do three-year budget forecasts, working principally on the revenue side, and recognizing that we had a detailed expense budget to work with and manage against. We also recognized our need for a narrative plan which was underpinned by our financial resources. So each year, we go through a process that ties our aspirations to our financial realities with the expectation that we will be in at least a break-even position.

Institute: As you thought about the process you would use in 2002, describe the elements you considered important.

Totten: In 2001, with the assistance of a facilitator, we spent a good deal of time drafting belief, mission, value, and vision statements for the ESO. As we began thinking about 2002, we decided that we could quickly affirm our work of the prior year and then move forward on many fronts. I am a retired executive and have been through many planning and budgeting processes in large companies, so we agreed to do our own work this year without facilitation. We also lengthened the time frame of our planning from three years to five.

Semerad: I would note that while a facilitated process can get a group’s thinking started and worked well last year, the in-house method we used this year was very specific to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. We dealt very directly with the issues that have to do with this organization’s growth and development.

Shaffer: To me, last year’s facilitated process was a visionary one and probably necessary. This year’s process was substantive and, frankly, more satisfying.

Pastreich: One reason that we could assume that things would go well is that we have a situation in which everyone can talk frankly. Board members say what they honestly believe. Musicians say what they honestly believe. The staff says what they honestly believe, as do our volunteers. In our small- group meetings, there is often real disagreement. But because we all value this organization, we find ways to come to terms with those disagreements and find solutions.

Semerad: As we were deciding how to approach the process this year, John suggested that we try something we had not done in the past. We also involved our concertgoers—people who attend performances but have had no other involvement with the organization. He thought we should have input from the people who buy the tickets.

Institute: You began the 2002 strategic planning process with a large- group meeting. Who was invited to attend and what was the agenda for the meeting?

Totten: For the first large-group meeting, we invited representatives from what we call the five pillars of our organization (board, staff, musicians, volunteers, concertgoers) and encouraged them to participate.

Gallant: We also invited representatives from the Elgin community. An assistant city manager and two city council members took part in the initial large-group meeting. Fifty-six people attended that first meeting, including ten musicians, which was up from four musicians in 2001.

Totten: Michael, Doris, and I built a timed agenda for the meeting. We agreed to begin by validating the belief, mission, value, and vision statements. Because we knew we were going to have many participants who had not been part of the process in prior years, we agreed that we needed to review the 2001 plan and give an update of our progress against that plan. So the first half of that meeting was spent in what I would call level-setting, making sure everyone was starting in the same place.

Semerad: The board’s vice president for the annual fund, the vice president for marketing, and our treasurer made reports. Each was a comprehensive PowerPoint® presentation. And I think the most important thing that came from taking that approach was that everyone in the room understood how thoroughly our board members know what is going on in the organization. Ours is not a board that sits on the sidelines, but one that is very engaged in what we do now and what we want to do in the future.

Totten: For the second half of the meeting, we divided the participants into constituent groups. We asked each group to take 30 minutes to answer two questions about the Elgin Symphony Orchestra as an organization: What do you like best? What do you fear most? We also encouraged them to list as “other” items that did not fall neatly as an answer to one of our questions. Each constituency was also asked to select two people who would participate in small-group sessions to be held over the next several months.

Semerad: An important aspect of the breakout sessions was that neither Robert Hanson nor Michael participated. They did not want their roles as music director and executive director to influence the thinking of any of our constituent groups.

Totten: This was the only time throughout the strategic planning process that we formed single-constituent groups. We wanted to know early on if there were items or ideas that varied depending on the group’s point of view.

The groups then reassembled and reported out their thinking. Staff members wrote those ideas on flip charts as they were reported. The large group ended the day discussing what had come out of the constituent groups and beginning to focus on areas of agreement.

Pastreich: If what we have just described sounds like a long day, it was. People came and participated because they wanted to be part of the planning for the Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s future. And, yes, 56 people is a large group with which to work, but by using the constituent-group strategy for the breakout sessions, it was actually a very productive day.

Institute: The next part of the planning process was carried out by what you call the small group, which included two representatives elected by each constituent group, as well as key staff members. Please describe those sessions for our readers.

Totten: Following the initial large-group meeting, Doris, Michael, and I defined four categories on which we wanted the small group to focus: artistic, development, marketing, and other. We took all of the ideas that came out of the large-group meeting, assigned them to one of the four categories, and sorted them into concerns, likes, and needs. For example, in the artistic category, one “like” was that customer service is of high quality. One concern was the possible loss of the music director, and one need was to continue our in-school educational programs.

At the first small-group meeting, we distributed those lists and talked through them to make certain that everyone understood them.

Semerad: It was an interesting exercise because not everyone had the same recollections of what had been said in the large-group meeting, and not everyone agreed as to what the ideas really were.

Totten: That’s right. We were actually asking: Did we hear it correctly? Did we document it correctly? Did we miss something? Are we working on the right things? We made many amendments to our original lists.

It is also important to note that at this point we did not yet bring financial screening into the mix. The ultimate screen for any idea is, of course, can we afford it? But we wanted to explore ideas first.

We scrutinized the lists for items that were outside our vision and mission statements and removed several. We also talked about how many new initiatives we could undertake given staffing and funding realities.

Gallant: At the end of the day, we once again had pages and pages of flip-chart notes which the staff then used to prepare an initial draft of a five-year strategic plan.

Pastreich: We clearly understood that this draft plan was being put together to be torn apart.

Totten: That draft was also the first time we began to include financial implications of the ideas we had been discussing. At the second small-group meeting, we used the draft as the starting place to develop our narrative plan. We worked on action statements, on the steps we would need to take to get where we wanted to go, and on questions of timing. The timing questions included discussion of people resources, funding resources, and the availability of the hall that we do not own. Because we were working across a five-year plan, we were trying to develop a reasonable growth process.

Semerad: There was a concurrent activity taking place that was also important. In the large-group meeting, we had agreed that one place where we were underachieving was fundraising, and we had already hired a consultant who was leading us through a process by which we would develop a five-year fundraising plan.

At the conclusion of the second small-group meeting we had a plan that had its expenses built in and all of its revenues built in except fundraising. At that point, our board’s annual fund committee held two meetings to build a five-year fundraising plan.

Totten: We also vetted the draft with the board’s marketing committee.

Pastreich: By the time we convened the third small-group meeting, we had a document that contained income for five years and expenses for five years. Because we had previously worked primarily on ideas, or in other terms, expenses, this document showed clearly that expenses would exceed income and the job became to determine which items we would remove from the expense side or for which we needed to adjust the timing. For example, we need to purchase a set of timpani. But we agreed that we needed to move that purchase back a year because an overriding concern is to balance our budget. Matching our dreams against the realities of expenses also caused us to delay indefinitely a chamber series.

Totten: When that third meeting ended, we were quite satisfied with our work, and we were ready to reconvene the large group and present the plan. Because the small group’s work began with ideas that originated in the large group, it was important to go back and ask: Did we get it right? It was also important to have everyone in the room aware of, and in agreement with, the plan and solidly behind what we intended to do. Many members of the large group are influential members of the Elgin community and it is very important to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra organization that those people know exactly what it is we plan to do and to have some ownership of those ideas.

So the large group came together one final time to review the plan. We went through it section by section and answered questions that people had. There were one or two places in which we altered the language to make the ideas more clear, but the large group essentially endorsed the strategic plan as the work product of a very deliberative process.

Pastreich: We came out of that meeting with at least 80 percent of our board and active representatives of every constituency understanding that in nine years we are going to be paying our musicians at Chicago AA scale. They also know exactly how we are going to expand our artistic offerings, as well as our staff support, for each of the next five years. As they left the room, they had in their hands a narrative plan covering every aspect of the organization, a year-by-year fiscal impact statement, audited financial statements for the past three years, and projected financial statements for the next five years. One thing we work very hard to achieve in this organization is to make sure that those who support us understand clearly our ambitions and their financial realities.

Institute: Your organization makes good use of the time of both staff and volunteer leaders. John, you chaired this process with a very deliberate and professional approach and you set high expectations for the participants. What prompts you to contribute such substantial volunteer time to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra?

Totten: When I joined a Chicago-based financial institution in the early 1990s, it was suggested that people at my level needed to be involved in some type of local community service. I indicated that I wanted to work on something that had to do with quality of life and was encouraged to contact the Elgin Symphony Orchestra which was right down the street from our offices. I was invited to join the ESO board and became an active member. Since Michael’s arrival as executive director seven years ago, I’ve been heavily involved in helping to add and improve processes for the organization. A planning process. A financial process. A review process. A reporting process. I have very much enjoyed taking some of corporate America’s best practices and introducing them into this organization.

Pastreich: Part of the strength of this organization is that John is just one of many board members who bring valuable organizational tools to our work. We actively seek board members who are willing to make substantial time commitments and to share their expertise. By knowing and using available community resources, orchestras of our size can make and implement ambitious artistic plans that might otherwise be unachievable.

Institute: And you all make it clear that you consider annual comprehensive, inclusive, long-range planning an important factor in the Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s success. We thank you for your time and willingness to share your processes in detail.


As a result of the change in the publication schedule for this issue of Harmony, it has been nearly a year since we held our roundtable discussion with our friends at the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. We felt some follow-up was in order. In September 2003, Marilyn Scholl met with roundtable participants Emanuel Semerad, Tim Shaffer, and Michael Pastreich.

It was not entirely surprising to learn that the ESO made some mid-course corrections to the strategic plan it adopted in 2002, and that it has moved toward best-, worst-, and average-case scenario planning in 2003.

Semerad describes the past season as one of mixed results. Ticket sales and contributions to the annual fund each increased 17 percent, with gifts from board members jumping 47 percent. Midway through the season, the organization was greeted with the news that some anticipated government grant funding was not going to materialize. To counter that revenue shortfall, the orchestra scheduled an additional concert featuring a well-known “big draw” artist, only to have that artist cancel on very short notice. Semerad, now past president of the board, describes the experience as an “invitation to disaster,” and notes that the fiscal year closed with a deficit of just over one percent.

So the 2003-2004 strategic planning process began with an air of caution and with the knowledge that some goals would need to be postponed and others possibly eliminated. The schedule for the season had already been shortened by nine services (six performances and three rehearsals), though Shaffer quickly notes that the season still includes more musician services that it did two years ago. “Over the past several seasons, we have increased our performance schedule each year and tried several new things,” observes Pastreich. “We are keeping the ones that work.”

The result is a performance schedule rooted in classical music, with fewer holiday and sacred-music concerts, and with a discontinuation of the family series. The organization’s plan still calls for the addition of an eighth classical series in the 2005-2006 season and the reinstatement of educational concerts of some format in 2006-2007.

The overall aura at the Elgin Symphony Orchestra remains one of optimism. A group sales and public relations staff position was added this past summer, and the organization is likely to engage an education consultant in 2004. Successful negotiations were recently completed on a five-year musicians’ master agreement, the longest agreement in the orchestra’s history.

In discussing this year’s negotiations, Pastreich describes the process as “traditional bargaining,” but notes the effect of a concurrent, ongoing strategic planning process. “Three of the five members of the musicians’ negotiating committee are either currently involved or have been involved in our planning. We are all very accustomed to having open, frank discussions and to working together to resolve potentially contentious issues.” Although not a member of the negotiating committee, Shaffer concurs with the reality and importance of openness. “In both large and small ways, this organization works hard to treat its musicians professionally. That translates into things that may sound simple—feeding us when we have more than one service on a given day, making sure that even as part-timers we have opportunities to know board and staff members, providing each musician with a schedule book with all ESO work printed in. I don’t know many suburban orchestras that take such a ‘big orchestra’ approach.”

And Semerad sums it up very well. “In our planning, we wrestle with dreams versus reality, we often come to the table with widely divergent thoughts about a given topic, and we have been known to have hot debates. But once we come to a decision it is our decision, and because our planning process includes representation of every constituency, we move forward with confidence.”

The Institute again applauds the Elgin Symphony Orchestra for its comprehensive, inclusive approach to its work. And we again thank Emanuel Semerad, Tim Shaffer, and Michael Pastreich for taking the time to share that work with our readers.


Orchestra and Community: Another Look

In the article “Orchestra and Community: Bridging the Gap,” published in the October 2002 issue of Harmony, Penelope McPhee describes some of the expectations and disappointments experienced in carrying out the Knight Foundation’s Magic of Music initiative for symphony orchestras. Ms. McPhee is vice president and chief program officer of the foundation; the initiative in which she is involved is designed to strengthen, broaden, and deepen the relationship of orchestras to the community; and the article was excerpted from her address to the group’s 2002 annual retreat. I suggest that the reluctance of orchestras to institute the called-for fundamental changes should not be completely surprising, and that there might be more effective ways of accomplishing these vital goals.

The Knight Foundation’s View

The initiative was the result of the Knight Foundation’s view that a problematic gap exists between orchestras and their communities, and that orchestras must undergo some kind of fundamental change to be able to bridge that gap. According to “Orchestra and Community,” the Knight Foundation considers that a community, to be whole and healthy, must have live classical music, because it can bring joy and spiritual renewal to human beings everywhere. The foundation’s research indicates that sixty percent of adults express at least some interest in classical music, and nearly one-third of adults fit classical music into their lives regularly, in their autos and at home, but fewer than five percent are regular patrons of their local orchestras.

The foundation concludes that this gap exists because orchestras are not relevant to the community as a whole, in that their appeal is primarily to the richest, Whitest three or four percent. To achieve relevancy, orchestras must stop confusing the content with the delivery system. (I understand this to mean we must stop believing that we are acting as a symphony orchestra only if we are playing the orchestral canon at formal concerts in a concert hall.) If orchestras are to be the link that brings the art form to the community, we must listen to the audience, which is asking us for fundamental changes in the pieces we play, or the kinds of pieces, or how we sit, or where we play, or what time we play, or who plays.

The Knight Foundation has been surprised by the degree of reluctance on the part of orchestras to make such fundamental changes, especially in light of their deteriorating prospects. The reluctance is ascribed in large part to a mistaken belief on the part of orchestras that such changes would negatively affect quality. Two other significant causes for reluctance to change are intractable unions and absentee music directors who are not committed to change.

The Knight Foundation’s goal of increasing the size and diversity of our audiences is the goal of everyone remotely connected with the orchestra business. The foundation’s willingness to put a substantial amount of money into the initiative is profoundly heartening and inspiring. The disappointing results are due, I believe, to some mistaken assumptions and unsupported conclusions, as well as to one significant misunderstanding.

Three elements of the reasoning presented in “Orchestra and Community” might benefit from further examination:

◆ the nature and degree of the problematic gap,

◆ the notion of relevance,

◆ and the necessity of fundamental change.

Is the Gap Problematic?

The foundation begins by taking as problematic the gap between the thirty percent who use classical music as background filler at least occasionally and the three or four percent who actually attend our concerts. It seems evident that there will always be a gap between the larger number of people tangentially involved at a low cost/reward level and the smaller number who invest time and money for a greater reward. This is true of just about any pursuit. At what degree is the gap problematic for a symphony orchestra?

Or is the problematic gap that between the four percent of attendees and the one-hundred percent of the population? An orchestra heard live annually by four percent of the people within its drawing area probably plays to substantial masterworks audiences, performs for thousands of schoolchildren, plays different styles of popular music for different audience groups, provides musicians for churches and weddings and other functions throughout the community, provides school and private music teachers, adds perhaps millions of dollars to the local economy, and balances its budget. The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (DSSO), of which I am music director, is such an orchestra. Are we failing? Do we not resonate sufficiently within our community? What percentage of the community must we touch with live performances before we can consider ourselves successful? Is ten percent an acceptable level? Must we reach twenty percent? Fifty percent? One hundred percent? Since four percent may be close to the upward limit reached by any orchestra, anywhere, ever, does that mean that no orchestra has ever been successful?

I don’t know what the answer is, but before we commit to fundamentally changing the nature of our operations, we need to understand that we are in fact failing, and we need to know how to define success.


The Knight Foundation ascribes the gap to a lack of relevance, and exhorts us to listen to our audiences and play what they want us to play, not what we want them to hear. The word relevance is not defined in “Orchestra and Community,” but in terms of repertoire, I take it to mean music that in some way speaks more directly to the real-life experiences of the members of our community.

The best-selling concert of the DSSO during the 2002-2003 season was an all-Beethoven program, followed closely by a Kabalevsky, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky program, and by a Bartok, Kodaly, Dvorak program. Our worst-selling program was an American program including Copland’s Billy the Kid and music by Bernstein, Ellington, and Rouse. This experience is surely not surprising to anyone in the industry. If we listen to our audiences and play what they want to hear, we would be playing a lot more Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and a lot less new and American music. But we are committed to playing new and American music, and we promote it heavily and make it a focal point of our educational offerings. We do it proudly; we do it because we think it is good for our audiences; and we consider it an important obligation to expand their musical horizons. Is this bad?

By any standard of cultural relevance, we would have to assume that the American program would speak more directly to the real-life experiences of a 21st-century audience in our drawing area of Minnesota and Wisconsin. And yet the audience does not expect to gain as much from this more “relevant” music as it does from the European and Russian masterworks. Perhaps this kind of cultural relevance is not the long-term solution.

Fundamental Change

Why do orchestras resist considering fundamental changes in the conventional processes? Perhaps we do so primarily because these conventions have evolved over the years for valid reasons. Contrary to the Knight Foundation’s understanding, changing the product or how it is delivered may in fact threaten the quality of our product.

Music can affect us on many levels. A driving beat surely moves us on an elemental level (which explains to some degree the popularity of marching bands, and in fact most genres of popular music). On the highest level, music can provide no less than spiritual exaltation. This is the ultimate role of classical music, the small segment of the large field of all musics that we have taken as our province. Our patrons invest upwards of three hours and the not insignificant cost of a concert ticket in the hopes that the sounds they absorb will lead them to a celestial, magical experience.

For this kind of spiritual exaltation to occur, the composition must allow it, the performance must allow it, and the listener must be open to it. The quality of the experience will be limited by a shortfall in any of the three components: a less-than-profound composition, a less-than-sublime performance, or a listener not fully open to the sounds.

Audiences clamor for the great masterworks because they can provide more exalted experiences; for the same reason, audiences are more attracted to performances led by the more profound conductor; and listeners can most fully absorb the sounds sitting in comfortable chairs in a darkened hall with the orchestra situated in an acoustically advantaged location.

To perform less-than-profound compositions in settings that are less conducive to the listeners’ complete focus on the sounds is to limit the quality of the experience. Since the principal reason people pay to attend our concerts is to be exalted, to limit the quality of the experience is to limit the potential benefit of attending a concert. Ultimately, if we limit the quality of the experience, we will only diminish our customer base.

No doubt it is possible—by playing nontraditional repertoire in nontraditional venues—to touch some people whom we would not otherwise reach at all. And their experiences might be extremely good, even though it might not be the best we have to offer. Clearly, such opportunities should be pursued vigorously. But orchestras may not be wrong to be wary of embracing any fundamental change that would limit the value of their core offerings.

What Can We Do?

Rather than limiting the benefit, the answer to reaching a broader audience lies in convincing more people that the upside balances or outweighs the downside. The three ways to do that are: to actually increase the upside, to do a better job of convincing people (marketing), and to reduce the downside.

In Duluth we have done all three. When I became music director of the DSSO in July 2001, the orchestra had experienced a gradual slide in audiences, from an average concert attendance of some 1,800 in recent years to fewer than 1,400 in 2000-2001. In 2002-2003, we averaged approximately 1,950 in attendance at our masterworks concerts. Due to the increased audience, and the resultant increases in earned and unearned income, a season that began with a projected three-and-one-half-percent deficit ended with an operating surplus and included a retroactive raise for the musicians despite cuts in foundation and state grants.

The best way to raise the expected benefits of attending a concert is to actually increase them. The orchestra has been improving from concert to concert; that we are playing—according to our listeners—at a historically high level and are attracting historically high numbers of listeners is not a coincidence.

The next best way is to do a better job of promoting ourselves. Our executive director, Andrew Berryhill, and his team have worked extremely hard and extremely effectively, and we have been able to take advantage of abundant opportunities to create visibility throughout the region. We realize, though, that marketing is a far less effective means of long-term audience building than quality improvement, because the best marketing efforts can only get people in the hall once; whether they return and with what frequency depends on the quality of the experience they have.

Our efforts to reduce the downside include a discount for first-time subscribers, as well as attempts to improve parking and transportation issues. With growing word-of-mouth about the quality of the orchestra, augmented by an effective marketing/public relations campaign, the DSSO welcomed 730 new subscribers in 2002-2003. Our 2003-2004 season is under way, with yet another substantial increase in our overall subscriber base and the largest opening-night audience in years.

The larger, near-capacity audiences to which we now play are energizing to those of us on stage. They increase the excitement in the hall; they raise our program-book advertising rates; and they heighten our standing in the community. We have not accomplished this with any fundamental changes. We simply are doing what we do better.

We are pleased, but far from satisfied. We would like to reach still more people, and we are investing energy to attract a more diverse audience.

Toward that end, we have initiated a family concert series, a contest for young composers, and a symphony class for seniors. We have given annual readings of Handel’s Messiah at a local prison; we are collaborating with theater groups, choruses, writers, and artists, church groups, local charities, and even with a community group to honor lynching victims. These are positive steps that will help increase and diversify our audience to some degree, but probably not as much as we would like.

How Outside Funders Can Help

Change of some kind is clearly necessary for us to consistently attract all segments of our communities. One way, as the Knight Foundation’s symphony initiative has done, is to try to change the orchestra. That has not proved altogether successful, and may never. The other way is to help us change the audiences.

For the same reasons that our current audience members come to our concerts, those of any age, economic standing, and ethnic background will attend if they believe the benefit is worth the investment. With people who have never included music in their lives, the challenge is great. That challenge is to open minds to the possibilities available from music, and to reduce any discomfort or unfamiliarity.

Money could be used to great advantage in opening minds toward the benefits of classical music. For example, money might be spent profitably on advertising to increase the demand for classical music, much as the “Got Milk” campaign did for the dairy industry. Or it might be used to bolster support for school music programs, or to provide instruments and private lessons to disadvantaged young people on a broad scale, or to fund instrumental education programs at economically disadvantaged schools.

Money could also be used to decrease the downside of attending. Funding to give blocks of tickets to admired community figures for distribution to students would bring younger people to the hall and would replace a “nerd” factor with a “cool” factor. Funding to bring the symphony to the neighborhoods—real symphonic concerts with the “A-list” conductors and soloists—and funding to figure out how to get those attendees to the hall consistently might also make a difference over time.

We all appreciate the enormity of the task; we all appreciate the extraordinary contribution of the Knight Foundation; and we all look forward to continued discourse as we work together toward our shared goal of strengthening, broadening, and deepening our reach into the community.

Markand Thakar is music director of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. He is also co-director of the graduate conducting program at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.



Walking in Two Worlds: A Librarian’s Perspective

This issue of Harmony is filled with articles about the collaborative work of orchestras organization-wide. But we also need to remain aware of smaller-scale, cross-constituent collaborations, as author Karen Schnackenberg reminds us.

Schnackenberg is chief orchestra librarian for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. In that role (about which you can learn more from the roundtable, “Behind the Scenes,” in Harmony #9), she works daily in both the artistic and the administrative constituencies of her orchestra.

She opens her essay with a review of the reasons orchestra organizations need both artists and administrators, suggesting that the interdependence begins with the art. Schnackenberg then details two projects which began in the library and expanded to include participants from throughout the organization. She concludes her essay with some speculation about ways in which members of all orchestra constituencies might deepen their knowledge of one another’s primary work.

The projects that Schnackenberg describes, particularly the music- acquisition project, should be worth noting for many orchestra organizations. May we be so bold as to recommend that you take your librarian to lunch to determine if you can invent a worthwhile project for your organization? We hope so!

Walking in Two Worlds: A Librarian’s Perspective

We orchestra librarians are glad we have two feet. One foot is firmly planted in the orchestra; the other foot keeps us moving throughout the orchestra organization. And it is that two-footed perspective that has prompted me to write this essay for Harmony.

Orchestra librarians have a unique view into the operations of a symphonic organization. As a musician, the librarian’s function is to acquire and prepare all the music for the orchestra and its conductors. In training, skills, logistics, schedule, and duties, librarians are musicians living first and mostly in the musical world. This means working closely with the music director and players about editions and musical markings, being available backstage and in the library during all rehearsals and concerts to provide for any musical needs that surface, and working the concerts as “stage librarians” during performances to get the right music in the right place at the right time. Librarians also keep track of the flow of repertoire and spend many hours marking parts.

But to be effective and to serve the orchestra fully, librarians must also integrate themselves within the other parts of the organization. Librarians’ roles as conduits for musical information and as curators of vast amounts of music and musical data take them into every department. At the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO), I am privileged to be colleagues with talented players, as well as with experts throughout the administrative staff. I walk in both worlds daily.

Passion and Inspiration

One basic principle I see reinforced every day as a librarian is that there is no substitute for passion and a belief in what we do. This passion for the art needs to be exhibited consistently from the top—music director, executive director, and board executive committee—down to the players, managers, support staff, artistic staff, and all board members. Such an attitude can be demonstrated in many ways, including programming, communication, publicity, accountability, work ethic, and even hiring practices.

First, some fundamentals. Without the talented and professional orchestra on stage, and all those years the players spent in practice rooms, there would be no “symphony association.” There would be no jobs for managers or support staff, and no reason to sell tickets, raise money, or mark parts. Our mission is to provide live orchestral music. The way in which we provide that music is for each orchestra to decide, as are the methods we use to enhance and sell our basic product. But let’s not forget why we are here in the first place.

There is another fundamental point. Without the skill and expertise of the administrative staff, and the countless hours they put into raising money, setting schedules, hiring artists, advertising to the public, and selling tickets, musicians might still give concerts, but certainly not at the level we have come to expect of a professional orchestra. Real jobs for the players would not exist. There would be no performances in fine concert halls, no touring and recording sessions, and no community and corporate support.

We really do need each other.

When there is an opening in the orchestra, the music director and audition committees select the candidate they think is most qualified for the position; the one who is the most skilled player and finest musician. Collectively, these musicians then go about making music on stage with great technical skill and also, hopefully, with great inspiration from the music and conductor, and with a belief in what they are doing. This passion moves the audience, and that is ultimately why we are all here.

When there is an opening in the administration, the executive director, department heads, and managers hire the candidate they think is most qualified for the position, the one with the best possible skills and experience. Collectively, these people then set about doing the business of art with great expertise, and hopefully are also inspired by their supervisors and the belief in what they are doing. This passion comes through to the public in the excitement generated and excellence created at every level.

I’m not suggesting that players or staff members can or should be selected on the basis of their exuberance for the orchestra or symphonic music. But just as audition committees are looking for something special in a musician’s playing—something that defies explanation and clearly transcends the technical—the same must be sought in a potential candidate for an administrative position. Ask questions from the outset: Why do you want to work for the symphony? What passion do you bring to this position that makes you different from the next person? Do you have a deep commitment to this art form and its importance to this community and the world? Will you go to concerts and visibly support our mission?

We can never go wrong if we start from the art and remember the reason we are here. Audiences know what they like, what captures their attention and emotions, and what is truly great. We can bring them into the hall in any number of ways, but the only way we will keep them is through the music, our passion, and our inspiration.

Walking in Both Worlds

There is no question that a great divide separates the music and business worlds. The divide is natural and fundamentally not a bad thing. It just is. The task is not to pretend it doesn’t exist, to try to make it disappear, or to wish it away. We’re lucky to have this difference! That’s what makes the creation of art possible. Once we embrace this fact, the task becomes finding ways, tools, people, and projects to bridge the two worlds effectively and use the differences for creative excellence. This can be done. The orchestra librarian does it all the time.

At the Dallas Symphony, I’ve been lucky to collaborate on a number of special projects that not only involved the library, but also many other parts of the organization. It’s exciting to have creative input into such projects. It is also fascinating to watch others’ ideas take shape, all working together to achieve a long-range goal for the future of the orchestra, as well as to make an immediate improvement upon organizational effectiveness. Two particular projects—the implementation of a repertoire database system and the development of a music acquisition fundraising campaign—especially illustrate the power and potential of one idea in capturing the imagination of a group of people committed to excellence, inspiring their passion, and becoming a reality.

Information: The Librarian’s Domain

The librarian’s unique perspective is through the information domain. Not only responsible for large amounts of detailed musical and performance data, but also the funnel through which that information gets to the orchestra, librarians cannot afford to isolate themselves and avoid the rest of the organization. It’s impossible to be effective in that role and be unaware of the whole. One learns quickly who needs what information when and how, and the disasters that can befall the orchestra if the specific details are incorrect. It also becomes instantly apparent when one part of the organization is not communicating well with another.

Information—whether it is the program repertoire, rehearsal schedule, instrumentation, personnel required, stage setup, media ads, tickets, or notes on a page—drives the success of concert production. Of course, correct data alone cannot produce a concert. But, except for the obvious importance of the performers’ craft and artistry in making the music, information is the next biggest factor in the creation of a smooth and successful concert experience.

When I was hired at the Dallas Symphony in 1990, the late Eduardo Mata asked me to “get the organization networked” with a repertoire database, so that we could be more efficient in sharing information. He expressed how important it was to have the whole administration reading from the same page. I couldn’t believe my ears! Here was a music director—whose commitment was to the art—conveying his belief and understanding in a vision of organizational effectiveness that serves the art. He was ahead of his time within symphony orchestra administrations around the world, and I was thrilled to have this as my charge.

We did undertake this task. At first, while obtaining, learning, and using the existing industry repertoire database software—OLIS or Orchestra Library Information ServiceTM from the American Symphony Orchestra League—it was largely a function of the library alone. I talked, cajoled, pleaded, begged, taught, and pretty much bugged the other departments endlessly, until we began using the database for more than library data. My patient and friendly coworkers in the operations department were willing to give this system a try if it could be shown to save them time. At first it was instrumentation or durations, then performance data, then a program page, until we were finally depending on our “OLIS Worksheet” as an everyday necessity. Still, I pushed for networking, training, more data entry, and wider usages. These conversations happened between the librarians and anyone who would listen—operations, finance, executive director’s office, personnel manager, marketing, and even grant writers!

After a few years, a new company began to collaborate with the League on converting OLIS (a DOS application) to a new format called OPAS or Orchestra Planning and Administration SystemTM (a Windows application). Through my work at the DSO, and with the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association, I was fortunate to be involved in the early product development and beta testing for OPAS. A group of software developers had their own vision—to take this largely library resource (OLIS) and develop it into a more user-friendly format, design its capacities to include all of OLIS’s functions, and add expanded features for widespread administrative use. Their goal was to help symphony orchestras minimize repeat work in different departments, to provide quick and easy report functions for artist and repertoire planning, to create a format for concert data that then became a living performance history, and to have all of this driven by the repertoire information. With help from the community of librarians, and eventually many other people in the field, they accomplished this goal, and are continuing OPAS’s development and upgrading today.

OPAS is now the most widely used repertoire database software in the industry, although there are others under development and in use at some orchestras. When I look back at the last decade or more of this project at the Dallas Symphony, I remember how excruciatingly slow the different stages were—acquisition, implementation, training, and usage. Symphonic organizations are reluctant to change quickly or to commit funds and support for something new and untested. We are equally reluctant to try to solve efficiency challenges in different ways. Everyone is so busy and pressed for time to do their jobs! But when looked at from a “global” standpoint within the organization instead of focusing on individual frustrations at learning something new, the potential of such a tool is enormous. The results can cut through layers of duplicate work; when one area achieves success, new doors open for everyone involved.

In overseeing this project from its inception, I learned a great deal about the flow of information. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, who is responsible for and who benefits from which bits of data, how departments need to receive the information, and on and on. How can symphony orchestras improve their organizational efficiency? One way is to spend the money to acquire comprehensive and tested repertoire database software—but don’t just stop there. Train support staff to use it, bring the experts in twice a year for updates and review, hire a data entry specialist to input records correctly and consistently, and utilize the software to its capacity throughout the administrative and artistic staff. The outcome will be increased productivity, smoother concert production, creativity in solving informational challenges, and long-term financial savings. Over time, the outcome will also be a lightening of the support staff’s workload, as staff members all have access to the same information and are freed from the inefficiencies of duplication.

A Music Acquisition Campaign: Including the Audience

It started with a seemingly innocuous idea from a beloved and long-time board member. In addition to spending years raising and giving millions of dollars to the symphony, this friend of the orchestra wasn’t willing to let the less glamorous needs—like those in the orchestra library—go unmet. Aware that we were desperate to buy a great deal of music for the orchestra, she began to encourage her friends and associates to make small donations to the library in memory or honor of someone. She knew that these gifts, separate and more spontaneous than major endowment gifts from the same people, could begin to add up. Twenty-five dollars could buy a score, one hundred a set of string parts; three hundred could buy a standard symphony, and five hundred a major work.

She didn’t tire of this mini-crusade, even when she was the only one making such donations. There were discussions about whether or not the donations should go into buying music that had been programmed already to save a little money in the annual budget, but she wanted it to be used for whatever work we thought was important to have so the conductors could have more choices in programming. None of us saw her larger vision or thought that this would really help much.

After some time, it became evident that other board members were listening to our friend. One trustee was approached about his company’s donating money for library shelving. He was willing to do that, but only after we agreed to make a five-year music purchase plan, listing exactly the works we needed, the editions, the cost, and the year in which we intended to buy them. He wanted eventually to help us raise money for music, which he found much more interesting than shelves, and believed we would need a ready and detailed proposal. Overwhelmed at this daunting task, and unsure that it was necessary, we nevertheless did the work, but with not much enthusiasm at first.

However, something happened when we began to create this plan. By looking over the library’s holdings with a discerning eye; engaging the music director, conductors, players, and staff members to suggest works they thought were necessary to have; and using our own library knowledge of critical editions, public domain works, and industry pricing, the plan began to take on a life of its own. We became invested in the original vision and completed a long-range plan we could confidently show to potential donors.

Then, sadly, both board members passed away. The losses were a blow to the Dallas Symphony, as they had been with us for a long time. In our little library world, the spearhead behind individual music donations was gone, and the impetus for our music purchase plan was, too. Both projects languished. We hung onto our plan, and even referred to it when buying a set of parts. But that was about it.

Several years later, one of our development directors was putting together an ambitious endowment campaign that would focus on many different needs within the association. Ultimately extraordinarily successful, Vision 2000 was designed to carry the Dallas Symphony forward into its second century and the new millennium. Thinking about the orchestra’s music library, she remembered the plan that had been put together but not fully realized. She also thought about her previous experience raising money for a public library in which there had been a book campaign. Putting the two together, she discovered an idea that was as yet untried: Go directly to our audience with a music campaign, listing the works needed, the price of each, and ask for donations in memory or honor of someone for particular works. She enlisted the help of our volunteer association, which agreed to match a portion of the donations, and got busy working out the specifics.

In the library, our job became updating the five-year plan into a single list of works, divided into the categories of classics, pops, and choral music at current prices. We reassessed the orchestra’s needs and completed the tedious process of itemizing exact purchase costs. We collaborated on the mailing and website presentations and the process by which donations would be made, acknowledged, and recorded. Once again, we found ourselves working with a diverse group of people on a far-reaching project that would help ensure the orchestra’s future. From board members and volunteers, to development staffers and conductors—to even the audience—the joint effort resulted in a sophisticated, well-received, and highly successful campaign.

In addition to raising approximately $75,000 for music, the campaign, in the words of our development department, “. . . increased the public’s awareness of our need to have an extensive library, and, more importantly, created exceptional good will among donors who felt they could not be part of the symphony experience due to high ticket costs or other factors.” The added bonus? Even though the purchases could not logistically all be made at once, the money is designated for specific works and cannot be used for any other purpose. We continue to draw from this fund to buy materials on the list as we can incorporate them into our holdings.

I wouldn’t trade these experiences, even though some days I thought we would never succeed and that all the effort might be for naught. It was often difficult to keep my eye on the long-range goals. Even 12 years later, we are discovering new ways to use the database system effectively and struggling to have enough data entry help to make it more efficient across the organization. We also have not yet completed all the purchase, inventory, correction, and marking of the music funded in our special campaign. I try to remember that, unlike some other projects which are stamped “complete,” these never really will be finished. And that’s the way it should be: a daily testament to all the challenges inherent in seeking and maintaining organizational effectiveness. These projects are also a legacy for those of us who have worked hard on them. We know we have contributed something together to help this orchestra be its best. Something which will last a very long time.

What Do Those People Do in Their Cubicles All Day Long? And Why Are They Working When the Orchestra Is Off? One of the biggest problems in performing organizations today is that few people really know what anyone else’s job requires. We have meetings and

parties, task forces and consultants, presentations and open rehearsals. We talk a lot about wanting things to be “non-adversarial,” that the orchestra is a “family.” But we don’t really know how we fit together into this thing called a symphony orchestra. How could we? There is the orchestra on stage and there is everyone else in the organization. We each have different training and areas of expertise, philosophies about how we should do things, and reasons why we are part of the organization. Some of us even disagree about what an orchestra’s mission should be. So all of us will never see things exactly the same way.

Bridging these differences takes more than just working for the same organization. Sometimes it takes putting ourselves in others’ places, to really think about someone else’s job, training, effort, or contribution. Such appreciation must start from the top, by example, and go across the administration—among the orchestra, conductors, board, and staff. How can we promote this? I suggest a program of volunteer exchanges among departments and employees, players, and board members throughout the organization.

What might these exchanges look like? Managers could go to those in their own or others’ departments and sit with them for a day, not to intimidate or monitor, but to observe and learn about their jobs. Ask questions, try some of the tasks, witness the expertise of others. Each could enhance understanding and appreciation. To lessen a perception of secrecy and exclusion, staff members could be invited to attend higher-level meetings to observe and hear the discussions. Staff and board members could sit in the orchestra for a day of rehearsals, either with a score or just watching and listening, to feel as closely as it can be approximated what it’s really like performing out there on stage. One of the most obvious and important exchanges? Everyone on the staff and all board members should be encouraged to attend concerts—lots and lots of concerts.

Orchestra members and conductors could benefit from similar exchanges. They would see a different side of the business if they observed marketing or finance for a day or watched what is done in the development or public relations departments. Players might be surprised at the sheer amount of detail that the production staff regularly attends to on the musicians’ behalf. Being included in planning meetings could also be useful to the performers as a general learning experience about the chain of events before and after their concerts.

And of course, everyone—managers, orchestra, conductors, staff, board members—should do a real stint in the orchestra library!

These exchanges could be done throughout the organization on a continuing volunteer basis, perhaps helping to minimize misunderstandings and lack of awareness about what is going on around the building. I can’t count the number of times I have defended a player’s viewpoint to staff and administrators; likewise, I try to share with orchestra members many of the good things being done by the staff.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should do each others’ jobs, or that we could even begin to know how to do them. Nor is this a pat theory about all “just getting along.” Sometimes we must operate from our differences, even standing our ground about our beliefs if what we hold dearest is threatened. There are appropriate times and reasons for staying in our own worlds. But on most days it might be best for everyone if we really looked at our talented and experienced colleagues to see their contributions. We should not be afraid to take that step and check out a project or performance someone is working on, paying attention to their vision and maybe helping them. Once one has crossed over into someone else’s world or heard their story about a complicated task completed or demanding part played, it is more difficult to discount them and their contributions. We are all looking for that kind of awareness, support, and appreciation.

Despite our differences and, perhaps, conflicting viewpoints, we can work together for the good of the whole. I have strong beliefs about orchestras, collective action, and the rights of musicians to organize and negotiate for good wages, benefits, and working conditions. So the views presented here may seem incompatible. But they are not. In the end it’s all focused on the same goal—the music. Our passion for this art, and our belief in presenting it at the highest possible levels of excellence, can and must shine through everything we do.

Karen Schnackenberg is chief orchestra librarian of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. She is also a member of the Board of Advisors of the Symphony Orchestra Institute.



From Challenge to Success: What Must Change?

This essay’s author, Gideon Toeplitz, is well known to many in the symphony orchestra world. He most recently served as executive vice president and managing director of the Pittsburgh Symphony and has been a thoughtful observer of the classical music scene for 30 years.

He begins his essay with a series of challenges which he posits that the industry has acknowledged, but not really addressed. Who actually owns our orchestras? What are we actually selling? How should orchestras deal with a changing funding environment?

Toeplitz then suggests that the most critical change necessary is a shift in mindset among those involved with symphony orchestras. He suggests that too much time and energy have been focused on the economic engine, at the expense of passion and quality. He then turns his attention to what he sees as the need to diversify activities and products and details his thoughts about orchestras as collaborative organizations. He concludes his essay with a return to discussion of the economic engine.

We suspect that some will agree and some will disagree with the positions Toeplitz advances. Either way, we invite and encourage your response.

From Challenge to Success: What Must Change?

The state of the classical musical industry, not only in the United States, but worldwide, is a topic of much current discussion. News from the field is rather grim as many orchestras grapple with larger and larger

deficits. Some have sung the “song of death” for our industry for many years. After serving 30 years in various capacities with a number of U.S. orchestras, I have reached the conclusion that our industry will survive, and even flourish, if it makes many substantial changes.

What has worked in the past will not work in the future because the environment has changed in many ways. However, even when orchestra organizations have noticed these environmental changes, most have done very little to change themselves. Albert Einstein is often credited with having said, “If we keep doing the same things, why should we expect better results?” I agree.

Let me list some of the challenges and issues that I believe we, as an industry, have acknowledged, but not really addressed.

◆ Who actually owns our orchestras? Whose core values should we address? Those of our internal constituencies—board, musicians, staff, and volunteers? Or should we also address the core values of the audience, the community, and perhaps others?

◆ Who is our audience? Is it our “traditional” audience with some room for expansion? Is our potential marketplace much larger? The Knight Foundation’s recent study reports that 60 percent of the U.S. population has some level of interest in classical music. Is this our audience? Does listening to a few minutes of classical music make one a member of a potential audience?

◆ What are we actually selling? The music? The experience? Something else?

◆ Is our product obsolete? Is the way we present our product obsolete?

Can we identify a product that is comfortable for current and future audiences at the same time? Must we segregate our product for the current, traditional audience versus newcomers? Does it matter how many people come to our concerts as long as we balance our budgets?

◆ Is technology relevant to orchestras? Only in distribution of the product? Or are there other ways to use technology to move us forward?

◆ Do orchestras have duties as artistic leaders within their communities? Is leadership important? If it is, how does it manifest itself?

◆ What is an orchestra’s role in music education? Is the role to replace the reduction or elimination of music education in schools? Or is the role to invent a way to address the issue?

◆ Is touring, particularly international touring, still necessary? What are the real benefits of touring?

◆ How should orchestras deal with changing financial environments and economic challenges? Can our organizations become more independent of economic cycles that are beyond their control?

◆ How should orchestras deal with a changing funding environment? Create a new case that puts the symphony orchestra back at the top level of funding? Better communicate our relevance? Become more relevant?

◆ Is the traditional, three-cornered leadership model still effective? Should orchestras consider the corporate model of one entity, responsible and accountable?

Many readers could undoubtedly add to this list of orchestra-industry issues. This essay is not intended to address all of the issues identified here. Rather, let me suggest some changes that I believe must occur in order for orchestras to be successful in the future.

A Shift of Mindset

The most critical and fundamental change necessary is a shift in the mindset of the people involved with symphony orchestras—boards of directors, executive directors, musicians, staff, volunteers, music directors, audiences, and community leaders. The time has come for a tradition-bound industry to leave some traditions behind and to think outside the box. Fresh ideas will create a symphony orchestra organization that is able to cope, on an ongoing basis, with changing environments, financial challenges, and the need to keep quality at the center of our existence.

A few months ago, several of my colleagues and I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Jim Collins, the author of the best-selling books Built to Last and Good to Great. Collins’s contention is that successful organizations equalize the distribution of resources and focus energy on three things:

◆ What are you deeply passionate about?

◆ At what can you be the best in the world?

◆ What drives your economic engine?

During our sessions with Collins, we orchestra managers learned that, in recent years, we have spent the majority of our time and energy focused on the economic engine, at the expense of passion and quality. Our organizations have become dysfunctional institutions, unable to pursue the road to success.

Most orchestras are dominant artistic entities within their cultural communities. But they have not thought of themselves in this way. Orchestras must learn to think of themselves as “trendsetters,” particularly in the areas of creativity and quality. Orchestras should be among the first to invent and implement new ideas designed to energize current audiences and to attract new ones. Because orchestras have many creative resources at hand among musicians, staff, board, and volunteers, creativity and innovation should be a natural part of each organization’s course.

We all need to understand that the most important product a symphony produces is music! The type or style of music an individual orchestra plays should be based on the tastes of the community and the institution’s core values as established by all constituencies: board, staff, musicians, volunteers, and audience members, with the direct involvement of the music director.

An interesting aside. Some years ago, I compared the mission statements of 20 orchestras, to discover that most of the words are the same. As a result of this exercise, I realized that a mission statement using generic words is not very effective. Such statements as “. . . to perform music at the highest level of expression and preserve the music as an art form . . .” are perhaps suitable, but not very helpful.

So I will reiterate that we need to change our mindset. I firmly believe that part of the reason for the decline in paid attendance which many orchestras have experienced over the last 10 or so years has to do with our unwillingness to take into consideration the unique character of our relevant markets. The similar mission statements—and typical approaches to programming—lend credence to the thought that we have been more concerned with how we are perceived by the “industry” than with how we can satisfy the needs and desires of our own markets.

Diversify Activity and Product

Orchestras need to diversify their activities and products in order to reach more people and thereby increase both earned revenue and relevance. Over the past 30 years, orchestras have experienced a dramatic shift in the ratio of earned to contributed revenue. Thirty years ago, more than 50 percent of an orchestra’s revenue was earned, less than 50 percent was contributed, and a small portion of the budget was met from a draw on endowment. Today, less than 50 percent of revenue is earned, more than 50 percent is contributed (including draws from endowment), and the percentage of draws on endowments themselves have increased. As they consider diversification, orchestras must also maintain their focus on their core business, symphonic music performed at a high level.

The Knight Foundation study also reports that, “. . . while sixty percent of adults express at least some interest in classical music, and nearly one-third of them fit classical music into their lives regularly, in the office and at home, fewer than five percent of the adults interviewed in fifteen communities are regular patrons of their local orchestras.” As orchestras research and develop new products, and work to define their prospective audiences, there is a temptation to blame weak communication and marketing for the failure to attract more adults to concerts. However, I believe that the solution lies not in marketing, but rather in creating presentations in a concert hall where the atmosphere is more welcoming and comfortable.

Society is very different now from what it was 30, 50, or 100 years ago. Orchestras need to accommodate their audiences, reduce the intimidation factor, and make concert attendance an experience that is spiritual, intellectual, and social. Only when the experience matches the current social style will people come back regularly. (My favorite example of a “strange experience” to which we subject our audiences is the fact that musicians in most orchestras still wear tails, a tradition that dates to the days when musicians served in the courts of kings and princes and were classified as servants. Other servants of that day—for example, cooks and waiters—have changed their uniforms. Why musicians have not is beyond me!)

Become Collaborative Organizations

Artistic organizations thrive on the creative process which requires an atmosphere of collaboration and partnership. All constituencies must be included in the collaboration in order to have an impact on the creative process which will then lead to the generation of products suitable to today’s and tomorrow’s audiences.

A particularly important part of becoming a collaborative orchestra organization involves the musicians seeing themselves as partners, particularly with the board and management. We all need to leave behind the traditional “we/they” adversarial relationship. Musicians need to accept increased responsibility with authority and acquire a deeper sense of ownership. They need to join the other constituencies in understanding that everyone has a stake in the final results—artistically and economically—whether those results are positive or negative.

A few years ago, in a presentation at West Virginia University, I introduced a new concept for the governance of orchestras. The concept included the creation of a “council,” consisting of representation from the five main constituencies—board, musicians, staff, volunteers, and audiences—that would serve as a de facto executive committee for the institution, but still be responsible to a board of directors. This concept might automatically remove “we/they” from the equation and allow orchestra organizations to deal better with substantive issues.

Board members, too, must accept more responsibility and accountability for the final outcomes of their orchestras, whether artistic or economic. Board members must commit to regular attendance at concerts. If board members do not attend, why should anyone else?

Each board member needs to feel connected to the institution’s mission and product by his or her participation in both the governance process and in the collaborative creativity of the organization. This may mean that boards cannot be too large, or perhaps that they need to be restructured to separate those who can fulfill these conditions from those who are there simply to observe.

My own conclusion is that an orchestra board of directors or trustees should not be larger than 35 members. One can always add auxiliary boards for those who are interested in, but not fully committed to, the organization. A smaller board should make it easier to recruit those who are truly committed to the organization’s core values, to attending concerts, and to giving their time to the institution.

Development officers often make the case for larger boards because to them, a board member translates into a donor. However, working with donors and prospective donors on auxiliary boards can keep them well involved while avoiding the institutional paralysis that comes from having 80 to 100 people on the board, most of whom do not feel well connected to the organization.

For an orchestra to truly become a collaborative community, the music director must be at the table. Music directors are not only conductors, but also artistic leaders of their communities. Unfortunately, the current music director system in the U.S. is one in which one person is hired to provide artistic leadership for an institution that has a unique character as dictated by its specific market conditions. Music directors tend to program in a vacuum, without much attention to the specific needs and desires of the market their orchestras serve. To become part of the collaborative community, music directors must participate in establishing institutional challenges and speak convincingly about the music they plan and perform.

The Economic Engine

As we think of orchestras as collaborative communities, we must not overlook the economic engine. Revenues can be strengthened and increased by approaching the entire community as “customers.” People who go to concerts should give and people who give should go to concerts. The traditional division between fundraising and ticket sales is obsolete. There is huge potential in a unified approach to customers that considers everyone both a potential concertgoer and a potential donor.

In our work with Jim Collins, we developed an equation in which the numerator is the orchestra’s net cash flow, and the denominator is the number of donors/concert attendees. Developing this equation further could be a key ingredient in the future financial success of symphony orchestras. As I observed earlier, only a portion of concert attendees donate money, and only a portion of donors attend concerts. A concentrated effort to increase the number of donors who go to concerts and the number of attendees who give could result in major revenue growth. If, in addition, we succeed in expanding the total numbers of attendees and donors, the revenue increment could be vast.

Orchestras seek comprehensive solutions to their problems, but before we seek solutions, our organizations must have the discipline to confront the problems! To identify and confront problems head on is one reason that a change in mindset is so critical to the process of becoming more effective organizations. I have identified some of the changes orchestras must make to prosper in the future, and these changes need to be addressed simultaneously, not one at a time. If orchestras undertake serious organizational change work, I am convinced they will find a fast track to recovery.

Gideon Toeplitz is the immediate past executive vice president and managing director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.



Acentral challenge of this planning process has been to develop con- sensus around key initiatives for the years leading up to the SPCO’s 50th anniversary in 2009. These initiatives cut across the values and goals outlined in the vision statement. These specific initiatives, some already well underway, will solidify the SPCO’s distinctive place in the Twin Cities’ cultural constellation over the next few years.


The SPCO’s core challenge in the Twin Cities cultural market is to be seen as distinctive in artistic purpose and profile, in particular vis-a-vis the Minnesota Orchestra. By operating in the only metropolitan market in the U.S. with two major orchestras, the SPCO must, through program and venue choices, make itself as distinctive from the Minnesota Orchestra, as the Walker Art Center is from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Both nationally and locally, the SPCO will benefit enormously from greater clarity around its artistic identity and purpose. Distinctiveness has three key aspects—the intentional size of the SPCO, its repertoire and programming, and significantly, where the SPCO performs, as noted below.

The Central Home for the SPCO

For now, the question of whether the SPCO should aspire to perform in a central home remains unresolved. Some planning participants feel that a distinctive home (perhaps modeled on the Cité de la Musique in Paris) would galvanize the community around the SPCO; others feel that the SPCO’s very distinctiveness and competitive advantage resides in its multiple venue strategy; still others feel that these are not mutually exclusive approaches. For the near term—5 to 10 years—the SPCO is committed to continuing its multiple venue strategy, without ruling out the possibility of securing a superior and distinctive facility of its own in the long term. There is too much institution-building to be accomplished before a credible hall-building project can be undertaken.

Intimate Venues

No value resonates more deeply, inside and outside the SPCO organization, than that of intimacy. Intimate, interactive musical relationships among musicians and between the Chamber Orchestra and its audiences define the very being of the SPCO. The refrain of “if we are not a symphony orchestra, why do we play in symphony halls?” was heard throughout the planning process. Acknowledging this, the SPCO is committed to performing in intimate venues, having identified halls of 1,000 to 1,500 seats as the ideal size for the SPCO performances. Intimate venues will reinforce the special and magical relationship between audience and the orchestra. Intimate venues with high-quality acoustics will enliven the scintillat- ing detail of the Chamber Orchestra and chamber music experience. Such venues will make the SPCO sound fuller, more immediate and brilliant, turning its intentional smallness into a powerful and positive force.

Superior Acoustics

The SPCO’s struggle for distinctiveness resides in part in the acoustical properties of the halls in which it performs. The subjective nature of acoustical perception, and the subliminal negative impact of poor acoustics on the listener, makes this subject difficult for lay audience members to appreciate. “You don’t know what you don’t know” applies to acoustical properties; equally, “you know it when you see (hear) it” pertains. Greater organizational focus on insisting upon superior acoustics at its performance locations will result in greater public understanding and appreciation of the SPCO musical experience.

Thrust Stage at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

As a multi-purpose facility, the Ordway necessarily makes significant acoustical compromises to accommodate its dual function as a musical and theatrical space. In addition, its size of 1,900 seats mitigates against creating an intimate musical experience, despite its beautiful interior. Its superior public spaces make it a desti- nation venue, however, making the Ordway work for the SPCO is an essential imperative for the organization. Extending the stage 21 feet into the audience will accomplish two key objectives: reduce the distance and formality of a convention- al orchestral shell setup, and improve the resonance and immediacy of the acoustics by placing the orchestra and the audience into the same room during concerts. Further acoustical experimentation will need to be undertaken during the next two years to improve the on-stage acoustics for the musicians and to increase the clar- ity and quality of sound for the audience.

Performing at Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota

Ted Mann Concert Hall is a nearly ideal space for the SPCO. It meets the twin litmus tests of superior acoustics and intimate environment. Its location on the University campus presents opportunities for development of new audiences and programmatic integration with the University community. Conversely, its location “in between” downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul, and its comparative obscurity in the public’s awareness dictate the need for sustained, concerted efforts to build audience loyalty to the hall, by removing barriers such as inconvenient parking and drop-off, insufficient signage, and less than professional customer amenities. With its seating capacity of 1,200 and brilliant acoustics, Ted Mann should become an SPCO destination venue within three years. Combining the Sunday Orchestra Hall series and the Sunday Ordway series at Ted Mann has already provided a strong subscription base from which to build.

Eliminating the Orchestra Hall Series

Despite its superior acoustics, prestige and prime location in downtown Minneapolis, Orchestra Hall is a hall for symphony orchestras, not chamber orchestras. At 2,400 seats, it is simply too large to serve the SPCO’s imperative of intimacy. It only invites inappropriate comparisons which do not serve the goal of differentiating the SPCO’s artistic profile from that of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Downtown Minneapolis Location

The elimination of the Orchestra Hall series increases urgency for the SPCO to identify and establish its presence at another performance location in downtown Minneapolis. With its continuing commitment to a multiple venue strategy, the SPCO must now focus on developing a Minneapolis home to complement its Saint Paul, University and neighborhood homes.


Throughout the planning process, the committee struggled with the challenge of defining the SPCO without saying what it is not: a symphony orchestra. Ultimately, we focused on establishing greater clarity about key aspects of the SPCO’s artistic profile.

Size and Repertoire: Intentionally Focused on Viennese Classical School, Baroque Music, and Music of Our Time

Intentionally sized at fewer than 40 musicians, the SPCO “owns” segments of the repertoire not often performed by symphony orchestras: a broad array of the Viennese Classical School (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven), Baroque Music, and music of our time (the vast repertoire of 20th century and new music). Each of these repertoire areas deserves further commentary, from the multiple perspectives of leadership, stylistic challenges, and national and international competition.

• Viennese Classical Style. The SPCO is, at its core, a classical Chamber Orchestra. A performance standard for the Viennese Classical repertoire differs from Baroque style with regards to bowing, articulation, sound color, balance between winds, brasses and strings, choice of certain instruments, etc. Andreas Delfs is particularly strong in classical repertoire. He will need to work with the Chamber Orchestra in rehearsals, concerts, recruitment and choice of guest conductors and soloists to develop greater consistency of approach. The SPCO has international competition from classical ensembles such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, competition which did not exist 25 years ago.

• Baroque Music. Since the mid-seventies, stylistic specialization based on historically-informed performances on original (Baroque period) instru- ments has become the standard for the performance of Baroque music. Under Nic McGegan’s leadership, the SPCO has the stylistic challenge of becoming competitive as a “historically-informed, modern instrument” Baroque orchestra. This will require consistent focus on the choice of guest conductors (specialists in historically-informed performance practice) and on stylistic practice (articulation, choice of instruments, use of vibrato, phrasing etc.) The SPCO faces tough competition from Baroque specialty orchestras such as Tafelmusik or Musica Antiqua Köln that barely existed when the SPCO rose to prominence 25 years ago.

• Music of Our Time. The newer chamber orchestra repertoire is extraordinarily rich, and continues to be an important area of output for so many composers. Accordingly, devoting greater focus to this repertoire is an essential building block in clarifying the SPCO’s artistic profile. A vital aspect of developing this profile will be a deeper commitment to commissioning and, equally important, a commitment to repeat performances of past commissions and other works composed during the past 25 years. The SPCO will also need to strengthen its commitment to new work by regularly engaging important new music specialists and composer/conductors. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this renewed commitment to the music of our time is the enormous opportunity this provides for the SPCO to develop new audiences. Staying “ahead of the curve” to stimulate audience interest, the SPCO can forge an even more vibrant relationship with its audiences. The stylistic issues in this repertoire are more diffuse than in the Baroque and Classical styles: virtuosity, timbre (sound) and rhythmic acuity, and passionate commitment to the music itself are key. Standout ensembles such as the Bang on a Can All Stars, the London Sinfonietta, ASKO/Schönberg Ensemble or the Ensemble Modern perform this music with astonishing commitment and aplomb, and represent strong international competition for the SPCO.

As the only chamber orchestra in the world that attempts to “do it all,” the SPCO will need to focus very intentionally on developing multiple specialty voices appropriate to each repertoire. This will require a shift from simple flexibility—the ability to play anything very well—to true versatility—the ability to perform with stylistic authority and insight in multiple styles. Careful selection of guest conductors and the matching of repertoire with their strengths are important strategies. Developing strong relationships with the right conductors—a result of close collab- oration between musicians and management, as well as aggressive recruitment will bolster the SPCO’s stylistic focus and help position the Chamber Orchestra well for future artistic leadership. Distinct focus on stylistic issues will be essential for SPCO musicians. Simply playing very well does not suffice in the context of the SPCO’s international aspirations; playing with extraordinary commitment and insight in three distinct styles must be the SPCO’s goal.

Programming: Utilizing the Unique Resources of the SPCO

Because of the intentionally small size of the SPCO, and because so many of the SPCO’s players have deep roots in the chamber music repertoire, the SPCO’s artistic identity can be further enriched by programming that would require greater variety in the size of ensemble presented on stage. Strengthening the main series commitment to the large chamber repertoire—for 10 to 25 solo players—will serve several purposes: programming distinctiveness, musician job satisfaction and recruitment, and the quality of the orchestra’s performance. Increased programming of concerti using SPCO musicians as soloists will also aid in strengthening the repertoire, quality of performances and musician recruitment.


The SPCO’s deep roots in the upper Midwest are a product of its repeated concert and residency appearances throughout Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. These relationships are of central importance to the SPCO’s development. Focus should shift from broad-range national touring to making a stronger investment in our region. The somewhat sporadic nature of these appearances has diluted the sense of ownership that the region’s communities feel toward the SPCO. The SPCO must develop more focused strategies to build deeper relationships in several communities.

Series in Key Regional Cities

Rochester, Stillwater, Northfield, Ashland, St. Cloud, Duluth, Wabasha and Fargo are obvious candidates for the SPCO to develop a stronger regional presence. Development of local advocacy committees is the best strategy for the SPCO to use to develop a group of annual subscription series in these and other key regional cities. Local sensibilities must be taken into consideration in developing these series. Understanding local dynamics will be essential, so that the SPCO is not in overt competition with local musical organizations.

Regular Annual Appearances in Regional Cities

There are several cities in the region (Buffalo, Winona, Princeton and New York Mills, among others) where the SPCO has quite successfully made regular appearances, often in conjunction with residency and educational activities. It is important for the SPCO to develop stronger, more regular relationships with presenters in these cities.


Touring, once a staple of the organization’s annual activities, has become more sporadic and difficult. In the United States, the reduction in the number of presenters nationwide and the increased specialty chamber orchestra competition has made SPCO touring less reliable. In Europe, the greater preponderance of high-quality chamber orchestras makes high profile touring more challenging. As America’s Chamber Orchestra, we will require sustained investment and presence in cities of artistic significance, both in America and Europe. This plan contemplates a sustained focus on a few American cities and on building a stronger presence in Europe. Programming—carefully conceived and positioned—will be critical in garnering new levels of interest in the SPCO. Special attention will need to be given to making appropriate venue choices: intimacy and immediacy of the SPCO experience is as essential outside of the Twin Cities as it is at home. There are five aspects to this initiative.

Eliminate Smaller Cities Outside our Home Region

Playing in regional cities throughout the country is no longer a viable, productive or profitable strategy, if it ever was. It does not build the reputation of the SPCO in cities where critical opinion counts. It distracts time and attention from reputation building, and as importantly, from developing stronger neighborhood and regional relationships closer to home.


Other than New York, Chicago is the most important musical city in America. It is close to the Twin Cities, there is no significant chamber orchestra presence there, and there are multiple potential presentation partners. All of these factors point to the need to begin building a strong, regular presence in Chicago. Potential partners include Symphony Center, The Music and Dance Theatre, the Ravinia Festival, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. This plan calls for regular SPCO performances in Chicago, eventually developing into an SPCO sponsored subscription series.

New York

No city is more important to the long-term career development of the SPCO than New York. Developing a regular presence in New York City in halls that are appro- priate for showcasing the multiple artistic missions of the SPCO is an essential part of the SPCO’s development.

Other Major American Cities

In the long term, developing a regular presence in other key American cities (Boston, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles, among others) should follow on the heels of solid development in Chicago and New York. In the near term, secur- ing touring engagements in those cities is the best strategy for the SPCO.


A combination of regular winter-season touring in front-rank European cities, combined with European festival appearances, is critical in developing the SPCO’s European profile.


No single issue is more important to the future of the SPCO than artistic excellence. While it means many different things to different people, actively promoting the artistic excellence of the Chamber Orchestra is the central aspiration of every constituency in the organization. Four specific areas deserve commentary.

Regular Additional Musicians

An extremely emotional issue for all involved in the planning discussions has been the size and configuration of the Chamber Orchestra. In particular, the positions of 2nd flute, 2nd trumpet and 2nd clarinet are currently non-contract, non-fulltime positions. All parties agree that it is essential to come to prompt resolution of this issue. It has been a disproportionate distraction for far too long.


The SPCO has recruitment challenges. Maintaining a large audition pool and retaining top quality players are key concerns. Focus on positioning the SPCO as more than just a small orchestra job, and delivering the highest quality musical environment, will be essential.

Preparation and Rehearsals

The new level of stylistic demands on the Chamber Orchestra will require greater allocation of services to rehearsals and sectionals. The move from four to five rehearsals weekly for Masterworks performances, and occasionally three to four for Baroque performances, is a step in the right direction.

Artistic Development Opportunities

Making more investment in the artistic development of SPCO musicians will be an important aspect of developing a better orchestra. Continuing the tradition of concerts without conductor, increased chamber music (unconducted repertoire of fewer than 10 players) and solo recital and concerto opportunities will help to develop the artistic skills of the Chamber Orchestra musicians. This plan also strongly endorses more active encouragement of a variety of professional and artistic development opportunities for SPCO musicians, both inside and outside the SPCO organization, bearing in mind the critical responsibility each musician has to the Chamber Orchestra as a whole.


The media presence of the SPCO has become stagnant. With the myriad changes in the recording and public radio environments, and with the fundamental techno- logical changes in media delivery of recorded music, the SPCO will have to become much more proactive in its approach to media. Following adoption of the plan, a media task force should explore SPCO alternatives thoroughly.

MPR Relationship

The SPCO relationship with Minnesota Public Radio is an important and fundamental one for the organization. Locally, MPR and its affiliates serve the SPCO extremely well. Nationally, distribution is widespread but is conspicuously absent from major markets. Gaining access to major markets—New York and Chicago, among others— is important to bolstering companion efforts to establishing concert presence. Fortunately, the cost of broadcasts is low, thanks to MPR’s provision of all production and recording of the broadcasts.


Delivery of recorded music over the Internet has made a lot of progress over the past 18 months. The SPCO must create a presence on the net. Ready access to SPCO performances, broadcast and commercial, through downloading and streaming is essential. The opportunities and vehicles now exist for a viable and sustainable Internet presence. The SPCO Media Task Force should focus on developing these opportunities.

SPCO Media Company

The SPCO should explore the creation of its own media company for the production and distribution of recorded material, through the internet or through traditional media. Recent publicity about new initiatives at the London Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony demonstrate the possibilities of “going it alone;” conversely, no American orchestra has yet developed a viable financial and contractual model for an independent media company. Caution and creativity will be essential as the SPCO considers this initiative.

Twin Cities Public Television Relationship

There is an opportunity for the SPCO to develop a relationship with TPT to parallel its relationship with MPR. Developing a sustainable television presence locally and regionally will raise the profile of the SPCO considerably.

Contractual Media Arrangements

The nature of contractual arrangements for musicians in many areas of media constrains SPCO ability to develop media projects. It is imperative that SPCO musicians and management develop contractual solutions to these constraints.


The SPCO enjoys deep roots in the communities that know it. The orchestra is remarkably unknown, however, beyond its home cultural community. Several ongoing initiatives must be undertaken to raise the profile of the SPCO in the broader Twin Cities community.

Education Programs

The SPCO operates two fine educational programs: CONNECT and Musical U. CONNECT is a K-6, curriculum-based program that operates in 17 Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools. It is a solid and well-established program. Limited access to musician services and financial constraints prevent the broadening of its reach beyond its current member schools. The SPCO must examine ways to extend its reach to suburban, parochial and private schools in order to achieve greater impact. The SPCO also offers childrens’ concerts programmatically linked to the CONNECT curriculum. The SPCO should investigate broadening its educational reach through concerts and in-school appearances in areas beyond inner city Saint Paul and Minneapolis schools. The Musical U adult education program operates on a fully funded basis under a grant from the Miami-based Knight Foundation. While novel in its approach, and effective among the 50-150 participants who attend it regularly, the future of Musical U must be thoughtfully examined in the context of its effectiveness as an audience development tool and the expected sunset of the Knight Foundation support after FY04.

Civic Celebrations

Scheduling and the difficulty of developing compelling outdoor programming make traditional July 4th-type concert appearances impractical for the SPCO. The SPCO must find ways—such as the recent performance at the Mayor’s inauguration– to weave itself more fully into the fabric of community life in the Twin Cities. Gubernatorial inaugurations, the opening of the legislature, Cinco de Mayo, the Winter Carnival, Capital City New Year and the Chinese New Year, among others, all provide good opportunities for the SPCO.

Neighborhood Councils

The SPCO has done little to develop strong advocacy groups in the neighborhoods in which it performs regularly, much less in communities where it ultimately has no presence. There is rich opportunity for the SPCO to develop much deeper advocacy for the organization by establishing a program of neighborhood councils, specifically designed to support concert and educational activities in the neighborhoods.

Institutional Linkages

The SPCO has enjoyed collegial and occasional cooperation with a number of organizations throughout the Twin Cities. In order to accomplish the larger goal of being “at the center of the community’s broader psyche,” the SPCO must pursue stronger, more formalized program linkages with a variety of organizations: the Greater Twin Cities Youth Orchestras, the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, The MacPhail Center for the Arts, the University of Minnesota and other institutions of higher education, churches and religious organizations, museums and theatre companies. The SPCO must also develop meaningful artistic collaborations with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Walker Art Center, the Guthrie Theatre and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. An essential measure of the SPCO’s growth into a more widely acknowledged community asset will be its ability to forge strong and durable relationships with institutional partners.

50th Anniversary Committee

With its 50th anniversary in 2009, the SPCO has the opportunity to develop a series of major program and public relations initiatives. A committee of community leaders, Friends of the SPCO and Board members should be formed to plan a series of events leading up to the anniversary season in 2009.


As an organization, the SPCO has suffered over the years from episodic leadership at the board and management levels. Since the crisis in 1993, the organization has made major strides toward stability. Taking the organization to the next level will require nearly as much effort as taking the artistic profile to a higher level. There are several key initiatives.

Institutional Linkages

The SPCO has enjoyed collegial and occasional cooperation with a number of organizations throughout the Twin Cities. In order to accomplish the larger goal of being “at the center of the community’s broader psyche,” the SPCO must pursue stronger, more formalized program linkages with a variety of organizations: the Greater Twin Cities Youth Orchestras, the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, The MacPhail Center for the Arts, the University of Minnesota and other institutions of higher education, churches and religious organizations, museums and theatre companies. The SPCO must also develop meaningful artistic collaborations with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Walker Art Center, the Guthrie Theatre and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. An essential measure of the SPCO’s growth into a more widely acknowledged community asset will be its ability to forge strong and durable relationships with institutional partners.

50th Anniversary Committee

With its 50th anniversary in 2009, the SPCO has the opportunity to develop a series of major program and public relations initiatives. A committee of community leaders, Friends of the SPCO and Board members should be formed to plan a series of events leading up to the anniversary season in 2009.


As an organization, the SPCO has suffered over the years from episodic leadership at the board and management levels. Since the crisis in 1993, the organization has made major strides toward stability. Taking the organization to the next level will require nearly as much effort as taking the artistic profile to a higher level. There are several key initiatives.


• Build the Board. The SPCO benefits from the loyal devotion of a comparatively small group of board members. The Board committees all function effectively, and Board giving has more than doubled during the past two years to an average annual gift of more than $9,000. While the Board has become much stronger during the past five years, there is much work to be done in developing a board with even greater influence and power in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Focus on recruitment, engagement and involvement will be essential building blocks, as will intentional focus by the Board on its own roles and responsibilities in the SPCO organization. The organization’s strength and standing in the community will be measured mostly by the strength and commitment of the Board.

• The Governing Members. A key companion strategy to board building will be the development of the “next rung” of SPCO supporters through the development of the Governing Members. This group is designed to engage donors of $2,500 and above more actively in the work of the SPCO through involvement in non- fiduciary committees, the electing of SPCO Board members and broadening the reach of the organization throughout the community. The initial year’s recruitment of 65 Governing Members is an encouraging sign; a target of 150 members has been set for FY04.

• The Friends of the SPCO. Despite the many changes in volunteer associations across the country, the Friends of the SPCO have remained very stable, and have had the benefit of committed leadership. The Friends provide very important linkages to the community, and have expressed keen interest in greater involve- ment in many of the initiatives of this plan. SPCO management and Board should work to maintain the Friends as an important part of the SPCO family.


Historically, the management of the SPCO has been unsettled. Average tenure among senior and second-level management has been short by industry standards. Current members of the Chamber Orchestra can remember at least 10 SPCO presidents during the last 30 years. Average tenure for development and marketing personnel has been even shorter. Recent investments in recruiting more experienced staff at competitive salaries, especially in the middle management positions, show signs of greater sustainability. Sustaining SPCO management positions as career jobs rather than “starter” jobs, and ensuring the efficient and effective execution of management responsibilities over the long term will be essential for this plan to come to fruition. The nearly constant turnover in management surely underlies some of the musicians’ wariness about significant changes in SPCO focus.

Organizational Culture

Throughout the planning process, there has been much discussion about the institutional goals of fostering a more collaborative culture and engendering more participatory problem-solving within and among all SPCO constituencies, including the Board, management, musicians and Friends. Successful pursuit of these goals mandates deep mutual understanding of the goals, opportunities and constraints within and between each constituent group; more aggressive, early, ongoing and open communication throughout the organization; and an acknowledg- ment that all constituent groups together must be held accountable for the overall institutional success.


The SPCO has had enormous financial challenges since its founding. Its first 35 years saw innumerable financial crises, the most recent in 1993, when bankruptcy was seriously considered. Since then, extremely tight expense control, improved annual fundraising and a successful $20 million endowment campaign have led to nine consecutive balanced budgets. The fact remains, however, that the SPCO is tenuously financed. The most essential initiatives of this plan are those to develop a strong, sustainable financial base of support for the organization.


All of the plans outlined in this document will depend upon successfully capitalizing the SPCO at levels competitive with sister Twin Cities organizations and the best orchestras around the country. Two funding initiatives will determine the SPCO’s abil- ity to carry out this plan. The Endowment Steering Committee of the Board is charged with developing a detailed endowment campaign strategy by December 31, 2002.

Special Funding

The key to sustaining the SPCO at its current levels will be raising $10-12 million to bridge the endowment shortfall for the years FY02 through FY09. Annual requirements will be as high as $2.3 million in FY03, tapering down to zero by FY09. Securing the initial three-year funding requirement of $6 million for FY02 through FY04 by the end of calendar year 2002 will in large part determine the viability of the SPCO at its current level of operation for those years. Securing the second $6 million for the years FY05 through FY08 will depend in large part on very substantial progress toward the $50-75 million endowment goal.


The SPCO is under-endowed. The Finance Committee of the Board has agreed upon the following annual revenue model:

• 35-37% from tickets and fees (earned income)

• 40% from Annual Fund

• 25-30% from endowment draw

Currently the endowment provides only 14% of annual revenues. This puts enormous pressure on earned revenue and the annual fund, and requires ongoing efforts to secure special (bridge) funding. It also severely limits the expense budget of the Chamber Orchestra, below manageable levels in many cases. This is not sustainable in the context of the agreed-upon vision for the organization and the innumerable initiatives that need to be undertaken for long-term development. At a minimum, $50 million in new endowment will be required to support the current level of operations without annual special funding.


To maintain focus and momentum on the initiatives of this plan, task forces, staffed appropriately from all constituencies of the SPCO, should undertake further work in key areas to determine specific plans for the next few years.

Endowment Steering Committee

An Endowment Steering Committee should be formed to develop specific plans for the next endowment campaign, as called for in the resolution of the SPCO Endowment Task Force, approved at the February 6, 2002 Executive Committee meeting. The Steering Committee will make a recommendation to the SPCO Board of Directors about the size, duration, leadership and strategies of the next cam- paign. While the financial projections of this plan have identified a campaign range of $50-75 million to be raised by FY09, the Steering Committee will be charged with refining the goal for the campaign. This committee should include represen- tatives from all SPCO constituencies.

Venues Task Force

A Venues Task Force should be formed to study a range of venue issues for the SPCO. This task force should include representatives from all SPCO constituencies, with strong representation from SPCO musicians and the artistic leadership. It should make a series of recommendations to the SPCO Board of Directors about two specific issues:

• Ordway reconfiguration and acoustics

• Possible development of a venue in Minneapolis

National and International Initiatives Task Force

In order to develop a sustainable, multiple-concert presence in Chicago, New York and Europe, an SPCO task force should be formed to evaluate performance venues, organizational partnerships, positioning, and funding opportunities for a vibrant SPCO performance presence in those locations. While developing a plan for Chicago, beginning in the 2003-2004 season, is the most immediate imperative, the long-term high-profile project development requires steady attention.

Media Task Force

As noted above, a wide range of media opportunities and issues should be studied and evaluated with the goal of re-establishing, and reconfiguring, the nature of the SPCO’s media presence. The Media Task Force should make a report to the SPCO Board of Directors by December 31, 2002.

Task Force on Broadening the Community Reach of the SPCO

Given the enormous and untapped opportunities for broader SPCO involvement in the community, a task force should be formed with a mandate to report back to the SPCO Board of Directors by December 31, 2002. There are several areas of focus:

• Neighborhood Councils

• Universities, Colleges and Schools

• In-School Programs

• Civic Celebrations

• Cultural Institutions

• Other Organizational Linkages


Several other issues deserve special study, either through the existing board and orchestra committee structure, or through the formation of additional task forces. These issues, notably the artistic growth of the SPCO and regional program development among others, must remain high priorities for the organization. The Strategic Planning Committee strongly endorses the use of issue-oriented task forces as an important method for sharpening the SPCO’s response to important issues.


This planning process has been extremely thorough and inclusive. It has delved into myriad aspects of the SPCO’s past, and has aggressively defined a bright, envisioned future for the organization. By living its current realities while developing a powerful and different vision for the organization, participants have often felt the conflict between the SPCO’s limited organizational capacity and its enormous potential for growth. Truly living values nominated by the participants— Excellence, Intimacy, Innovation and Continuity—will challenge this organization as never before. Achieving substantial success in these efforts by the 50th anniversary year in 2009 will be the result of a fundamental shift in the SPCO’s belief in itself and its capacity to engage the Twin Cities cultural community.

As intentionally audacious as the SPCO’s vision statement is, the participants fervently believe that now is the time for this organization to establish itself as a leading arts organization in the Twin Cities and pre-eminent chamber orchestra in America.

The SPCO wishes to thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its generous support of this process, and the artistic and organizational development of the SPCO. In addition to thanking the members of the Steering Committee for hours of tireless work, the SPCO wishes to thank Lowell J. Noteboom for leading an extraor- dinarily candid, complicated and extended planning process, from start to finish.


Vision Statement about the Organizational Culture Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in 2010 “2010 Vision”

This document describes a vision of how the SPCO would operate in 2010. It is intended as a stimulus for thinking and discussion. It represents agreement amongst the musicians, staff, and board representatives in the Contract Renewal Group about the conceptual framework and mutual covenants that should undergird the SPCO’s daily life in 2010. It defines core topic areas and spells out the beliefs and operating principles that should inspire and govern how the SPCO would operate as an organization.

Core topics areas describing the 2010 Vision

I. Definitions and Terminology

II. The Foundation and Superstructure: The 2010 Vision and the SPCO Organization

II.A The Purpose of the 2010 Vision

II.B Core Beliefs That Would Form the Foundation of the Covenants Among Musicians, Staff and Board

II.C Principles Embedded in the 2010 Vision

II.D The Purpose of the SPCO Organization (Adapted from the Strategic Plan)

II.D.1 The Purpose of All Constituents

II.D.2 The Purpose of the SPCO Board

II.D.3 The Purpose of the SPCO Staff

II.D.4 The Purpose of an SPCO Musician

III. Job Description/Role of an SPCO Musician in 2010

III.A Beliefs

III.B To Whom and to What an SPCO Musician Should Be Responsive

III.C Overall Responsibilities of an SPCO Musician

III.D Specific Responsibilities of an SPCO Musician

III.D.1 Core Responsibilities

III.D.2 Affiliated Responsibilities

III.E Accountabilities of an SPCO Musician

III.F Organizing the Work

III.F.1 Beliefs Regarding Organizing the Work

III.F.2 Absolute Protections

IV. Artistic Quality and Standards of Performance

IV.A Artistic Leadership

IV.A.1 Description

IV.A.2 Beliefs

IV.A.3 Principles

IV.B Hiring New SPCO Musicians

IV.B.1 Beliefs

IV.B.2 Principles

IV.C Professional and Artistic Development Program for SPCO Musicians

IV.C.1 Description

IV.C.2 Beliefs

IV.C.3 Principles

IV.D. Intervention Process

IV.D.1 Description and Rationale

IV.D.2 Beliefs

IV.D.3 Principles

V. Small Ensembles and Chamber Music

V.A Description

V.B Beliefs

V.C Principles to Guide the Organization of Chamber Music

VI. Musician Involvement in Programming/Scheduling/Making Assignments

VI.A Description

VI.B Beliefs

VI.C Principles

VII. Governance

VII.A Description

VII.B Beliefs

VII.C Principles

I. Definitions and Terminology

• SPCO Musician: a contract member of the SPCO

• SPCO or The SPCO: all SPCO Musicians, taken as a unit

• Full orchestra: ensemble using roughly all SPCO Musicians

• Small Ensembles: subsets of the SPCO, usually more than 10 Musicians, sometimes conducted, others not

• Chamber Music: groups of 2 to 10 players, almost invariably unconducted

• The SPCO Organization or the Organization: the board, staff and musicians, taken as a whole

• SPCO Leadership: the group vested with authority for high-level decision-making, usually comprising some combination of board, musicians and staff and of variable makeup, depending on the nature of the decision

• Artistic Leadership: the individual or individuals vested with responsibility, accountability and authority for a wide range of musical decisions, ranging from programming decisions to the gamut of personnel decisions, including hiring, granting of tenure and dismissal of musicians

• Collaborate: listen, input, to work with one another cooperatively

• Engage: to occupy the attention or efforts of

• Accountable: obligated to accept responsibility

• Responsible: expected or obligated to account for something

• Responsive: answering

• Covenant: a binding and solemn agreement a specified thing or things

• Purpose: the reason for which something exists or is done

• Belief: an acceptance of something as true

• Principle: the method of a thing’s operation. Used here to define how a belief could be made operational.

II. The Foundation and Superstructure: The 2010 Vision and the SPCO Organization

II.A The Purpose of the 2010 Vision

To stimulate outstanding artistic achievement, elicit the best from everyone in the SPCO Organization and serve to attract extraordinary individuals to it.

II.B Core Beliefs That Would Form the Foundation of the Covenants Among Musicians, Staff and Board

• Every individual in the Organization must conduct him/herself in ways that enhance the achievement of the other members of the Organization and the Organization as a whole.

• We will have the greatest chance of achieving our goals if everyone participates creatively in the Organization.

 •The 2010 Vision should serve as an inspiration and establish our aspirations.

• We will enhance our ability to work together effectively by developing the language, thinking, and actions of professional partnership.

• We will work more effectively together if the 2010 Vision provides clarity about our respective responsibilities and mutual expectations.

• The 2010 Vision serves as a set of covenants among Musicians, Board and Staff, promises rooted in our shared vision of a successful future for the SPCO Organization, and promises which define our roles, responsibilities and accountabilities to each other.

II.C Principles Embedded in the 2010 Vision

• Reciprocity: a mutual exchange

• Mutuality – three-party engagement: exchanged in equal measure

• Aspiration and inspiration

• Professional focus: to view the role of a musician within a professional context, as opposed to a labor context

• Clarity of roles, responsibilities and accountabilities

II.D The Purpose of the SPCO Organization (Adapted from the Strategic Plan):
To provide innovative discovery and a distinctive experience In a way that exceeds all expectations for performance brilliance and vigorously advocates the chamber orchestra and chamber music repertoire So that people’s spirits are touched.

II.D.1 The Purpose of All Constituents:
To bring outstanding personal capability and performance to the SPCO and be stewards of the Organization In a way that increases the SPCO Organization’s potential, produces outstanding results and reflects the Organization’s stated values (see strategic plan) and beliefs.

So that the SPCO Organization achieves its established purpose and goals

II.D.2 The Purpose of the Board:
To exercise and maintain legal and fiduciary responsibility for the SPCO Organization In a way that balances expectations and standards with the freedom to innovate and explore

So that the community benefits from the SPCO Organization’s success in delivering its mission

II.D.3 The Purpose of the Staff:
To create the conditions for exceptional organizational performance In a way that coalesces internal forces (board, staff, musicians) and external forces (community, audience, donors, media, governments) and reinforces them So that the entire organization can perform at an optimum level.

II.D.4 The Purpose of an SPCO Musician:
To create art through the medium of music In a way that is memorable, challenging, inspiring, and invigorating for all engaged So that people’s spirits are touched.

III. Job Description/Role of an SPCO Musician in 2010

III.A Beliefs

Each SPCO musician’s primary responsibility is to perform to the highest standard in concert and media performances in repertoire for chamber orchestra, small ensembles and chamber ensembles.

• Each SPCO musician also has affiliated responsibilities to the SPCO organization, the precise nature of which will vary from musician to musician, but which form part of the Organization’s overall expectations of each Musician.

• All elements of the SPCO Musician’s job description should contribute to the achievement of the Organization’s mission and the enhancement of each musician’s professional development and work satisfaction.

• The overall quality of the SPCO as a performing ensemble and as an organization will be improved by encouraging the professional development of each SPCO musician.

• Insuring that all SPCO musicians can perform as soloists, in chamber music and in small ensembles regularly and frequently will be beneficial both to individual SPCO Musicians and the entire SPCO Organization.

• The more that SPCO Musicians are responsible for and accountable for maintaining and improving the quality their own individual playing and that of the SPCO as an ensemble, the more exciting, challenging, and stimulating a career as a member of the SPCO will be.

III.B To Whom and to What an SPCO Musician Should Be Responsive

• The highest standards of artistic excellence

 • His/her own strengths and weaknesses

• The demands of the Organization’s values and goals

• The established direction and policies of the organization

• The needs and requirements of other members of the SPCO, staff and board

• The changing dynamics of the marketplace, audience, and community

III.C Overall Responsibilities of an SPCO Musician

• To strive to deliver outstanding professional and musical performance in the full orchestra, small ensembles and chamber music, (hereinafter referred to as “core activities”)

• To serve the SPCO Organization’s short and long-term goals in all activities

• To participate positively in diverse non- performance activities, (hereinafter referred to as affiliated activities) , the exact nature of which will vary from musician to musician

• Seeking ongoing personal professional development

III.D Specific Responsibilities of an SPCO Musician

III.D.1Core Responsibilities:

Each SPCO musician must bring superior musical skill, creativity, professionalism and excellence to his/her core responsibilities. The core is comprised of both artistic and organizational responsibilities. These are:

Core Artistic Responsibilities

To play/perform in:

• Orchestra rehearsals and concerts

• Small ensemble rehearsals and concerts

• Chamber music rehearsals and concerts

• Solo and recital rehearsals and concerts

• Electronic media activities

Core Organizational Responsibilities

• To create his/her annual professional and artistic growth and development plan

• To receive and provide feedback at least annually about his/her performance and contribution to the SPCO organization

• To participate regularly in discussions regarding the overall musical performance of the SPCO as an orchestra

• To participate regularly in the Organization’s information and planning sessions

III.D.2 Affiliated Responsibilities:

Each SPCO musician would be expected to participate in some affiliated activities, with the explicit understanding that no SPCO musician would be required to participate in any particular activity. Examples of affiliated activities could include but would not be limited to:

• Artistic leadership activities and/or committee(s)

• Concert programming discussions and planning

• Tour discussions and planning

• Rehearsal and concert scheduling

• Chamber music, small ensemble and orchestra casting assignments

• Development and/or implementation of community engagement programs and projects

• Development and/or implementation of education programs and projects

• SPCO committees and task forces

• Development, marketing and public relations programs and/or activities

• Independent and/or special artistic projects

• Contract renewal processes

• Recruitment, audition, and retention committees

• Critical review, tenure review and dismissal committee(s)

• Other activities as mutually agreed and which serve the established mission and vision of the SPCO.

III.E Accountabilities of an SPCO Musician

III.D.2 Affiliated Responsibilities:

Each SPCO musician would be expected to participate in some affiliated activities, with the explicit understanding that no SPCO musician would be required to participate in any particular activity. Examples of affiliated activities could include but would not be limited to:

• Artistic leadership activities and/or committee(s)

• Concert programming discussions and planning

• Tour discussions and planning

• Rehearsal and concert scheduling

• Chamber music, small ensemble and orchestra casting assignments

• Development and/or implementation of community engagement programs and projects

• Development and/or implementation of education programs and projects

• SPCO committees and task forces

• Development, marketing and public relations programs and/or activities

• Independent and/or special artistic projects

• Contract renewal processes

• Recruitment, audition, and retention committees

• Critical review, tenure review and dismissal committee(s)

• Other activities as mutually agreed and which serve the established mission and vision of the SPCO.

III.D.3 Accountabilities of an SPCO Musician

SPCO musicians are accountable to:

• the other Musicians of the SPCO

• the Artistic Leadership of the SPCO

III.F Organizing the Work

III.F.1 Beliefs Regarding Organizing the Work

• Maximizing efficiency within a specific confined and/or defined period of time is desirable

• Working within structured, regular blocks of time that thoughtfully serve the organization’s needs and the artistic and personal needs of SPCO

• Musicians will benefit the whole organization

• In order to balance their personal and outside professional demands with those of the SPCO, SPCO musicians must be guaranteed certain absolute protections in the organization of their workdays.

•Workdays should be organized in a manner that takes into account the complexity of all of the job responsibilities of an SPCO Musician, and which maximizes the entire orchestra’s ability to work together in groups, large and small, both on and offstage.

III.F.2 Absolute Protections

• A guaranteed number of days off each week

• Time for practice and preparation

• Reliable/predictable work hours

• Consistent work hours or consistent hours of not working

• Pre-concert rest time

• Maximum amount of playing time in a day, limited to two organized, compulsory ensemble playing sessions a day.

• Maximum number of hours of playing a day, with some exceptions

• Clear limitations on the ability to schedule excess or additional rehearsals

• Activities would be scheduled according to agreements outlined in the CBA.

IV. Artistic Quality and Standards of Performance

IV.A Artistic Leadership

IV.A.1 Description

The artistic leadership of the SPCO organization has traditionally been viewed as the sole purview of the music director. The 2010 Vision is built on the premise that for the SPCO and its specialized mission and dynamics, musicians and staff must play the predominant role in artistic leadership and decision-making. This would require fundamental and significant shifts in SPCO thinking about roles, responsibilities and accountabilities regarding artistic leadership. We believe that this shift must take place regardless of whether the SPCO organization decides that its artistic leadership should take the form of a traditional music director or some other formulation yet to be determined. Regardless of the form SPCO artistic leadership ultimately takes, there is recognition that some entity – one person or a group of people, and referred to throughout this document as Artistic Leadership – must ultimately assume responsibility for all artistic leadership decisions, and be accountable to the SPCO Leadership for them

IV.A.2 Beliefs

• The organization has many trained musical professionals who can contribute to and enhance the artistic leadership of the organization

• If musicians, staff and the Artistic Leadership are each meaningfully involved in the hiring, development, and possible termination of musicians, there is greater potential to improve the overall quality of the ensemble.

• The Artistic Leadership is accountable to the SPCO Leadership for the continual artistic growth and development of the SPCO.

• By regularly listening to the SPCO in rehearsals and concerts, and by regularly listening to and/or watching audio and/or video recordings of the SPCO, SPCO Musicians can make valuable contributions to the quality of the SPCO.

• We can enhance the quality of the SPCO if we have meaningful discussions about the quality of our performances

• Musical and artistic leadership from within the orchestra itself is critical to the SPCO’s relationship with conductors and to our overall level of artistic excellence.

IV.A.3 Principles

• We would create audition, hiring and professional development practices that hold the musicians primarily accountable for the long- term artistic excellence of the SPCO

• We would create practices that make musicians, staff, and artistic leadership accountable to the SPCO Leadership for the smooth implementation of all systems for insuring artistic quality and standards of performance.

• We would have an established system for providing and receiving feedback to/from conductors regarding SPCO rehearsals and performances.

• We would have an established system for ongoing internal and external assessment of the SPCO’s artistic quality.

IV.B Hiring New SPCO Musicians IV.B.1 Beliefs

• The selection of a new SPCO Musician is an artistic, organizational, and economic decision of utmost importance

• The importance of this decision requires a robust process, carefully conceived and well executed.

• Hiring decisions will be most effective and accepted when all key constituencies – Artistic Leadership, SPCO Musicians and key staff have meaningful and well-defined roles in the selection process.

• Hiring the most outstanding musicians can only take place when the process is not time-constrained.

• The process should have multiple elements that provide candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of skills required for outstanding performance of the SPCO job: core artistic responsibilities as well as organizational and affiliated responsibilities. In exploring a candidate’s skills beyond core musical responsibilities, the hiring process must always reinforce the primacy and centrality of artistic and instrumental excellence.

• We must always hire the best possible people; the hiring process should facilitate the selection of the best.

IV.B.2 Principles

• The process would insure that no individuals are hired who should not be

• The process would minimize the early elimination of highly qualified candidates.

• The audition process would use repertoire that best allows an individual candidate to demonstrate his/her capabilities, and which would allow candidates to demonstrate the skills most required as members of the SPCO.

• Demonstrated artistic and instrumental skill would be the sole factor for a candidate to become a finalist for an SPCO position. Final selection would be based on gaining a more complete picture of artistic capability, based on information gained from interviews and references, observation of social and musical interactive skills, and assessment of the candidate’s ability to play effectively in the orchestra.

IV.C Professional and Artistic Development Program for SPCO Musicians

IV.C.1 Description and Rationale

Musicians are highly trained professionals who must continue to refine and develop their musical skills over the course of their careers. Heretofore, SPCO musicians and the SPCO organization have assumed that this further professional development should occur through the sole efforts of the musician and without support and guidance from the organization. From now on, the SPCO Organization will be dedicated to helping each musician grow and develop all areas of responsibility. SPCO musicians bring varying levels of skill, interest and experience to all sets of responsibilities, but particularly varying levels to organizational and affiliated responsibilities. For this reason, the SPCO organization will be particularly committed to supporting growth and development in these areas, taking into account a variety of factors, such as organizational needs and individual interest and capability. Artistic development should and would remain at the core of the Professional and Artistic Growth and Development Program

IV.C.2 Beliefs

Beliefs that guide our philosophy about Professional and Artistic Development:

• Professional and Artistic Growth and Development are essential components of creation of a vibrant environment in which SPCO musicians can thrive.

• A formal process devoted to improving the professional and artistic skills of all SPCO musicians will benefit the entire SPCO organization

• Developing such a program demands the positive energy of SPCO Musicians, Staff and Board

• The SPCO Organization will need to commit significant financial resources to this program for it to be successful.

• Receiving structured and constructive feedback in a non-threatening manner is an essential part of growth.

• The Professional and Artistic Development Program should be a completely separate process from the Intervention Process (see IV.D).

• If the SPCO is known in the musical world for providing exceptional growth opportunities for musicians, we will attract more exceptional musicians and have a greater chance of retaining them over time.

IV.C.3 Principles

Principles that would guide the Professional and Artistic Development Program:

• Every SPCO musician would participate in a process to determine how they best can enhance their skills.

• Every SPCO musician would create his/her annual Professional and Artistic Development Plan

• Musicians would be accountable to each other and the SPCO Artistic Leadership for their own continuous professional and artistic growth and development and for that of their fellow musicians.

• Staff would be accountable to the SPCO musicians and the SPCO organization for providing the environment, structure, input, guidance and administrative support for the Professional and Artistic Development Program.

• The Board would be accountable to SPCO musicians and staff for providing ongoing advice about and support for the professional and artistic growth and development program.

• Musicians would be accountable to work actively on their Professional and Artistic Development Plans on their own and with the resources (financial and other) provided by the organization.

Musicians would have opportunities to extend and expand their professional and artistic growth through:

• Individual coaching

• Individual artistic projects

• Playing frequently as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician

• Working with other musicians inside and outside the SPCO

• Opportunities for growth and learning for those SPCO musicians who desire them in affiliated areas of responsibility

• The SPCO Organization would provide opportunities for all SPCO Musicians (as well as staff and board) to develop skills in the areas of organizational responsibility.

IV.D Intervention Process

IV.D.1 Description

This process addresses those situations when an individual’s artistic performance jeopardizes the integrity of the whole or when an individual engages in unethical or disruptive behavior. The intention of this process is to assist the individual in reestablishing the high standards of the SPCO. If unsuccessful, and after adherence to the process, initiation of the dismissal process may be recommended.

IV.D.2 Beliefs

Beliefs that guide our philosophy about the Intervention Process:

• The SPCO organization and SPCO Musicians have the best chance of maintaining good organizational spirit and artistic excellence when deficiencies in behavior and performance are quickly and fairly addressed.

• Any action (including non-renewal) involving an individual’s deficiencies should be carried out with dignity and respect.

• There should be an established process prior to dismissal which provides an individual who is struggling with the opportunity to improve.

• SPCO Musicians, assisted by staff, should be primarily accountable to the Artistic Leadership for effectively carrying out the Intervention Process.

IV.D.3 Principles

Principles that would guide the Intervention Process:

• Musicians would have opportunities to extend and expand their professional and artistic growth through:

• Individual coaching

• Individual artistic projects

• Playing frequently as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician

• Working with other musicians inside and outside the SPCO

• Opportunities for growth and learning for those SPCO musicians who desire them in affiliated areas of responsibility

• The SPCO Organization would provide opportunities for all SPCO Musicians (as well as staff and board) to develop skills in the areas of organizational responsibility.

• Musicians would be primarily accountable to the Artistic Leadership and/or SPCO Leadership to set the highest standards for personal, professional and artistic behavior and performance.

• Musicians would carry out the Intervention Process, with assistance from staff.

• Musicians would be accountable to the Artistic Leadership for providing the leadership to take action on artistic matters when necessary.

• An individual musician in the Intervention Process would work with the appropriate group (yet to be designed) to design a self- improvement plan with clear expectations and timelines. Success in completing the plan would remove the SPCO Musician in question from the Intervention Process; failure to complete the plan successfully would trigger the non-renewal process.

• The staff would be accountable to SPCO Musicians, Artistic Leadership and the SPCO Organization for helping to organize and manage the process and for providing input according to established protocols.

• The Board would be accountable for supporting a system that allows the Intervention Process to be initiated and carried out with respect and dignity; to provide a safety net for individuals who are not renewed; and to provide advice, oversight, and support as needed.

V. Small Ensembles and Chamber Music

V.A Description

There is agreement that small ensembles and chamber music should become a much more integrated part of the SPCO’s artistic programming. This will both serve the goal of achieving a distinctive artistic profile and that of creating a vibrant atmosphere for musical stimulation and growth. Truly integrating small ensembles and chamber music into the regular program and performance schedule of the SPCO will require changes in how these activities are organized. While some community-oriented activities may occasionally require relaxation of SPCO standards for performance environments, this section focuses on developing a strong program of SPCO performances of small ensembles and chamber music in concert settings.

V.B Beliefs

• Playing chamber music frequently and regularly will provide SPCO musicians with opportunities to deepen and broaden the quality of their playing both individually and as members of the SPCO.

• Creating meaningful collaborative performance opportunities and experiences with guest artists will engender professional and artistic growth.

• Chamber music should be an integral part of the life of an SPCO musician and should augment work with the full chamber orchestra.

• Preparing and performing chamber music on a regular basis will improve the overall artistic quality of the SPCO both individually and collectively, by honing skills and providing more intimate situations for feedback.

• A regular diet of small ensemble and chamber music will increase the attractiveness of the SPCO job to players that we hope to attract.

• Performing chamber music in appropriate concert settings will increase job satisfaction for many SPCO Musicians.

V.C Principles to Guide the Organization of Chamber Music

• Musicians, working with management, would form chamber ensembles on a non-permanent basis.

• Opportunities for chamber music performance would be created for every musician annually.

• Over time, every SPCO Musician would have the opportunity to play chamber music with as many members of the SPCO as possible.

• Chamber ensembles involving every SPCO musician (within the limits of practicability) would be integrated into each season’s performance schedule.

• Meaningful chamber music rehearsal time would be provided as part of the SPCO master schedule, although at times musicians might decide to work together on their own time.

VI. Musician Involvement in Programming/Scheduling/Making Assignments

VI.A Description

Programming of the SPCO season and the obligations that it implies is an essential aspect of SPCO operations. How the programming process takes place is important to the energy and passion that all constituencies bring to the execution and performance of the season itself. The programming process has at least two fundamental aspects: 1) creation of the content of the season and 2) development of passion for the season. Over time both can be continually improved and refined, because the process is basically repeated yearly. Understanding of the dynamics and mechanics of this process by all constituencies is important because of the 18 to 36-month lead-times required for key decisions, and complexity of factors leading to the development of a season.

VI.B Beliefs

• Increasing the organization-wide understanding of programming opportunities and approaches will result in more buy-in from members of all constituencies.

• If musicians are meaningfully involved in season planning, there is a greater chance that the end result will produce the highest musical standards and financial viability.

• Transparency of the season planning process will increase overall belief in the choices ultimately made. Viewing season programming as a process that requires the input and involvement at a high level of the SPCO musicians who will perform the season has a great potential to lift the musicians’ spirit.

• There is a difference between valuable input/information sharing and making decisions by committee

VI.C Principles

• Concept Development: Representatives of all constituencies would be involved in the early phases of programming for input, reflection, and concept development

• Ongoing communication: Those responsible for programming would provide updates to all constituencies for reactions and suggestions, to gain their buy- in, engagement and passion for the programs as they develop.

• SPCO Musicians and other constituent representatives who would provide input about season programming would need to be positive, proactive and responsive to critical timelines and marketplace realities.

• Those responsible for season programming would develop the programming details of a season taking constituent input into consideration, but would have the freedom and responsibility to make programming decisions based on the realities of the marketplace, timeline and financial imperatives.

VII. Governance

VII.A Description

Governance is the process of setting overall organizational direction, making policy, and developing strategy. Governance includes fiduciary responsibility for the financial integrity of organization, and hiring, evaluation and dismissal of senior staff, in particular the SPCO President. Traditionally, governance has been viewed as “board” decision making and membership on the board has been a requirement for involvement in governance. But this is a narrow and exclusive view of governance, for each constituency group has a governance process of its own. Furthermore, as the SPCO contemplates a more cross-constituent view of decision making in many areas, the overall governance process will need to evolve.

VII.B Beliefs

• While the board retains legal and fiduciary responsibility for the SPCO organization, board, staff and musicians should engage collaboratively in the artistic and financial direction of the organization.

• In governance activities and practices, it is essential to preserve the integrity of all entities, i.e. acknowledgement of their respective core purposes (see Section II.D.2-3).

•The board has the veto power over organizational decisions because of its legal and fiduciary responsibility.

• Develop practices that promote true multi-constituent engagement.

• Continue musician membership on the board and the Executive Committee.

• Deepen musician involvement in governance process by active encouragement of regular and broad musician participation in board/organization task force work.

VII.C Principles

• Governance practices which promote collaboration and engagement will benefit the entire SPCO organization.

• Collaboratively developed strategies will deepen broad commitment to them and to success in carrying them out.

• The governance of the SPCO must be transparent.



About the author

Allison Akins