What Does a General Manager (Orchestra) Do?

The general manager is a logistics expert whose responsibilities span every facet of an orchestra's activities, from administration and scheduling to production and personnel. In some organizations, the general manager personally carries out the many tasks involved in the daily operations of an orchestra; in others, the general manager delegates part of the work to their staff, including an operations manager and a personnel manager.

Arts Administration
Working with the orchestra's executive director and music director, the general manager develops and implements the orchestra's master schedule, a multidepartmental roadmap for achieving the orchestra's goals. With this vision in mind, the general manager undertakes a number of arts-administration-oriented duties, including:

  • engaging guest artists and conductors;
  • taking part in fee and contract negotiations;
  • building rehearsal and performance schedules;
  • commissioning new works for the orchestra; and
  • organizing the orchestra's electronic media.

Other Duties
Depending on the orchestra in question, the general manager may also:

  • book and manage relationships with venues;
  • secure clearances for music rights;
  • oversee marketing and fundraising initiatives;
  • act as the primary liaison between departments, ensuring that information is communicated accurately and efficiently throughout the organization;
  • manage the orchestra's library, as well as education and volunteer activities;
  • supervise auditions; and 
  • prepare the venue for performances.

General Manager (Orchestra) at a Glance

Career Path

The general manager is the most senior position in the administrative branch of most orchestras, and answers to the executive director or board of the orchestra. Many general managers start out in entry-level orchestra positions, such as assistant personnel manager, before advancing to become personnel or operations manager, and from there landing a job as general manager. Some general managers transition from careers as performers but need to possess or acquire administrative experience in order to tackle the work of a manager.

Finding Work

Internships are a good way to get a feel for the workplace and experience in the field of arts administration. Don't forget that orchestra administrators can also find similar positions with theater companies, opera houses, and similar performance companies.

Professional Skills
  • Arts administration
  • Budgeting
  • Personnel management
  • Hiring
  • Booking
  • Knowledge of music rights, contracts, unions, and negotiation
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Leadership
Interpersonal Skills

Working with a large group of artists in the nonprofit world requires that orchestra managers possess strong leadership qualities, stellar administrative abilities, and great appreciation for the arts. Superb organizational and multitasking skills are, of course, indispensable. As liaison between management, musicians, and the greater community, orchestra managers also need excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Work Life

Orchestra managers work in an office at the orchestra's primary administrative location. They generally keep normal business hours, but may spend evenings and weekends attending concerts, fundraisers, and other events. In some cases, the general manager may travel with the orchestra on tour.