Interview with Scott Faulkner
Many performing musicians consider moving into a role within orchestra administration but don’t do so because they don’t want to give up performing. As a professional musician yourself, you’ve managed to become Executive Director of the Reno Chamber Orchestra and also remain performing with the orchestra. How did this come about?
I was a musician first. I had been playing in the orchestra for a few years when a 1/2 time office position (Artistic Operations Manager) came open. After a year, this position became the one and only full-time position in the organization, and it came with the biggest title (Executive Director). I had a lot to learn about budgets and donors and boards and balance sheets, but I had the benefit of already knowing about music and conductors and all the glories and challenges of playing orchestral music.
Wearing two hats--administration and musician-- must get tricky sometimes. Talk about your experience balancing both roles and what has been a moment of challenge for you. And what has been a special moment of pride and joy for you in your dual roles.
The most difficult thing about being both ED and bassist is on concert nights when I have to transition immediately from one to the other. I find that most of the errors I make in performance are because my mind is wandering. When I'm thinking about the patron that just complained about their seat or the fact that the ushers didn't show up or whatever else, it's tough to put that all aside and go be a creative musician. Many times the first note I play is the downbeat of the concert or rehearsal, because there is no time to warm up.
Being labor/management makes our contract negotiations a dream. I negotiate with people who represent me...and who are my friends and colleagues from the orchestra. I absolutely understand both sides of the issue and we have virtually no problems at all between musicians and management. This is an intentional and essential part of our culture and I think my dual role is a helpful part of this.
One frustrating thing about being both musician and administrator, is that colleagues will come up to me at rehearsal and go into some long request or complaint and I am not in a position to do anything about this. I usually just tell them to call or email me so I can handle it when I get back to my desk.
Although it's not a big deal, I never have the luxury of having an "artistic temperament." I deal with issues from other artists, board members and donors and don't have time to throw any fits myself.
A recent moment of great pride for me was the world premiere of Joseph Schwantner's "Chasing Light..." To know all the hard work that went into making that moment, to speak to the audience from the stage, and then to go pick up my bass and be a part of the creation of this new work was really exciting. I think it gives me some extra credibility as a manager to be able to play as well. Sort of a rebuttal to the old saying "those who can't teach" or rather "those who can't...manage."
For a young musician who is thinking about working in orchestra administration, what types of work experience or additional classroom learning would be useful?
I think this depends on where they are coming from and what their background is. Assuming they come to this as someone who has played in orchestras for years and studied music, I would recommend taking some business courses and studying how a not-for-profit works. Also basic finance, non-profit law, and human resource management is helpful. The great orchestra manager Peter Pastreich once told me that all we do as Executive Directors is manage relationships. The more I do it, the more I see that is true. This job is mostly about massaging and nurturing and building relationships--between donors and audience and musicians and music directors and media and community members and the music itself. If a person likes people and deals well with them in a variety of contexts, being an executive director might be just the thing for them.