I do a lot of talking on here about creating your own opportunities and today I'm going to throw my big idea out in to the world. I'm hoping to get some feedback on this, so please feel free to message me, FB, Twitter, or whatever with your thoughts or opinions on this!
In the past few years, the orchestral world has been rocked time and time again by bankruptcies, salary cuts, and closings. Until recently, I was totally ignorant to how these organizations were run and why they couldn't seem to get their shit together. So I started reading books, blogs, and anywhere else I could start getting some information. Once I did, it became clear to me (I like to think) why there are so many issues in these organizations. The basic models of orchestras, to me, is fundamentally flawed and no longer works in this day and age.
To avoid this post being a mile long, I'll jump right into brief rundown of my idea.
What if orchestras and other performing groups were run completely by musicians?
The current system has it set up where there are basically three different branches to most orchestras: musicians, administration, and the board/leadership. Ideally this should work if everyone is doing their job well and the focus is on delivering the mission and vision of the organization. But unfortunately (as we've seen time and time again with contract negotiations), there somehow seems to be a tremendous disconnect between these branches.
So my idea is that since these orchestras are all about music, the musicians should play a much larger role in the leadership and direction of the organization. What if musicians were directly involved in the fundraising efforts, the marketing, community engagement, finances, and everything else? This will immediately bring up protest from a lot of people, but that's OK. If you've got a job and you're totally satisfied with just playing your part, then that's awesome. But I think many orchestral musicians these days aren't exactly thrilled with the state of the business and also don't feel that their input is valued.
If every musician was making positive contributions and bring their other skills to the table, their work could help steer institution along. Think about how much money organizations spend on having full-time administrative staff, in addition to a full roster of musicians. If every musician was contributing more than just artistically they could be compensated for their performing and other contributions as well. Obviously this could never be implemented into an existing organization, but moving forward this could make these organizations much more sustainable.
There are a bunch of groups out there that are already implementing this kind of idea in to the structure of the group so I'm really interested to see how those ensembles progress moving forward. I still have a lot of things to sort out about this idea, but I really think it could work if every musician came to the table with the expectation of playing a bigger role than just a performer. This would require a minimal staff to coordinate the administrative duties, but I really believe that the performers could almost entirely sustain every aspect of the organization with cooperation and teamwork. It works for chamber groups, why not orchestras?
I know this is totally a radical shift in thinking from what many musicians know and maybe it wouldn't work. But I think just about any reasonable idea is worth discussing as a possibility for change. I think anyone will agree that there are some glaring faults in the current system and that something has to change.
What do you think?