October 10, 2010 at 6:53 AM
UPDATE (6:25 PDT Sunday): It appears a that Sarah Chang has canceled her recital on Monday. At this point her Facebook page is being flooded with thank-yous from musicians. I'll join them: thank you for standing in solidarity with the musicians, Sarah.
As of 10:15 p.m. Saturday, some 103 people from all around the world, mostly musicians, had posted on violinist Sarah Chang's Facebook page, begging her not to cross picket lines in Detroit to play a recital on Monday.
Chang had been scheduled to perform for the Detroit Symphony's opening concerts this weekend, but when the orchestra went on strike, DSO management re-booked her to play a recital with pianist Robert Koening on Monday instead, according to the Detroit Free Press.
After the ensuing publicity, Chang decided that proceeds from the ticket sales for the Monday recital be donated to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Musician Pension Fund (Chang would still receive her fee). Unfortunately, there's a freeze on that pension, and furthermore, many people are simply trading in their symphony ticket for the recital ticket.
At this point, she's still scheduled to play that recital Monday.
Does this matter? Does it matter if Sarah Chang plays a recital, while Detroit Symphony musicians are out on strike?
Yes, it matters. A lot. If she plays the recital, she will be crossing the Detroit Symphony musicians' picket lines. This is a major action with lasting symbolism. Instead of standing in solidarity with her fellow musicians, she would be standing against them, working in place of striking workers. Instead of taking the opportunity to defend the actions of these musicians, she would be subverting those actions and sending the message to the audience: it doesn't matter, I'll play for you anyway.
People don't enter into strikes lightly. They put their livelihoods on the line when they agree to a strike; and they do it in the spirit that a united effort will help all.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of musicians are asking Sarah Chang not to do this recital. The musicians of the Detroit Symphony sent her a letter, asking her not to play and instead inviting her to join them outside the hall.
Ray Hair, International President of the American Federation of Musicians of the US and Canada, spoke on behalf of an even larger contingent, posting on Chang's Facebook page: "On behalf of nearly 90,000 members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada and on behalf of musicians throughout the world all who are watching your actions with profound interest, we hope you will make an honorable and just decision and refrain from performing in Detroit until the current labor dispute between our organization and the orchestra’s management is resolved."
More than 100 musicians wrote personal notes to Chang on her Facebook page, including DSO Concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert, who said, "Sarah, we would have loved nothing more than to have had the privilege to perform all together again on the glorious stage of Orchestra Hall, finally open our season, honor our commitment, and dedicate our life's work to our faithful, wonderful and knowledgeable subscribers. Decision to strike is not made lightheartedly, rather a painful, calculated process to address an otherwise dire situation...I implore you to have a look at our web site to comprehend the philosophical divides between the parties before you make your decision."
Whatever Sarah Chang decides to do on Monday – and whether she likes it or not – her actions will make a profound statement about where she stands in terms of the community of musicians.
But she wanted to give them the recital money no? She's not a bad person even if she chooses to do the recital... She has always been very generous and giving this money prooves it! Isn't that too a symbolic and generous action?
I understand the poor symphony members situation and I also think they need money to live as everyone else! They can be on strike and defend their rights while some more lucky people are kind ennough to earn money for them...
Laurie - Indeed, not an easy situation, for anyone. I applaud you for your candor here.
She isn't donating her fee from the recital, nor does have any control over any "profits" to a closed pension fund. Whether that statement came from her or someone else working for her, it doesn't show that she cares about the musicians' situation in Detroit.
What needs to also happen - concert violinists, violinists in orchestras, or any violinist making a living needs to state their case and not hide behind a veil of "oh, that's not politically correct". This is an extremely serious situation in Detroit, and a window into what we could be seeing in the near future with many major orchestras.
A difficult position for Sarah, but I think musicians must stick together. If the orchestra members aren't supported, there may not be an orchestra there for any soloist to play with next year. And Sarah joining the musicians could get world-wide publicity for them, whereas if she goes ahead with the recital, the management will think they've "got away with it".
In the early 80's all the BBC musicians here in the UK went on strike against the BBCs plans to axe some of its orchestras, and we had a lot of support not just from fellow musicians but from actors etc. who came out publically in support of us. In the end, as always, a compromise deal was worked out - but it was better than just accepting the status quo.
One thing we did was to organize some concerts ourselves - obviously we couldn't use the orchestra name, but played as something similar which made it clear who we were, and made money for the strike fund as well as getting welcome publicity - and obvious public support by the audience coming out for us. Maybe an idea for the orchestra members.
Finally, I'd like to wish them the best of luck trying to save their orchestra. A fine reputation built up over so many years can be destroyed almost overnight.
What about the audiences of Detroit who want to see Chang perform? Don't they deserve to hear great music?
Just a few random thoughts.
Its sad to see so many adults shooting themselves in their feet. A no win strike, a no win cross the picket lines no win for anyone.
People who purchased the ticket for Sarah Chang's performance expected great music by Chang AND DSO. She can't perform great concerti without orchestras.
Here's the answer her plan of donating money to so called "pension plan". This is from her FB page commented by a DSO musician.
"Sarah, we have NO PENSION as a result of DSO management imposing the more punitive proposal B. It has been frozen and what's worse, will cost MORE money to close because all obligations have to be paid(funded) in order to close. Thus your gesture is MEANINGLESS and even help management to shut down our pension ever faster !!"
She clearly has no idea how her action impacts on others' lives. If she takes this situation only momentarily business, it's too bad that she forgets we are all connected. I like the editor's last comment. Wisdome, indeed...
I know that you, yourself, are a symphony musician. And I also understand that this is a blog. It would have been nice, however, to hear a bit about this dilemma from Sarah's side...
And does anyone know if there's a possibility for legal ramifications if she does not go through with this concert? This is such a huge dilemma for both sides...it truly is a no win situation. If Sarah walks out, the Detroit community will likely be upset, and if she plays, well....
This is such a tough situation...
She was re-booked by management, after the musicians went on strike, so that she could play a recital without them. So the only contract she would be breaking would be the one that she made under these circumstances.
As for the people of Detroit, the Detroit Symphony is their institution. I would hope they would want to support the musicians who live and work in their city and the institutions that support the city's culture.
Coming from a very blue-collar background where every man in my immediate family has thumbprints you can see from ten feet away, my first sympathies are with the musicians. But Chang really does have to make a lot of people happy in order to keep her career. A B-lister can come out in support of something like this, but A-listers are in a much more precarious position and will be risking wrath either way they decide. If she chooses to sympathize with the musicians, she may find herself punished by other orchestras' management for doing that. She's A-list, but there are a lot of talented people nipping at her heels that orchestras all over the world will be happy to book in direct retribution, and I have to wonder how many musicians would sympathetically refuse to work if something came up that harmed her.
She's already worked quite openly with the Vienna Phil, an organization with an all-but-stated policy, pure evil in my opinion, of refusing membership to people like her -- Asians AND women. And yet she worked with them anyway, where I personally would like to have seen her refuse for moral reasons that have a lot to do with women and non-white musicians having a hard time being taken seriously and making a living in the world of classical music as well. She has a lot of balancing to do; she has to think of how this decision will play out in every orchestra in the United States and the world beyond. This may sound cold, but B-list performers can take controversial positions; A-list performers of any stripe always stiff-arm that sort of thing. Every single human on the planet has a cause that they want their favorite celebrity to trumpet; if they picked up every banner that people wanted them to pick up, they'd be pulled in a million directions and fly to pieces.
I just want it all to work out for everyone -- keeping Chang at the top where she deserves to be, and keeping those musicians working for a good wage.
And I'd like to see orchestra boards learn to manage their blasted money such that they don't end up in straits like this when things go south. It's possible for an organization like this to tuck away money in fat times so that they can ride out thin times without shafting the workers. Whenever stupid money decisions are made at the top, it's always the people on the front lines who pay.
Hypothetically, if Sarah ends up not going through with this (for whatever reason...just having learned all the details of this dilemma, etc), she will definitely be in breach of contract, but just for this Monday performance? And could potentially see legal ramifications/fines for that?
What happened with the orchestra's performances? Is it unreasonable to think that there was a statute in the previous contract that dealt with this situation and turning to a recital program was one of the solutions? Sorry for all the questions, but i'm not well-versed on the management/contract side of the industry.
This is such a difficult situation.
Is her career really that precarious, that she just can't afford to do the right thing?
Patrick...that's just not the case. Reputation? Respect from orchestras? Should she walk with the musicians, that is a winning situation and musicians will look up to her.
In a typical contract, a week of concerts preempted by a strike would be rescheduled for a later season.
If other orchestras' management decide to teach her a lesson, it's possible. A-listers often get to where they are by stiff-arming controversy of any kind. Again though, I'd just like to know more about how these sorts of decisions have played out in the past.
And if the right thing were always the way people decided, the Vienna Phil wouldn't have a single soloist willing to work with them.
Thanks for the response, Andrew. That's interesting...so if she were to cancel tomorrow's recital, then they could probably reschedule it for another season with no penalties?
Laurie, I honestly do think that a soloist's career can be tremendously affected by something like this. I don't think that there is a plain wrong and plain right decision here...it seems more gray than straight black-white.
I'm just wondering why there hasn't been more of a publicized effort to get Maestro Slatkin involved...
It's difficult but Janis is right too... I have enourmous respect for Sarah Chang (one of my favorite players) and imagine that if ever she does play at the recital, it's because she would be seriously harmed by not going to it... (may it be legal reasons, harm to her soloist carrer etc)
Even if her action of donating money would do nothing, it's still a try from her to make something good out of it. She's young and tried what she could...
I wish luck to musicians on both sides. Not an easy thing. And I agree too that people who waited so long to see Chang play deserves, in a way, to actually see her play...
When a great musician comes in town, it's always a very important event for the audience members and young students who will be the musicians of tomorrow too. They sometimes do masterclasses and stuff and enrich the cultural world everywhere they pass... Young students who bought tickets can learn so much from famous soloists.
Chang really tried to please both sides with this money donating idea. (it's just sad that it seems that this money would not help the DSO but is this her fault?)
I'll say pros and cons on both decisions...
I'm having trouble understanding what this really has to do with Sarah Chang. She's a soloist, she's not in the orchestra nor does she work for the organization, but because she was originally booked to play with the DSO at a symphony concert that was subsequently cancelled, this makes her completely bound to their honor? Does this mean every soloist that ever played with the DSO should cancel appearances that night too wherever they're playing? What if there was another arts event like a ballet or a world music recital that was scheduled--Would those performers be asked or pressured into doing the same?
As long as an orchestra has got a dispute its members are (and should be) free to use any legally allowed action. Now, it's the orchestra's decisision to achieve upfront agreement with or support from musical partners who are not part of the dispute. Or just dump them ("let them find out ..."). Which most people would call: misbehaving. Misbehavers should be treated like that. And misbehavers putting up demands towards people they just dump are even bigger misbehavers.
Being member of a union cannot be an excuse for behaving like a mobster. We have got US mail, internet, you name it. So what prevents orchestras from behaving?
And another - I admit - nasty thought: Under what circumstances should it be possible to dissolve an orchestra? Should it be allowed at all? An industrial dispute as such is neither good or bad and does not deserve support by definition. And how well does "industrial" and "art" fit? At the end an "industrial" dispute might help the players, but will it help the art?
I would not call the situation "Sarah Chang's" Dilemma", rather "Detroit Symphonie's Dilemma".
btw here's the Discussion that's going on as well.
As an complete outsider I think Sarah Chang is caught between a rock and a hard place and whatever decision she makes, will be criticized. If she is prevented from honoring her contract it could backfire on the DSO and in my opinion damage their cause. Sarah Chang does not deserve to be used as pawn.
Laurie, you said her contract became null when the orchestra went on strike. Why then does she have to have a concert booked at all that night at that venue? It looks to me like she has to be honoring something by doing the concert. If it was that easy to just cancel the gig, don't you think she would have? I hope this is not just over a lost fee.
She's honoring the scab contract that she made after the musicians went on strike. DSO management re-booked her to do a recital, without the orchestra.
has had many postings about the Detroit situation ( as well as other more-or-less similar ones) over the last months. Browsing the archives will give you a LOT of info on this general topic.
Calling an agreement a scab contract is tantamount to calling the participating parties fraudsters and I am sure that is not what Laurie meant. Laurie's sympathies obviously are with the symphony players, but if they strike what is to prevent alternate arrangements for the benefit of the paying customers. Why must the orchestra be consulted if they are not willing to play?
I think that the correct solution is for the DSO to pay full salaries until the money runs out and then just close the doors. We could then avoid all this backstabbing and name calling.
Thanks for posting the facebook quotes, for the few remaining facebook holdouts. Boisvert comes across most eloquently.
But I don't understand "mobster"...
Janis, I think you have the logic backwards. "A"-listers are always going to get booked - If Sarah were to upset the Detroit management, that will not stop all the other major orchestras wanting her to perform. However, for a lesser-ranked soloist, they need the work more and managements can afford to not book them.
Also the point was made about the young people of Detroit having the chance to see a world-class soloist. Not next season, they won't if the orchestra isn't there. And think of the contribution the DSO players make to the community. I'm sure most of them teach as well, helping these same youngsters develop - if not teaching them directly, maybe teaching THEIR teachers. Then as well as the DSO concerts, the players probably play in "ad-hoc" orchestras for local choirs etc.
I now play in our local amateur orchestra - our conductor and leader are both from our professional orchestra, sharing their expertise.
Having a good orchestra in the city contributes so much more to the community than just a weekly concert.
Please, Sarah, support your colleagues. The people who are delighted to provide the accompaniment to help show your great talent.
FWIW, I'd like to weigh in...
Detroit appears to be ground zero in the current crisis plaguing our auto industry. I think home values have slipped from 2005 levels to 1960 levels. Think of homes, boarded-up or otherwise that cost 250K or so in 2005 available now for $3K. Only Stockton, CA, or Elk Grove, CA, or Phoenix, AZ, maybe, can rival this.
And now the DSO is debating about accepting a pay cut and, that too, in this economic climate? Pahleez! Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, as they say.
All the folks/patrons that bought tickets to Sarah Chang's concert are entitled to hearing her play, accompanied by the DSO or not. This is no moral or ethical issue.
Let Sarah Chang play, I'd say, even at the risk of sounding harsh.
I agree with ALL of the above mentioned points, even VJ's!
I'm sorry that solidarity with the musicians has now been conflated with physical threats (see the above article). It's hard for everybody right now; let's be as gracious as we can to everyone who is trying to act in good faith.
Well said, Bill.
Yes, Bill - incredibly well said. Thank you.
The word scab seems to have a way of provoking threats in any labor dispute.
Both sides have very valid arguments. However, I have to side with the musicians. On the other hand, if audience numbers are falling due to the younger generations growing up not liking Classical then there is less money to pay the musicians. It might be a no win situation.
I think this is going to end up being an intractable situation unless the DSO musicians realize that Detroit and the surrounding environs are decaying from an industrial standpoint and that it can ill afford to support the arts in the manner of days past. It is not going to be easy to resuscitate our auto industry and the ancillary industry that is dependent on the auto industry and - downstream, the arts. This appears to be the beginning of the end of the DSO, if I may venture to say so at a great risk, and, btw, this has nothing to do with Sarah Chang, just the economy and where things are headed.
I read Sarah Chang's FB page last night and while I saw some messages that were harsh in tone, I didn't see anything like a physical threat. The most overtly hostile comments I saw were hints that musicians might not be nice to Sarah in future orchestral engagements, and while I wouldn't have posted such a thought on her FB page, that's a comment that I had also made to some colleagues when we were discussing the situation. I assume the FB commenters meant, as I did, that she would find an icy atmosphere, missing the usual rehearsal small talk and polite applause from musicians onstage. While I'm glad she has canceled her recital, I'm not convinced that she did so out of any feeling of solidarity with the musicians whatsoever.
In my opinion, the true A-list soloists have much more freedom to express controversial points of view than do B-list soloists. An A-list soloist is going to be in demand no matter what. B-list players are a dime a dozen, especially violinists and pianists, and have a lot more to lose by offending managements.
I am in complete agreement with Laurie's comments and assessment of the situation.
I have to post after long discussion here. I’ve been reading the thread, and kept to myself my own thought that Sarah has a head on her shoulder to think and her right to decide the recital thing. Everybody has his/her own opinions.
After many bad comments, requests (from people who I’m not sure if they have the right to do so since they’re not member of Detroit Ochestra – in my own judgment)… now Sarah gave up. She is NOT going thru with the recital anymore.
And you should happy for her courtesy already. Regardless of her decision Before or After all the plead, she made her choice which you wanted, what else do you want now? Can you just stop speculating from your side and let her have a peaceful moment already?
I wish who still critique her after this should put himself to her shoes to feel the pain. Oh yeah, given that you’re not as famous….
@Mary Ellen :
You said there was no physical threat for Sarah Chang, what do you suppose will happen if someone warns you 'not to cross the picket line'. Sarah said she was threatened in private e-mails. You must obviously live in coo-coo land where only good things happen to people.
In response to the last two entries: can we ALL stop finger-pointing and insulting and stick to the topic, please? Work stoppages, labor disputes and strikes are BAD ENOUGH - insulting each other as if we're five-year-olds doesn't help solve the real problems.
You people have to look at the big picture.
We live in a free country, because a group of people took a stand and started a war called the American Revolution.
We live in a free country, because a group of people took a stand for equal rights for all people and developed the constitution.
The list goes on and on.
All of us have benefited from some group of people standing together for some reason.
Thank you Laurie for standing with your fellow musicians.
Here is summation of events from Drew McManus over at Adaptistration.com. I agree with his comments at the end, which I will quote:
"I stopped by Arts Journal this morning (10/11/2010) and noticed the following headline they wrote in conjunction with the Detroit Free Press article announcing Chang’s decision to cancel the recital: "Sarah Chang Cancels Detroit Recital, Claiming Intimidation by Striking Musicians"; I want to point out that this is a gross misrepresentation of the facts as reported by the Detroit Free Press. Nowhere in Stryker’s article does he write that Chang or DSO representatives claim that the email messages Chang received via her website were from any of the Detroit Symphony musicians. Arts Journal should immediately revise the headline and issue an apology to Stryker, the Detroit Free Press, Chang, the DSO, and the DSO musicians."
I also think that Mary Ellen is on target. Most of the Facebook posts I read on Sarah's page were not just polite, they were downright deferential, but they argued that she not cross the picket line. Like I said, crossing a picket line is a very big deal. I'm surprised Sarah did not know that, I'm surprised her managers did not know that. Maybe they did. It's a free country, but if you choose to do something extremely controversial, it will create controversy and upset people.
About unions, I'm sure you can all predict my argument here :), but I will state it anyway: Unions are not bad for the economy. If you have a good job with good wages and benefits, chances are that someone, at some point, stood up to make that happen. It's incredibly ironic, that during times of hardship, while corporate executives have amassed more money than most normal people can fathom, that people who are mostly middle-class workers would make some kind of moral argument in favor of taking more pay cuts, getting less benefits, getting fired, etc. As if you are a better person if you take the 50 percent pay cut instead of the 30 percent one or the 20 percent one. What about making working conditions better? Or at least, what about preserving at least a modicum of a living? Imagine it. You'll have to fight for it. We've enjoyed the rights and benefits that our grandparents fought for, but they don't last if you don't preserve them and if you don't speak up.
Now. I'm going to go play some Bach. And Ysaye. :)
Bach and Ysaye - the cure for ALL! =) Workitout!!!
Looks like Arts Journal changed their headline to "Sarah Chang Cancels Detroit Recital, Claiming Intimidation"
NY Times story: Violinist Cancels Recital Over Detroit Strike Tension . Also, Sarah Chang's FB fan page is shut down; it had more than 6,000 fans and hundreds of posts from musicians.
I just read the article in Freep.com
It says, in part, "Some of the e-mails Chang told DSO management she received through her Web site, www.sarahchang.com, crossed the line from expressing displeasure to physical threats and career intimidation. Chang's Los Angeles-based manager Jenny Vogel declined comment. DSO president Anne Parsons also declined to give specifics, citing Chang's desire to remove herself from further controversy...[Chang said] "My original intention to bring music to the community has been derailed, and I have been unwillingly drawn into an inner dispute that does not appropriately involve me,"
Now she is citing physical threats on her website, a different story from what she said earlier. Also, she claims that she has been drawn in unwillingly to an internal DSO fight, yet earlier she talked about donating money to the musicians' pension fund and did not say that she was doing so unwillingly. I agree with Laurie's opinion that the issue has broader implications, including solidarity and crossing picket lines.
While there are some events in this article that are questionable, nevertheless:
From Frank Almond's blog, Non-Divisi:
"I followed this pretty closely over the weekend, canvassing as many sites as I could that had running discussions. What struck me most was how generally civil the comments were, considering the emotions involved. Of course there were exceptions, but nothing I could possibly construe as seriously threatening. Particularly notable was the tone of the letters from the AFM, ICSOM, and the Detroit Musicians to Ms. Chang, all of which were extremely courteous and respectful. Of course, perhaps Ms. Chang’s private emails and phone messages were another story, but she’s not commenting publicly. Drew McManus details the social media impact and much more in an excellent piece here..
"Now, if a truly intimidating or threatening message or post was received by Ms. Chang during all of this, that’s very serious, and clearly the authorities would have to intervene and go after those responsible. I can only assume this is happening now. But so far, it appears that the DSO and Ms. Chang are mostly upset because, well, lots of people got really angry at them. If your definition of “harassment” or “bullying” is “people criticizing me for replacing a DSO concert with a violin and piano recital, crossing a picket line, and getting a nice fee in the process”, then maybe you’d agree with Ms. Chang and Ms. Parsons. Then (evidently) the only option is to cancel, become a victim, and blame everyone for voicing their opinions.
"It’s unfortunate that the DSO management and Ms. Chang chose this approach over all other options: simply rescheduling the orchestra appearances, playing a concert in a nonpartisan location with neutral financial interests, or any number of other scenarios would probably have had a more positive (or at least more palatable) effect overall. The ramifications for Ms. Chang are by no means clear. Since canceling, she’s received a generous outpouring of support from lots of people previously accused of “intimidation” and “bullying” on sites like facebook. However, my informal polling indicates that a great many orchestral musicians have a very different perspective now, and given the choice, might opt for the Leroy Anderson festival instead of another Mendelssohn with her. But time will tell, and we don’t often call the shots on soloists anyway."
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