Classifieds: (REAL) Guitar Administrators Wanted
Sure, over the past 20 years the number of classical guitarists has grown almost at an exponential rate, driving the demand for ‘guitar centric’ organizations and events. However, how strong are these organizations and how committed are their leaders to make them sustainable?
We have all heard it, and we have all seen it: “I’ll invite you to my festival if you invite me to yours”. It’s happening and it happens in every genre of music, and it’s unlikely to go away. Unfortunately, the degree to which the above mentioned practices occur is alarmingly high.
Lets agree on the underlying assumption that the people involved in these organizations truthfully care about the guitar and wish to have a positive impact in their community. Otherwise, they would not be spending time and effort to carry out with these events. Therefore, lets concentrate on what makes organizations great. In general, one can observe the following traits of guitar organizations with non-professional guitarist leadership:
- Larger budgets
- More diverse programming
- Solid financials
- Larger audiences
- Bigger media exposure
The insight from these results might suggest that putting the guitar aside for a bit, and taking an administrative career seriously might be a good idea. Then, why do certain guitarists insist in using their interim positions of ‘power’ as a medium to barter their way into concerts?
One plausible explanation is the psyche instilled in guitarists during professional studies. Classical Guitar is the ultimate individualistic instrument. Collaboration (in the form of chamber music) is very limited, if at all existent, and even orchestras are now guitar centric. In short, more often than not, guitarists crave the attention of being alone in the spotlight and the claps at the end of every piece. They close their eyes and imagine Segovia-like futures. Its an addiction,
There is a different story when one sees at how classical music organizations are run. For example, the CEO of Carnegie Hall – Clive Gillinson – was once a cellist at the London Symphony Orchestra, where he began his administrative career. Fast forward 30 years and he now leads one of the strongest music organizations in the world. His salary? A meager 1.1 MILLION dollars. How many times has he played in Carnegie Hall as a cellist? ZERO. This article for the Telegraph recounts this journey to arts management stardom.
Could we imagine such a career progression if he had insisted on his career as a cellist? Do we think concerts in carnegie hall are dealt in barter, like in the majority of the guitar events? Isn’t he still a musician? To play at the LSO is no small feat. He certainly still plays the instrument in his leisure time, and perhaps, even much better than some of the ‘pseudo guitar administrators’.
Those guitar administrators who have learned from their classical music peers are thriving, and their organizations are growing solid in spite of the general affairs of the arts or the economy.
The classical guitar is in dire need of strong institutions that communicate to the world the beautiful work that our artists do via media, publicity and well organized events. Our organizations are the window that we have to make people fall in love of the guitar. However, this dream is hampered by the airs of greatness of many, who in turn are letting go of an incredible opportunity to be the leaders that not only the guitar but the arts need. Why not envision a guitarist as CEO of a major concert hall or an orchestra one day? It has happened, but we do not take them as role models.
Regardless if you are already committed to an organization or if you are thinking of opening one, here are some ideas to ease the transition to administration.
Acknowledge its been a great ride, count your blessings, and kiss your “Segovia” career goodbye for once and for all. This obviously does not mean one will stop playing, either in private or in public. There are plenty of examples out there of people doing the right balancing act.
Embrace the change, and start seeing yourself and your organization as the priority. Get professional managerial training, benchmark from other arts organizations or even join them and see how they work from the inside.
Some industry trade organizations one should think of reaching out for more information would be:
- IAMA: International Artists Managers Association
- CMA: Chamber Music America
- Musical America: The largest classical music publication in the world.
- League of American orchestras
Currently, there are less than 10 guitarists associated with CMA, and the number of guitar organizations listed in Musical America –the bible of the classical music industry – is depressing, with less than 10. That should be a reflection of how priorities have been set by many guitar leaders.
I believe the talent is out there. The only thing we need is a change in attitude.
Is it worth it? Ask Clive Gillinson. He’s doing just fine.