We’ll save the orchestra if we can call the shots

We’ll save the orchestra if we can call the shots


norman lebrecht

August 02, 2019

The Non-Profit Quarterly has a remarkable story from inside the National Philharmonic, the Maryland orchestra that almost died.

It appears that one of the players offered to donate $275,000 on condition that his group took over the management of the company.

This did not go down well with the present management and the gift was rejected.

Jim Kelly, a local businessman who also plays in the orchestra, organized a bailout, but did so without engaging many members of the organization’s board. Earlier this week, according to Bethesda Magazine, he offered what he described as “an independent, comprehensive plan to ensure that the National Philharmonic keeps its doors open and moves forward on solid financial footing.” Along with other donors, he was prepared to give $275,000.

The donors placed an unusual condition on their gift, though: the donor group would take over the nonprofit’s leadership. Kelly and his group made the infusion of new resources “contingent on [Kelly] taking over as interim president of the organization and current board member Harris Miller ascending to interim board chair. National Philharmonic subscriber and supporter Julie Pangelinan would become vice chair and treasurer.”

Read on here.



  • drummerman says:

    No mention of exactly what qualifies Mr. Kelly to run the orchestra. “Local businessman” means nothing and, if he’s a full-time businessman, what’s he doing playing in the Philharmonic?

    I can’t begin to tell you how many people I’ve met over the years — including several board presidents I’ve specifically worked with — who think that because they love music, or maybe have a very large CD collection or maybe once had their picture taken with Yo Yo Ma, think they know all about orchestra management. It never ceases to amaze me just how many orchestra management “experts” are out there. It’s practically a cottage industry!

    Imagine saying to a lawyer: “Golly gee, I watch a lot of crime shows on TV. I’d like to defend one of your clients in court.”

    I shall now pour myself a stiff drink. Yikes.

    • DC Violinist says:

      Jim Kelly is vice president of Potters Violins, oversaw their move to a new location, has been directly involved in personnel management in multiple area orchestras, and is very well known and respected inside the DC music area.
      He also came up with a plan to save the NPO in a shorter time frame than the current management managed, despite it being their job in the first place. There is a reason Jim Kelly has the support of all the musicians and both conductors. He has a much stronger record of success than the current management at NPO.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    If he can do it better and has the personal funds to subsidize any mistake that the player run organization will make, then let him.

    Not sure why he doesn’t just start his own orchestra if he has the funds.

  • The View from America says:

    Having corresponded with a few of the musicians directly involved, it seems that the “old guard” (board and executive staff) will probably be the ones who step away …

  • Anne Midgette says:

    This whole story is sourced (with attribution at the top) from my story in the Washington Post that ran the day before. The Kelly bid has not yet been rejected by any means. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/struggling-national-philharmonic-gets-two-lifelines-but-the-way-forward-isnt-clear-cut/2019/07/30/0128c266-b2fb-11e9-951e-de024209545d_story.html?utm_term=.893586b00274

    • David Rohde says:

      And I referenced this Post story in the immediately preceding Slipped Disc item on the National Philharmonic, although I gave the headline for people to search on rather than a direct link.