Tuesday, October 28, 2008

rating and writing to orchestras

Drew McManus published a ranking of US and Canadian orchestra websites last week at his Adaptistration blog -- here's his post summarizing the Canadian results, and below is a chart showing his scores for the Calgary Philharmonic website. The blue middle column shows this year's scores:

The one category of Drew's with which I take exception is "Orchestra Information". Here's Drew McManus' explanation of this category:

Category 4: Orchestra Information - 15 points maximum

  • Learning about an orchestra and having easy access to contact information and educational program information is crucial to an orchestra’s ability to establish meaningful connections with its community.
  • This category contains five sub-categories covering biographical and contact information for music directors and musicians. Staff and board listings with related individual contact info were also considered essential as well as providing copies of institutional transparency documents.
I personally don't think providing contact info for musicians is a meaningful or desirable feature for an orchestral website. I would like to see better-written, more standardized musician pages. Those who choose to provide links to a personal website or e-mail address could be given that option. However, many musicians simply prefer to keep their e-mail addresses private.

I don't think playing in a professional orchestra should obligate anyone to publish personal information on a website -- some of us may do this by choice, but it does come at a certain sacrifice of privacy, and sometimes sanity! The Calgary Philharmonic website does feature a series of video clips with members of the orchestra, which I think is an appropriate vehicle to showcase musicians. For visitors trying to know an orchestra better, I think this feature is far more useful than giving out e-mail addresses.


Drew McManus said...

I agree that there should be no requirement for musicians to publish personal or professional information on their orchestra's website and that is exactly the case at every orchestra website I encountered (even those with fantastic musician info pages). However, I do feel that having some contact information posted is an enormously valuable tool for creating better connections between musicians and patrons.

For example, the local community should feel some sort of loss when a musician leaves or be motivated to get to know incoming players. If it means having an email account via the orchestra server and having messages forwarded or printed out and delivered to musicians (a more feasible option for 52-week orchestras) then it is worth the effort.

I'm curious to know more about why you don't think having musician contact info is meaningful. Could you expand on that a bit? I think this is a great discussion and I've encountered musicians with a wide variety of opinions. Likewise, managers will benefit from hearing more about the issues from the musician's perspective since they are the ones ultimately tasked with implementing these features.


Matt Heller said...

Thanks for writing!

I'm glad you clarified that you're not asking for musicians' personal contact info on an orchestra website. That was my own misreading of the category description, and that extra layer of privacy does make a big difference.

My negative reaction was mainly against the idea that musician profiles should be turned into quasi-MySpace pages, requiring musicians to maintain their page and interact online. That's just not something I think many musicians are ready to sign up for.

I think that musicians who do want to connect with audience members should certainly be encouraged, though -- and if management wants to post interactive profiles on a voluntary basis, I'm all for it. My experience is that when management invites musicians to interact more with the audience, a certain percentage will eagerly embrace the idea, usually with great results. Some will want nothing to do with it, while others will hold back, waiting to see how it goes for the early adopters. A project like this can definitely work if the musicians are enthusiastically on board, but it can't if we're being coerced into it.