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Change can be difficult. Change can be turbulent. Change can be painful.
Change brings success. Change brings order. Change brings comfort.

Making things right is a time consuming process and just when you think all the pieces are finally in place, something comes along to knock them all down. Since the beginning of the decade, the environment of orchestra management has fundamentally changed. The task ahead is survival, and that survival will be based on how well orchestra management is able to adapt and evolve. This weblog is designed to present ideas and create a forum to help accelerate that evolutionary process.


With the current round of difficult times, many organizations are caught at the crossroads of artistic success vs. financial and operational impasse.

To most, the inner workings of an orchestra are a mystery, but how an orchestra manages itself is linked directly to the artistic success of that organization. With the current round of difficult times, many organizations are caught at the crossroads of artistic success vs. financial and operational impasse. Orchestra management has grown stale, reactionary, and in extreme cases, exploitative.The results have ranged form modest budget adjustments to organizational collapse. Nonetheless, it is clear that the business of orchestral management is in serious need of reform.

The ideas and proposals presented in these writings may arguably be considered unconventional. They are designed to problem solve by identifying “what’s wrong” and present solutions about “how to fix it” based on my extensive experience and work in this field. Much like the title of this blog, I expect this “manifesto” to evolve over time. With your input, it will grow into something meaningful. Please feel free to send along any ideas, comments, or criticisms. I plan to post them on a regular basis.


In order to ensure accuracy and provide a comprehensive perspective on any topic, I allow any individual or person officially representing an organization that appears in any Adaptistration article to submit a response which will be published, unedited. Responses are limited to 200 words and must address the issues at hand and the individuals and/or organizations must also be willing to maintain an open dialog for continued discussion.

I work as an arts consultant in Chicago, IL. I’m the author of this blog.
There has never been a better time to be in the orchestra business. Really.


I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired.

Those were the first words out of an executive’s mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals “aggressively embracing career change” but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn’t matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can’t keep your own clients out of the ground, and I’m fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I’ve done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.


Mr. McManus is regularly quoted as an orchestra business expert in traditional media outlets such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dallas Daily News, The Guardian Unlimited, and the Melbourne Age. Mr. McManus has been a guest on national radio programs such as NPR’s All Things Considered and WNYC’s Soundcheck.


In the summer of 2008, Mr. McManus traveled to Doha, Qatar to serve as the lead consultant in developing a comprehensive organizational and operational model for a $60 million orchestra and music academy project.

Drew in Qatar

In 2008 Drew traveled to Doha, Qatar to serve as the lead consultant in developing a comprehensive organizational and operational model for a $60 million philharmonic orchestra and music academy project.

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a private, chartered, nonprofit organization, founded in 1995 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar. Selected from a a wide range of international firms in a competitive bidding process, Mr. McManus organized and managed a team of existing Foundation personnel to review the proposed mission goals for the Western and Arabic ensembles as well as the academy. The initial work consisted of more than 30 individual interviews and reviewing extensive amounts of existing documentation. After becoming fully versed in the Qataris needs,program goals, and the cultural working environment, a final program was completed drawing from international best practices that best suited the challenges facing the program while also creating many new systems of operation that satisfied unique Qatari needs.

The project concluded with a four day long Governing Board retreat where Mr. McManus enlightened members about the variety of governance models across all countries which support a culture of professional Western European orchestras. Afterward, Mr. McManus took the members though their new operational bylaws and the music program’s new strategic plan. After a period of positive discussion, the Governing Board unanimously adopted 100 percent of recommendations contained in the final report.

In 2005, Mr. McManus was among the first U.S. cultural administrators and journalists to spend more than a full week in Caracas, Venezuela as an official guest of the government to study the Fundacion del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestras Juveniles e Infantiles, commonly referred to as “El Sistema,” which resulted in the first detailed series of articles in the U.S. highlighting the program and its accomplishments.


As the founder and president of the Gynecologic Cancer Fund, he has a singular understanding of governance issues and six-figure development experience as an executive board officer. His charity has returned over 85% of gross proceeds to its beneficiaries since its establishment in 1998; the highest return of any 501(c)3 in the state of Maryland.

Currently, Mr. McManus serves as a mentor for Pentacle’s Help Desk® program which supports the professional infrastructure of dance companies and independent choreographers; and works with participants to develop a strong sense of community and empowerment. Participants are paired with a mentor based on an application process that includes submission of written materials and meetings with Pentacle staff. Each participant works with a mentor to articulate the goals of the organization, determine strategies for attaining the goals and guidance in areas of infrastructure support.


Drew McManusMr. McManus is a conservatory trained musician from the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, MD. He holds degrees in tuba performance as well as regular work on the piano, arranging, and conducting.

As an administrator Mr. McManus founded and served as the Executive Director for the Baltimore Virtuosi, Baltimore’s premier chamber orchestra, from 1998-2003. Since its inception he managed the organization to consistently operate in the black while never reducing its artistic budget. By approaching the business of orchestra management with flexible, revolutionary techniques that benefit all stakeholders, he has been able to “do more with less”.

From January, 2006 through January, 2007 he served as Senior Editor for Eastman School of Music’s project where his responsibilities included securing and creating original content for the website, developing and implementing the editorial strategy of the website, designing and implementing special website features as well as creating and moderating the ground breaking “Virtual Discussion Panel” format.

In the fall of 2010, Mr. McManus started serving as Managing Director of the HEARTbeats Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization which strives to help children in need harness the power of music to better cope with, and recover from, the extreme challenges of poverty and conflict. Mr. McManus donates his administrative services in order to help advance the foundation’s cause.


In the same year, hours after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast Region, Mr. McManus established an extensive relief effort at Adaptistration to aid displaced musicians. Over 300 offers providing shelter, direct aid, and work opportunities from across the country resulted in more than 60 musicians and managers finding temporary or long term solutions until they could return to their homes. Relief efforts featured in a Sunday edition of the New York Times and served as the subject of a special American Symphony Orchestra League emergency bulletin.

When he isn’t working 10 hour days, Mr. McManus spends time with his wife enjoying everything Chicagoland has to offer, avoids cutting off his fingers while pursing his love for woodworking, keeping his coffee habit under control, and playing with his three cats; Carmen, Tosca, and Cody.


You can find additional details about Mr. McManus’ consulting services at where you’ll find an extended biography, philosophy on the business, and what he has to offer as an orchestra consultant and as a lecturer.

In the fall of 2010 Mr. McManus launched the Venture Platform, a revolutionary business builder service designed especially for arts organizations. Venture provides a comprehensive website architecture and email marketing platform within a hosted and fully supported environment.



Any opinions expressed at Adaptistration, except as specifically noted, are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the blogmaster. The blogmaster is not responsible for the accuracy of information supplied by authors or by third-party sources.

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Comments are welcome and moderated by the respective article’s author. Commentary, opinions, and reactions to all comment posts are welcome. The authors, as well as the blogmaster, reserve the right to delete comments to their respective articles deemed uncivil, off-topic, spam, or inappropriate advertisements and/or promotion.

Anonymous comments are allowed; however, any comments submitted without a working email address to verify legitimacy will likely be deleted without warning or subsequent notice. In order to submit a comment that protects your identity, please use a moniker for the “name” field but leave an email address where you can be reached so as to verify the legitimacy of your comment. Please note that if you use a service such as gravatar that assigns an avatar based on a specific email address and you use that address when submitting your comment, it will still display your avatar even though you use a moniker for your name.

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In order to ensure accuracy and that every side to each issue is explored in detail, any individual or person officially representing an organization featured in an Adaptistration article is allowed to submit a response which will be published, unedited. Responses are limited to 200 words and must address the issues at hand and the individuals and/or organizations must also be willing to maintain an open dialog for continued discussion. In lieu of this option, individuals may opt for submitting a comment, which is subject to the terms above.

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Given the author’s position as an arts consultant and technology provider, he does not publish articles examining or focusing on current clients without first obtaining the client’s written permission.

The Adaptistration Network is owned and operated by Drew McManus LLC.

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Adaptistration is committed to providing content that promotes public enlightenment by way of principles rooted in the exchange of information that is accurate, fair, and thorough.

To that end, Adaptistration abides by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which serves as a guide for providing insight that not only benefits from an insider’s knowledge but helps establish responsibility for the content published via the following principles (items with emphasis are those the author feels are especially applicable for culture blogging):

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Seek Truth and Report It

Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:

  • Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
  • Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
  • Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
  • Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
  • Be cautious when making promises, but keep the promises they make.
  • Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
  • Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
  • Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
  • Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
  • Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
  • Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.
  • Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
  • Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
  • Label advocacy and commentary.
  • Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.
  • Never plagiarize. Always attribute.
Minimize Harm

Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.

Journalists should:

  • Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
  • Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.
  • Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.
  • Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.
  • Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
  • Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges.
  • Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.
Act Independently

The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.

Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
  • Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
Be Accountable and Transparent

Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public.

Journalists should:

  • Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
  • Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
  • Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
  • Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
  • Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.