Currently presenting its 46th concert season and long recognized as one of Chicago’s leading classical groups, Music of the Baroque (MOB) is a modern instrument chamber orchestra and chorus specializing in Baroque and early Classical repertoire. The ensemble draws particular acclaim for its performances of the major choral works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Haydn. Most members of the MOB orchestra come from the ranks of the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestras. MOB choristers also perform with other leading groups. Artists of international stature appear regularly with MOB as vocal soloists. Current Executive Director Karen Fishman joined MOB in 1999.
Acclaimed British conductor Jane Glover has been MOB’s Music Director since 2002. British conductor and harpsichordist Nicholas Kraemer is Principal Guest Conductor. William Jon Gray is the group’s Chorus Director. Their bios are available at www.baroque.org/About/Performers.
Operating on an annual budget of just under $2 million (65% contributed revenue and 35% earned), Music of the Baroque presents 18 performances of eight concert programs in a season running from September/October through May. Seven programs are performed twice—at the 1500-seat Harris Theater for Music and Dance in downtown Chicago and the 800-seat North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Four performances of MOB’s annual Holiday Brass and Choral Concerts are performed at Chicago and suburban church venues. Selected full performances and excerpts from many programs are broadcast regularly on Chicago’s classical music radio station, WFMT-FM.
The MOB orchestra typically numbers 26-36 players and the chorus 26 singers, depending on repertoire. Many of MOB’s musicians, all of whom are paid on a per-service basis, have performed with the group for years. MOB is known in Chicago music circles for the loyalty and collegiality of its musicians, who choose to participate in the ensemble because they enjoy MOB’s repertoire, more intimate scale, conductors’ collaborative approach to music-making, and high artistic standards.
There are seven full-time MOB staff members, including senior administrative, artistic operations, and marketing staff with long tenure. Currently, the Executive Director serves as the primary development officer and maintains all major individual donor and foundation relationships.
MOB’s active Board of Directors, largely recruited from the ensemble’s audience, currently numbers 20 members. Excluding the Executive Director, board members collectively contribute and raise approximately 35% of the organization’s annual contributed revenues.
In addition to its concert activities, MOB conducts an arts learning program that supplements choral music education at six Chicago public high schools in low-income communities. The program, called “Strong Voices,” offers individual and small group vocal instruction, ongoing mentorship by professional musicians, and in-school master classes, choral coaching, and performances. Some 1600 youth participate annually.
The Transition and the Future
After an 18-year tenure, Karen Fishman has decided to retire as MOB’s Executive Director in June 2017. Under her leadership, MOB has experienced significant growth in both earned and contributed revenues, operating consistently at break-even or better; made a successful transition from performing in churches to performing at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance and at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts; expanded its repertoire; and increased its visibility. The transition to a new Executive Director has been thoughtfully planned by Ms. Fishman and MOB’s directors. The working relationship among volunteer and professional leadership is close and collegial.
Opportunities and Challenges
Music of the Baroque has significant assets to rely on in continuing its record of growth and success. These include a stable and loyal subscription audience; a committed, engaged board of directors; strong artistic leadership; a recognized niche within Chicago’s diverse and vital performing arts community; and a longstanding reputation for artistic quality. While MOB’s ability to attract the area’s best musicians is an asset, its utilization of players from the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera Orchestras creates scheduling and touring constraints and is the reason the ensemble performs mostly on Sunday and Monday evenings.
The organization’s opportunities include the potential to:
Expand its reach by adding concert programs, performances, or both
Broaden/expand community engagement and educational programs
Increase collaboration with other arts and community organizations
Expand MOB’s regional footprint, including adding summer performances
Music of the Baroque’s current major challenges include:
Audience growth, particularly at the Harris Theater and among younger patrons
Keeping programming “fresh” and inventive within niche and budget constraints
Adding staff fundraising capacity
Expanding the Board of Directors
Position and Responsibilities
The Executive Director is the leader of MOB, reporting to the Board of Directors through its Chair and Executive Committee. S/he will work in close collaboration with MOB’s artistic leadership on season programming and other artistic matters, and will guide and collaborate with MOB staff in other key areas of operation including fundraising, financial management, and marketing/communications. The Executive Director will:
Set and implement overall vision and direction for MOB through effective organizational planning and strong leadership
In collaboration with artistic leadership, program engaging, marketable annual seasons
Lead MOB’s fundraising efforts, at least initially, including major donor cultivation and solicitation
Ensure effective financial management
Serve as MOB’s principal public spokesperson
Provide strategic direction to MOB’s marketing and communications efforts
Build/maintain relationships with diverse stakeholders including the MOB audience, donors, musicians, and other arts leaders
Facilitate an environment in which the staff can do their best work, the Board is both fulfilled and effective in its work, and MOB’s artists and audiences enjoy rich musical experiences.
Strong candidates will have the following experience, capabilities, and characteristics, with knowledge of the Chicago performing arts and funding communities a plus:
Not-for-profit leadership experience, preferably in the performing arts, and ideally in music, including developing/articulating a clear organizational vision, motivating others, relationship-building, strategic planning, and effective decision making
The skill, temperament, and desire to cultivate and solicit high-level donors, with demonstrated success as a fundraiser given strong preference.
Experience in partnering effectively with a Board of Directors
A track-record of hiring, nurturing and motivating a strong team of professionals
Knowledge of and a passion for classical music, including MOB’s repertoire
An articulate and engaging presence, and the ability to represent MOB effectively to its various publics and stakeholders
A collaborative approach
Compensation, Application Procedure and Start Date
The salary will be competitive with other organizations of comparable stature and size. Benefits include
Medical and life insurance plans (substantially employer-funded)
A voluntary 403(b) plan and discretionary annual employer contributions to a staff profit-sharing plan
The committee hopes to make its decision by spring 2017, with the successful candidate onsite on or before Ms. Fishman’s departure.
Applications should include résumé/CV, cover letter, at least three professional references (including name, email, and phone) and salary expectations. Interested candidates and recommenders of qualified individuals are invited to contact the consulting firm retained to facilitate this important search:
Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc. (MCA) has specialized in serving the cultural field since 1983 and has had a rich involvement with cultural organizations of all types and sizes throughout the country. Our services include consultations in planning, executive search, organizational analysis, board and staff retreats, and seminar/workshop/conference development and facilitation. In our e...xecutive search work, we work on behalf of organizations and recruit CEOs and other senior management personnel, such as external affairs directors, development directors and marketing directors.
We provide these services to a broad range of cultural entities, including art museums, visual arts centers, theatres, dance companies, performing arts centers, historical societies, orchestras, operas, science centers, children's museums, service organizations, public agencies, arts councils and foundations. We have worked extensively with organizations in all stages of development, from new, start-up organizations making the transition from volunteer to professional leadership, to older, established organizations, including those grappling with the complex issues of new leadership following the departure of a founder or long-time leader.