Cleveland Orchestra to strike before Miami residency

January 10, 2010 at 02:58 AM ·

 http://www.miamiherald.com/living/story/1415707.html

Replies (37)

January 10, 2010 at 04:10 AM ·

I just play for myself, so I live in a different world.

What is the typical annual cost of playing in an orchestra? I know that to have an adequate quality instrument you must spend a reasonable sum, and training is not inexpensive. I really don't know how to evaluate if that average salary is simply maintaining an expensive pursuit, or if it is inflated.

Any comments?

January 10, 2010 at 09:04 AM ·

I just did a currency conversion of the US$140200 figure, and it comes out as £87500 - and that appears to just be for a rank and file player, not a principal.   I guess on top of that comes the teaching etc that such players would do.  I've not been to Cleveland, but I am aware that it isn't New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Washington DC in terms of a "major" city so I guess it could be compared to a regional British city if one was to make very basic comparisons.

It would be fair to say that a musician playing in a major regional orchestra in Britain (or for that matter on the European continent) would probably sell his grandmother to have the chance of earning that kind of a median salary.  A concertmaster would be incredibly hard pushed to earn even half of that amount per year...

In this case, I have to say that the union's demands seem totally removed from the reality which is the current world economic situation.  Interesting to see that the principal conductor and senior administration staff have accepted substantial pay cuts.  How many people in other professions are having to do the same in order that their companies and organisations are able to survive?    We've also seen some high profile USA orchestras negotiate deals which cut player income out of sheer economic necessity.   Why should the Cleveland musicians expect different treatment?

This will be an interesting scenario to follow, but I'm sorry to say that my sympathies are absolutely not with the players and their union if the article does indeed accurately reflect their mindset.

January 10, 2010 at 04:59 PM ·

Rosalind, just to clarify . . .

While Cleveland is not a big city like NY or DC, the orchestra is far from a regional orchestra.  Cleveland is one of the top orchestras in the country.  I'm from Pittsburgh, and it is the same here.   The quality and fame of the orchestra is 'bigger' than the city.

That said, everyone is taking pay cuts and I hope the rank and file will reconsider.

 

January 10, 2010 at 07:41 PM ·

Cleveland is one of my favorite orchestras, but having said that and hopefully this doesn't sound too harsh - but the musicians should just be grateful they still have employment.  In an economy like this one everyone is having to sacrifice something and a 10% cut from their salary is nothing compared to what others have have to give up.

January 10, 2010 at 10:03 PM ·

I'd like to start off by saying that I believe the Cleveland orchestra is one of the best orchestras in the entire world. I was fortunate to attend a concert about 10 years ago when Dohnányi was the conductor.  If I was fortunate enough to be a member of that orchestra making that sort of money (I make about 3rd the amount) I think I would take the pay cut, especially in today's economy.

 

That being said, I'm not in that situation, so I can't really take side or the other. I just hope the situation is cleared up quickly so the music doesn't stop. It would be a great loss for the folks, especially in MIami.

January 11, 2010 at 12:57 AM ·

 The real shame is that orchestral musicians working in orchestras around the world get badly paid and it is getting worse. In Australia (like the UK) you can make more money as a teacher than as an orchestral musician, which was not the case twenty years ago.  In this town (Adelaide) you will get paid more if you join the police band (this is because band members are linked to police salaries while we are not pegged to anything).  It is hard to convince music students that it is a profession worth following and many orchestral players leave to take up well-paid jobs in computing or public service just like many great music students decide they don't want the hassle of a badly paid job however rewarding the experience can be and train to become doctors or lawyers instead.      

Cleveland would be one of the top orchestras in the world.  They deserve to be paid like the experts they are.  

January 11, 2010 at 01:22 AM ·

The majority of musicians are underpaid. For instance in Waco TX scale for rank and file musicians in the Waco Symphony which considers itself to be a professional orchestra is about $80 per service.

 

We should rejoice in the fact that the members of the Cleveland Orchestra should hold out for a wage that is probably less than a dentist and certainly less than a lawyer in Cleveland.

January 11, 2010 at 03:38 AM ·

If the orchestra is losing money, and the very existence of the orchestra is at jeopardy due to financial reasons, anyone that goes on strike should be fired on the spot.  I'm sure there are many, many fine musicians that would be willing to work for far less than the proposed 10% pay cut.  They need to pull their heads out of the sand and look around.  The performing arts are sucking wind right now. 

If I were in charge, I would put a big ad in the paper advertising openings for the Cleveland orchestra at a salary equivalent to 30% pay cut..  After a few thousand people show up to audition, I'll bet it would change the attitudes of those prima donna union members.

 

January 11, 2010 at 05:31 AM ·

In answer to Smiley, we should get rid of all the lawyers.  "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all lawyers is $102,470 per year." This is not just the very best lawyers it is just average ones, like the ones in Waco Texas. Just think, firing and then rehiring them at a 30% decrease would mean a huge saving to our economy.

 

As you recall a regular in the Waco Symphony can probably make close to $2500 per year alone. On top of the weddings and funerals and other jobs, you can probably rake in close to $8000 a year. Apartment rentals are pretty cheap here so you can probably live mighty well with just a small infulsion of food stamps. When it gets cold the churches can put you up.

.I think it is also a travesty that those Cleveland musicians go out and spend 100's of thousands of dollars on antique instruments and deprive the amateurs of the thrill of playing on them.Well that is except for the really rich lawyers who make the real bucks to get the strads and del gesus. The real problem though is the lawyers don't have a union to protect them, so we can't go after the evil union organizers and their socialist plots. We'll just have to get them to resign for the good of the country and take a pay cut. After that we go after the financial guys who get the huge bonuses. Don't worry, they'll get along in the long run. The federal government will bail them out. At least with the Cleveland Orchestra we don't have to worry about tax payers money bailing those blood sucking artists out.

January 11, 2010 at 06:52 AM ·

Oh boy, now this is getting fun :)

January 11, 2010 at 01:06 PM ·

I don't think one can judge the players without knowing the financial condition of the orchestra. Perhaps the players and the union know that the orchestra is in good shape? News articles can be used to present one side, to put public pressure on the other side.

One major orchestra player recently said to me rather sarcastically, regarding management efforts to push pay down,

"It just wouldn't be right for management to let a good recession go to waste". ;-)

 

Living near Detroit, I too have some judgments about unions in general. I know  one auto assembly line worker who retired at age 55 to his McMansion with the pool in the back yard. I also know non-union "white collar" employees who are laid off with very low prospects of ever being employed in the business again. One could argue that the auto unions not only cut their own throats, but did a lot of collateral damage.

It's kind of painful to see the disparity in wages between different orchestras. One reason that the major high-paying orchestras are so good though is that the pay attracts a huge number of good players for auditions, some of whom already have good-paying jobs, from which the best can be chosen. These orchestras need to be able to compete with other parts of the music market for the best musicians. The pay isn't just about the unions.

I think it's also important to realize that not all orchestra jobs involve equal work. The major symphonies can have quite busy schedules.

January 11, 2010 at 04:08 PM ·

I'm of two minds about this. I've been union and I've been non-union. I've been on the bricks, picket sign in hand, and on the sideline. My conclusion after all this time is that I wish the process were not so adversarial in nature. Problems in classical music and symphony orchestras of all kinds are critical and severe in these times, and I don't think that circling the wagons is the best way to deal with modern issues.

First of all, a professional player is a very finely-honed creation. Consider the tens of thousands of notes, nuances, phrases, dynamics and the like that are played flawlessly night after night. An accuracy rate like that would be the envy of almost any other industry of which I'm aware.

Unfortunately, the more there are of a certain category of worker, the lower their pay tends to be. I think that orchestras have become so large that many are at the point of collapsing under their own weight. Certainly the originators of the symphony would be amazed to see how large and bloated these ensembles have become. It costs a fortune to keep a major symphony going, and the situation, at least here in the States, has practically turned symphony players into wards of charity. We see what happens to funding when the major corporate underwriters encounter hard times. I should hasten to add that the situation for many smaller orchestras below the "major regional" level is vastly different, and these ensembles and their players are in desperate circumstances. It is a very different world outside of the majors.

I also am amazed at the amounts paid to major conductors and soloists. I think this is not necessarily the best thing for ticket sales in particular or classical music in general, and I also think it is more or less an American problem. We tend to pay our executives too much and our workers too little. I am torn between amusement and disbelief when I see how foreign companies, who pay their highest executives far less than the Americans do, constantly seem to outdo us. Just look at who the number one car maker in the world is now to see my point.

No worker wants to give up gains that have come so hard, and certainly no one wants to be the only party who makes sacrifices. I hope these folks can quickly find common ground, but no matter how this specific problem is finally worked out, the old way of doing things is probably over.

January 11, 2010 at 05:13 PM ·

Here's a thought.

How about an orchestra that is separated into three teams (yes, team rather than any other structure).

Rank-and-file players get to decide how much to pay management

Management and those same players get to decide how much to pay the conductor, soloists, and guests.

Management gets to decide how much to pay the players.

The decision is not in dollars, but in budget ratio. Once a group has a ratio, they can spend it, they can bank part of it for long-term stability, etc.

Once the spending percent of that is decided, then individual pay is decided in the normal way, either by management or by whatever method is currently used in the orchestra.

January 11, 2010 at 07:42 PM ·

A Cleveland Orchestra player just left here about an hour ago. A lot was said, and I may be prejudiced (a number of them come to Ann Arbor for luthier work), but I'll just mention a couple of general things:

In their recent European tour, reviewers heaped praise on the Cleveland Orchestra, such as "The best in the world".

Players in Cleveland are proud of their Orchestra, and aren't thrilled about any scenario which could lead to a talent drain . Four players in one string section are former members of the Pittsburgh Symphony, so I guess such things are a legitimate concern.

Concessions have already been made by the musicians which the linked article in the first post fails to mention, such as a 50% reduction in pay for radio broadcasts.

The Executive Director has claimed a 15% pay cut, and is asking for shared sacrifice, but has declined to share details of his latest (a subsequent?) contract with the musicians.

(some of these items didn't come directly from the musician who was here, but from references which the musician provided).

 

January 12, 2010 at 03:09 AM ·

I like this orchestra very much and own many recordings. If the logic that everyone is taking a cut is a rational for these guys to give up, then that just is because "miserly loves company". These guys should not budge an inch until there is absolutely no alternative. If they feel they must then that is up to them in the end. I think the systematic devaluation of the players in these orchestras is a bad trend and is a way to make the orchestra into a commodity. Orchestras might do better as player owned cooperatives, but the current structure, union players, management, and then foundations seems out of date to me. Every structure for this type of endeavor however has inherent risks.

This reminds me of the movie Wagging the Dog". No orchestra means no management, no fundraising, no recordings, no foundation, no concerts, no nothing. So if we we think of the orchestra members as the primary asset of the Orchestra, besides Severence Hall or Blossom, or other brick and mortar, then they really are not over paid at all. In fact if they work hard enough they can even make minimum wage with all the rehearsal and practice they do to stay in top form.

People often think the orchestra follows the money but in reality the money follows the orchestra. If the orchestra captures the imagination. and the management is trustworthy then fundraising can be productive and then it becomes about managing well and understanding the current economy...possibly the new normal. The big, deep pocket donors are on the fence now. Too often the endowments are tied to high risk investments as well. I think the musicians should move on if they are devalued. Musicians however need to realize that fundraising in this economy is not a cake walk. I would not want to be running a foundation right now. Fundraising is hard work too. Nobody is guaranteed a fine salary for having talent or skill alone. I am convinced that having a career in music in this economic climate is predicated on having entrepenuerial skills and have told my kids as much. You need to create your own job in this climate. Waiting for big paychecks delegates the risk to others, like the union, or the management, when the truth is the musicains may end up holding the bag along with everyone else in the end. It is worth fighting for however until all options are exhausted.

January 12, 2010 at 05:20 PM ·

A 10% pay cut would reduce the average wage to about $ 126,000, not exactly bird seed. J Kingston's remark that they are "almost making minimum wage" falls flat if you do the math: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at the current minimum wage of $7.50 per hour, $65,700 if you are working every minute of every day.   Doesn't Cleveland have the highest-paid concertmaster in the country?  Perhaps their wage scale isn't sustainable.

Unfortunately, very few non-profits are in good financial shape at the moment,  Endowments have shrunk, donors' assets have shrunk, and many people are reevaluating where they donate their money, deciding that maybe the food bank and homeless shelter should get a little more and the arts a little less this year.  The generation of philanthropists who funded the growth and development of major symphonies are rapidly dying off, and the new crop of the extremely wealthy, so far at least, have generally not followed in their parents' and grandparents' footsteps.  Local, state, and federal funding for the arts is shrinking also.  Many foundations have shrunk, closed, or changed their missions to reflect the desperate need for education, economic develpoment, food, and shelter in many areas.

Most of us on this site consider symphony orchestras to be a national treasure, and one deserving of support.  The writing, however, is on the wall.  Bloated budgets aren't sustainable, no matter where the money goes.  Contentiousness isn't the way to solve anything.  Frank, open discussions between players, management, and patrons are the only way to find a path out of the current economic situation.

January 13, 2010 at 04:55 AM ·

Here's a link that presents the musician's point of view:

www.clevelandorchestramusicians.org/

January 13, 2010 at 05:24 AM ·

 Bruce, I would love to see musicians of the caliber of the Cleveland Orchestra make $200k per year. It is arguable  harder to make it into an orchestra of the caliber than it is to get into the NBA. 

But the NBA has "audiences" that justify the payment.The difference between the NBA and the modern orchestras is audience appeal. We have been systematically killing interest in the arts (especially the classical arts) for a good long while now. We have thrown good music out of churches, we have driven good people away from churches, we glorify rock, pop, jazz and other juvenile forms of expression, and so on and so forth. 

Music pays about as good as the audiences are willing to pay and that is less and less.

Oh yes, and compare the playing of yesteryear with the playing of today and see one more reason why no one is interested. Plenty of examples on Youtube.

January 13, 2010 at 03:46 PM ·

 One more thought. Next time you go to a concert, make a rough approximation of the audience size. You can start by finding the capacity of the hall and then estimating its percentage full. Then look at the concert bulletin on ticket prices and multiply it by a rough average. If the program is given on successive nights then multiply it by the number of programs. 

Then divide it by the number of musicians on stage and see what the number is. See if it covers weekly salaries or represents a living wage. Likely not. That is why orchestras go trolling for donations. 

Here is an example: You believe 2000 people attended a recent concert over two nights. The average ticket price was $20. That is a $40,000 take. There were 100 paid musicians on stage. That is $400 per musician. They probably didn't make $400 because they have to hire the hall, pay the soloist, pay for advertising and ticket sales costs. Change the numbers any way you like. double the audience and double the ticket price. It still wouldn't cover Cleveland Orchestra salaries. 

Quite frankly, through all of recorded history rank and file "classical" musicians have only achieved a living wage in the theater or under patronage frequently augmented by teaching. It has always been the reality of market demand for concert music. 

 

 

January 14, 2010 at 01:42 AM ·

 Smiley,

Having grown up in Cleveland, having studied with a Cleveland Orchestra member, and having gone to school with a current member, I can assure you that the orchestra members are much more than "prima donnas." 

However, as a frequent visitor to Cleveland, I'm shocked by how that city's economy has cratered in the last few years. I remember a successful, bustling downtown with the headquarters of major corporations, including BP and Jones, Day. A thriving restaurant scene in the Flats, along the Cuyahoga river. Malls with expensive shops at the Galleria and Terminal Tower. A gargantuan steel industry. But much of that has gone away, and whole neighborhoods are boarded up. There is a ring of unshakeable poverty that surrounds the city, and outer suburbs like Warrensville and Maple Heights are a disaster.

The only things left in Cleveland are the universities and the health-care juggernaut, which seems to be slowly taking over everything around both UH and the Cleveland Clinic, like two competing amoeba.

So yes, the Clevelanders are among the best (actually a ridiculous concept in art to begin with), but any arts organization in Cleveland has to face certain realities, and these days Cleveland has more in common with Detroit, Flint, and Buffalo than it does with New York, Berlin, or Paris.

 

Scott

January 14, 2010 at 03:10 AM ·

I know effectively nothing about the facts in this case.  However, the orchestra in my city went on strike in the early '80's.  Negotiations were at an impasse, the Board really believed that it could not meet the musicians' wage demands.  So, the Board dissolved the symphony.  A few years later a part-time orchestra emerged from the ashes.  It still exists as a part-time orchestra that does a very good job. 

Regardless, I am very aware that strikes (particularly during difficult economic times) an be much more destructive than anyone may expect.  Hopefully, both sides will remain calm, objective and as well informed as possible.

Elaine

January 14, 2010 at 03:46 AM ·

Scott,

Of course they are not ALL prima donnas, just most of them :-)  At least, that's what I would conclude if they came to a consensus to go on strike rather than take a 10% pay cut.  David Burgess rightfully pointed out that there are always two sides to every story, but it does not take a high powered accountant to understand the financial situation of the performing arts.  Bottom line is they are hurting, and they need to do whatever is necessary to stay afloat.  10% cut in pay where the median salary is $140K is not drastic by any stretch of the imagination.

I own a small business and have frozen salaries for the past year (except mine of course, which has gone down drastically).  If things get worse, I too will cut salaries.  And honestly, I think my employees will thank me for just keeping them on the payroll.  If anyone complains, they can take a hike, because right now is a great time to find talented people.  They are out there in abundance, and I for one am not going to tolerate any prima donnas on my ship. 

BTW, if the median salary at my company were $140K, I would have gone out of business 10 years ago, when times were good.  With such a bloated payroll in today's economy, I'd be better off shining shoes.  Maybe that's what some of the Cleveland orchestra members should do for a while to learn a little humility.

 

January 14, 2010 at 04:40 AM ·

I think it should mean a lot to the city of Cleveland to have arguably the finest orchestra in the world. That has so much more worth than can be quantified. For many people that fact alone puts the city in a certain category of sophistication. It really wouldn't be the same, if the orchestra degenerates into a regional orchestra with marginal pay. Yes, you need to pay the musicians real wages to maintain that kind of artistic integrity and do that much work, year-round.

January 15, 2010 at 03:39 AM ·

 No doubt that if the orchestra has the money it should pay the musicians as well as prudently possible. 

The management/worker thing is so tiresome in the arts. No one is getting rich (except a few popular soloists). Everyone else is getting by. A few (very few) orchestras have endowments that can get them through tough times but even then they can't throw away the future for now. 

January 17, 2010 at 03:32 PM ·

I studied in Cleveland last year and happen to be visiting/auditioning in Cleveland this weekend. Cleveland Orchestra is widely held to be one of the best orchestras in the world, certainly one of the "Big Five" in the U.S, and I have enjoyed many a concert at Severance Hall, one of the few outstanding cultural jewels in Cleveland. 

At first, I too was irritated at the idea of a strike during such a troubled economic situation. However, the strike does not seem to come from a greedy sense of not getting paid enough. Cleveland Orchestra musicians (who have already taken substantial cuts in benefits, royalties, etc.) are concerned that, if their salaries are not kept at the same level as the other Big Five symphonies, they will not be able to attract the new best talent out there, let alone keep the outstanding musicians they already have. This is a legitimate concern, considering Chicago and LA's pay is even higher! If they can't attract and keep their talent, they run the risk of becoming mediocre and losing their status. Clevelanders ought to realize that if the orchestra collapses, their cultural center is going to deteriorate very rapidly. In addition, I have heard through the grapevine that one of the other concerns is that management is refusing to take a pay cut....

 

Furthermore, I am somewhat surprised by some of the comments on this page inferring that their salaries are exorbitant. All of you musicians ought to realize yourselves the commitment, the sacrifices, the self-discipline that goes into forming a member of so prestigious an orchestra. We are talking about salaries for some of the most talented people in the world! Compare their salaries with the top athletes, who demonstrate the same sort of dedication and sacrifice, and make substantially more. And that's not even touching  on the execs at major corporations, who can make millions as bonuses...(bonuses!!!). Corwin has it exactly right; our cultural climate is not supporting classical music as we have slowly allowed it to die out. 

Yes, the musicians of CO are paid a good deal more than other orchestras, yes, they should be grateful to have a job in this economic climate. But their strike is a valiant attempt to preserve the high caliber of the orchestra they have served for years, one of the last remaining cultural havens in the rapidly declining city of Cleveland. 

Visit clevelandorchestramusicians.com for more info. 

 

P.S. I tried to get into Cleveland Orchestra's concert last night. Every seat was sold out. Friends tell me it was one of the most amazing concerts they have heard in Severance Hall. 

January 17, 2010 at 06:02 PM ·

Natasha,

Your point is well taken.  I completely agree that musicians are grossly underpaid relative to their skill and time commitment.  Especially when you compare their salaries with doctors, lawyers, athletes, etc.  If it were financially feasible, I'd be ecstatic if musicians could earn more money than they do.  However, like it or not, the reality is that finances dictate people's salaries.

The views that I have expressed are purely from a business perspective.  As a business owner, I am forced to look at the bottom line of my company, even more so in the past 18 months.  I do not mean to be insensitive to the wants and needs of the musicians.  They can hold out for whatever salary they want, but if the finances do not work, the organization is not viable. 

The average salary for the musicians in the Cleveland Orchestra is $152K.  As a rough calculation, if there are 100 orchestra members, that comes out to over $15M payroll just for the musicians.  That doesn't include all the other expenses that the organization incurs.  The article states the following:

Music director Franz Welser-Möst and executive director Gary Hanson have taken voluntary cuts in compensation of 20 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The salaries of other non-union employees also have been cut.

Obviously, the organization is in survival mode. What gets me riled up is not so much the musicians, but the damn unions that seem to have a habit of spinning everything in their favor. It is as if they live in a different world, one where money seems to grow on trees and there is no such thing as recessions.  They need to open their eyes and get in touch with reality.

 

January 17, 2010 at 09:00 PM ·

 Smiley , I strongly agree. I also dispute that there are only enough talented musicians to staff the two or three orchestras that pay better than the CO. Many very capable musicians would be delighted to have a salary of $135K per year. 

January 17, 2010 at 09:36 PM ·

"we glorify rock, pop, jazz and other juvenile forms of expression, and so on and so forth"

I don't think the way to solve the problems of orchestras or of classical music is by telling potential fans that the other music they enjoy sucks (if not in that many words).  Maybe that's just me.

January 17, 2010 at 09:48 PM ·

I'm always amazed at how some people completely change their musical tastes when they hear a great piece of classical music. That kind of "power" just doesn't exist in many "pop" songs of today. I've given many students in the past a listening assignment of the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 7th symphony, or (for the "goth" kids) movements of the Mozart Requiem. Almost immediately they come back to me begging for more classical music to listen to.

Personally, I think that "pop" music is light music, background music. Classical music opens my imagination in ways that rock music simply cannot do.

January 18, 2010 at 02:39 AM ·

Our culture has a warped sense of value.  Currently, the most money goes to people who are good at playing games with balls or acting out stories in front of cameras.  Both are good entertainment, neither are particularly socially useful.  (And let's not forget those who play with other people's money all day- they're making the big bucks too.)  It's pathetic that pop singers who need software to make it sound like they're even on pitch make millions, while the vast majority of conservatory graduates are just squeaking by, if that.  That said, the musicians in Cleveland need to make sure that their salary demands don't end up bringing the whole orchestra to the brink of disaster.  Smiley's perspective, that of someone struggling to make payroll each week, is important.  At the end of the day, there are only so many dollars in the checking account.  How does the cost of living in Cleveland compare with that in other cities?  It can't equal New York or San Francisco.

January 18, 2010 at 08:41 PM ·

Here's the latest:

www.clevelandorchestramusicians.org/2010/01/strike-statement/

 

January 19, 2010 at 12:02 AM ·

All I can say is to repeat one of my dear mom's favourite sayings:

"It'll end in tears..."

January 19, 2010 at 03:15 AM ·

That is truly unfortunate.  Here is an article with some specifics regarding the financial situation.

www.bloomberg.com/apps/news

 

January 19, 2010 at 05:50 AM ·

More here:

www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/arts/music/19orchestra.html

It includes this interestingly worded observation:

"But before the first notes of Strauss' "Don Juan," the players engaged in the equivalent of hurling Molotov cocktails in the genteel confines of Severance Hall, the orchestra's splendidly renovated home: they left the stage and passed out leaflets among the patrons."

Molotov cocktails?

 

Edit:  More here:

voices.washingtonpost.com/the-classical-beat/2010/01/strike_of_the_band.html

Our tax dollars hard at work here:

www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php

 

January 19, 2010 at 06:12 PM ·

So what did the leaflet say? Something like" we may be dressed on stage in livery buit we are not your servants. We are tired of you not donating enough to support this orchestra so we are going on strike" perhaps.?

They should study the sad case of the Houston Symphony. They went on strike and eventually capitulated and the economic situation has caused one thing after another. But most are grateful now to have what they have.

January 19, 2010 at 07:03 PM ·

The Cleveland Symphony musicans' argument resembles the "rationale" of those who defend the outrageous Wall Street bonus -- need to offer "competitive" pay in order to keep talents. Well, there are only a handful of orchestra in the world which can afford their salary demand. Let the free market work itself out and see in the end who has the job and who does not.

January 20, 2010 at 01:30 AM ·

Jen-Chien, I understand your point about the arguments being similar. I'd like to make some distinctions though.

The Wall Street scenario probably evolved around people who were centered on personal enrichment, knowing full well that they were putting huge numbers of others in a strong position to get screwed (like.losing their entire investment savings, or ending up with no place to live). Or at least they should have known this, if they were half-way smart. I have a hard time seeing orchestra musicians in the same light.

I'm not sure anyone has mentioned yet the kind of training and background it takes to get into a group like Cleveland. I think Tanya Ell is the most recent member, and here's a link with a little on her background:( no, I don't know what her position was on the contract disagreement)

www.polyphonic.org/contributor.php

Does this mean that pay for orchestra musicians should be free from market forces? I can't make a good argument for that, but isn't it sad to contrast this with the highly publicized recent scenarios where stellar compensation has been provided for people who  ushered their companies into ruin, or who were at the helm before thousands of jobs were cut?

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