Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Atlanta Symphony CEO Romanstein Resigns

In a move that surprised only half of the symphony world, Stanley Romanstein resigned from the Atlanta Symphony this week. Read the article here. It’s true that he didn’t originally hail from the symphony world; his last organization in St. Paul was considerably smaller and had not been innately music-related. But at one time, this was thought to be a strength by the Atlanta Symphony and it’s musicians. He was to bring new, fresh perspective on a business model that had become stagnant and relationships that were quickly approaching a stalemate.

But when those relationship did reach a stalemate, he was barely ably to bring the organization up for air before it went under again. By this I mean, of course, that the organization locked out its musicians in 2012 after the inability to finalize negotiations, and had to do it again just four short weeks ago.

My best “arts manager” speculation, aspiring to the symphony world myself and trying to think of this from both sides, wonders how much pressure was applied to him from a board level to resign because of the immense publicity of the matter and his lack of success resolving the issues to date. Perhaps part of it was personal, and he felt that he couldn’t successfully resolve the relationships. But I urge you to remember that when dealing with negotiations, while it can be easy to embody “organization” and “players committee” into massive ideas with figureheads, these entities are still just people. They’re run by people, people’s emotions interfere, and it’s all run through and around relationships. Union rules and entitlements stand too easily on the top and in the way, but underneath you find people. I wonder the degree to which many negotiations have failed simply because the organization and musicians fail to see what is best for the “people” of the institution, or what is best for the institution itself, when in a poorly navigated business model, these two things may not be the same.

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2 comments on “Atlanta Symphony CEO Romanstein Resigns

  1. amyjoforeman
    October 3, 2014

    whoa. WHOA. So much awkward stuff.

    First thoughts: ASO has an operating budget of THIRTY SEVEN MILLION?! A retired COKE exec?! Romanstein got a BONUS of $45K?! So many cancelled shows! This. Is. Heartbreaking. Yikes.

    I’m glad I’m not walking into that fire.

    It’s so interesting that Virginia Hepner felt like Romanstein wasn’t an impediment these last four years when he’s portrayed that way. What’s real and what isn’t?! How will this affect his career going forward? Not sure I’d want to hire him for anything.

    You’re totally right, Jessica, about people’s emotions. This whole ordeal could possibly be being fueled by the fact that two people hate each other. I’m making assumptions, obviously, but I think this situation emphasizes how important it is to maintain positive relationships – with everyone. With the board, the unions, the people you work with, etc.

    I need to read more about this scary sitch! Thanks, Jess.

    • amyjoforeman
      October 3, 2014

      To clarify! I say I don’t think I’d want to hire him only b/c of all the public scrutiny he’s received. I’d hate to have it reflected on my organization. Additionally, it would be awkward to call his ASO references and be like, “what did you think of Stanley’s work at ASO?” …. I was not commenting on his skill/professional quality.

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