A Prof. Harold Hill Moment

Well, this is disappointing.

Drew McManus is a prominent arts writer, and for some time I’ve valued his insights. So I’ve been baffled by one of the topics that he’s been covering… in my view past the point of usefulness. This is the issue of pay disparity between full-time orchestra players, and substitute players.

This is an important issue that does need to be addressed, as it touches not just on issues of fairness and a whole slew of other topics. Moreover, it is an issue that has to be addressed delicately, as it is very easy to become defensive, to unwittingly denigrate one side or the other, or to not give sides full credit for the unique challenges of their positions. 

So I’ve been surprised by Drew’s handling of it. For one, he has covered the topic three times since the new year. But more importantly, he keeps hammering on this topic by using the Minnesota Orchestra as his prime (if not only) example. More specifically, he lashes out at the settlement that came after the 16-month, management-led lockout.

I concede that Minnesota could possibly be an exemplar, but I and many others have questioned whether or not it’s the best one. Robert Levine similarly seems to think Minnesota is a problematic case study to talk about pay disparity. The Minnesota lockout was so involved, so lengthy, and so intense that I think it’s hard to point to pay disparity as a defining feature. Plus, if this is an industry-wide trend, isn’t there any other example to use… one that illustrates the point with less murk? And finally, as Drew admits, he has no direct information on the Minnesota situation from either management or the musicians. He makes mention of anonymous talk, he himself says he has no concrete information.

So I’ve been baffled.  Why does he keep hitting on this topic, using an outlier case of which he has no direct information? Is it just that he has a bee in his bonnet? Is he using the debate to attract clicks to his site? Does it directly impact a family member?

But then today it all became clear. In a post on his blog, (sorry, I can’t bring myself to supply a link) he lays out why he keeps hitting on Minnesota: he wants the Minnesota Orchestra to bring him on to solve this problem. As he says, “I want to take a moment to confirm that my original proposition to offer my professional services in conjunction with any element related to strategic planning, guidance, and infrastructure support over a sustained period of time free of charge to any involved party stands.”

So there it is… he’s been setting up a Professor Harold Hill approach… fast-talking about trouble! trouble! trouble! and positioning himself as just the person to make things right.  I appreciate that he offers to do so without charge… but with respect, that’s what time-share salespeople say, too.

For me, this doesn’t set himself up as a champion on this issue; in fact, it totally shreds his credibility and cheapens an incredibly important topic.

Disappointing. Very disappointing.




One thought on “A Prof. Harold Hill Moment

  1. Yes, yes, yes! I left a comment at his blog saying much the same stuff. He has good ideas but I don’t think he’s helping his case with MOMO by hammering away as if the settlement was a bad one, especially for sub players. Geez. I doubt MOMO will respond.


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