The “New Low” Just Got Worse

Wow. Just… wow.

So yesterday, I commented on a troubling email that was sent to the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra (ASYO) mailing list. This email, sent out by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO), email announced that the auditions for the 2014-2015 season were being cancelled.

I was irritated that the ASO’s management was placing the blame for this turn of events on the Atlanta Federation of Musicians (AFM), saying that the AFM had issued a “mandate” that no musician be involved. The exact wording of this email reads:

“However, the Atlanta Federation of Musicians has issued a mandate to all musicians in the local union, prohibiting them from supporting the upcoming auditions. This is an unexpected and unfortunate turn of events.”

This reference to a “mandate” raised my hackles; it also drew a furious response from the AFM, which said no such mandate had ever been issued.

But then something interesting happened. Arts journalist and composer Mark Gresham pointed out that the language in the email I posted was different from the language in the ASO’s press release. Specifically, he called attention to the fact that there was no reference to a “mandate” at all.


I double checked the emails the ASO sent out, looked at the publicly available press release, and Mark was absolutely correct. There were differences.The parallel sentence in the press release reads:

The Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra (ASYO) auditions, set for September 20 and 21, 2014, will be postponed indefinitely due to communication from the American Federation of Musicians requesting that their members, including Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) musicians, not participate in any ASYO affiliated events.

The full press release is here:  2014 9 11 – ASYO Press Release – FINAL.ashx

Let me emphasize that the press release reads: “…due to communication from the American Federation of Musicians requesting that their members….”

These are small, but striking changes… that completely change the story.

To clarify, in its direct communication with music students and their families, the ASO specifically blames the AFM for axing the auditions, and possibly the season, by forbidding musicians from being involved.

In the press release to the public, however, the ASO mentions that there was some unspecified “communication” that only requested non-participation.

Is it just possible that the ASO was quietly making claims to aggrieved parents that it knew would never stand up to public scrutiny?

And further, the official press release implies that the ASO musicians would not participate because the AFM asked them not to. It doesn’t, however, make any mention of the fact that the ASO management not only locked the musicians out and stopped their pay, but deactivated their security clearance to enter the building.  In the ASO’s reckoning, the musicians are not even active employees. And it’s still blaming the AFM for the musicians’ lack of participation in the auditions?

All in all, a very interesting turn of events. Perhaps the ASO management would care to comment?



12 thoughts on “The “New Low” Just Got Worse

  1. Pingback: A Disgusting New Low | Mask of the Flower Prince

  2. So much for the ubiquitous defensive statement “they took my words out of context!” Nope, the management clearly manipulated the context.


  3. Perhaps the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management would like to be REPLACED by people who care about the organization and will work with musicians to promote their Symphony. Cut gluttonous salaries & end bonuses at the management and CEO levels, reach out to the people in the community, please! I’m sure the musicians will be more than willing to help students with audition process, even coach them – if only their employer would continue the season, i.e. “Pay and Play” while negotiating.


  4. Reminds me so much of Minnesota last year, where an administration with a tin ear and no appreciation of how people are paying attention tried to play loose and fast with the facts.


  5. I am an alumna of ASYO, and I can say with absolute certainty that ASYO would not have had nearly the impact it had on my life if it weren’t for the incredibly talented ASO musicians who coached and conducted us, pushing us to our limits, taking us to artistic heights that we as teenagers never thought we could reach. I am disgusted that management would blame musicians and the union for the cancellation of this year’s auditions. The musicians care very deeply about their ASYO students. The situation wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for management’s draconian contract offer. I have created a facebook group called “ASYO alumni in support of ATL Symphony Musicians” where ASYO alumni can stand in support for their mentors and share stories of how the ATL Symphony Musicians affected their lives. Thank you, Flower Prince, for your constant support!!!


    • Hi Ginny,

      Yes, this situation sounds oddly familiar to that of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout from October 2012–February 2014. I’m a senior in high school and participate in MYS (Minnesota Youth Symphonies), which is quite similar to that of the ASYO. The MO musicians coached and conducted us in MYS, pushed us to our limits….everything. And to see them locked out and I, merely just a helpless student, was heartbreaking. They ARE our teachers, mentors, friends, inspirations….That is why my friend and I founded the Young Musicians of Minnesota (; back in May of 2013 to express solidarity with the locked out musicians.

      YMM’s mission during the lockout was to bring attention to what was going on: how the lockout wasn’t just affecting the MO musicians (in your case, the ASO musicians). It affected US, the next generation of musicians, as well. To have your teachers undertaking gigs across the country, moving because they’ve won auditions elsewhere–it’s all too familiar to here in MN. The YMM made a YouTube video, expressing how the lockout was affecting us ( 60 students gathered that day, and after the video was finished, they all asked “what’s next? What can we kids do now to support our musicians?” and that’s how YMM was officially born, and our Facebook page was created.

      The summer of 2013, we created our own student-led summer orchestra. 46 students comprised the orchestra, performing works of Beethoven, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky. Not only that, but in our concerts that August, many of the locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra came and performed alongside us. We made the news for our flashmob performance outside one of the MO board member’s corporate buildings. We performed at the Minnesota State Fair. We weren’t going to let the music die.

      As you can see from our (updated, lockout-free) website, YMM is a thriving organization now, consisting of over 600 students in our state. We preserve and promote classical music amongst the young generation of music students. We’re now closely collaborating with the Minnesota Orchestra’s management to bring new and fresh opportunities to students. We’re keeping the music alive. We held a student-led 2014 Summer Music Festival this past summer, with an orchestra size of 73 students. Our concert had an audience attendance of 600+ people.

      I encourage you ASYO musicians and alumni to form your own organization; maybe even the Young Musicians of Atlanta (YMA?). Stand up for what you believe in. Show the community and show the doggone ASO management that you all aren’t going down without a fight.

      I would be more than happy to talk with you further about how the students in your community can bind together and stand up for what you believe in. Nobody expects students to do anything. Prove. Them. Wrong.

      I wish you all the best!

      Emily Green
      YMM Founder and President


  6. Would someone please explain why the ASO musicians are expected to bear the brunt of the proposed expense reductions and not the ASO management??


  7. Check out the latest: this is unbelievable– the ASYO sent this letter offering options of ways to deal with the application fee. One is actually to DONATE the fee back to the ASO!!!!!!!!

    Who in their right mind would donate to the ASO at this point in time??


    Thought you’d like to see the letter, below.
    Elizabeth Pinder. 5-year veteran ASYO PARENT

    Begin forwarded message:

    Date: September 16, 2014 at 4:06:18 PM EDT
    Subject: Application Fees

    Dear Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra Candidates and Families:

    We hope to reschedule ASYO auditions after the current labor dispute has been resolved. We are happy to hold onto your application fees until the time we are able to reschedule. However, since we do not have a rescheduled date, we are giving applicants the opportunity to request a refund or donate their fees as alternative options. So at this time, your options are:

    1. You may request we hold onto the fee in anticipation of an upcoming rescheduled date
    2. You may donate the fee back to support the symphony (Fee will need to be paid again if student decides to audition when a new date is scheduled)
    3. You may have the fee refunded to your credit card (Fee will need to be paid again if student decides to audition when a new date is scheduled)

    Please click here to complete a brief survey by Monday, September 22, 2014 to advise on how you would like to move forward. If we do not hear from you by the end of day, Monday September 22, 2014, we will hold onto your fees until the issue is resolved. If you choose to have your fees refunded, we will be able to process an immediate refund to all credit cards within 10 business days.

    *If you made payment in another form or if for any reason we are unable to refund your credit card, you will be contacted directly regarding your refund.

    Thank you for your patience and assistance while we begin processing refunds of your application fees.

    Please contact me with any questions or concerns.

    Program Assistant
    Student Musician Programs
    Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
    1280 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 4074
    Atlanta, GA 30309


  8. Pingback: Inaccurate and Inept: The ASO’s Mediation Announcement | Mask of the Flower Prince

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