Publisher’s Notes by Paul R. Judy
Research Program Update by Samuel Hope
Orchestras, Communities, and Musical Culture by Samuel Hope
Musician Participation in Symphony Orchestra Management: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Experience by Michael J. Scmitz
Pierre Boulez: Reflections on Symphony Orchestra Organizations by Paul R. Judy
Symphony Orchestra Organizations: Employees, Constituencies, and Communities by Paul R. Judy
About the Cover…
The content of this third issue of Harmony might, at first blush, appear to be rather eclectic. But beneath this variety, and running through most of the writ- ings, are two common themes relating to symphony orchestra organizations:
◆ The fundamental cultural symbiosis between symphony orchestra organizations and the communities in which they are resident.
◆ Each organization’s dependence on the effort, talent, skill, judgment, and vision of almost every participant to create full institutional potential and maximum community value.
In the opening essay, Samuel Hope defines the dynamic relationship which should exist between symphony orchestras and their communities and the con- tribution which orchestras should make, working within community infrastruc- tures, to the formation of musical culture. Looking ahead to the next decade, Sam has organized his views within five key imperatives addressed to orchestral organization leadership. This is a succinct, tightly reasoned, and pithy essay— one which establishes a nice framework for the material which follows.
Also looking to the future, Robert Freeman, well known as Director of the Eastman School of Music, presents his personal suggestions to prospective and established orchestral musicians, conductors, board members, and adminstrators. His plea is for broader and more flexible vision, more creativity and entrepreneurialism, and better leadership in all the personal roles and institu- tional tasks associated with symphony orchestras. Don’t miss some of Bob’s personal experiences hidden away in the essay’s endnotes!
Michael J. Schmitz was president of the board of directors of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1990 to 1993. This was a tumultous period in that institution’s life. In an organizational catharsis attending the settlement of the 1993 musician’s contract, after protracted and accrimonious negotiations—and reversing a long, traditional practice of exclusion—the concerted involvement of musicians in all levels of institutional governance was established as a clear and mutual objective, and promptly implemented. These new practices were then followed by substantial musician participation in the hiring of new Music and Executive Directors. The next collective bargaining process resulted in an agree- ment satisfactory to all parties three months in advance of the prior contract’s expiration. In his essay, Mike reviews these formative developments and some personal philosophy relating to them.
Readers of prior issues of Harmony know that one of the Institute’s objectives is regularly to extend the bibliography of available materials relating to the dy- namics of symphony orchestra organizations. In this ongoing search, we have come across some interesting and not too well known expression, including the somewhat dated but still wonderfully fresh views of Pierre Boulez about sym- phony orchestra organizations. We couldn’t resist organizing these marvelously expressed insights into a brief essay for Harmony readers and also updating readers on the three musical institutions fathered by Boulez over the last 20 years. And, in the course of preparing this essay, we had occasion to interview Boulez and obtain some current insights. Just at press time, we even obtained a very contemporary view! Indeed, it is useful to ponder Boulez’s advice for freer, less rigid, more progressive, and forward-looking institutions and ways we might achieve organizational change.
The final basic work in this issue of Harmony is an edited transcript of the speech I recently made at the annual meetings of delegates of the Regional Orchestra Players Association in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the International Con- ference of Symphony and Opera Musicians in Vail, Colorado. The main theme of my address was that the economic security of every symphony orchestra organization employee—musician and staff—rests primarily on the financial health of the employer. To this end, every employee improves his or her per- sonal job security by working to enhance overall organizational health and to create community value. It was a special pleasure to be invited to address these assemblies; my thanks to the leadership of ICSOM and ROPA for this opportunity.
The balance of this issue’s content follows the structure of previous issues:
◆ Letters and comments continue to flow in; “From Our Readers” presents the most interesting selections. We welcome your impressions and suggestions. Write us a letter or fill in and mail the “What Do You Think” insert.
◆ Philip Huscher entertains us again with an amusing cover story. Have you identified the score and its relationship to symphony organization development?
◆ The status of the Institute’s research program is updated on page ix.
◆ We recently received a just-published study of the roles of symphony orchestra organizations in community music education programs. This study, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, relates closely to the content of this issue of Harmony and is reviewed by our Editor on page 50.
◆ There is a rising tide of dialogue about symphony organization issues and we would like to capture the best of it, in thoughtful, written form for all Harmony readers. We would especially like to have more of the perspective of executive directors and others in management—young and old; former, active, and prospective; traditional or free-thinking. See page 52 for how best to contribute something to Harmony’s pages.
◆ Based upon our first year’s experience, we have reshaped the Distribution, Support, and Subscription Plan for the Institute’s publications for 1997. See page 55 for the details.
◆ We have added additional references to our bibliography of thoughtful writing and scholarly research about symphony orchestra organizations on page 54. In 1997, we plan to publish an updated, cumulative, and alphabetized bibliography of these materials.
Research Program Update
The projects of doctoral research grant recipients Arthur Brooks and John Breda are progressing according to plan.
Arthur Brooks, a Ph.D. fellow at the RAND Graduate School of Policy Studies in Santa Monica, California, is studying ways in which orchestra organizations can address the impact of Baumol’s cost disease (see Harmony, April 1996, pp. 52–54), principally through the stimulation of demand for their products.
Arthur is first exploring whether demand is really maleable and, if so, what tools have been used to exploit such elasticity. He is then analyzing which of two approaches to demand creation appears to be superior—that which enhances the product’s elite image (following the economic theories of Thorstein Veblen) or that which exposes the product to the maximum number of people (following traditional neoclassical microeconomics).
To throw light on possible answers to these questions, Arthur is analyzing data from three sources: the 1987 Census of Service Industries—the so-called Wolf Report (covering 260 North American symphony organizations in six groupings for the period 1984–1991); and reports provided by four individual orchestra organizations (for the period 1983–1994).
In June, John Breda received his M.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. As part of his degree work, but continuing during his residency, Dr. Breda is collecting and analyzing data relating to the psychological stress that musicians experience in the orchestral workplace, with particular interest in various comparative analyses of such data.
Dr. Breda has sent out some 2,400 questionnaires to musicians in 45 orchestras, with additional mailings still planned. He had received nearly 500 responses as of this writing and more arrive each day. However, we encourage every musician who received the Breda survey to complete and mail it in order to maximize the universe and diversity of respondents. Respondents can be assured that the survey is completely confidential. When completed, Dr. Breda’s study should provide an important contribution to knowledge of this subject.
With these doctoral grants, the Institute initiated its research program approximately one year ago and is currently reviewing the future course of this effort and considering a variety of alternatives. The Institute is evaluating the relationship between the organizational research it might stimulate and other possible initiatives, all as part of the broader operational program staked out when the Institute was founded (See Harmony, October 1995, pp. 6-7).
The Institute welcomes ideas and suggestions about its research program and possible next intiatives. Please send along any thoughts you may have.
Orchestras, Communities, and Musicial Culture
How well are symphony orchestras relating to and gaining the support of their communities? Not very well according to Samuel Hope, Executive Director of the National Association of Schools of Music, in a thoughtful consideration of an important topic.
The author posits that relationships between orchestras and their communities are quite fragile, threatening the gains which have been made over the past 30 years. He then offers recommendations in five areas which he urges symphony orchestra organizations to consider.
◆ Hold forth a vision for high cultural aspirations and achievement.
◆ Think locally; work locally.
◆ Define community analytically.
◆ Support all aspects of the infrastructure.
◆ Define partnerships in terms of mutual reciprocities.
Hope’s essay centers on the concept of thinking and working locally. He suggests that any search for national, formulaic, one-size-fits-all answers is doomed to failure and offers an extended explanation about why symphony orchestras should not try to be all things to all people. Following his exposition of the five areas, he offers a “short list” of basic questions which symphony orchestra organizations might use to assess their efforts.
The entire essay leaves the reader with a sense of urgency, which Hope reinforces in his concluding thought: “The challenges for artists, teachers, managers, and dedicated supporters are clear. All concerned must meet them as quickly as possible, community by community.”
Orchestras, Communities, and Musical Culture
Anxieties about the future of the symphony orchestra in the United States continue to rise, not only from the reported plights of particular orchestras, but also from contextual changes. Readily observable are the loss of public school music education in large urban areas, growing use of computer- based technologies that encourage cultural isolation, and the mutually reinforcing juggernauts of mass advertising and entertainment that too often inundate us with superficialities.
For those deeply committed to the kind of cultural effort the symphony orchestra represents, policy and planning difficulties posed by these and other conditions are hard to accept, especially after a 30-year spate of intensive and successful efforts to build the size, scope, geographical distribution, and qualities of ensembles throughout the land. It is particularly difficult to face the prospect of diminishing community support when one of the major arguments in favor of expansion was community need expressed in such terms as economic growth, cultural heritage, education, and image.
Although most orchestras have accepted various roles in proportions most calculated to sustain their local support, relationships between orchestra and community seem more and more fragile. Orchestras must vie with all the forces in mass culture and are presently being outflanked by a number of intellectual movements that enjoy wide philanthropic, governmental, and media attention. These demolitionary crusades lump the orchestra and its work with the rest of what is disdainfully referred to as Western high culture. An appropriate response requires the special kind of courage needed in an image-obsessed society where extraordinary artistic achievement both past and present is regularly portrayed as negative, oppressive, and out of fashion—as something to be jeered at and eventually discarded in the cause of justice.
As long as such concepts are reinforced from so many different sources, symphony orchestras will not have an easy time. Difficult, even painful, choices will be their daily burden. Yet, there are always people who want to go beyond the fashionably ordinary; intellectuals who will cultivate, explain, and defend high achievement; and artists who cannot live with themselves unless they are doing their best in aesthetic terms. While it is clear that orchestras must change to meet new times, it is equally clear that such changes must maintain the interest and commitment of these three groups while increasing understanding and support in the public at large. Otherwise, the gains of the last 30 years could prove ephemeral.
As orchestras throughout the nation address these and other contextual issues, they must succeed in a difficult calculus that mixes values, traditions, aspirations, expertise, and resources. In working with these complexities, the following five suggestions may be useful as each orchestra develops the kind of relationship with its community that is required for success in the next decade.
Hold Forth a Vision for High Cultural Aspirations and Achievement
Every symphony orchestra represents aspirations for superior performance and for the preservation and continuation of a musical tradition that has reached the apex of human achievement often enough to demonstrate that the climb to the top can always be made. Such aspirations and achievement are not commonplace. There is no denying that orchestras are manifestations of high culture and, as such, represent one high culture among many in the arts, the humanities, the sciences, sports, and the various professions. The orchestra’s work involves not only supreme achievement by performers and composers, but also by teachers and instrument-makers, scholars and publishers, copyists and editors, to name only some of those associated with the purely musical side of the enterprise. To turn away from the highest aspirations for the culture which the orchestra represents is neither a victory for diversity, nor for the quality of life, nor for the community.
To abandon this ambition, or to marginalize it, will not only cost orchestras the respect and support of their most dedicated musicians and patrons, it will also raise serious long-term policy questions. For if what the symphony orchestra does is not uniquely special, then why support it? Why go to all the expense, time, energy, and expenditure of personal spirit to create and maintain the high culture that a symphony orchestra represents every time it takes the stage?
It is possible to articulate a vision for superior achievement and realize it regularly without falling into the traps of snobbism, artistic preciousness, and social separation. Mission, goals, and objectives must transcend personalities, fads, and the ever escalating demands of advertising techniques. The music must be the central thing, not just for the musicians, but for everyone with more than casual involvement in the work of the orchestra. A successful vision must focus on the “why” and the “what” more than on the “how” and the “who.” The vision needs to make clear that the orchestra is in the cultural formation business, not just in the symphonic music performance business. Visions with these attributes provide a firm foundation for working in and with the community on matters of musical culture while maintaining internal conditions necessary to achieve the aesthetic power in performance that makes the orchestra unique on the field of human action.
Think Locally, Work Locally
In the past three decades, increasing numbers of organizations have learned techniques for creating movements, including how to “ring chimes” in the echo chamber of the media. One result is cultural and political gridlock. Another is movement fatigue sustained by an unrelieved succession of reports, studies, meetings, demonstrations, and spin doctorings in every arena. All segments of American cultural development, including education, are suffering from information overload. Minds and spirits are enervated by saturation barrages of conflicting propaganda. In addition, there is the ubiquitous mantra of change which creates the cloying fear that if you aren’t changing, you aren’t living. If you don’t have time to think analytically about change, various movements are there to give you their answers. Your role is to be converted, not to think for yourself.
Since much of this buzz-creating activity is national, it regularly contributes to a loss of distinction between what is national and what is local, a loss especially tragic when association with specific national movements comes at the price of local understanding and support. For each orchestra, there is a way out of this labyrinth. Without denying the importance of national and international reputations and responsibilities, each orchestra must first consider itself a local organization. Since the nation is the aggregate of its localities, the combination of individual local successes or failures truly creates the national result. Thus, what happens in each locality to build a musical culture in the community is far more important than what happens nationally. The search for formulaic, one-size-fits-all answers to be imposed through legislation, financial reward systems, or peer pressure is counterproductive because local conditions vary so widely, and because most orchestra funding comes from local private sources. The use of national artistic, policy, and financial resources to serve local action is productive and enjoys a long history of success. The symphony orchestra world is replete with knowledge about what to do to be successful given particular sets of goals and objectives, and the search for new and better technique never stops. Lack of knowledge and skill is not a problem, but finding the wisdom and courage to mold the best that is known to specific local situations is often extremely difficult.
Sometimes financial support is the primary issue. But often, economic and other problems are accrued over time by imitating others, following movements, or seeking desperately to appear innovative at any cost. Doing the opposite—a local approach based on a local vision and reflective of local conditions—is not easy, but it is the way forward both locally and nationally. To try to think and act locally without a local vision is futile because action plans are likely to be shaped by ever-changing visions of cultural development as they float by on trendy breezes. “How” and “who” will dominate policy-making. To think and act locally with a shared local vision of high cultural achievement creates the essential foundation for developing a regard for the orchestra as a uniquely important possession held by the community as a whole. The orchestra contributes an important part of the answer to “what” and “why.” It has roots that enable flexibility as the winds of change blow. It can change productively on its own terms for its own reasons.
Define Community Analytically
It seems abundantly clear that a large number of cultural visions coexist in the United States. In the public square, we try to deal with this phenomenon by using the term “diversity.” But diversity has no standard definition. “Multiculturalism” is more problematic, having come to be used for so many ideas that it no longer has a common meaning in analytical discourse. Yet, despite all confusions, the debate proceeding under the rubrics of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” creates conditions that affect symphony orchestras.
Analyses, decisions, and policies must be made amidst tremendous cultural fragmentation where every gesture seems to produce deep bitterness in at least one highly organized group, sending them to their own particular set of “chimes.” Techniques of targeted marketing reinforce and further fragment old and more natural divisions by background, economic status, or education. This fragmentation is accomplished in part by marketing certain goods, services, ideas, and entertainments to specific groups in ways that create disdain for the preferences of other groups. Lifestyle trumps content. These suasions seem increasingly powerful in the field of music.
Each type of music has become stereotyped; it belongs to a certain group and not to the world as a whole. It’s “their” music. When one juxtaposes this situation against thinking and acting locally in fulfillment of a particular high cultural vision, it seems a bit dangerous to speak generically about “the community” as though it were a single monolith. The forces of cultural fragmentation have succeeded to the point that, to some extent, the more an orchestra attempts to consult with and please each and every segment of its community, the more difficulties it will create for itself in terms of its own vision and priorities. This does not mean that an orchestra should quarantine itself, but it does require using a judicious selection of criteria about interaction, and working on multiple fronts to reduce confusions between lifestyle and content.
Embracing values currently espoused by a number of strident intellectual, artistic, and political communities focused on wielding power from hard left or right perspectives means abandoning the special values, achievements, skills, and aspirations that are central to what the symphony orchestra represents in artistic terms, past, present, and future. It is critical to remember that these terms encompass a kind of work and a way of applying the intellect to musical endeavor as well as a repertory produced in and judged on musical logic rather than speech logic or visual imagery, the primary media for political struggles. All these conditions indicate why, particularly at this moment, a symphony orchestra should not try to be all things to all people.
Support All Aspects of the Infrastructure
Maintenance of any high culture is a difficult, expensive, and multifaceted task. No matter the subject or profession, there seem to be several standard requirements which interact:
◆ General education that develops public understanding and supportive values.
◆ Identification and nurture of individuals with superior talent and dedication.
◆ Maintenance, support, and use of recent creative and developmental work.
◆ Creation and perpetuation of institutions that perform at high levels.
The classical music community in the United States does an excellent job with the second and fourth items, and a fair to poor job overall with the first and third. In fact, many public relations messages supporting symphonic performance reveal a belief that the power of the fourth item supported by excellence in the second will obviate the need for serious efforts in the first and third. Such an approach over time has and will continue to corrode the infrastructure necessary to support the particular high culture that the symphony orchestra represents.
In every field, individuals and institutions have different priorities. Clearly, the symphony orchestra’s is performance. However, an American orchestra avoids questions of substantive general education and repertory building in American terms at severe peril to its own future. In the United States, professional preparation seems to take care of itself; on the basis of personnel interaction, orchestras and educational institutions share high-level performer-teachers. But much more work is needed to correlate efforts between orchestras and professional schools on behalf of public cultural development in local communities.
General education in music constitutes one of the most important linkages between the orchestra and the community in terms of vision, thinking and working locally, and defining “community” analytically. Exposure and enrichment are important, but not enough. Study that expands individual knowledge and skills is required. Orchestras must become more engaged in issues of music study for the entire community.
To address these issues effectively, each orchestra must be able to change focal points as the demand shifts daily among its responsibilities to music and its performance, the infrastructure of the high musical culture of which it is a part, and the specific operations and support systems of the orchestra. To act as though the orchestra itself is a unilateral force, or even more tragically, that performers, performances, performance, and publicity are all that matter is to construct a pattern of self-fulfilling isolation.
In community terms, refusing to place performance in a larger musical and cultural context leads to conditions where focus is perceived as narrowness, the pursuit of excellence as elitism, investment in quality as social condescension, and respect for work produced by individuals of genius and dedication as personality cultism. Vision, analysis, and action that connect effectively and that exemplify stewardship to the various components of the infrastructure within the community are key to changing such perceptions over time.
Define Partnership in Terms of Mutual Reciprocities
In many ways, each symphony orchestra is in an envious position to address the issues it faces. First, the orchestra is not alone. Large numbers of individuals dedicated to music either as professionals or as amateurs want orchestras to
succeed. Thousands of highly trained and dedicated professionals are involved in classical music throughout the nation. Most participate in local or national organizations associated with their various specializations. To some extent, each specialization, including the symphony orchestra, now represents a sequestered high culture of its own.
In too many communities, these separate high musical cultures work in parallel without much feeling of mutual support. Each is so consumed with and proud of what it does that it fails to appreciate the achievements of others and the conditions under which others must work. High levels of professionalism in each segment can foster quick loss of patience with those who do not share exactly the same agenda or understand legitimate but parochial intricacies each specialization must negotiate to survive. Today, given observable trajectories of prominent trends, these insensitivities seem especially counterproductive.
Present conditions would seem to indicate a different approach: every element of the classical music infrastructure within a community must accept conditions where, at times, that element leads and at other times, it follows or supports. A centralized command-and-control system is not needed. In fact, attempts to create such a system would probably doom the effort to failure in most places. What is needed is a common vision, and an understanding of the critical relationship between vision and infrastructure in order that all can think and act locally in mutually supportive ways. Let management and policy follow content. For example: no symphony orchestra should ever let public school music instruction die in its community without putting up an all-out fight; and, each music teacher should encourage attention to and study of the work of the orchestra, especially the music it is performing.
These and many similar reciprocities need not be expensive. They do not require the blessings of foundations and governments. They do not even require a lot of time. Fundamentally, they require the consideration of partnership in terms of mutual support to reach common cultural formation goals. Symphony orchestras have the ability to articulate this vision of reciprocal partnership and to find important leadership roles within it, roles that will differ community by community. Such an approach demonstrates citizenship, statesmanship, and stewardship, and it shows that the orchestra is more than simply a tiny branch of a gargantuan entertainment industry.
In fulfilling its responsibilities to musical culture, an orchestra can demonstrate it cares about the artistic and intellectual development of the six-year-old at his or her first piano lesson as much as it cares about the artistic and intellectual achievements of the world-famous guest conductor, that it understands the many possible relationships between the two as time evolves, and thus, that it knows how to build its future comprehensively on behalf of civilization and community.
The five points above identify only a few of the policy arenas which hold important issues for symphony orchestras, and they represent only one way of formulating the specific issues they address. They also lead to a short list of basic questions about an orchestra’s work with projects that build relationships among orchestras, their communities, and musical culture.
Simply stated, these are:
◆ What is our vision?
◆ Is it focused primarily on music?
◆ Does it exhibit aspirations for the extraordinary?
◆ Is it broader than the specific work of the
◆ Does it enrich the traditions central to our vision in breadth as well as depth, for the future as well as with respect to the past and present?
◆ Are we thinking, acting, and working locally first?
◆ Are we defining our community analytically in terms of our vision?
◆ Are we paying the right kinds of attention to all elements of the infrastructure that makes our work possible both now and in the future?
◆ Are we using our policy influence to promote music study for all?
◆ Are we working to achieve our vision in a mutually supportive way with others professionally engaged in various segments of the infrastructure?
◆ Are our philosophies, aspirations, and operations teaching and exemplifying positive public values about music, music study, civilization, community, and the role of the orchestra in advancing the relationship among them?
◆ Success can be measured by asking another question over time: Is the musical culture of our community growing in various dimensions consistent with our vision?
If visions pursued by orchestras and their allies are special yet welcoming, high but accessible, transcending rather than momentary, comprehensive rather than self-centered, orchestras as local organizations have every chance of achieving more glory, recognition, and support than most can possibly imagine. Indeed, our most successful orchestras already provide a glimmering of what can be accomplished when these directions are taken seriously, consistently, thoughtfully, and persistently. Changes guided by productive values and made locally throughout the nation could lead in time to a new age of supreme achievement, not just in performance, but in our musical culture as a whole. Aspirations for and work toward such a result and all that it represents for humanity justifies the tremendous effort classical music and the orchestra represent. Anything less is not likely to be enough to sustain the orchestral elements of this effort at present levels in the nation as a whole. The challenges for artists, teachers, managers, and dedicated supporters are clear. All concerned must meet them as quickly as possible, community by community.
Samuel Hope is Executive Director of the National Association of Schools of Music and the National Office for Arts Accreditation in Higher Education, and Executive Editor of Arts Education Policy Review magazine. He holds a B.M. in composition from Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester and an M.M.A., also in composition, from Yale University.
On the Future of America’s Orchestras
Robert Freeman has viewed the scene of American symphony orchestras for many years and from different perspectives. The following paragraph is from the initial draft of his essay. We thought it good enough to share right up front.
This brief essay is written by a 60-year-old American whose father played for a quarter century in the Boston Symphony Orchestra and who for the past quarter century has himself been responsible for the direction of the Eastman School of Music, historically one of the nation’s principal producers of orchestral musicians. So it is probably inevitable that I reflect a good deal on the degree to which the educational process which prepares musicians has itself been responsible for some of [American orchestra’s] morale and labor relations problems . . .
In the opening section of his essay, Freeman does indeed reflect on some of the economic, political, and sociological problems that threaten America’s orchestras. He explores the effects which factors ranging from the advent of jet transportation to the lack of an American “farm system” for developing conductors have had on symphony orchestra organizations.
Freeman then explores the idea that the educational process which prepares orchestral musicians must bear some responsibility for the current state of affairs. He argues that orchestra musicians must be both “trained” and “educated broadly” to enjoy long-term careers as performers.
The balance of the essay deals with new approaches to educating young musicians and making their work lives more interesting and rewarding. Examples from the Eastman curriculum are liberally sprinkled throughout the exposition and Freeman acknowledges that many of the ideas relate closely to the Fleischmann-Lipman-Morris debate which was summarized in the April 1996 issue of Harmony. The essay concludes with an entreaty to managing directors and board members to be farsighted as they plan the future of the nation’s orchestras.
As we worked to prepare this essay for publication, we discovered that Robert Freeman is a marvelous raconteur. Sprinkled among the endnotes are several stories which are both illustrative of his points and quite amusing. Don’t cheat and read them first, but we do think you will enjoy them.
On the Future of America’s Orchestras
Philip Hart, writing a quarter century ago, considered America’s orchestras our nation’s greatest cultural achievement.1 So it is ironic that a great number of orchestras—especially those with middle-size budgets—are now threatened by a variety of economic, political, and sociological problems.
The causes for these problems are several and complex, beginning with the economic squeeze outlined 30 years ago by Baumol and Bowen in their path- breaking study, Performing Arts: The Economic Dilemma. The “cost disease” they described involves an economic activity which “. . . tends to rise in cost persistently and at a rate faster than the economy’s rate of inflation, obviously leading to financial pressures for anyone who supplies the product.”2 In other words, productivity gains are difficult for a labor-intensive art form.
It is unfortunate that the Baumol/Bowen book appeared in the middle 1960s, almost simultaneously with the founding of of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ford Foundation’s grant of $85 million to American orchestras. Had its publication preceded those events by five years, it might well have persuaded the boards and managements of America’s orchestras not to increase orchestral size, not to lengthen orchestral seasons, and not to raise minimum salaries. From the perspective of the middle 1960s, the economic future of orchestras looked a lot rosier than it did once the economic inevitability of the Baumol/Bowen message struck home a decade later.3
But other interrelated problems developed as well. In the 1940s and 1950s, music directors focused their activities on single cities. But the advent of jet transportation changed the nature of the profession, as music directors learned that it was both financially more remunerative and physically much less taxing to conduct the same repertory in each of several different cities than it was to stay at home. Working locally requires dedicating oneself to the hard work of fundraising and personnel problems, while at the same time preparing the larger repertory that residence with one’s home orchestra mandates.
America’s increasing focus on “celebrities” has also complicated matters. The role of artists’ managers in representing the most promising young conductors creates a situation in which the fiscal needs of an orchestra’s board and community may take a back seat to other considerations.
Additionally, this country is not currently developing podium leadership for its orchestras, the result of a variety of complex, interrelated forces. One of those is the lack of what baseball fans would call a “farm system” for American conductors. While there is nothing at all against the idea of developing short stops for the Boston Red Sox in Pawtucket, it would be unthinkable to try to develop new leadership for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Providence. Conductors who lead orchestras resident in educational institutions or in smaller communities are automatically typecast by American orchestras’ boards as inadequate for the purpose at hand, which undoubtedly discourages many younger American musicians from aspiring to careers as orchestral conductors. We have at Eastman a vibrant program in orchestral playing and conducting which attracts students from all over the United States and from countries around the world as well.4 I have always wondered why Americans are well represented among the players while the students of orchestral conducting come, almost without exception, from other countries.
And that isn’t all. Prior to World War II, most American women stayed home during the day and were eager to escape for a night out at the symphony. During the 1950s and 1960s, more and more women became part of the work force, and at the conclusion of a long work day were reluctant to attend orchestral concerts in what had become perceived as America’s increasingly dangerous inner cities.
Add to this witch’s brew the gradual disappearance of classical music from the nation’s public schools, from AM radio, and from both national weekly magazines and the metropolitan daily press. Television—an essentially visual force—has become the dominant electronic medium, while those who make compact discs—the new aural technology—have learned to remaster the already available recorded performances of artists now deceased. No wonder that by the middle 1980s, a variety of commentators had begun to write about the graying of the audience and the apparent waning of demand for a repertory that seems to some increasingly isolated from the nation’s day-to-day concerns.
Educational Process Is One Root of Trouble
The educational process which prepares orchestral musicians has itself been responsible for some of the morale and labor relations problems which have been described by Edward Arian5 and in earlier issues of Harmony. To begin with, the orchestral repertories of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries involve markedly larger cohorts of string players than they do of wind and brass players. The latter come to the study of the oboe or the trombone, for example, with dreams of becoming principal oboe of the Cleveland Orchestra or principal trombone of the New York Philharmonic. But string players, who inevitably form two-thirds of the membership of the symphony orchestra, have large and attractive solo and chamber repertories. They study in the world’s major music schools with faculty members whose own educational focuses have been precisely on those solo and chamber repertories. While an oboist or trombonist aspires to be an orchestral musician, a large cohort of their string colleagues aspire to be the successors of Itzhak Perlman and the Guarneri Quartet.
Further, while the wind, brass, and percussion players get to hear themselves in the orchestra as the performers of individual lines in a musical texture, the string players spend their lives submerged in choirs of sometimes dubious intonation. A violinist or violist, for example, may spend two hours every day practicing scales and orchestral passages, but as soon as he or she sits within the orchestra, other colleagues’ lack of interest in careful preparation makes it difficult to determine if the practicing has accomplished anything. So long as a string player can aspire to a position on a higher stand, with the anticipation of a possibly higher salary, he or she may well practice diligently. But once a musician decides that he or she will never be promoted beyond the inside of the fourth stand and that it is unlikely that the conductor will ever hear poor playing,6 dull routine sets in, leading to less than satisfactory performance and to the visual appearance of men and women who no longer care about what they are doing.
As the result, it has always seemed important to me that orchestral musicians be not only “trained” but also “educated.” They should be prepared as broadly as possible for a time when the thrill of music making at a high level may wane. Put another way, I believe that the morale of orchestral musicians would improve if those who are raising families and paying mortgages understood that making a living is not the only reason they perform. To play effectively, they must also perform because the act of making music is joyful and exciting.
The importance of reserving music making to those who take genuine joy from musical performance becomes especially critical when one reflects on the fact that orchestral musicians have almost nothing to say about which music is performed or about when, where, or how it is played. Clearly, it makes little practical sense to encourage the performers in an ensemble of 110 players to discuss or debate questions of interpretation during rehearsals where the time pressures are intense. No wonder, as Seymour and Robert Levine point out in their essay, “Why They’re Not Smiling: Stress and Discontent in the Orchestral Workplace,” so many aspects of rehearsal preparation are regulated to a degree that makes practical sense only in terms of controlling the musicians’ frustration through trade agreements that pay more attention to peace in the workplace than to artistic accomplishment.7
A New Approach
When Leonard Slatkin received an honorary degree at the Eastman School of Music in October 1994, he spoke with passion to our students about ideas which he hoped to implement as the new Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra. In Slatkin’s view, job descriptions for orchestral musicians have become unduly standardized and much too narrow.8 The vast majority of players, chosen simply as the result of competitive auditions, inevitably become locked into careers of repeated performances of standard repertory. Why not, Slatkin argued, educate musicians more broadly, partly so that some of them could undertake aspects of the orchestra’s administration and partly so that the extra-musical aspects of their work might interest some of them in eventually graduating from the orchestra into other careers. To be sure, one would not only audition such players but also interview them, taking into consideration the inevitable differences among human beings in intelligence and aspiration—even among those who are capable of performing a Brahms or a Mahler symphony at the highest possible artistic level.
In 24 years of directing the Eastman School of Music, I have certainly discovered the importance of treating each faculty and staff member as an individual, understanding how much energy can be derived from the fact that people grow at different speeds and that their aspirations often change as they grow older. Some young orchestral musicians continue to dream of promotions or of careers as soloists. Though it is certainly easier for the orchestra not to permit them to take time off to practice, to tour with chamber ensembles, or to participate in solo competitions, administrative willingness thoroughly to investigate such possibilities will garner a good deal of positive morale.
Not all orchestral musicians would be equally good at raising money for the orchestra, but it is easy to imagine that with a bit of training, intelligent and outgoing orchestral players might add very effectively to their orchestras’ bottom lines. Were the prinicipal oboist interested in raising money and good at it, might it not make more sense for him or her—on nights when the associate principal might play with the orchestra—to sit in as second oboist with a selected community orchestra, improving the performance capacities of the amateur principal oboe, who, as an affluent surgeon of renown, might eventually contribute a charitable remainder trust of several million dollars to the orchestra’s endowment?
Might not string quartets, wind quintets, and brass quintets, formed by members of the orchestra, appreciate time off to teach in outreach and audience development projects, thereby assisting their orchestras by educating more members of the community to listen to music while developing community interest in attending future events? Might not orchestra members interested in attaining M.B.A. degrees on the side be useful in helping to take ownership of the orchestra’s financial problems, thereby making them part of the solution to the orchestra’s fiscal future rather than adversaries of management and the board?
It is obvious that many professional musicians, having sacrificed childhood, adolescence, and youth to the attainment of high-level performance skills, resent that it is only after they attain positions in major professional ensembles that they discover while everyone thinks it is a good idea to have an orchestra in the community, relatively few wish to support it or attend its concerts.
One way to counter the problem is to let young orchestral musicians know its fundamental nature—a serious imbalance between the supply of orchestral musicians and the demand for their services. At Eastman, we open each academic year by spending two hours with groups of incoming students, developing a budget for a major American orchestra. Our students have a wonderful time putting together an expense budget, for they have all heard about the minimum salaries in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. But the problem of wrestling with the budget shortfall that affects each orchestra is an eye-opening experience.
I explain to our students that if a major orchestra depends solely on ticket income to meet an annual budget of $35 million, tickets for a 2,600-seat hall, sold at an average price of $30 will yield a nightly income of $78,000. I then point out that this will require the performance of more than 440 concerts each year. Even freshmen can understand that 440 concerts is more than one a day, all year long, without vacation. One-half that number is still a lot of concerts, though even a freshman can see without much trouble that it results in an operating budget gap of nearly $20 million.
After discussing the importance of having a good fundraising staff, which will work with the community’s most affluent private individuals and with its principal corporations, our students are ready to attack the problem of public support. “Why” most of them ask, “shouldn’t federal, state, and local governments take a more active interest in the support of professional artistic institutions?” My answer includes a brief history of public support for the arts in Europe compared with our support in own country, with special focus on the “culture wars” waged on the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities during the past several years.
Our students want to know why the Congress is so concerned about the national annual expenditure of a nickel per capita in support of music in America. Why don’t the Germans feel as strongly as Americans seem to on this subject? Why don’t the Canadians, who on a per capita basis spend much, much more on federal support for the arts than do we in the U.S.? My response is, “Whose responsibility is it to change this state of affairs?” How can one expect large numbers of people to support musical repertories they have never heard? Is the answer to this problem a legitimate part of the responsibility of America’s symphonic musicians? And if it is, what kinds of education do they need to help them bring this music to a broader number of Americans, thereby garnering the kind of political support which America’s orchestras are going to need to prosper in the century ahead?
A New “Arts Leadership Program”
As the result of questions like these, Eastman faculty members are developing a new “arts leadership program,” a curriculum which engages our most ambitious seniors in a series of seminars on local and federal public policy formation, on the economics and the politics of music in the public schools, on the curricula of our principal music schools, and on the future of America’s orchestras and opera houses. This curriculum should produce some of the administrative leaders that our musical organizations will need. But we are also convinced that such efforts will develop artists who understand at the outset the challenges which they face and who are prepared to become part of the future solution rather than part of the continuing problem.
The ideas I have outlined here relate closely to the Fleischmann-Lipman- Morris debate of 1987-1989, which was summarized in the April 1996 issue of Harmony.10 To begin with, I believe that the solution for the future of orchestral music, to a marked degree, will differ from one community to another, dependent in each case upon the history of musical institutions in the community and on their relationships with one another. The future of orchestral music is bound to be quite different in Los Angeles from what it will be in Cleveland; what will take place in Jacksonville, Florida will differ markedly from what will take place in Bloomington, Indiana or Ann Arbor, Michigan. Each community will want to take advantage of its own strengths and, wherever possible, develop fruitful synergies among pre-existing institutions, particularly if the orchestra plans to come to the community for fiscal support.
Similarly, the future will depend upon the financial health of the community itself, on the degree to which nonprofit organizations are encouraged to multiply without an overall local plan, and on the degree to which the corporate management of each community’s major industries remains local. When stockholders seek to maximize short-term gains, it is difficult to imagine how an American CEO can downsize a corporation, laying off hundreds or thousands of local employees in the process, and still provide notable fiscal support to local nonprofit enterprises.
I believe that Ernest Fleischmann’s visionary commencement address at the Cleveland Institute is more important now than it was 10 years ago, though its relevance as a model will vary from community to community, depending upon size, funding, previous history, and administrative imagination. Fleischmann’s idea of a community of musicians and the ideas I have sketched in this essay both depend on musicians’ willingness to take ownership of the problems which they face and on management’s willingness to maintain flexible and encouraging attitudes toward the evolving artistic, administrative, and intellectual lives of the players. We know the negative human results that ensue from the current process, in which tutti players are initially thrilled to gain admission to the ensemble, but at salaries which will increase only as the result of changes in a union-negotiated trade agreement rather than as the result of individual initiative and accomplishment. Certainly, Ernest Fleischmann is correct that, while every artistic institution needs administrative leadership, administration should be kept as lean as possible, reserving fiscal resources for the organization’s artistic and educational mission.
It is impossible for me to agree with anything remotely approaching Samuel Lipman’s attribution of orchestras’ problems to “. . . the complete failure over the past half century of avant garde composition, both acoustic and electronic, towinaplaceinthemindsofmusiciansandintheearsofseriousmusiclovers.”11 New music in America during the 1960s was probably controlled by the nation’s academic establishment to an unhealthy degree. But, led by “Meet the Composer,” that situation has changed radically in the past 20 years. Several dozen composers, in our own country and all over the world, are writing music of substance and excitement that can be prepared in reasonable rehearsal time. Much of this music is well received by conductors, performers, audiences, and critics.
I do agree with Thomas Morris when he speaks of the importance of visionary leadership and the development of symphony boards of affluence who are dedicated to music. The musicians themselves need to understand that in the absence of board members of wealth and dedication, men and women who are capable of supporting a well-designed long-term financial plan, too many American orchestral boards are obliged to seek cover as rapidly as possible when significant budget gaps develop.
One of an executive director’s primary tasks must be the building and maintenance of a committed and enthusiastic board whose members have at least two vital prerequisites: significant wealth or access to significant wealth. Only executive directors who have compelling vision and superb long-term planning skills will successfully recruit such boards, which too many American orchestras lack.
The principal points of this essay can be summarized briefly:
◆ The job descriptions of players in modern American orchestras have been wrongly designed, more the result of tradition than thought about human motivation.
◆ Leadership which plans for the future, striving for the highest artistic ideals while marshaling a community’s financial resources, is vital.
◆ American music directors are in short supply, stemming partly from a monopoly established by the largest American artists’ managers, discouraging young Americans from aspiring to positions as orchestral conductors and from working at the study of orchestral conducting in American music schools.
◆ The repertory must continue to grow, producing new works of passion and imagination that move contemporary American audiences. The orchestra cannot be allowed to become a museum.
◆ The boards of American orchestras must be as strong as those of other nonprofit institutions. Board members must insist on long-term financial planning and on musical leadership that is responsive to the board, resident in the community, and, as a primary mission, committed to building the orchestra’s future strength in the community.
Ernest Fleischmann and Thomas W. Morris offer important visions for the future. The most farsighted managing directors and board members of America’s leading orchestras should constantly consider and reflect on their views as they plan and direct the future of the nation’s orchestras.
Robert Freeman is Director of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. He holds his Ph.D. and M.F.A. degrees from Princeton University and his A.B. degree from Harvard University.
Musician Participation in Symphony Orchestra Management: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Experience
Most readers are by now aware that greater engagement and involvement of musicians in symphony orchestra organization affairs is a precept which the Symphony Orchestra Institute espouses. So we were delighted when Michael J. Schmitz agreed to explain for readers of Harmony the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) experience in this arena.
Schmitz writes from the dual perspectives of senior corporate executive and past president of the board of the MSO. He begins by outlining the business functions and management activities which both for-profit and nonprofit organizations must undertake to achieve their missions. Useful charts contrast the leadership structures in typical corporations and in symphony orchestra organizations, presenting quite clearly the ambiguities which often exist in the latter.
He goes on to discuss the role and influence of musicians’ unions in what he describes as a “unique organizational and leadership structure.” He again contrasts typical labor negotiations in corporations with those in symphony orchestra organizations.
The MSO’s Experience
The balance of the essay is devoted to a case study of changes which have taken place in the MSO since 1990 when Schmitz assumed the presidency of the board with personal objectives of improving communication with musicians and bringing them into the management process.
His pride in the success subsequent of these efforts is evident as he relates events from 1993 to 1996. MSO musicians now serve on the board, the executive committee, and many standing committees. They were also actively involved in the selection of new music and executive directors for the orchestra.
The essay concludes with an exhortation to other orchestras to move in the direction of greater musician involvement as a way of better dealing with the complex challenges which all orchestras face.
Musician Participation in Symphony Orchestra Management: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Experience
Several articles in the first two issues of Harmony addressed the unique organizational characteristics of American symphony orchestras. One aspect of these structures which merits further attention is the fact that symphony musicians, in varying fashion, report to a “troika”: the executive director, the music director, and the board of directors.
In theory, each of these three has distinct and definable functions; in practice, there is considerable overlap and ambiguity.
On its face, this leadership format is an almost certain recipe for organizational confusion and discord, with the inevitable consequence of diminished results. The first principle of any organization is, after all, clarity of purpose pursued through concerted, unified leadership. Good organizations in any field of endeavor are characterized by a focused vision and clear understanding of lines of authority and command. This principle applies to all forms of organizational activity, including those of nonprofit entities.
Artistic organizations are not exempt from the principles which make for successful achievement of organizational mission. Symphony orchestras have a product to market and sell, just as do for-profit businesses. Musicians sometimes object to references to their output as a “product,” reacting to the crassness that this terminology suggests. But just as a business needs effective management of its resources to create and sell its products profitably and to ensure its continued existence, so does a symphony orchestra. The fact that the “product” is ephemeral, inspirational, and even quasi-spiritual does not change this organizational truth.
Business Functions; Management Activities
Three business functions—production, marketing, and finance—drive the activities of business organizations. The same is true for most nonprofit organizations.
Distinct from these business functions is the way in which a company is…
Function Primary Responsibility Secondary Responsibility
Orchestra Functional Disciplines
Production Music Director/ Executive Director Board of Directors
Marketing Executive Director/Board of Directors Music Director
Finance Board of Directors/Executive Director Music Director
Business Functional Disciplines
Production Chief Executive Officer Functional Head or Line Manager
Marketing Chief Executive Officer Functional Head or Line Manager
Finance Chief Executive Officer Functional Head or Line Manager
Function Primary Responsibility Secondary Responsibility
Orchestra Management Disciplines
Planning Executive Director/Board of Directors/ Music Director
Staffing Music Director/Executive Director/ Board of Directors
Directing Executive Director/Board of Directors Board of Directors
Controlling Music Director/Executive Director Music Director
Business Management Disciplines
Planning Chief Executive Officer Line Manager or Staff Head
Staffing Chief Executive Officer Line Manager or Staff Head
Directing Chief Executive Officer Line Manager or Staff Head
Controlling Chief Executive Officer Line Manager or Staff Head
…managed. What activities need to be done to achieve overall organizational objectives? Accepted organizational theory usually defines the tasks of management as planning, staffing, directing, and controlling. Through the application of these four management skills, an organization achieves—or fails to achieve—its results.
The adjacent tables compare the responsibility for these three business functions and four management activities in typical American symphony orchestras and typical for- profit corporations.
Both types of organizations have boards of directors and, in each case, the board holds the ultimate responsibility. In the case of the corporation, the board delegates clearly defined authority to a chief executive officer (CEO). In the case of a symphony orchestra, there is rarely a defined CEO. The principal officer of the board is sometimes considered the CEO and may even have that title. But this designation is unrealistic because every board president or chairman is a part-time volunteer. Practically, a volunteer cannot exercise full CEO authority.
Historically, strong music directors have considered their roles to be absolute and have acted as de facto CEOs, answerable only to the principal officer of the board (if to any one). Readers who are familiar with symphony orchestra organizations can recite abundant examples of dictatorial music directors and might even argue that only this type of leadership could create certain great orchestras. Over time, people’s expectations have changed, however, and I do not know any contemporary musicians who would prefer to work under the martinets of old. Effective leadership must relate to its own era.
Today, many music directors are more collaborative and are willing to share defined areas of decision making with capable executive directors. Younger music directors, particularly, are likely to be more open and deferential in the decision-making process. But even now, this practice is probably the exception. Most music directors still see themselves at the apex of a pyramid and are comfortable with the vagueness that typically exists in their working relationships with other organizational authorities.
If any member of the troika should function effectively as CEO, it should, in my view, be the executive director. In some orchestras, strong and capable executive directors do fill this role. However, the industry seems to be short of dynamic leaders who can command the respect to lead their organizations while being publicly eclipsed by towering music directors.
Today, there is no consensus about the workable model for effective American symphony orchestra leadership. And leadership is the key determinant to the success or failure of any human institution.
The Role and Influence of Musicians’ Unions
In the middle of this unique organizational and leadership structure stands another major force, the players’ union. Musicians’ unions have historically wielded considerable power, but just as industrial labor-management relations vary from company to company, symphony orchestra organization labor- management relations also vary from orchestra to orchestra. As a generalization, it is fair to say that labor-management relations in symphony orchestras have not been good—ranging from fair at best to totally distrustful at worst.
During contract negotiations, boards of directors and executive directors present the unified management position, while music directors usually assume an uncommitted, indifferent stance—a complicating factor, at best. Here again, the existence of troika management creates the potential for union members to believe or to assert that there is not a strong management bargaining position, creating opportunities to drive real or imagined wedges among the management group.
When symphony orchestra labor negotiations break down, the public often sees the same outward public remonstrations as they do in corporate labor conflicts. Bitterness, name calling, and all sorts of acrimony can flow from each side, with the usual counterproductive results.
It is difficult for board members to accept this nastiness. Individuals typically accept positions on symphony orchestra boards out of feelings of duty, community obligation, or commitment to the art form. Directors who give generously of their time and money understandably become disillusioned with the institution they are trying to help. Some walk away forever.
While orchestral labor-management disputes have all the outward appearances of typical industrial disputes, there is little or none of the conflicting self-interest that exists in corporate labor relations. In the business world, there is a natural divergence between the interests of management and shareholders and those of the workers. In a symphony orchestra, the broad goals of both groups are much the same, all related to sustaining and improving the musical excellence and output.
In an orchestra, management is not motivated by stock options or compensation schemes. Directors are not trying to maximize earnings to advance stock prices. Greed, plant closings, and similar corporate motivations do not exist on management’s side. Whatever prestige comes with being a symphony orchestra board member is usually offset by the time commitment—often enormous—and the financial obligations—usually major.
One Orchestra’s Experience
Most symphony orchestras have not satisfactorily resolved the leadership dilemma which arises from the diffused authority of the troika coupled with ineffective communication channels to the musicians’ union. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) had not resolved this dilemma as it approached its 1993 contract negotiations.
The MSO was founded in 1959 and in its relatively short life has become a leading orchestral ensemble among America’s second-tier orchestras. The orchestra has a $12 million budget, 90 full-time players, and ranks 19th in size among U.S. orchestras. The last two music directors were Zdenek Macal and Lukas Foss. The MSO’s artistic growth has exceeded its financial growth, leading to periodic financial crises not unlike those experienced by both larger and smaller organizations.
I became president of the board in 1990 and it took me about a year to understand the underlying organizational dynamics of the institution. From the beginning of my term, two of my personal objectives were to communicate openly with the musicians and to bring them into the management process. Both objectives proved difficult to achieve.
Communication with 90 musicians was a daunting assignment because no established vehicles existed to facilitate this process. Occasionally, I took a few minutes at the start of a rehearsal and stepped on the podium to converse with the group. But this setting was very intimidating and it was unrealistic to expect much two-way conversation. There were also always the tight time constraints of the rehearsal.
Informal conversations during intermissions, after concerts, or at special events are certainly ways to communicate with our artists, but these visits tend to be personal rather than organizational. Although these conversations are very satisfying—since getting to know musicians personally is a fine reward—they do little to advance organizational objectives.
It became obvious to me that we needed a more structured way to communicate which led to the second objective—bringing the musicians into the management process. I felt this step was necessary even before I fully comprehended the real nature of the troika and it was even more clear to me after a year of working with the MSO’s organizational structure. It was evident that even with some ongoing confusion over organizational clarity, improved communications and the input from thoughtful, motivated people would provide enormous benefits to all parties.
However, to my surprise, bringing musicians into the decision-making process proved more difficult than I expected. The collective bargaining agreement in place at the time did not provide for defined participation and there was a general reluctance among the musicians to assume this new role. We were able to get some attendance at committee meetings, but most of the musicians and many members of the board were not ready to take such a big step, particularly with the knowledge that several discussion topics would also be issues in the forthcoming contract negotiations.
Contract negotiations for the season which opened in September 1993 began in January of that year and continued until March 1994. There was no strike, but those 15 months were a period of gradually increasing tension and acrimony which was well covered by the local media. It is not a pleasant memory for anyone who was involved.
There were many contentious issues, but the proposal to bring musicians into the management process was not one of them. The final agreement created two ex-officio positions on the board, one on the executive committee, and one on each of the eight committees (excepting personnel/labor relations).
Our management and board believe that bringing the players into the management process is the most significant organizational change the MSO has ever made. The musicians’ participation in orchestral affairs has introduced a new vitality to all of our committee work. The relations among board, staff, and musicians is now strong, supportive, and, I believe, trustful.
Two opportunities to bring our musicians even further into the decision- making process came about in 1994, when we began searches for new music and executive directors. The music director search committee consisted of nine board members, two staff members, and four musicians. The executive director search committee consisted of six board members, one staff member, and three musicians.
I chaired the music director search committee and can attest to the dedication and commitment that the musicians brought to a totally-aligned, two-and-one- half-year process. Their input was invaluable on both musical and non-artistic considerations. The search concluded in June 1996 with the unanimous selection of Andreas Delfs.
Musicians’ involvement in the executive director search process was equally positive. They helped us focus on our requirements and their participation in the selection of Steven Ovitsky can be observed by assessing the fine relationship that exists between the staff and musicians since Steve’s appointment in May 1995.
In an article in the July 1996 issue of the newsletter MSO Musicians Soundings, the players’ council deemed the musicians’ involvement in board committees successful. The article urged players not currently involved on committees to become active. The council commented that “many musicians who have served on committees have found an empowerment that has eased their frustration at the workplace.”
A final attestation to the success of this program appears in a comparison of the recently completed contract negotiations with the 1993 experience. The 1996 negotiations took only three months (compared with 15 months) and were completed three months before the current contract expired (compared with seven month after the contract expired). It was one of the few contracts in the industry settled so quickly. I would also note that by common agreement there was no media discussion during the negotiations.
The Lesson To Remember
It is easy to forget that without the musicians there would be no music. The music director is essentially mute; others play supportive roles and are, in a sense, accessories. Keeping the players on the sidelines of the decision-making process makes no sense. Individual musicians tend to have above-average intelligence and good creative-thinking skills and every symphony orchestra can benefit from musicians’ participation.
So why has it taken symphony orchestra organizations so long to bring musicians into the management process? After all, participatory management is nothing new in the profit-making world. Businesses began practicing participatory management in the 1960s and in countless companies today it has become a mantra. It is easy to understand the benefits of involvement, buy- in, and participation of people who produce the product.
Union resistance is one answer to the question, but many businesses have achieved cooperation from their unions with these programs. Tradition, inertia, fear, and uncertainty also play a part. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to bringing musicians into the management process is that such a move represents a cultural change. Cultural changes are difficult in any organization because there is a natural tendency to preserve the status quo and not do things which might result in some loss of control.
The MSO’s experience to date suggests that symphony orchestras which genuinely open their management processes to musician participation are better able to deal with the complex, overwhelming challenges they face. And measured in human terms, it is the right thing to do. Whatever downsides exist are offset by the potential for revitalization that involvement can bring.
Michael J. Schmitz is Executive Vice President of Firstar Corporation. He was President of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1990 to 1993 and continues as a member of that board, as well as on the boards of a number of other community and business organizations. He holds a B.S. in economics and an M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Pierre Boulez: Reflections on Symphony Orchestra Organizations
Among the world’s community of symphony orchestras, Pierre Boulez ranks as perhaps the most respected living composer and conductor. He is less well known for his creative thinking about musical organizations and his work as the founder and builder of three modern musical institutions.
Some 30 years ago, Pierre Boulez began to speak and write about the conservatism and rigidity of classical music organizations. The germ of Boulez’s discontent with the organization of musical life can be found in his early days as an innovative composer of twentieth-century music. As early as 1953, Boulez felt strongly that the musical establishment posed a barrier between composers of contemporary music and audiences, each group eager to experience new musical insights.
In reviewing his historical observations about symphony orchestra organizations, let us “fast forward” to an interview with Pierre Boulez in Paris earlier this year. The occasion was a week-long master class workshop for some half-dozen young conductors from around the world, led by Boulez with the assistance of David Robertson, Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. The workshop was cosponsored by the Ensemble and the Cité de la Musique (see later discussion), in coordination with The Cleveland Orchestra which was in Paris as a final stop on its European tour.
During the course of the week, Boulez participated in a videotaped interview covering a wide range of topics, including his current thoughts about symphony orchestra organizations. Here is an edited transcript of that portion of the interview.
Paul R. Judy: Have symphony organizations much changed over the past decades?
Pierre Boulez: I think, unfortunately, they are about the same—because inertia in the musical world is really very strong. There are many reasons. For instance, if you have a group of 100 musicians, you will certainly have all categories of society and it’s very difficult for everyone to be aware of the changing situation. Many have been in their roles for quite a lot of years and don’t want to change the frame of their lives. And, of course, change should come from both sides.
Organizers should be more inventive and provoke musicians to think about their own situation.
PRJ: How do you describe the organizational evolution of the symphony orchestra?
PB: Well, as an overview, looking back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, you had various small groups of musicians. Even Bach wrote the Brandenburg Concertos for different groups. There was a kind of easiness with groups. Then the organization of society began to influence concerts and standards began to be adopted. The strictest standards came during the nineteenth century and that’s when the orchestra got bigger and bigger. The hierarchy became very heavy, with concerts reflecting the hierarchy.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a kind of rebellion of composers. More than once, contemporary music was rejected by the big organizations. It was found to be more economical to use small groups. Money could be raised for these performances. And then there emerged opposition between the big institutions—a big mass of musicians—and small groups.
And nowadays, we see this evolution also in the classical department, with baroque groups, even groups playing music from the Age of Enlightenment and music composed in the beginning of the nineteenth century. And the field of action of big orchestras is being eaten up on both sides—and that’s a danger. And therefore I think orchestras should think in terms of much more flexibility and more diversity in styles.
PRJ: Is there any evidence that change is taking place?
PB: Well, in 30 or 40 years, we have not gone very far. With small institutions like IRCAM, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and the Cité de la Musique, we are going in new directions. It’s only a beginning, but I wanted to have these organizations to show that it is possible. But certainly to introduce new directions into heavier institutions which have more inertia, because of the mass, is more difficult.
I have hope that we will arrive at some new ways because I notice now that some people in big institutions understand that it is necessary. They have not engineered the transformation yet, because it is not easy to do so, but they are aware of the fact that they have to change if they want to survive.
PRJ: What needs to be done to get orchestra organization leaders at all levels to consider more rapid change?
PB: What we need is a think tank, to say how we can organize differently and to propose models of organization for those who are unable to conceive of new ways of organizing. We need to say “this is what you can do.” And then once they have practical models, they can think, maybe, of trying them out.
❖ ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖
Now let us turn to Boulez’s historical writings and note their consistency with recent views and their relevance to current organizational issues. As Boulez said in 1963:
. . . I decided ten years ago to give concerts aimed at re-establishing communications between the composers of our own time and a public interested in promoting its own age.1
Boulez implemented this decision with the 1953 formation in Paris of the Domaine Musical, a musical organization presenting eclectic, avant garde works and programs. With the Domaine, Boulez took on a new role—the direct leadership of a musical organization. Shortly, he embarked, on a self-educating basis, on his second career as a conductor of contemporary ensemble music, working with the Domaine players. He initially learned conducting through careful observations of Scherchen and Rosbaud, whom he regularly engaged as guest conductors of the Domaine ensemble.
Boulez retained his affiliation with the Domaine Musical until 1967. By the late 1950s, he was recognized throughout Europe for his leadership and professionalism in conducting contemporary music.
Looking back, Boulez remembered:
What our generation needed was to be able to acquire a sufficiently high level of professionalism to do justice to this music, which was our own, and to present it in the best possible conditions. That is how I gradually came to conduct, out of necessity, because if you write works and want them performed you must be able to do it independently . . . if you have to be professional you might as well strive to be the best . . . you must work sufficiently hard to be genuinely in the first rank and to give really good performances . . . It is in the realm of professional high standards that I have contributed to contemporary music.
. . . I myself learnt conducting by trying out what seemed to me the best thing and becoming increasingly sensitive to the responses I got . . .2
During the 1960s, Boulez’s role as a composer, conductor, and teacher continued to expand. His conducting engagements broadened and his recognition grew. During the years 1967 and 1968, while he was conducting at Bayreuth and then during the political upheaval in France, Boulez made the declamations for which he is most famous, “The Devil take all opera houses” and shortly later, “. . . set fire to all opera houses.” But it was also in 1968 that Boulez expressed, in a thoughtful lecture, his first comprehensive views as to the conservatism which hobbled musical organizations:
The creative artist and the public still communicate by means of what we call ‘concerts’ and there is of course a great gap between the creative artist and the mass of the concert-going public that interests itself in orchestral music and great artists. There is a deep discrepancy here, and I believe that music is perhaps the most conservative of all worlds, certainly much more . . . so than the museum world. A glance at the individual efforts made by museums (even in Europe and certainly in America) and by theatres, will reveal just how desperately music lags behind. This is because its organization is based on routines and contacts that are completely irrelevant to life as it is today. . . . It is obviously difficult to find a solution to this problem, or at any rate it is easier to solve verbally than factually. It is simple to say that new concert halls should be built, that orchestras should be reorganized or that the orchestra should be replaced by a kind of consortium of performers that could be drawn on for ad hoc purposes. All that is very easy to say; and it is true that solutions of this kind can well be imagined . . . [and of course] there is an economic factor in music, and this factor always tells in favour of conservatism. By this I mean that in any organization qualified for an activity of this kind it is very difficult to persuade people— simply from the point of view of intrinsic organization—that things can be organized differently without creating major problems in any well-regulated economy.
Later in this speech, Boulez went on to say:
Try . . . simply as a matter of organization, to modify the constitution of an orchestra. You will see that you will almost certainly encounter deep hostility, from both public and players, who will tell you that it has worked very well as it is: why should it not continue to do so, with a few adjustments? The fact that must now be faced is that it will not continue unless a profound remedy is discovered—and how is that to be done?4
Two years later, in a 1970 interview in Montreal, as rewritten in 1980, Boulez reiterated these themes. He outlined a vision of an expanded, multi-purpose musical society which he had first expressed in 1969—a vision later shared by Robert Shaw and Ernest Fleischmann, among others. He opened his 1980 essay with these thoughts:
In the transitional period in which we are living the traditional function of the orchestra is largely a thing of the past. The orchestra as we know it today still carries the imprint of the nineteenth century, which was itself a legacy from Court tradition.
What we have to face now are problems of multivalency. I believe that our aim should be polymorphous groupings; within the larger group formed by the orchestra we should make it possible to tackle all the different repertories – solo, chamber music, normal orchestra, very large formations and vocal ensembles of all dimensions. This would restore to the orchestra – which would in fact be a co-operative of performers – its sociological function, because it would include all the different sectors and in addition provide a certain mobility, an ability to move about. As things are at present, orchestras resemble spiders sitting at the centre of their webs, waiting for clients and pouncing on any that allow themselves to be caught . . .
Two years later, while he served as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Boulez wrote an essay for the New York Times in which he described the programming constraints which music directors face, including working within “a system laid down by contract and necessarily implying clearly defined working methods.” His pungent conclusion was that music directors must make their decisions with “one overriding concern—ensuring vitality and movement in spite of being bound by restrictions that, although necessary, make for excessive stability and can lead to asphyxia.”
Later in his essay, Boulez reiterated his plea for a more flexible, free, and creative organization of musical life:
. . . we might be on the right road . . . if the relations between composer, performer and public were considered within a freer and more flexible organization, one less bound by formal constraints. As so often, the principle may be simple, but putting it into practice is quite another matter. Changing our attitudes is of course the most difficult part; a new frame of mind would automatically mean revising the way in which we organize our musical life. Any transition from one stage to another always needs a period of adaptation and that period might seem lengthy, but there would be no turning back once embarked on the new course. To put it in a nutshell, the ideal that we are pursuing is a greater variety in our approach to different audiences in a number of different contexts. What we are trying to escape from is the sterile standardization that imposes on the present—and indeed the future—norms suited to the past. We want the creative spirit to be re-established at every level of musical life.
Twenty years ago, Boulez recognized the effect of the bureaucratic environment of musical organizations on the lives of orchestral musicians. He was a pioneer in emphasizing the importance of personal and professional development of musicians if orchestral enterprises were to flourish:
There is no doubt that our musical enterprises lack flexibility, and their rigid organization prevents any free expanding of the musical field, which ought to combine unity with diversity. How then should we ideally organize that field, so as to take into account musical life as it actually is today, and do it justice? First, I think, we should realize that all musical functions are inseparable and interchangeable, execution being only one part, however important, of a field in which other tasks are also capital. Execution, research, experiment, propaganda and teaching should all radiate from a single central point. Every musician should be able to pass from one of these activities to another in accordance with his own personal engagements and thus lead a varied and free-ranging life. I personally think of all these different branches of musical activity as essential to any musician anxious to get away from the routine of the past and to avoid specialization, which represents a threat to the individual by its limited character – any musician, in fact, anxious to take part in a real musical culture rather than to be simply a cog in a machine that is cultural only in name.8
Boulez is now generally regarded as the world’s leading conductor of contemporary orchestral music as well as being one of the most prominent composers of our time. His early collegial approach to orchestra conducting—a collegial leadership philosophy he still embraces—was captured in words he expressed in 1976:
. . . if instrumentalists make mistakes it is not because they want to but because they don’t understand or have difficulties; so you must help them to overcome them . . . when you are conducting an orchestra you have to match your approach to the temperament of the players . . .
Sometimes we were equally at sea when confronted by some particular piece of music . . . which they were no more used to playing than I was to conducting. Thus we had virtually the same problems— problems of instrumental, technical and even aesthetic assimilation. You have to discover how an instrumentalist can play an isolated sound in a way that links it intelligently with what has gone before and what follows. You must make him understand the pointillist phrasing, not just with his intellect but with his physical senses . . .
An instrumental player produces an interesting sonority when he is a part of a whole whose constituent parts he more or less consciously understands.
When it came to passing from a mechanical to an aesthetically satisfactory performance the work was extremely rewarding, not simply for me but also for the instrumentalists; we each discovered the means of converging towards a single aim . . . reciprocity between the instrumentalist and—I wouldn’t say the ‘conductor,’ a word that I find out-of-date in many cases—but the ‘co-ordinator’ . . .
Boulez’s humanistic involvement in ensemble performance has also influenced his approach to musical composition:
[In] a chamber music ensemble, at a social level there will be personal relationships with each of the players . . . [there is] an extremely subtle exchange . . . My work as a composer has been marked not only by [a] much increased knowledge of the . . . entire mechanics of instrumental music, but also by the fact that the relationships between the individual and the collective within a group of performers can be worked out in far suppler, far more effective and far more subtle ways than had been contemplated before hitherto . . . [these experiences have] influenced all my subsequent works.
During the last 20 years, in addition to his active career as composer and international conductor, Boulez has been particularly devoted to the development of three unique Paris-based music institutions.
◆ The Institute for the Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music (IRCAM) was founded in 1974 and carried forward a vision formulated by Boulez over many prior years. IRCAM is housed in an underground facility adjoining Pompidou Center and incorporates an acoustically adjustable performance space and a number of acoustic studios, offices, and integrated computer systems. The professional staff of IRCAM is a collaborative of composers and scientists from around the world, working to develop new musical materials, and operating at the intersection of contemporary music composition, electronic instrumentation, software development, and acoustical research and experimentation. After serving as the active head of IRCAM for many years, Boulez transferred this leadership in 1992 in order to devote all his organizing energies to the development of two other institutions.
◆ The Ensemble Intercontemporain, an orchestral organization of some 30 or so musicians dedicated to the performance of 20th century music, was founded in 1976 under Boulez’s leadership. This unique chamber orchestra performed principally at IRCAM until taking up residency in 1996 at the Cité de la Musique. The Ensemble performs 70 to 80 concerts annually in Paris and on tour and gives special emphasis to works composed in the last 20 years, including the premiering of many new compositions. Boulez continues regularly to conduct the Ensemble and is its President.
◆ The Cité is a multi-purpose facility in the northeast part of Paris which encompasses the Paris Conservatoire, a state-of-the-art performance hall, a musical instrument museum, a modern library of musical materials open to the public, and the new residency headquarters of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. The Cité was planned under Boulez’s vision and oversight and presents a broad and eclectic program of world music with emphasis on local community audience develop- ment, as well as serving a broader metropolitan and international visitor audience.
Over recent years, Pierre Boulez has therefore concentrated on the development of three modern musical institutions, infusing in them his long held philosophies about the organization of musical life, and the need for creativity, flexibility, and steady change and adaptation. And yet he still finds time to be a regular guest conductor of the world’s leading orchestras, a mentor to many young musicians and conductors, and a leading composer of our time.
Through time, various words and phrases have been used to characterize Pierre Boulez—“revolutionary,” “crusader,” “evangelist,” “enfant terrible,” and “polemicist,”—some particularly oriented to his formative years. More recently,
such descriptions as “wise,” “visionary,” “brilliant and imaginative,” “poetically precise,” and “utopian with practicality” have been applied. In the final analysis, Boulez is an “optimist” and, despite the glacial rate of change in musical organizations, he still exudes the longer-term determination and hope he expressed in 1976:
We should not complain too much about our problems: how dull life would be without them! The word ‘crisis’ is too often used for situations that
are no more than necessary and inevitable transitional stages. Taking the long view simply means regarding our present situation as a link in the process of evolution; and if we identify past attitudes and their results, we must also clearly analyse what is obsolete and transitory about them. Only thus shall we be able to see the gradual emergence of those new lines of conduct and new lines of force that some of us welcome so gladly and others reject so timorously . . .
In corresponding with Pierre Boulez about this essay and the interview transcription, we were pleased that he provided the following contemporary and consistently optimistic commentary about symphony organization issues.
As I said in Paris, matters have hardly changed. . . . I believe it would be good to give reflection to the situation, not only by a few people, but by a gathering of people of good will and imagination from the different sectors who participate in the elaboration and the realization of the musical goals of our time. The revolution, or rather the evolution—whether generated internally or accelerated by external forces—cannot be the work of only one person or even of an elite group. Representatives from management, artistic administration, donors, musicians, and the public must unite, since all are concerned with the common problems of the future of our institutions. But, as is always the case, one person or group is needed who will take the initiative of organizing such discussions. Who will have the courage or indeed the audacity for such action? Let us be optimistic and hope for a future that is sufficiently near.
September 10, 1996
Symphony Orchestra Organizations: Employees, Constituencies, and Communities
Iwas pleased to be offered invitations to address the 1996 annual meetings of delegates of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA). The meetings also provided me the chance to meet and discuss symphony organizational issues with a wide range of musicians and to meet officials of the American Federation of Musicians, particularly the staff of the Symphonic Services Division. The speech I presented to both assemblies appears here, edited only slightly for publication purposes. – Paul R. Judy, Publisher
The economic viability of any socially legitimate organization should be the concern of every participant. Most of us look to regular paychecks for personal economic security, but the capacity to issue these checks depends upon the financial health of our employers.
Beyond receiving paychecks, we dedicate an important part of our lives to our work and in so doing, most of us invest substantial intellectual and emotional capital in our employing organizations. The longer-term development, character, and preservation of those organizations significantly affects that personal capital investment and, more broadly, our whole lives.
In for-profit organizations, there are three main groupings of economic interest—customers, employees, and owners. It has been increasingly recognized that in a free-market society the customer is “king” and must be served, with steady improvements over time, or the economic viability of the serving organization will weaken and may fail. Employees, through organizational process, provide products and services to customers in a competitive market, and together contribute to the maintenance, advancement, or diminishment of their organization’s viability. Owners provide directly, or by credit, the material resources which support the employee effort, in the hope of economic return. Many for-profit corporations encourage employees to become customer-oriented and also to become and/or think like owners.
If the resources provided by owners are inadequate given the scope of the organization, and/or the efficiency of the organization is poor, its economic viability is threatened, creditors may not be paid, capital will likely be lost, and employees will be without jobs and economic sustenance. If the capital provided is adequate to organizational scope, and efficiency is good, the enterprise will be sustained, owners will likely realize a return, and employment will be maintained. If the return is high, capital will be abundant and the enterprise can grow; employees will be able to receive more benefits and employment will be assured if not expanded.
Now what does all this have to do with symphony orchestra organizations? How do we develop a similar framework for thinking about the economic viability of this unique form of nonprofit cultural enterprise?
First, the customer aspect of a symphony orchestra organization looks very similar to that of a commercial organization, at least with respect to customers who buy tickets to concerts. But I know of no symphony orchestra since that of Theodore Thomas (before its conversion into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) that has depended singularly on concert revenues and fees for its economic viability. Some have suggested that we try to reachieve the Thomas model through very creative and energetic means. Others who are more futuristic have suggested that technological advances may help achieve this end, as the worlds of interactive pay-video and e-music mature.
I have spent many hours penciling in various scenarios which might result in a self-financing orchestra and each effort has failed. Although we should stay alert to future possibilities, almost everyone has come to the conclusion, which I share, that free-market customer revenues will not sustain a symphony orchestra organization.
So we have to come up with some source of revenue to fill the gap. In America, like it or not, government is not a source for such funds, and politics being what they are, government funding is not very reliable and has had strings attached even when it was more fashionable. Thank goodness, however, that in America wedohaveanotherkindof “customer”towhomwecanturn—the“philanthropic customer” or “charitable contributor”—be that an individual or a private institution. And, again thank goodness, the “philanthropic market” in most communities is broad and deep.
Like all customers, however, the charitable contributor expects to be served and to receive value, directly or on behalf of others. He, she, or it has a wide variety of opportunities to give away money. And quite often, the individual charitable contributor, or the representative of an institutional contributor, is also a regular paying customer. In fact, in many cases, more than 50 percent of subscribers provide more than 50 percent of contributed income.
The symphony orchestra organization is therefore often being evaluated in many dimensions by a mix of people who make up its “constituency”—regular customers and charitable contributors. These dimensions include artistry, musical inspiration, educational service, physical appearance, customer friendliness and comportment, economic efficiency, and service to the community, just to name a few.
And to further complicate the characterization of the typical symphony orchestra “constituent” and thinking about his or her “customer needs,” many of these same people are key volunteers intimately involved in organizational governance, funding, and operations, contributing valuable time and know- how, and, of course, very closely observing how the organization of which they are a part is functioning.
The economic framework for a symphony orchestra organization becomes more complex with the question: Who are the owners? Are they the directors or trustees? The largest contributors? The musicians? Management? In observing the way some symphony orchestra organizations operate, one might well conclude that one of these alternatives applies, albeit differently in each case.
To me, however, it is clear that the local “community”—the collective of individuals, families, and institutions directly affected—is the principal beneficiary of a central professional symphony orchestra organization. It is the community which has the principal beneficial interest in the existence and vitality of such an organization. The board holds the organization in fiduciary trust for the benefit of the community and oversees the organization’s development in serving and creating value within the community in ways which earn the satisfaction and merit the support of an informed constituency. If through this process the organization succeeds, it is the community which principally benefits. If the organization fails, the community suffers a great loss.
So in contrast to for-profit organizations, employees of symphony orchestra organizations better assure their own economic viability by serving and expanding the base of constituents supporting their organizations— customers and contributors—and involving some constituents (i.e., volunteers) in the effort. This orientation and effort is all towards the goal of sustaining and desirably expanding their organizations’ economic health in order to provide and sustain clearly valued musical services in their communities. And in so doing, all employees must keep in mind that the constituents of their organizations have all the economic interests of customers, that they have a range of economic concerns for “value creation” which are similar to the goals of for-profit owners, and that they provide, through endowment, the financial capital on which symphony organizations depend for stability.
The labor laws of the land make no particular distinction between for-profit and nonprofit corporations. But, as earlier summarized, substantial economic differences clearly exist. Notwithstanding employee ownership trends, there is an argument that employee and owner interests are adverse in for-profit organizations. There are various ways which profits might be allocated between labor and capital. However, in the case of a symphony orchestra organization, there are no profits to be allocated, and it is clearly counterproductive for employees to consider the community to be an adverse party. Symphony orchestra organizations meet their commercial shortfalls through the unobligated charitable support of constituents, and it is rather nonsensical for employees to think adversely about the hand that feeds.
Nor is it very sensible to think that some employees are different from others when it comes to economic interest. I think a man or a woman or a thing from Mars (not such a fantastic notion based on recent findings) visiting a symphony orchestra organization would be perplexed to observe adversarialism between management and players. The Martian might be especially confused in overhearing some musicians talking about the special employment security they enjoy by reason of a collective bargaining agreement, including its tenure provisions. I think it might appear to the Martian that all employees were pretty much in the same boat. Especially in a crisis involving organizational life or death, some difference in economic interest might be observed between the employees, as a group, and a constituency, as a group, but not between different groupings of employees. I think a Martian would conclude that the economic security of each employee depends upon the financial health of the symphony enterprise as a whole.
Thus, it is probably more sensible for all employees of symphony orchestra organizations to dedicate themselves to building the financial health of their organizations through intensive service to their communities and through the strengthening and broadening of each organization’s constituency.
In this age, we dare not take constituents for granted. On the airplane this morning, as we made our final approach, it was interesting to hear the captain say: “We know you have choices; thanks for choosing United.” And then on the way to the rental car lot, the shuttle driver ended his instructions with “. . . and thanks for choosing National.” Even more so, the symphony organization constituent, especially the contributor who is a subscriber and volunteer, needs to hear every employee say, whenever possible, loudly and clearly: “Thanks for choosing to support the symphony orchestra.”
In companies with advanced human resource practices, every employee is oriented and trained to become customer-sensitive, if not customer knowledgeable and responsive. To this end, machine operators accompany salespersons on field customer visits. Product design engineers spend as much time in customers’ premises as in their own drafting rooms. Bookkeepers monitor customer focus groups, discussing possible product and service improvements. Employees are urged and trained to look outward and to realize that their organization’s success, their own material benefits, and their opportunities for personal and professional growth depend upon excellent customer service and support. Substitute the word “constituent” for “customer,” and the situation should be no different in the symphony orchestra world.
Should a company develop products and services which will be of interest to any and all possible customers? Will we “dilute and weaken” our primary competence by the development and extension of a range of secondary products or services serving a hoped-for wider range of customers? Or, looking at the matter differently, should we “exploit and expand” our base competence and strengthen our viability by encompassing a wider range of presentations to a more diverse clientele? Many organizations—including symphony organizations—face these choices which are best resolved within the framework of a clear, widely understood, and agreed upon declaration of mission and values.
“Best practices” organizations have such declarations to help guide their directions and actions. And a common dimension is to have as many employees as possible involved in inputting and understanding the organization’s mission and values in order that everyone may “operate from the same page.” In these advanced organizations, employees can better shape and guide their own behavior and actions by what has been agreed upon collectively. Motivation, focus, and empowerment are high in these organizations. The feeling of “being together” in musical performance is something with which orchestral musicians, observers, and listeners can easily identify. Why can’t we bring about that feeling with respect to the total symphony enterprise?
It would be nice if society—or on a more “micro” basis our communities— would just recognize and reward orchestral participation, skill, and dedication without so much fuss and questioning. It just doesn’t happen that way. It would be nice if management and governance were infallible, knew all the answers, and did all the work needed to retain and expand the base of constituent support necessary to assure our organizational and personal economic security, without any effort or cooperation on our part. It just doesn’t work that way. It would be nice if the organization of which we are a part would function superbly, provide our economic needs, and permit us to live an isolated and insular artistic life, without any personal involvement and commitment. Organizations just don’t function very well under those circumstances.
In advanced human resource practice enterprises, how products and services are improved, how work is processed, how time is spent, and how greater effectiveness can be achieved, are dealt with in decision-making systems which provide that inputs, and in many cases binding decisions, are made at the lowest possible level. Information needed to provide such inputs or make such decisions is readily available to everyone involved. Also, there are patterns of primary specialization, but everyone is encouraged or expected to become multi-skilled in ways which support primary skills and enhance team performance. Employees have broad horizons and perform a variety of organizational functions. Training in skill development and team process is ongoing and intense. In such organizations, there are few if any “dead ends”; personal and professional growth opportunities are abundant.
In many symphony orchestra organizations, we have tended to put employees—and even working volunteers—in “boxes.” Everyone has a precise role to play and is expected to play that role rather singularly, narrowly, and intensively. We are too often, as Pierre Boulez has said, just “cogs in a machine.” We still operate too much in the shadow of Henry Ford. How many times do we hear, “Managers should manage and players should play?”
Unfortunately, too many people in management do not seriously wish to have players involved in anything more than music performance. Or, they don’t wish— or don’t know how—to provide the creative, energetic, and risky leadership necessary to motivate, orient, and train musicians—at least those who are interested—to broaden their skills and contribute more generally to organizational vitality and economic viability. The stock answer I hear is that “players really don’t want to do anything but play their instruments,” or “the union won’t permit it,” or “the musicians really don’t know much about these matters.” These attitudes are quite often shared by key board members and undermine the will power of even the most forward looking executive director.
But the problem goes much deeper. It involves musician leadership, too, and in some cases, individual musicians. Too many musician leaders believe and preach that if a musician is encouraged or invited to do anything more than play an instrument, he or she is being “exploited.” Or he or she is “doing management’s job,” or “setting a bad precedent.” And there are still too many musicians who feel that any organizational involvement or contribution beyond strictly defined musical performance tasks is a legal and moral affront or must be carefully and contractually defined through extensive bargaining and documentation. Thankfully, for the sake of the economic viability of most symphony orchestra organizations and that of their employees and for the sake of more fulfilling orchestral careers, these outmoded views, with their accompanying rhetoric, are held by only a small, albeit vocal, minority of orchestral musicians.
Of course, we have all seen or read about employees and volunteers from every sector of a symphony orchestra organization pulling together, and putting forth great effort, flexibility, dedication, and sacrifice—just when it has become excruciatingly apparent that the organization is failing. What is it about the human condition that moves us toward common purpose when it is probably too late?
I suppose we cannot expect easily to change the “mind set” existing at many levels in many symphony orchestra organizations. To effect concerted and comprehensive change, a number of people will need to be committed. There are some organizations where I sense management and governance might be ready to try a different approach, but musician leadership appears intractable. In other organizations, my sense is that musician leadership might be open and responsive to new directions, but the invitation—and the trust that would underpin it—is not forthcoming.
I think many symphony orchestra organizations are like large scale logjams. Traditions, role playing, stereotypical attitudes, egocentric personalities, and the like, are all askew, locked up in cross-purpose, rigidly clogged in a topsy-turvy maze. On the other hand, down deep, there is a strong undercurrent of human desire and latent motivation to free up the jam, permitting all the elements to flow smoothly, swiftly, together, but each at its own pace, all in the same direction. What is needed, of course, is a team of really able lumberjack/leaders who know how, when, and where to apply leverage. Each member of this lumberjack/leader team trusts the other to insert levers into the jam in a synchronized way, closely communicating as the work progresses, operating with mutual commitment and courage to better assure that the jam is opened up safely for everyone, permitting natural human forces to take over, obstructions to unwind, and pent-up energy to be converted to positive ends.
Various organizational behaviorists have used the symphony orchestra as a metaphor to better understand and explain organizations in general. Sometimes, the reference is to the unusually wide “horizontal organization” involved in a conductor leading 100 musicians. Other times, in an uncomplimentary way, we hear about the “maestro” manager. I would suggest that perhaps we look to orchestral performance for a metaphor which might be both illuminating and inspirational when describing how a total symphony orchestra organization might function. To this end, I am reminded of a favorite word of Boulez— “sonority”—a condition of full, deep, and rich orchestral sound. Each of you has participated in—and I have observed and heard—orchestral performance in which the “sonority” was fantastic. That is the condition I think we should try to achieve in total symphony organizational performance!
So in our organizations we need “open mind” more so than “open door” policies—in our board rooms, management offices, player committee meeting rooms, and the conductor’s suite. We need to use our ears a bit more and our mouths a bit less. As my father-in-law used to tell me “you don’t learn very much with your mouth open.” There are new organizational ideas and practices all around us and we need to remove our heads from the sand and observe and learn from them. We need to face the fact that although orchestral artistry has advanced regularly over the years, the functioning and “sonority” of the typical symphony orchestra organization has not much changed.
Musicians in many organizations are better off economically than ever before, but are contributing to organizational development, economic viability, and community value well short of their potential. Disengagement and uninvolvement tend to reinforce low morale in some orchestras—particularly in some smaller orchestras—where, in fact, what is needed is an enthusiastic total organizational effort to uplift lagging constituent and community support. Overall, musician job satisfaction continues low; angst is high. Staffs are stretched, stressed, and underpaid beyond reasonable limits in many organizations. Ambiguities as to the roles of the volunteer chairperson, the executive director, and the music director continue in many organizations, and these ambiguities do not contribute to strong and clear leadership. Information sharing is modest. Trust levels would appear to be below average.
On balance, the organizational practices we have followed for many years need to be questioned. They haven’t worked very well, particularly as to the release of human potential, and they don’t contribute to economic viability or growth. It is time we put our heads and hearts together and did something about it.
As a start, for your part, I urge each of you in this room, as you go about your conference activities and return to your organizations, to devote at least the same—if not more—intellectual energy to thinking about and discussing how you and your colleagues can provide more organizational value within your communities, and deepen and broaden constituency support for your organization, as you do to reviewing the intricacies of trade agreements and bargaining status. Let constituency support and community value become keynotes in your thinking about orchestral employment. I can assure you that, over time, your pocketbooks, as well as your workplace satisfaction and personal growth horizons, will be well served by this added emphasis.
Paul R. Judy is a retired investment banking executive. He is a Life Trustee and former President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Judy holds A.B. and M.B.A. degrees from Harvard University.
About the Cover . . .
The musical excerpt on our cover comes from one of our most beloved and familiar pieces of music. We selected this score because it signaled the arrival of something new, unexpected, and important in orchestral music. Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto—our example shows one of the most sumptuous passages from the slow movement—marked the clarinet’s coming of age. During the last decade of Mozart’s life this new, still-developing instrument took its place as a standard member of the orchestra and with this concerto, Mozart provided the clarinet’s official calling card: a full-fledged display piece written by the greatest composer of the day.
Clarinets were not new in Mozart’s time. The word clarinet—derived from clarino, a kind of trumpet—first appears in 1710, in an order for a pair of instruments to be made by Jacob Denner, the son of the man who is thought to have invented the instrument at the turn of the century. (In fact he improved and transformed the chalumeau, a now-obsolete single-reed woodwind that ultimately gave its name to the clarinet’s lowest register.)
Mozart heard clarinets as early as 1764 in London and began to write for them sparingly shortly thereafter, primarily in opera, where the use of exotic instruments (like the trombone, which too would eventually join the symphony orchestra) was justified by the demands of the drama. When he traveled to the important orchestral center of Mannheim in 1778, he wrote home to his father, “Alas, if only we also had clarinets.” Eventually Mozart would include clarinets in three of his symphonies and, following his lead, Haydn used them in five of his. By Beethoven’s time clarinets were accepted as regular members of the orchestra; he calls for them in all nine symphonies. With Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, written just three years after Beethoven’s death, the E-flat clarinet made a spectacular “debut” appearance in the orchestra. Today there are more varieties of clarinets called for in orchestral music than any other instrument.
Over time, both great performers and adventuresome composers have helped change the complexion of instrumental music. Mozart was lucky to encounter Anton Stadler, whose extraordinary clarinet playing inspired him not only to write a famous quintet and this concerto, but to demand virtuosity and fluency over the instrument’s entire range. Two hundred years later, Pierre Boulez’s Dialogue de l’ombre double, in which the clarinet plays with its own shadow, recorded on tape, continues to stretch the instrument’s technical capabilities.
Musicians in Mozart’s time, and in the decades that immediately followed, recognized that the orchestra was in constant transformation—first bassoons and clarinets joined the ranks, then Beethoven secured a place for the trombone and the piccolo, the common number of horns jumped from two to four, the ophicleide was introduced (soon to be replaced by the bass tuba), and slowly percussion instruments were added. The orchestra is, of course, still in transformation. We have accepted as “given” over the years many changes in instrumentation and readers are encouraged think of the Clarinet Concerto as an allegorical reference to change. When you next hear the Clarinet Concerto, let it remind you of the changes in orchestra organizations which are steadily taking place. Stay tuned.
Phillip Huscher is the program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Beyond Tradition: Partnerships Among Orchestras, Schools, and Communities
Beyond Tradition arrived in our offices as we were completing editorial work on Samuel Hope and Robert Freeman’s manuscripts. Given both authors’ concerns about the relationships between orchestral organizations and their communities, particularly in the area of music education, receipt of this document could not have been better timed.
David E. Myers of Georgia State University’s School of Music received a 1995 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to research existing orchestra education partnerships and to derive principles that might be implemented to establish effective programs. Beyond Tradition reports the work of the project.
In collaboration with the project’s research coordinator, Cynthia Thomas, Myers and his staff undertook a number of activities to identify partnerships currently in existence. The researchers worked with the American Symphony Orchestra League to develop a survey designed to identify each member orchestra’s K-12 education programs and descriptions of unique features of those programs.
As a result of the preliminary work, nine orchestra education partnerships were selected for site visits. Much of Beyond Tradition is devoted to in-depth reports of the site visits, making for fascinating reading about a variety of approaches to music education which our nation’s orchestras have implemented.
However, the real “meat” of the report begins on page 101, as the authors undertake their discussion of principles which can lead to effective orchestra education partnerships. A listing of strategies to strengthen the role of education in the orchestra’s mission suggests:
◆ Include education in the mission statement, goals, and objectives of the orchestra.
◆ Build commitment to the educational mission among admin- istrators, conductors, and musicians and report regularly to the larger community on the orchestra’s education and outreach efforts.
◆ Make the education director a senior-level administrative appoint- ment, with appropriate staff and budget.
◆ Commit to funding education as part of the ongoing operational budget requirements of the orchestra.
◆ Incorporate education considerations into hiring policies for administrative personnel and musicians and build education responsibilities into musicians’ contracts.
In a concluding section, “Looking Ahead . . . ,” the authors leave us with the following thoughts:
Some orchestras have sought relevance for younger audiences by adopting an entertainment mentality, developing glitzy shows, or performing arrangements of popular music. . . . Relevance does not imply simplistic embracing of the most recent trend or fad . . . In fact, with careful planning, students’ ears and minds are capable of being stretched well beyond the limits many adults tend to impose on them.
And, perhaps, more importantly:
If the orchestra’s interest in education is primarily that of introducing school children to the orchestra with the hope of building future audiences, its efforts are probably for naught. There is no hard evidence to suggest that sizeable audiences or support will automatically accrue from such motivations. On the other hand, if the orchestra sees itself as helping to fulfill the human longing for aesthetic satisfaction and advancing the expressive capacities of the human mind and spirit, then its role becomes one of educating people to the wealth of life- enriching opportunities available through the symphonic music experience. . . . Partnerships between orchestras and schools thus become a crucial link in a lifetime of music education experiences that connect to serve the artistic and cultural well-being of entire communities.
Partnerships Among Orchestras, Schools, and Communities
David E. Myers and Cynthia Thomas
National Endowment for the Arts, 1996.
Reviewed by Marilyn D. Scholl, editor of Harmony and president of Scholl Communications Incorporated
Beyond Tradition: Partnerships Among Orchestras, Schools, and Communities
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