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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformanceThe Business of Music(Moderator: BGuttman) What do Symphony Board members do?
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Location: Dallas, Texas
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« on: Nov 09, 2017, 10:50AM »

My understanding is that most people on a symphony "board" got there because they have brought in a very substantial amount of money either by raising it or donating it.

But what do they get for that? 

For example, the Dallas Symphony lists about 70 board members on their "Leadership" page, 52 of those are "Governors".  I can't imagine a group that unwieldily large being tasked with critical decisions (that's what the "Executive" board, a mere 15 members, is for, right?) and yet this office surely comes with more than just being a very appreciated donor.

 Don't know

Robert Holmén

Hear me as I Play My Horn

Get your Popper, Dotzauer, or Kummer play-alongs!

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Location: Rochester NY
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« Reply #1 on: Nov 09, 2017, 12:46PM »

I was curious and googled our own symphony, and I'm guessing this is going to vary from Symphony to Symphony.  The Rochester Philharmonic has a Board of Directors that is elected for a three year term, and an Honorary board.  As far as what they do their by-laws are available on-line and it looks like the board has a say on the big ticket, and big picture items like selecting business directors, approving budgets, etc. like the board of any other corporation!!
Mad Chemist

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« Reply #2 on: Nov 09, 2017, 12:49PM »

I can tell you what this  Symphony Board member does.

I am a Board Member because I'm Librarian.  We have several members ex-officio, including the Music Director, the Librarian, and the Personnel Manager.

I don't draw a salary as a Board Member.  I don't draw a salary as Librarian.

The vast amount of discussion we have at Board Meetings revolves around money.  Money limits how much we can pay soloists (they want and deserve more) and whether we can obtain newer music (only available as rental).  We have expenses we must pay including hall rental, postage and telephone, instrument storage fees (we have a large contingent of percussion), replacement music, etc.  We also have a stipend we pay all players (it's not Scale, but it does sorta cover gas money).  We make this money through ads in our Program Book and now through our Silent Auction.  I can say with assurance that ticket sales don't begin to cover expenses.

Our Board Members do a variety of jobs related to operation.  Some are ticket and usher staff.  We have a Treasurer, an Operations Manager, a Website Sysop, an Ad Manager who keeps track of whether program book ads are renewed or new ones come in.  We have a Publicity Manager who makes sure we get visibility of our concerts and does outreach to the Community.

And as this year's President, I have to run the board meetings and keep everybody on task.  Anybody want a job?

Bruce Guttman
Solo Trombone, Hollis Town Band
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orch. President 2017-2018
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Location: Calgary, Alberta
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« Reply #3 on: Nov 09, 2017, 02:34PM »

I was a member of our board here in Calgary for a short time. It was as a musician representative - I was the Chair of the Orchestra Committee at the time, and being on the Board is one of the duties that goes with that position.

Board members are not paid for work with any "Not for Profit" organization. The level of commitment depends very much on circumstances, but is usually fairly light as far as number of hours required. Some orchestras (not ours) go with a model of members "at large" vs. an "executive committee" - the smaller executive is where most decision making takes place, while the "at large" folks are mostly donors and people involved in helping to host events, etc. Virtually all Board members help with hosting social occasions where introductions can be made for the fundraising staff to people with individual wealth or corporate folks looking to sponsor events or programs.

Also, on our board, people with certain skills were asked to donate some time to assist with projects in their area of expertise - perhaps help with website re-design, or updating accounting practices, or give legal advise.

The networking part and oversight of the budget are the biggest duties for a Board. They hire and/or fire the CEO of the organization, so they look at how the organization is doing, and decide if the leadership is doing well with fundraising, spending and encouraging artistic growth. Making an introduction to a CEO or other top executive who will now take a meeting with the orchestra's management is also a key job for Board members.

One thing - while the volunteer basis of the Board is certainly admirable, for many professional people that take this on, it is a networking opportunity for them as well. There are connections made for future employment opportunities, resume space that can help them advance in their current company, and the Boards of "For Profit" organizations look favorably on applicants who have "Not for Profit" Board experience. Those companies do compensate their Boards, so there is a good chance to get something in return later for the volunteer work now. Nothing wrong with that, but it is an incentive for some people to become involved.

Jim Scott
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