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January 12, 2010 | Drew McManus
All things being equal, something like this might have slipped by under the radar but thanks to the Boston Globe’s Geoff Edgers, events at the New Hampshire Music Festival (NHMF) have taken center stage. According to Edgers’ article from the 1/11/2010 edition, the NHMF’s board and administrative leadership attempted to implement sweeping changes that were the result of re-conceptualizing the artistic model…
Edgers reports that it wasn’t just the actual changes, but the process NHMF used that caused a significant amount of unrest among musicians. It didn’t take long for unrest to migrate from the musicians to ticket buyers and that strife served as a contributing factor for long-time festival attendees to form a patron group called Save Our Orchestra Now (SOON). SOON took little time to become proactive and began a grass roots campaign to stave off the proposed changes by wearing purple ribbons at concert events, contacting donors, and launching a public relations campaign.
Although Edgers reports that conflict between stakeholder groups intensified over the summer, the NHMF board recently decided to change course and abandon plans to replace musicians or change the traditional artistic model. At the same time, a number of questions remained unanswered including what the NHMF plans to do about a music director and whether or not any of the current administrators associated with abandoned plan will remain with the organization. Some of those issues are being addressed in current negotiations with the musicians, who have been posting updates at their own website.
Based on accounts in the Globe’s article, events at the NHMF reached such a fevered pitch due to an inadequate process that managed to incite distrust and hostility more than support (as evidenced by the quotes from NHMF musicians). If nothing else, this situation reaffirms that the most efficient way to implement a large amount of change is to dole it out incrementally over a several seasons or simply start an organization from scratch. Furthermore, excluding artistic stakeholders from major artistic decisions is, at best, shortsighted.