In February 2015, shortly after my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I saw I had a voicemail from an unfamiliar Minnesota number.
“Hi, Emily,” said a friendly voice on the other end.
Is that – ? I thought to myself, brain fuzzed by exhaustion.
I don’t remember word-for-word what he said, but it was something along the lines of “We’ve heard about your mom’s diagnosis and we’re all so sorry to hear it. If there’s anything we can do, let us know.”
And then Kevin Smith, the CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra, hung up the phone.
Looking through the eyes of a normal orchestra president, this call makes absolutely no sense. Because the protocol is set, and the protocol makes sense. Your mission is to raise enough money to keep your institution functioning. To achieve this quixotic goal, conventional wisdom dictates that you spend nearly all of your time with board members and big donors: the gatekeepers of power. If anyone is poor, or has been a particularly irascible opponent of your predecessor (or worst of all, both), you don’t owe that kind of malcontent anything.
But Kevin Smith upended the rules. That phone call signaled the new calculus: if you care about this orchestra, we care about you.