Why you mustn’t let accountants meddle with music…

Updated January 12th, 2020. “If music be the food of love, play on,” said Willy Shakespeare in his play, Twelfth Night. Just as well they didn’t have major corporate companies in those days, driven by lawyers, accountants and finance fiends. The following anecdote demonstrates why (original author unknown).

“If all such redundant passages were eliminated, as determined by the utilization review committee, the concert could have been reduced from two hours to twenty minutes…”

The CEO of a large healthcare company was also chairman of the board of his community’s symphony orchestra.

Finding he could not go to one of their concerts, he gave the tickets to the head of the company’s auditors, a respected accountant and business consultant.

The next morning, the CEO asked the accountant how he enjoyed the performances. Instead of the expected usual polite remarks, the accountant handed him a report which read as follows:

  1. The attendance of the orchestra conductor is unnecessary for public performances. The orchestra has obviously practised and has received prior authorization from the conductor to play the symphony at a predetermined level of quality. Considerable money could have been saved merely by having the conductor critique the orchestra’s performance during a retrospective peer review meeting.
  1. For considerable periods, the four oboe players had nothing to do. Their numbers should be reduced and their work spread over the whole orchestra, thus eliminating peaks and troughs of activity.
  1. All twelve violins were playing identical notes with identical motions. This is unnecessary duplication: the staff of this section should be drastically cut with consequent savings. If a larger volume of sound is required, this could be obtained through electric amplification, which has reached very high levels of reproductive quality.
  1. Much effort was expended playing 16th notes or semi-quavers. This seems excessive refinement as most of the listeners are unable to distinguish such rapid playing. It is recommended that all notes be rounded up to the nearest eighth. If this is done, it would be possible to use trainees and lower grade operators with no loss of quality.
  1. No useful purpose would appear to be served by repeating with horns the same passage that has already been handled by the strings. If all such redundant passages were eliminated, as determined by the utilization review committee, the concert could have been reduced from two hours to twenty minutes, with greater savings in salaries and overhead. In fact, if  Schubert had attended to these matters on a cost containment basis, he probably would have been able to finish his symphony.

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Surely someone knows an accountant who understands music?

If you do, please share their details here so we can enter them into rare accountancy Hall of Fame of Number Crunchers with Finesse (and a sense of humor…)





  1. I’m an accountant who did Music O Level and played the violin to grade 7! Does that count?