Are Three Legs Appropriate? Or Even Sufficient? Part II

Henry Fogel
October 15, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

And now the conclusion of Henry Fogel's article, Are Three Legs Appropriate? Or Even Sufficient?, written for the April 2000 issue of Harmony. Don't miss Mr. Fogel's interview with Polyphonic.org's Interview Series Host Greg Sandow!

- Ramon Ricker


Institutional Alignment

I do believe that in some organizations the participants are coming to understand that they are all part of one large organization centered around a symphony orchestra, whereas in other organizations the various constituencies still view themselves as separate units with adversarial interests. This is most visibly true when looking at the musician-employer relationship, but can also be seen in some organizations in the relationships among the three “legs of the stool.” I have certainly known of managers who consciously minimized the flow of information to their board leadership, feeling that they (the managers) were more knowledgeable and that the more they kept the board out of their hair, the easier their lives would be. Similarly, there have certainly been struggles for control and power between managers and music directors.

It is hard to see how keeping these separate “turfs,” and excluding the professional musicians from serious roles in governance, can lead to healthy organizations. It seems evident on the face of it that involving everyone in governance in a meaningful and responsible way could only result in a more unified organizational effort, in greater institutional alignment. And the more work I do with orchestras of all sizes in America, the more I observe that lack of institutional alignment is an obstacle to progress.I know that “institutional alignment” is a favorite buzzword of organizational consultants and some foundation grant-givers. But the overuse of a term cannot be permitted to take away from its merit or value. The fact is that the various stakeholders in an organization must be in alignment if that organization is to achieve its maximum potential. In the case of orchestras, that potential can be artistic or financial (the two are inextricably intertwined anyhow), but it will surely not be fully realized as long as major misalignments exist.

I personally believe that there is no more important an issue facing orchestras today. The nature of orchestras is changing faster than most of us can absorb.While some musicians may believe that there is the same potential of untapped fundraising resources that existed in the 1950s, the truth is that funding sources are far closer to being maximized, and even tapped out, than most of us want to admit. Additionally, some funding sources are pushing orchestras into change that is probably healthy, in terms of serving wider and more economically and ethnically diverse audiences. These changes are going to require a different view of the very missions of orchestras, and an examination of the job of being an orchestra musician.

I don’t think we can face these issues intelligently and with wide organizational trust if musicians, who constitute the major professional group in our organizations, and whose jobs are so affected by the outcome, are excluded from the discussion. Without such involvement, how can we expect musicians to better understand and share with staff and board people the “truth” I earlier mentioned about increasing constraints on fundraising? Generations of mutual mistrust and even outright antagonism are going to have to be put aside, and people are going to have to come together to thoroughly reexamine the historic patterns of organizational behavior. The good news is that this is beginning to happen, both at the local level with some orchestral organizations, and at the national level with organizations such as the Symphony Orchestra Institute. I have been active in the Institute from its beginning because it was specifically addressing this issue, and starting a national dialogue on the subject of orchestral organization and governance. In some way, the national dialogue that has been started needs to be heated up. At the same time, leaders of orchestral organizations need to work inside their own organizations toward the goal of full participation on the part of all constituencies. We must, at both local and national levels, shake up conventional thinking sufficiently so as to change the fundamental concepts on which managements, boards, and musicians currently base much of their behavior.

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