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Thread: Organisational Structure in the Orchestra - Board of directors

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    Default Organisational Structure in the Orchestra - Board of directors

    I've noticed that all Orchestra's have a board of directors and I have a few questions about how this typically affects the running of the orchestra, particularly with regards to the conductor.

    Is the board made up of members of the orchestra itself, or are they other people, and if so what is their relation to the business.

    How much power to these people have over the conductor, can they hire/fire at will? Could they replace musicians? Would they have input on the pieces that are performed?

    Obviously this would be far from likely, but i'd be interested to understand if such a thing could be possible.


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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    May 2011
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    Having been an artist for ten years creating shows for the public and laser shows and putting together classical music events,...I can honestly say I abhor boards of directors. Alls they do is show up whenever they dam please and since they have no idea about the daily operations they go ahead and make the most ridiculous decisions that don't affect them rather the worker that is there day in, day out.

    This is why my current board of directors is my bands and we all have equal say.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Maybe if I guess enough things wrong, some city slicker who knows the nitty-gritty will speak up.

    My impression is that symphony orchestra boards are 'manned' very similarly to corporation boards. There is a somewhat theoretical business expertise mingled with cronyism. Unless it's a strictly 'advisory' board, which is a kind of window dressing, the board - through its chairman - has all the powers you have wondered about, and the degree of music knowledge you might reasonably expect given its make-up. The degree of business expertise must be highly variable.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    I was a manager of orchestras for 30 years. Boards always have the same function - to oversee the proper and legal running of the organisation and make sure it remains viable (ie doesn't go bust). Sometimes these board members will also be trustees of the non-profit making company and will have a personal as well as professional responsibility for the businesslike running of the orchestra. Some orchestras are basically owned by a co-operative of the musicians (eg, the 'big four' London orchestras, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia) and a large number of player musicians will be present on the board. It is more usual, however, for the orchestra to be owned and run by an independent company. The boards of these orchestras will also have a musician presence on them, but to a far lesser extent.

    The board employs a Chief Executive (or whatever the top top might be called) to run the orchestra and make the day-to-day decisions about hiring and firing, budgets, programming, booking of artists, etc. This Chief Executive will then report back to the board on a regular basis (usually every three months), submitting reports on finances, projections for the future, reports on past events and plans for the future. The board is largely 'non-executive' (ie acts as overseeing and advisory body, but leaves the actual management of the orchestra to their Chief Executive).

    In the USA boards are usually required to generate income as well (as there is no state subsidy for orchestras). The current financial climate and diminishing government funding for orchestras means that board in Europe are also having to help generate income from the orchestras through their business and personal contacts and their knowledge of the corporate world.

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