Staff turmoil at San Francisco Symphony

Staff turmoil at San Francisco Symphony


norman lebrecht

March 08, 2018

Mark Hanson, the new executive director, has told staff he is getting rid of the marketing director and eliminating other posts, including COO and artistic administrator in charge of pops, or so insiders tell Slipped Disc.

This, as you may imagine, has gone down like a runaway streetcar heading for the bay.



  • Suzanne says:

    cablecar, Norman, cablecar!

    • Dan P. says:

      But since cable cars are just that – they are pulled by an underground cable – they really can’t run anywhere on their own since they are tethered to a pulley system. And they go VERY slowly. How about an out-of-control getaway car?

    • buxtehude says:

      Bowling balls from a busted basket barrelling to the bay

      • Eric says:

        San Francisco has both cablecars and streetcars, running in different parts of the city. But, we all know that the cablecars are what is most associated, not the imported, recycled stable of older streetcars (which are quite fun to see).

  • David K. Nelson says:

    He was executive director of the Milwaukee Symphony until 2010 (the photo is taken in the Calatrava-designed wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum) and actually balanced the budget at a pretty dire time for that orchestra — cuts to administrative staff were a big part of that, and the musicians too felt the pain. But the orchestra survived which is more than some cities can claim. Whether he did the same when he went to Houston I have no idea but his track record should have come to no surprise to anybody in SF who can Google a name. For instance

  • MacroV says:

    I didn’t know SF even did pops; I thought they were one of the few US orchestras (+the Big 4 of 5 and LA) that managed without.

    • Marc says:

      Have you forgotten what the big orchestras do in summertime? The LA Phil, for example, is able to break even thanks to the mobs who congregate at Hollywood Bowl in July and August for fireworks shows, concerts headlining pop stars, movie-themed programs, etc. Two nights of “Tchaikovsky Spectaculars,” ending with fireworks and booming canons for the “1812,” bring in some 34,000 folks. Face it — pops programming saves orchestras.

      • MacroV says:

        I was thinking regular season, but most of the Hollywood Bowl orchestral pops programs are, AFAIK, played by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, not by the LAPO proper. And the LAPO makes its real money from all the pop/rock acts that play the venue.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Playing movie scores counts as pops concerts.

  • drummerman says:

    Surely he is replacing the marketing director, not eliminating the position altogether, which he has every right to do. The artistic administrator position has been vacant for many months – I know because I interviewed for it last June. San Francisco does not play pops so the AA position did not have anything specific to do with pops.

  • V.Lind says:

    Seems to me this blog often argues for reduction in the administrative rather than the artistic side of companies. Who knows if these moves will be effective, or deleterious, but given that the man has a good track record perhaps it is worth considering that he has a plan.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    I’ve known Mark since his Rockford days. Trust him – one of the best in the business.

  • ThinkingGenerously says:

    Turnover is not a reasonable characterization. This falsehood greatly misrepresents the good will and spirit of their new Executive Director.

    The marketing director really wasn’t very good at his job. And even worse his personality was difficult and divisive. This is a welcomed and responsible move.

    The COO position never existed in the first place–it was a manufactured figment of the board president to install her lackey within the administration after giving the General Manager the boot.

    The nature or need of the AA position is beside the point, and there isn’t a single reason to think that the organizational leadership will encounter any challenge successfully staffing the department.

    At any rate it was a “pops” only position in a historical sense only because the past artistic team cared little and knew even less about non-classical content. With MTT’s upcoming departure this is a prudent and thoughtful opportunity to rearrange things.

    [redacted: cattiness]

  • David K. Nelson says:

    As regards the San Francisco Symphony and playing a “pops” season, wasn’t San Francisco the late Arthur Fiedler’s “other” post – a real, albeit somewhat brief, season, as he had in Boston, and not just a drop in visit or two? Or was that a pickup group.