Letter Sent Out by Management of Louisville Orchestra

October 31, 2011 at 03:25 PM · Received from a friend who is a member of the Louisville Orchestra:

Just when you think we hit bottom! Our management sent this out on Friday to music schools, etc. PLEASE DO NOT REPLACE ME BY WORKING FOR THE LOUISVILLE ORCHESTRA!

I have posted the letter here:

(Copy and Paste this link into your browser.)

http://www.doublereed.org/IDRSBBS/viewtopic.php?pid=23817

Replies (38)

October 31, 2011 at 03:34 PM · Wow........

October 31, 2011 at 03:50 PM · The current board and officers are a disgrace. This will put Louisville on the artistic map of the country - as a desolation zone to be avoided by the artistically inclined. No self-respecting musicians, union or non-union should consider playing for this organization and I certainly will not support the "new" Birman/Maisch orchestra in any way. The free lancers of Louisville are united in opposing management and I am confident that no replacement players will be coming from our city.

October 31, 2011 at 04:30 PM · On the contrary, I think any and all V.COM members who are in Suzuki Book 6 or below should apply now. How many tapes of Corelli's "La Folia" can they listen to before they get the message.

October 31, 2011 at 04:44 PM · What's the cause of the strike that gives the management what they see as an opportunuty to replace members ??

Seems horrible, but I wonder about the history. Any similarities with Qantas ??

October 31, 2011 at 06:09 PM · Reading some of the articles and forums, I'm amazed at the amount of hostility directed at the musicians for having the gall to step up to fight for their hard earned pay and benefits.

It's as bad as the vitriol directed at teachers for protesting cuts...

October 31, 2011 at 06:29 PM · Paul--that's a great idea! I'm all for it. ha.

I am so disheartened. It makes me so sad as someone who is doing research on orchestral practices and who is a developing orchestral musician to see such awful displays from management.

More articles if you haven't read them already:

http://www.polyphonic.org/blog/2011/10/why-the-louisville-plan-will-fail/#more-2719

http://www.whas11.com/community/Louisville-Orchestra-no-longer-employs-any-musicians-122905789.html

*sigh*

October 31, 2011 at 08:00 PM · I understand wanting to keep your salary, but are they asking for money that simply isn't there? What do they expect the orchestra to do instead of cutting salaries and benefits? I'm not filling out an audition form just yet, but from my angle, what I wouldn't give to play any music at all with a symphony, but the opportunity just does not exist here. The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra is a semi-professional orchestra whose members work for far less pay. That's just how it is here. And I don't even get to play every concert with them because I live too far away. It's a bit difficult to watch people turning up their noses at being paid to play music. So, please educate me about the details of the mismanagement of this situation, so I can better understand.

October 31, 2011 at 08:27 PM · The news would try to have the public believe that the musicians refuse to budge but that just isn't true. Just like teachers who love their profession, they have been willing to accept cuts and reductions to keep things going. It just doesn't seem right that orchestra managements of failing orchestras continue to pay themselves six-figure salaries while demanding that the musicians who make far less take the brunt of the financial consequences.

I'm sure there are plenty of musicians out there who would happily play in that orchestra for a lot less pay. If quality is not a concern, then by all means, it should be pretty easy to fill the ranks!

October 31, 2011 at 08:42 PM · Here's the education: Once they bust the union, which is what they are aggressively trying to do, those benefits and protections are gone, probably forever. If you replace a union musician by undercutting their pay, you are helping guarantee the continuing deterioration of wages and working conditions for symphony musicians and throwing away all power of recourse and negotiation that you have with union representation.

October 31, 2011 at 09:25 PM · Salaries are one issue, but I'll bet that for many/most of the musicians, access to a group health insurance policy is even more critical. Anyone with a chronic health condition, no matter how innocuous and well-controlled, will find it somewhere between difficult and impossible to buy an individual policy, even if they can afford it. As long as affordable healthcare is tied to employment, this sort of union-busting mischief can cause its victims all sorts of extra misery.

October 31, 2011 at 09:30 PM · Emily: Here's a link to an article that has a bunch of links to previous articles (in the "related news" sidebar), and together they give a pretty good history of the whole mess.

http://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/news/2011/08/24/orchestra-cancels-september-october.html?page=all

October 31, 2011 at 10:17 PM · ^ (Actually the trouble goes back years & years -- they've been verging on bankruptcy and strikes on and off for most of the last decade -- but this gives a fairly decent account of the latest round)

November 1, 2011 at 12:27 AM · I'm in Suzuki Book 1 and another book and ancillary violin studies. I'll send in my audition tape just to help the cause.

Will keep all posted as to whether I pass the audition. :-))

November 1, 2011 at 01:03 AM · Lots of food for thought, thanks.

November 1, 2011 at 01:57 AM · Here is a link to the orchestra that states their position. http://www.louisvilleorchestra.org/?page_id=8769

November 1, 2011 at 03:49 AM ·

November 1, 2011 at 04:12 AM · Why not just have contract music? One night, an orchestra, the next night, a Classical DJ?

Is the venue the main reason everybody is there, or the music, or the musicians?

I only play for fun, I am not a professional, but what I want when I go to a concert is the best 'live experience', well done. This means the aesthetics have value, and if I believed the musicians are there in drudge mode, I will not attend. The purpose of the entire process is to provide music that carries something uplifting, and moving forward.

Think if professional sports tried something like that... come to think of it, they have, and failed miserably.

Unless the orchestra strives to have the best, then the only thing they achieve will be mediocrity.

One bright note: It looks like the Opera is siding with the musicians. That is telling, in that they risk alienating the symphony directors, but have decided firmly where they stand.

November 1, 2011 at 04:38 AM · I'll be the devil's advocate here (someone has to do it).

The question is, would the union's offer have allowed the symphony to have financial stability? Can Louisville support an orchestra of 60 full-time musicians? It's entirely possible, as Colorado, Tulsa, San Jose, Honolulu, Savanna, and most of the Florida orchestras have found out, that a city of this size cannot.

Unlike either major orchestras or very small regional ones, orchestras in the 2nd and 3rd tiers have often seemed to be the most vulnerable, both to delusions of grandeur of their conductors and boards which allow them to grow too big, and of the generally limited economies of their smaller cities.

One other question I have is whether the executive director Louisville offered to take a smaller salary than $115,000 in a show of good faith.

November 1, 2011 at 05:48 AM · @Scott -- the musicians' side (from the article link I posted earlier -- more precisely, from the link on that page called "Deal between Louisville Orchestra, musicians falls apart"):

"Kim Tichenor, a violinist who is chairwoman of the musicians’ negotiating committee, said the musicians had voted to accept management’s offer of hiring all musicians left in the area and voluntarily cutting the size of the orchestra to 55. But, she said, musicians did not accept the overall deal because factors such as health benefits and life insurance were not adequately explained in the orchestra’s offer.

“The offer itself was in a lot of sections extremely vague,” Tichenor said. “We could not agree to their actual offer.”

============

How I read this is, the musicians were trying to agree, but they were being asked to sign a contract without knowing about some really important details. (Or at least, the musicians thought they were important.) Would you sign a mortgage without knowing if the interest rate is fixed or adjustable? If Fannie Mae said "that's just a detail, it's not important - just sign it," would you (A) sign it, or (B) say "excuse me, but it is important, and I'm not going to sign without knowing"? My reading of this is that the musicians took option B and the management said "OK, fine then -- we won't sell you the house" rather than answer the question.

Neither the links I have provided nor the one to the orchestra's website (provided by Michael Baer) actually say whether questions were asked and whether answers were given, or whether the offer was delivered with an ultimatum ("no questions, just a yes or no"). I feel pretty sure that those of us who are on the outside don't have the full story.

November 1, 2011 at 01:53 PM · "It just doesn't seem right that orchestra managements of failing orchestras continue to pay themselves six-figure salaries while demanding that the musicians who make far less take the brunt of the financial consequences."

We are in America. This is how business is done. We have more employees needing work then we have employers. Management is in the driver's seat now. All Unions are in jeopardy.

November 1, 2011 at 02:16 PM · Unions are only in jeopardy when they refuse to get a grip on reality.

November 1, 2011 at 02:28 PM · I disagree Bill. Unions no longer have the power of negotiation because the business will simply close and move overseas. Or, in the case of the orchestra, offer them a contract they won't sign and they're all out of a job. Now you fill those positions at a much lower pay with little to no benefits.

November 1, 2011 at 03:41 PM · yes, this is america. business's are generally there to make money. when they don't, every employee is at risk of losing their job, be it a worker, or manager. I think the message is simple. if you have a job, be satisfied you have one. employment isn't an entitlement.

November 1, 2011 at 04:30 PM · Unfortunately, neither are benefits. Young hopeful musicians out there should be aware of what the future holds, not only for musicians but for worker across the country: the golden age of health benefits and pensions has probably passed. In the coming years, more and more people will have to fend for themselves and save for their own retirements.

November 1, 2011 at 04:43 PM · Arnie: check the meaning of "non-profit organization"

: )

November 1, 2011 at 04:52 PM · The country has an incredible unemployment rate and these folks are offering $48,000 a year, Get off your high horses and be happy you got a job !!!

Whining BS. 15 months theyve turned down offers, unions can be destructive, I watched a Peterbilt plant close near my house because the unions kept wanting more...now they got nothing !!!

http://www.louisvilleorchestra.org/?page_id=8769

November 1, 2011 at 05:44 PM · Since my spouse and I have never been entitled to benefits, and our combined income is less than their 30-something week salary, I guess I kind of felt the same way. Not that they don't deserve to be paid for their skills. Times are tough guys, and I don't think it's going to improve any time soon.

Anyway, I hope they manage to work something out. I remember when the Tulsa Philharmonic folded. For all the aspiring young musicians in the area at the time, the news was crushing.

November 1, 2011 at 05:56 PM · I have only been following the story for a few weeks so I am by no means an expert. What I don't understand though is why the orchestra management is being vague in the negotiations. I have played in several professional orchestras over the years and whenever changes in pay and benefits were happening, they were always outlined very specifically so we would know exactly what was going to happen, and we were given more than a week to decide what we wanted to do. Maybe I was just lucky to be involved in orchestras that had good communication between players and the management. I think communication is a basic component of any working environment, union or not.

November 1, 2011 at 05:57 PM · Bruce, i understand the meaning of non profit, and i have to admit that I'm not a business major. Regardless I have a hard time beleiving any entity can survive by losing money.

November 1, 2011 at 06:36 PM · Tess, are you a teenager? Why don't you have a last name?

November 1, 2011 at 06:45 PM · It's a complicated balancing act:

The board's purpose is to raise money.

The management's job is to govern how that money is spent.

The union's job is to make sure that the musicians aren't getting screwed.

The musicians' job (besides playing) is to try to understand the balance necessary between these.

Everybody has responsibilities that can be misinterpreted, overstepped, or shirked, according to how they view their responsibilities.

Most of the orchestral budget problems we've been seeing lately appear to have come from one or more of these groups losing their grip, in some way or another, on their responsibilities: the board refuses to raise money (or to work harder when more is needed to fulfill contract obligations); the management refuses to rein in spending, or has a series of bad ideas about what is going to generate income; the union refuses to consider accepting wage cuts or freezes; the musicians think "we are world-class / we deserve more money / the board is a bunch of slackers / the union reps are all-wise and all-knowing" without examining any of these assumptions.

I've been lucky in my orchestra to have a board that's mostly committed and believes in the value of what we do (and the importance of paying a living wage to attract good musicians to audition for the orchestra), a management that mostly understands the difference between fiscal responsibility and stinginess, and a union local that mostly stays connected to reality.

...so far.

November 1, 2011 at 06:46 PM · It's a complicated balancing act:

The board's purpose is to raise money.

The management's job is to govern how that money is spent.

The union's job is to make sure that the musicians aren't getting screwed.

The musicians' job (besides playing) is to try to understand the balance necessary between these.

Everybody has responsibilities that can be misinterpreted, overstepped, or shirked, according to how they view their responsibilities.

Most of the orchestral budget problems we've been seeing lately appear to have come from one or more of these groups losing their grip, in some way or another, on their responsibilities: the board refuses to raise money (or to work harder when more is needed to fulfill contract obligations); the management refuses to rein in spending, or has a series of bad ideas about what is going to generate income; the union refuses to consider accepting wage cuts or freezes; the musicians think "we are world-class / we deserve more money / the board is a bunch of slackers / the union reps are all-wise and all-knowing" without examining any of these assumptions.

I've been lucky in my orchestra to have a board that's mostly committed and believes in the value of what we do (and the importance of paying a living wage to attract good musicians to audition for the orchestra), a management that mostly understands the difference between fiscal responsibility and stinginess, and a union local that mostly stays connected to reality.

...so far.

November 1, 2011 at 08:44 PM · Why does management run this orchestra? Are they getting rich? Is it a cash cow? Is there a huge market (like the NBA) and the players are just taking too much? Did the owners of the orchestra invest millions expecting a huge profit? Are the paying huge dividends to the shareholders? Why don't they double or triple salaries? Who can send kids to college at 30 weeks a year at less than $1000 a week?

What about the local ballet? The opera company? The baroque music ensemble? How are they all doing?

November 2, 2011 at 06:04 PM · I suppose it is ok if I hijack my own thread!!!

About 2:05pm on Wednesday afternoon the Finnish Radio Symphony will be playing Shostakovich Symphony No. 4 LIVE VIDEO here:

http://yle.fi/musiikki/klassinen/live/

I'll do a regular post for the archive.

November 2, 2011 at 06:36 PM ·

November 6, 2011 at 06:32 PM · Hijacking my own thread again......

You can watch a LIVE faculty recital from the Yale School of Music at 4pm ET on Sunday Nov. 6 here:

http://music.yale.edu/media/video_med.html

Wendy Sharp is the featured violinist. The program is linked to underneath her picture at this link:

http://music.yale.edu/media/index.html

November 6, 2011 at 10:20 PM · I wonder what people would need to pay for violins and repair work if luthiers were unionized?

I wonder what would happen if thousands of Chinese musicians were arriving in the US on a regular basis, as happens with fiddles?

November 7, 2011 at 04:44 AM · Interesting thoughts indeed...

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