Monday, February 25, 2008

Berkeley Symphony Music Director Search

For better or for worse, Berkeley Symphony has a web page for feedback on the music director search. Following each candidate's concert, you can complete a survey with your opinions on various subject.

Soliciting audience reactions can't hurt. But I see some potential pitfalls:
  • Ballot-stuffing, because the survey software doesn't block multiple responses from the same IP address.
  • Survey-design issues. Some people are going to read "Would you like to have him/her conduct the Orchestra again" to mean "Do you want this person to be the next Music Director?" They're not the same question.
  • Complaints from people who feel like their opinions weren't taken seriously.
  • Audience variability, in knowledge, musical preferences, and listening ability. Should a candidate be marked down because too many people don't like his or her programming choice?
Choosing a music director also takes into account a raft of issues not visible to most audience members: how does a candidate work with the orchestra? Is the conductor prepared for rehearsals? Is the candidate efficient, and professional at rehearsals? How does the candidate work with soloists? Does the candidate hit it off with the administrative staff and board members? How good is the candidate at gladhanding and fundraising? How many weeks per year is the candidate available? Does the candidate have a good track record with new music, a Berkeley Symphony speciality? How good is the candidate at budgeting? And so on.

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