Originally published on ‘Friends Supplement’ of “Upbeat" (magazine of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society), Opus 6, No.3, March-May 1986, author is uncredited.
John Duffus, our General Manager, was the guest at a ‘Meet the Artist’ session on 27 February 1986. Mr. Duffus had only returned from the Orchestra’s China Tour forty eight hours previously, and was a bit tired but very excited because the tour was vey successful and a great triumph for the Philharmonic in many ways.
He started off with background information about how he became an arts administrator. He started to learn the piano at age six. Even thought he loved music, he had no intention to make it his career. At 15, he visited a television studio and was fascinated with the technology he observed. He then decided he would become a television producer one day.
When he first attended college he studied economics, but realised he was not interested in it and later switched to music. Upon graduation, he became the Programme Assistant of the Radio Section of the British Broadcasting Company. After that, he began an 8-year association with the Scottish Opera, initially as Personal Assistant to the General Administrator and thereafter as Assistant General Administrator and Technical Controller During these years, he founded it to be an excellent training ground.
He was appointed General Manager of the Philharmonic and has for 7.5 years managed the Orchestra. He admitted that he had no academic training as an arts administrator and picked things up along the way. In his personal view, the most important requirement as an arts administrator is that one must be an artist/performer or has to have a love for arts.
Arts organisations all over the world are being subsidized one way or another and an arts administrator has to make sure that the public subsidy is well spent. Most artists, stage designers, and music directors are only concerned about producing the best performance without music consideration for the budget, It is the arts administrator;s job to decide how to spend the available funds. he has to maintain a perfect balance between funding and production, to produce the best function within the budget. This, in fact, is an art in itself. He has to create an atmosphere in which the performing artist an give his best to the public, it is his job to achieve artistic perfection. He has great respect for artists in general when consideration is taken about the effort and time spent in training. An arts administrator has to be a combination of many things, including psychiatrist, social worker and shoulder to cry on.
In this business, last minute cancellations, illnesses of artists, delays, unavoidable situations occur often and the arts administrator has to deal with them tactfully. He enjoys the challenge and fun. John Duffus will be leaving the Philharmonic to put his knowledge and expertise to good use by forming his own company in Hong Kong managing artists and to promote performances and productions. Although he is leaving us, he will stay in the local music scene. Friends had a real nice chat with him and the session lasted for an hour and a half instead of our usual one hour. Our best wishes to you Mr. Duffus!