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Jeffrey Babcock leaves Boston Ballet


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2001 - 04:11 PM

This just in from our news desk:

Statement by Boston Ballet Board Chairman John Humphrey regarding today's announcement about Jeffrey Babcock accepting the deanship at Boston University's School for the Arts.

"It was announced today that Boston Ballet General Director and CEO Jeffrey N. Babcock has been appointed dean of Boston University’s School for the Arts. On behalf of the Ballet's Board of Trustees, I congratulate Jeff on his appointment to such a prestigious institution. We are saddened to see him leave the company. He has attracted many wonderful people to the Ballet and made many important contributions over the last three years.

"The Board will implement a search for Jeffrey's replacement immediately and we hope to name a new CEO by early this fall. In the meantime, Jeffrey has agreed to continue to serve the organization during the transition. Dr. Babcock and I will work together with the Board to insure continuity and stability during the search for his successor.

"In a time of change, it is important to focus on the exceptionally positive news at Boston Ballet. The company’s production of Sleeping Beauty was artistically grand and attracted large audiences. In addition, subscription renewals for next year are ahead of this time last year; the renovation of our MetroWest studio in Newton is moving forward this summer; and we are fully engaged in an international search for a new Artistic Director. I am confident the Ballet, with Jeff’s help, will continue a clear, direct path in the next several months."

#2 liebs

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Posted 12 June 2001 - 04:52 PM

I hope BU is prepared for some one who will undoubtedly wreck havoc there as well. At least professors have tenure.

#3 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 12 June 2001 - 04:56 PM

a good point, liebs. a good point.

#4 Allegrovitch

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Posted 12 June 2001 - 05:14 PM

Finally, good news for Boston Ballet, & as you say, bad for B.U.
Of course, one never knows. Things are not always what they appear or reported to be.

[ 06-14-2001: Message edited by: Allegrovitch ]

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 13 June 2001 - 12:35 PM

The articles from the Boston press are over on Links, but I wanted to pull this quote out from T.J. Medrek's piece:

"First and foremost, the board needs to hire a new CEO from the dance world. It's trendy these days to look to business to find leaders of big arts organizations. Babcock, at least, brought an impressive-on-paper background in arts administration. But clearly his lack of experience in the particular world and special psychology of dance and dancers was a big factor in the current mess."

No kidding! I hope everyone who hires executive directors sees this piece. If you know an board members and want to email it along........

BTW, I hope the many Bostonians who checked the Boston Ballet threads won't be too busy attending Babcock farewell parties to go to the Royal and tell us about it (on Recent Performances.)

#6 bijoux

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Posted 13 June 2001 - 10:48 PM

hi everyone.the strange thing about Babcock leaving,is that he seems to be following this stream of "higher-ups"who have all made a mass exedous from Boston Ballet.(the head of public relations left,the human resources person left,the director of artistic development left....)With all of this said and done,I wonder why they didn't just leave things the way they were before they all quit.I mean,all of those dancers were fired,the current director is gone,the incoming director,left before she began,another member of the staff who people thought was a troublemaker left...but all after they had done "damage".Well,I really pray for Boston Ballet now....

Originally posted by alexandra:
The articles from the Boston press are over on Links, but I wanted to pull this quote out from T.J. Medrek's piece:

"First and foremost, the board needs to hire a new CEO from the dance world. It's trendy these days to look to business to find leaders of big arts organizations. Babcock, at least, brought an impressive-on-paper background in arts administration. But clearly his lack of experience in the particular world and special psychology of dance and dancers was a big factor in the current mess."

No kidding!  I hope everyone who hires executive directors sees this piece.  If you know an board members and want to email it along........

BTW, I hope the many Bostonians who checked the Boston Ballet threads won't be too busy attending Babcock farewell parties to go to the Royal and tell us about it (on Recent Performances.)



#7 felursus

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Posted 15 June 2001 - 01:36 AM

I wonder - somewhere in the BU statement they say that they sought Babcock out - not the reverse - so does anyone know if there is anyone on the BB board who is also connected with BU? Babcock's contract with BB was due to expire in the autumn in any case, and from friends connected with another music school I knew he had been looking elsewhere. I would guess that he was "helped" to another position.

This brings up a few other points: if you look at his bio he was running the Maryland School for the Arts for just over a year at a time they were expanding and constructing a new building. One wonders at his precipitous departure - and for a BALLET company - something about which he knew little. Then there is also an interesting question of his involvement with the New World Symphony (Miami). If you go to their web site, they do list some of the original founders (besides Michael Tilson Thomas). No where is Babcock mentioned - yet he touts himself as being important to their foundation. Verrrrry interesting..... I wonder if BU really examined his credentials.

Babcock certainly has left a disaster behind him at the Boston Ballet. And one other thing: the BB press release implies that Babcock was responsible for saving the satellite school. My "reliable source" in Boston tells me that he had nothing at all to do with getting the money to save the school - au contraire, he was ready to let it close. It was someone else who persuaded a benefactor to make the donation that was needed underwrite the necessary repairs required at that school. Far from creating a company that would be one of the world's best (per his stated aim), he has managed to dismantle the structure of the company leaving it without an AD, a CEO and without many excellent dancers.

As an aside: does anyone know what has happened to the dancers' discrimination lawsuit? :confused:

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 June 2001 - 06:24 AM

Boston is traditionally slow on the uptake of concepts the rest of the business world has known for years. They seem to have been operating on the concept that "if you can administrate one thing, you can admininstrate another", which idea was thoroughly disproved in the 1970s and 80s. Now before proud Bostonians jump down my throat - I used to work there, at the Museum of the First Corps of Cadets.

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 15 June 2001 - 07:17 AM

Felursus, thanks very much for posting that background.

Mel, do you really think the era of "anybody can administrate anything" is over? I'm afraid it's just beginning. (Babcock sounds like the Twin of Michael Christiansen, who still is thoroughly entrenched in Copenhagen, the former Undersecretary of Defense brought in to head a theater with all too predictable results, but in America, I think, too, the executive director from anywhere -- the MBA rather than a latterday Lincoln Kirstein -- is still the norm.

And the battle over who really runs the company -- the "CEO" Babcock or the Artistic Director -- is still raging, I think. Do you think this is a battle that is over in business (if I can run a department store, that doesn't mean I can run a factory) but not in the arts?

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 June 2001 - 08:29 AM

Alexandra, I think you may have hit upon something there! Arts, and particularly ballet, are essentially very conservative when it comes to the business that goes behind the running of a company or other institution. They may well be behind the curve worldwide when it comes to finding the correct fit of administrator to organization!

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 15 June 2001 - 09:11 AM

Then I ask with some trepidation, what are the current trends in business management? (If ballet is 20 years behind the trends, this would let us know what to look forward to.) The only things I've read is that playfulness in corporate management is out -- no more Coke machines in the CEO's office and basketball courts in the buildings -- and, of course, there's always streamlining and downsizing.

#12 bbfan

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Posted 15 June 2001 - 09:36 AM

>And one other thing: the BB press release implies that Babcock was responsible for saving the satellite school.

I don't think the BB press release implies that. The release was, I thought, rather carefully crafted to make these points:
- Babcock is leaving the ballet but staying in Boston;
- we are looking for a new CEO and will work together on transition;
- (despite problems) the ballet has accomplished good things in the past year and will continue to do so (without crediting Babcock or anyone else specifically).

BU's press release was, as one might expect, more laudatory.

#13 felursus

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Posted 19 June 2001 - 01:24 AM

Alexandra, I think the question you ask about who is in charge of a ballet company: the CEO or the AD is timely. I note that in the cases of ABT and NYCB the CEOs manage the money and the ADs manage the artistic sides of things. Obviously there has to be a good working relationship between the two for things to work smoothly: eg. the AD has to have a clear idea of what monies are available for what types of projects. But the CEO should keep his/her nose out of what technique is taught at the ballet school, the national origin of the dancers in the company (barring legal issues, of course), the origin of whatever ballets are chosen by the AD, etc. It is disloyal and beyond the scope of a CEOs area of expertise to make adverse comments about the ADs choices - EVEN if s/he wishes the AD had made different choices AS LONG AS the AD has stuck within the budget and is promoting the company well by bringing in an audience.

Jeffrey Babcock, in his interview with Maureen Dezell that was published in the Boston Globe in January, 2000, did many of these things, and he appears to have involved himself in the other issues subsequently. My problem with him is that he not only interfered in the realm of the AD but he does not appear to really have a good, fundamental understanding of and/or appreciation for ballet. I don't think he knows anything about the history of the art form, and I don't think he cares. I think he thought he could just run the BB like a business. As a musician (as he purports to be) he should know better. :)

#14 Sonora

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Posted 19 June 2001 - 02:41 AM

Aren't there multiple satellite schools associated with BB? I believe they are financially discrete entities, or at least relatively unattached to the financial ups and downs of the professional company.

So I'm not sure what Babcock would have had to do with the failure or success of the satellite school(s) anyway.

It seems the highly topical question of who should be in charge of a ballet company, an Artistic Director or a CEO-type business manager, is one that companies large and small must grapple with either today or in the very near future. A more appropriate question might be not who should be in charge, but how will power and authority be shared between the artistic and business leaders?

At NYCB and ABT, do the AD and CEO really perform discrete functions? It has been my experience that, at least in the smaller companies, the AD is required to be somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades with his hand in artistic endeavors (choreography, teaching, staging, rehearsing) as well as business matters, including, of course, fund-raising!

The same is NOT asked of the CEO-business manager, who 9 times out of 10 does not have the expertise required to make decisions about those same artistic endeavors.

[ 06-19-2001: Message edited by: Sonora ]

#15 bbfan

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Posted 19 June 2001 - 08:37 AM

> I think he thought he could just run the BB like a business. As a musician (as he purports to be) he should know better.

I agree. My opinion is that any arts organization benefits from having strong people handling business, but that the business people are there in support of the artistic people, not vice versa. So if you have a strong business leader and a strong artistic leader there is bound to be tension - think of the personal characteristics needed to be strong and succeed in each position. Seems like the best way for the organization to succeed is if the business leader loves the art from and respects the artistic leader enough to put aside some amount of personal ambition. I would not call the top business person a CEO - better to stick with a somewhat lesser title like business manager so it is clear where the prioritie are.

I haven't seen an org chart, I think Boston Ballet's Center for Dance Education reports to BB CEO, but it basically financially self supporting - there are three related schools, in Boston and two suburbs, plus numerous out reach and summer programs.

[ 06-19-2001: Message edited by: bbfan ]


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