From the Orchestra Library

OPS: The Orchestra’s Engine

Posted in DSO Colleagues,Organizational Effectiveness by kschnack on August 10, 2009

I would like to introduce you to the fine folks at the Dallas Symphony Operations Department (minus the librarians, stage crew, and personnel managers who are considered an extended part of the department).  Here is a picture of 4/5’s of them:

DSO Ops Team:  Margaret Moore, Victor Marshall, Mark Melson, Amy Wagliardo (not pictured, Mary Lynch)

DSO Ops Team (from left): Margaret Moore, Victor Marshall, Mark Melson, Amy Wagliardo (not pictured, Mary Lynch)

Don’t they look like a great group of people?

Well, they are.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about each of them in a moment (and the black clothes), but first I just want to say that I have been a very lucky person to work with this group for many years.  They are smart, knowledgeable, fun, helpful, resourceful, creative, experienced, marvelous people who do an amazing amount for the orchestra and get little public credit.  I am grateful for them, I tell you for sure.  And I thank them for their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly commitment to the DSO and for being such great colleagues and friends.  The library (and orchestra) could not have any kind of success without their truly tireless work.  And I appreciate that they put up with me, because I’m not a Quiet One.

As you now know.

First up, on the left, is Margaret Moore.  She is the Associate Artistic Administrator so deals with artist contracts, visas, travel arrangements, and payments; transports artists as needed to and from airports, hotels and the hall; generates classical programming worksheets, rehearsal orders, and other such info; handles all correspondence, scheduling and arrangements for the Music Director; processes commissioning agreements; communicates with artists about their requirements and distributes that info to the rest of us; works concert duty on classical concerts, and a whole bunch of other things I am leaving out.  Margaret is a professional organist, and she is one of the most excellent souls you will ever meet.  She is usually pretty unflappable, so when Margaret finally reaches the end of her rope, you know that the situation has truly gone too far.

Next to Margaret  in the photo, is Victor Marshall.  He has just retired after 28 years as the DSO’s Artistic Administrator, and now is the Artistic Advisor.  He knows everyone in the business, many of the great artists of our time call him their friend, and he has helped program the classical series, negotiated and booked artists all these years, handled their “care and feeding” and is extraordinarily knowledgeable about all things related to the classical music industry, particularly recordings.  He has a background in radio, an announcer’s voice, and so has been “The Voice of the Dallas Symphony” for promotions, PR, and radio spots since I’ve been here.  It’s him we hear every night just before a concert telling us to turn our phones off.  He will continue to work on our recordings (both historical and new projects) and advise about programming.  Victor always wears black, which is why everyone in the photo is wearing black, because they were at his retirement party and decided to pay proper tribute. Oh, and he knows every local dive, greasy spoon, and TexMex restaurant in the greater DFW metroplex, as well as the history of nearly every building!

Next to Victor, second from the right, is Mark Melson, Vice President of Artistic Operations.  Mark has been with the orchestra for almost 25 years, and head of operations since 1988.  In that position he, of course, oversees all aspects of the orchestra’s production including programming, tours, guest artists and conductors, budgets, hiring, and scheduling; he negotiates musician and stage hand contracts, and he is our boss.  Doesn’t he have a fun job?  Mark absolutely loves this art form that we strive to present at its best, and he is especially proud of the Dallas Symphony, listening to all the concerts and reveling in their success.  He knows alot about great singers, and is always sharing his recordings of performances he has found. He is a proud grandfather of two, sings in his church choir, and has this weird thing in his brain that causes him to express groaner puns without missing a beat.  Even in large groups.  He is not shy about it.  I am keeping a catalogue of some of the better ones.

The person on the far right of the picture is Amy Wagliardo, Director of Operations.  She is the newest and youngest member of the department, although she has been with us 5 years now, and when she joined us it was like she had always been there.  She has a Bachelors in Music Education, Masters in Arts Admin and an MBA, lots of financial background experience, and a mighty quick mind, so the department is in good hands with all her skills.  She does the orchestra schedule, is the liaison to the players, librarians, personnel managers and stage crew for any operational issues, manages the production details and orchestra logistics, communicates to Marketing for all program-related information, to Finance for the departmental and series budgets which she formulates, puts together the nuts and bolts of run-outs and tours, and on and on.  She has the largest computer monitor in the department, for which we tease her endlessly, but honestly, she absolutely needs and deserves it as she is always working on about ten things at once.  Amy is incredibly funny and fun to be around, she’s a great amateur photographer and has her own blog ( where she posts many of those photos.

Last but not least of the department (and not pictured) is Mary Lynch, the Operations/Pops Coordinator.  Mary handles all the details for the pops series’ conductors, artists, programming information, including contracts and riders, setting up travel arrangements and hotel accommodations for the entourages, communicating with road managers about logistics and repertoire, and is their liaison to the orchestra while on site for all rehearsals and concerts.  She also proofs Stagebill before publication.  In her role, she runs into some pretty interesting characters (where ego is never in short supply) and I’m always amazed and impressed with how she is able to remain patient and friendly no matter how they act!  Mary has a heart of gold, and when she has a little space in her schedule always offers to help us with bowings or measure numbers.  She is a singer (former member of the Dallas Symphony Chorus), very creative in arts and crafts, and an incredibly generous person.

So, that’s the core of our Operations Department, the people responsible for getting all the rehearsals and performances on stage.  I hope players in every orchestra can stop and think a bit about how much their ops teams do for them — can you imagine the huge number of details they handle in a day? I encourage everyone to go to their offices and hang out for a while, you would be amazed at all they cover (and, sorry to my guys for undoubtedly leaving out huge segments of what you do).  I think the Operations people have to be part manager, school teacher, therapist, travel agent, organizer, negotiator, listener, mediator, and Jack of All Trades.   There is no way any of our orchestras could function smoothly without these folks.

So thanks for everything you do, Ops!  I am proud to know and work with you, and be on “the team.”


One Response to 'OPS: The Orchestra’s Engine'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'OPS: The Orchestra’s Engine'.

  1. Amy said,

    Aw, wow Karen. How on earth are we going to live up to that? Very nice, indeed. You’re not so bad to work with yourself! 😉

    As always, I’m enjoying your blog. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: