Twenty-seven full-time and part-time staff have left Queensland Symphony Orchestra in just 21 months, an unusually high turnover rate for the company which currently lists 26 people on its staff. Many of its staff employed over the last 18 months have not stayed more than six months.
Orchestra insiders claim that morale at the QSO is “toxic” and an external consultant has been contracted to improve morale and company cohesiveness.
Former staff describe scenes of “backstabbing, gossip and shouting matches” among administrative staff and management leading to the staff turnover.
Despite repeated attempts to contact QSO for comment its management declined to discuss these issues with Daily Review.
But the orchestra’s own reports reveal the number of management and administrative staff members who have left the company since January 2016. Comparing numbers listed in its 2016 annual report to what it now lists on its website, 27 full-time and part-time staff have left the organisation since then.
The staff churn has seen the QSO three heads of department leave including the director of development and the acting director of marketing. Almost all the staff members in the philanthropy, development and marketing departments have resigned.
The orchestra’s CEO, David Pratt, and its music director, Alondra de la Parra (pictured above), both joined the company in the second half of 2016.
The staff drain during their tenure also saw the sudden departure of Richard Wenn in the critical role of director of artistic planning in May this year after eight years in the role. An interim appointment is still in place, having been made from the existing staff pool .
De la Parra, the QSO’s star Mexican conductor and music director is contracted to only spend 14 weeks a year in Brisbane. This is not unusual in hiring “name” conductors in symphony orchestras who are expected to continue to conducting internationally during the year. However, the role of artistic planner is crucial to staff (which includes 88 musicians) as that role is a conduit to the music director and an interpreter of her vision when she is absent.
But one former staff member told Daily Review that the “revolving door” at QSO was because of “extremely ineffectual leadership” of both Pratt and De la Parra when she is in the country.
While the Australian-born Pratt is an experienced arts and orchestra manager, he has spent the last 18 years in senior roles in the US where fundraising is the major focus in arts company leadership. De la Parra, meanwhile, is new to Australia and insiders describe her “strong personality” as leading to workplace conflict.
Observers say that Pratt and De La Parra, unused to the collegiate pace of the Australian environment, have placed increased demands on the staff and Pratt has backed his music director in staff conflicts. One former staff member who Daily Review spoke to described the pair as not in synch with the “Australian way” of working.
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