William Mesa  

The Phenomenon of Intellectual Capital in Community Non-Profit Orchestras

William Mesa
July 2, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Dr. William Mesa is a professor of management and accounting at Colorado Christian University and an amateur musician who plays percussion in two community orchestras in Denver. His interest in both music and business lead him to a doctoral dissertation that, in part, discussed, organized and categorized the articles found in Harmony. (A MAP TO READING AND FINDING TOPICS IN HARMONY: Eight Years of Research, Studies, and Articles )

This series of four articles, published in installments here, represent his research interests in strategic management and organizational behavior, and applying that knowledge to the two community orchestras in which he plays. In Dr. Mesa's words, "Understanding the significance of how IC (intellectual capital) is a resource for organizations, particularly NPOs (non-profit organizations) (like community orchestras), means recognizing the significance of what is at root of what motivates volunteers in the NPO or community orchestra. Why do community orchestras exist? Why do they perform?"

- Ramon Ricker

The Phenomenon of Intellectual Capital in Community Non-Profit Orchestras1

Over the span of nine months, I conducted an in-depth case study of two comparable community non-profit orchestra organizations. My aim in the study was to essentially identify what constitutes the knowledge resources or intangible resources found in community orchestras and how are they used. What I found were the essential resources and creative people that represent what leaders should guide rather than merely manage. This article will describe the basic characteristics of these “invisible resources”, also known as Intellectual Capital (IC) and how it can serve as a strategic resource for community orchestras and professional orchestras.2

Two community orchestras in the Denver, CO metro-area, were the participants in the case study. Both orchestras were comparably similar with respect to the following: number of musicians; the mix of individuals that comprise the board; approximately 6 concerts a year, a 9-month season; and each orchestra performing in a performance hall that holds approximately 200-300 attendees.

NPO Community Orchestras

Understanding the significance of how IC is a resource for organizations, particularly NPOs (like community orchestras), means recognizing the significance of what is at root of what motivates volunteers in the NPO or community orchestra. Why do community orchestras exist?Why do they perform?Community orchestras exist to do their part in preserving orchestral music. They do so for their community and for future generations. In fact, community orchestras act out what Peter Drucker argued should be the very purpose of all non-profits: to change human lives and thus contribute to human flourishing. Drucker called non-profits (NPO) “human-change agents”.3

A leading researcher in how NPOs can leverage IC, Eric Kong, tells of the need for NPOs to identify their intangible resources and use them to their advantage.4 And if community orchestras are to act out their purpose they must do so with a level of excellence in light of thriving in a knowledge economy where music has taken on the characteristics of a commodity displacing an experience that enriches lives.

In a review of the Symphony Orchestra Institute literature (over 8 years of articles, opinions and studies) I found a recurring pattern that community orchestras are an important piece in the preservation of orchestral music. Additionally, members of community orchestra are motivated to participate because they just enjoy making music and want to participate with the group. As such, the community orchestra is an important human-change agent. While the study is on community orchestras and not the professional flag-ship orchestras that represent the icon of classical music, they are an

1. Title adapted from chapter 2 of Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music, (1974); Harvard University Press.

2. This article series is adapted from my article “The composition of intellectual capital in non-profit orchestras” in the Journal of Intellectual Capital, 2010. Many modifications particularly in table content and complete findings are in that article. Full detail can be accessed in the scholarly article.

3. Drucker, Peter F. (1990), “Managing the Nonprofit Organization”, Collins Business.

4. Kong, Eric. (2007), “The Strategic Importance of Intellectual Capital in the Non-Profit Sector”, Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 721-731.

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