Departing maestro: The manager ‘wants me out of town as quickly as possible’

That’s music director Theodore Kuchar on leaving the Fresno Philharmonic after 15 hectic years.



The orchestra president says: ‘It is fair to say that the relationship between music director and exec director in professional symphony orchestras is a complex one. Both the music director and executive director are charged with making the organization successful and fulfilling its mission in a financially sustainable way. For an organization to be successful, it absolutely has to be a partnership. That’s absolutely true.”

Read the full breakdown article here. They should teach these things in music school.

share this

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
  • “They should teach these things in music school.” Yes, but symphony society presidents/CEOs are much more likely to attend business schools in pursuit of MBAs, a set of putatively transferable concepts and skills. But one may still argue that both musicians (not just conductors) and administrators would benefit in their education from certain courses in psychology. (I write this without reference to the Fresno situation, for the article does not make it clear to me just what was going on there.) Both might benefit from courses in interpersonal relations, but even more from those that give a thorough grounding in the Ego, good Ego and bad, the necessity of the former, the disaster inherent in the latter. Claudio Arrau’s article on psychoanalysis, included in Joseph Horowitz’s book Conversations with Arrau, makes for a fine introduction to the question of musicians and Ego.

    • Steven, Masters of Arts in arts administration programs have been around for at least 40 years. They combine MBA core curriculum with arts specific classes in fundraising techniques, arts marketing, advocacy, etc. These programs are offered at some of the best universities in the US. There is no excuse for hiring a CEO who doesn’t understand the arts branch of a given arts organization as well as the business side.

      If conductors want to run a symphony orchestra, they can just get the same degree and compete for the CEO job. Alternatively, they can be so good that they found their own orchestra (with chorus if required) and just hire an amanuensis to manage their calendar and collect the fees. Such conductors do exist: JE Gardiner and Herreweghe spring to mind. Alas, we have recently lost several such genius music directors of that caliber.

      • FYI: if JE Gardiner did not have both a company manager and a personal manager (Isabella, his wife) he would have assuredly be sharing a prison cell with Bernie Madoff.

  • I have long and often said that the American orchestra management system is dystopian and arcane. Having two captains on one ship – one having final say over the artistic side, the other having final say over the financial side – may have worked when there was enough money to go around, but it sure as heck doesn’t work today.

    This division of labor may have made sense in the 1960s, when orchestra managers were either ex-musicians who knew little about finance and sucked up to the maestro, or were managerial types who had crossed over from the for-profit world and knew little about music and the workings of an orchestral organization.

    Today, with degrees in arts management churning out music and finance savvy managers faster than they can burn out in their jobs, the two-manager model simply does not work anymore.

    Most maestros today know absolutely nothing about finance, marketing, fundraising, etc. Many still think that audiences come to concerts to hear “Them” (the conductor). Needless to say, such Music Directors don’t have the competence to decide anything except for the tempi and dynamics of the pieces they conduct.

    Needless to say, conceited conductors like that are heck to work with for management and staff, who have to balance things out with a board of directors as well, where factions often think the Music Director is the Second Coming and thus infallible.

    The only sensible model is to find musically savvy managers who have an arts administration background to make ALL the decisions. Let me qualify that: No savvy managers will force a conductor to perform a piece the conductor doesn’t want to perform or doesn’t feel at ease with. Not all kinds of music are equally suitable for each person. However, that’s where a manager will invite guest conductors if, say, the Music “Director” hates Beethoven’s 9th, Carmina Burana and Mozart’s piano concerti (in that order). In today’s model, the Music Director can veto the use of guest conductors (and most often does), especially in orchestras perform 6-12 concert series per year, all conducted by the same Music Director. Needless to say, such situations are insane.

    Plato was quite right about enlightened monocracy. The Managing Director must rule with wisdom beyond ego. The right person knows enough to keep a Music Director of his choosing happy while bringing in the audiences, which in turn boosts fundraising, which in turn makes musicians and directors happy. If the Music Director chooses not to cooperate, s/he can find another orchestra (if they can).

  • >