How the Calgary Philharmonic Survived Bankruptcy & Flourished

This is the story of a turnaround. And as with any turnaround situation, the organization was near death, with many in favor of a do-not-resuscitate order. What struck us as important in this story, among other things, was the primary strategy employed—to engage as many stakeholders as possible in the development of a cohesive plan for the future. This plan had to be produced quickly and had to pass muster with the court-appointed receiver, because the organization had already filed for bankruptcy protection.

The enormous energy and wisdom that this strategy drew to the situation should tell us something about the resources available to us that may not typically be used in our own organizations. The high-engagement strategy is transferable, but it requires a deep shared passion and a willingness to work together to co-create a solution for the thing that is to be saved and given new life.

When the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), Canada’s fifth largest orchestra, sought bankruptcy protection on October 15, 2002, the predominant view of both funders and the public was that the orchestra should not be saved.

Giuseppe Mazzini once wrote,

“Music is the harmonious voice of creation; an echo of the invisible world.”

In other words, music is there to be made and it has a will to be realized. In this case, that will exerted itself through those involved with this orchestra.

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