You should not take up music unless you would rather die than not do so. – Nadia Boulanger
I completed my undergraduate music studies in 1990. It was very clear at the time that the days of public funding for art and arts education were coming to an end. I recall a very disappointing conversation/debate with a friend (who happened to be heading to Washington after graduation) where I realized that my career path was not just one that would never make me rich, it was one that would require me to become a fierce advocate and fundraiser. Not surprisingly, shortly after I received my Master of Music degree and began actually working as a musician and teacher, I found myself burnt out and incredibly disenchanted with everything associated with the artsy fartsy world I’d been immersed in throughout most of my life. I hated that I never had time to practice anymore because now I was paying my own way and I worked hours opposite of my husband so we rarely saw each other. I hated that the union didn’t allow curtain calls for fantastic performances that went over time and that they disrupted rehearsals when a break was due. Everyone around me was tired and grumpy. Being spit out of the young artist’s bubble into the real world sucked and the future looked bleak so I quit.
(I’m a much better advocate and marketer of the arts than I ever was a violinist so it all worked out for the best.)
My quitting wasn’t much different from what San Diego Opera board did earlier this year when they decided to shut down the company. Not really, but personalizing and drawing comparisons is what bloggers do so there you have it. The difference here is that the people behind the mess, the board and more precisely the general and music director, Ian Campbell, not only quit something they had no business quitting but I’m willing to bet we will find that there’s been some unethical financial hanky-panky happening in the background.
Today’s news that Ian Campbell was being put on indefinite paid leave seemed laughable to me. Paying someone $500k a year to do nothing has to be painful. Certainly there are contracted terms under which this was necessary but there in lies the problem. Campbell has a pretty sweet contract for someone who is unable and unwilling to lead his organization through a predicted rough patch. If after 31 years you can no longer provide the value your job or jobs require you should retire or be fired and if your board is either unable or unwilling to do so then you are a poorly run organization in dire need of an overhaul. Arts organizations need fearless and creative leaders and the more I read about Ian Campbell the less respect I have for him. I think it is a shame that nobody ever questioned the business practices of this board and that the board never made a move to find someone to lead them through the journey to remain viable.
There’s been quite a soap opera playing out in San Diego and I’m certain it is only getting started. I hope the board finds someone gutsy, passionate and honorable to lead the company through the mess they have created. Donors want to trust that the organizations they support are organized and well-run and that their funds are being used appropriately. There are many questions to be answered in San Diego and I truly hope that this is just a case of stagnant and incompetent leadership and not something more sordid. I have to wonder how much damage this debacle has caused to those of us pounding the pavement to raise money for our own organizations.
Regardless, I don’t intend to quit this time 😉