Orchestra CEOs go into secret conclave

Orchestra CEOs go into secret conclave


norman lebrecht

August 16, 2021

The Association of British Orchestras is planning an overnight retreat ‘aimed at all ABO members who hold Chief Executive-level positions’.

It’s getting quite a bit of resentment from the other ranks.

Here’s Declan Kennedy, general manager of Manchester Collective, with full details attached of the hideaway:


What to they have to share that can’t be done on phone or Zoom? It sounds like a bit of a jolly.

Let’s see who turns up.


  • CA says:

    Shouldn’t be encouraging travel or unnecessary expenditures right now. Shame on them for not using zoom.

    • Saxon says:

      Have to get back to normal sometime. And why not now, when 70 percent of Britons have been vaccinated, and the health service can comfortably cope. The crisis is pretty much over (even if small number of people continue to get seriously ill).

      If not now, when can we start returning to normal.

  • drummerman says:

    NL, on this side of The Pond, every January the League of American Orchestras holds a two day “Mid Winter Manager’s Meeting” in New York City. It’s for CEOs of all budget size orchestras. I don’t know the exact cost but it certainly is at least a few hundred dollars plus the airfare, meals, etc.

  • Armchair Bard says:

    …and they can’t spell, neether: in the circs, ‘ABO Leaders Retreat’ is a real doozy.


    Provided the CEOs pay out of their own pockets (which I guess most of them can easily afford to do), where’s the problem? And you never know, they might actually come up with something useful!!

  • V. Lind says:

    Maybe, just maybe, they are conclaving to try to find solutions they can offer the members who have been disadvantaged by lockdown and other aspects of the pandemic.

    And £500 does not seem such a lot for a potentially useful conference on what’s to be done. Presumably they pay it themselves, or from a budget contained in THEIR association.

    Let’s wait and see what it produces — if we are lucky enough to hear about it.

  • Patrick says:

    Perhaps the £500 fee could be put into their collective orchestras coffers. Oh! Silly old me! They’ll be paying it from their orchestras coffers. Suits will never understand, or want to understand musicians.

  • Wally Francis says:

    I cannot see why, under the current, unprecedented circumstances, why anyone could object to the senior people in charge of our main Orchestras/Ensembles meeting together
    under the auspices of the ABO [the trade body] in private, to discuss the future.

    Objectors must accept that they need time to share ideas and make plans for the future.

    There will be plenty of critics airing their vitriolic opinions on this site if “management” fail to sort things out going forward.

    They are damned if the do and damned if they don’t.

    • anon says:

      That is all very well, but why are only CEOs invited, exactly? Why are principal players and members of players’ councils not invited to sit at the table? The UK has a long tradition of players getting involved in the management of their orchestra and having strong representation on the board of directors (the LSO being an obvious example).

      • IC225 says:

        Possibly this is a meeting for the people who carry actual financial and legal responsibility, rather than simply having opinions and loud voices.

        • Firing Back (Sometimes) says:

          But probably not.


        • anon says:

          In UK company law, the Board of Directors has ultimate “financial and legal responsibility” for the company. Admittedly, the Board would ordinarily delegate day-to-day operations to a CEO, Treasurer, and a team of administrators, but the Board is required to scrutinise these operations, and would be held liable in the event of malfeasance being discovered. And the Board would be expected to take a proactive role in the strategic development of the company.

          In many UK orchestras, there are players on Boards of Directors and other boards that DO “carry actual financial and legal responsibility” for the orchestra.

          A notable example is the LSO:


          Several members of their Board of Directors, including the Chair, ARE players.

      • MWnyc says:

        One would suppose it’s because you get beyond a certain number of participants and it stops being a set of conversations and starts being a series of lectures or panel discussions.

  • Alviano says:

    Now, now, let go of your pearls. It’s not diversity training.

  • Peter says:

    “My Orchestra is in crisis and doesn’t have much money” ” Neither does mine” “OK, let’s have a beer then”.

    • V. Lind says:

      Or maybe “how are we going to manage when halls can never be more than half-filled? And union rules prohibit any change in musicians’ contracts?”

  • Will says:

    ‘It’s getting quite a bit of resentment from the other ranks’

    = One person mouthing off about it on Twitter.

    Almost every organisation has a professional development budget which can (or should be) accessed by any member of staff. It would be unwise to think that CEO’s don’t need any such training and development opportunities – learning shouldn’t stop at a certain level.

    • anon says:

      …but £500+VAT for a ‘retreat’ that starts at 1pm on Thursday and finishes at 4pm on Friday. At best, that is one-and-a-half working days. You might expect to pay that sort of money for a masterclass/workshop day with a top soloist (try getting money from a “development budget” for that!), but not for a discussion forum. If anyone other than a CEO or principal conductor tried to apply to the “development budget” for something so extravagent, they would not be taken seriously. Based on what is included in that price (the ‘retreat’ itself, meals, and 1 night B&B), I would say that around £100 would be a more appropriate level of expenditure, especially in view of the fact that the hosting organisation, Britten-Pears Arts, is an ‘associate’ ABO member (so they should be offering something close to their in-house rate).

      Keep in mind that none of these figures includes the cost of travelling to/from a village in east Suffolk without a regular bus service (as if CEOs would be seen on a local bus anyway). Will the ‘retreat’ organise a minibus from the nearest railway station, I wonder, or will the delegates get separate taxis? Or perhaps they will drive their private cars from all over the country and get reimbursed at the standard HMRC-approved mileage rate of 40p/mile (given that the advert encourages delegates to consider staying on for a weekend holiday after the ‘retreat’, and the fact that there will be a partial rail closure on the London-Ipswich railway line on the Sunday, some delegates will doubtless decide that getting public transport is just too much hassle)?