A Texas Brawl Is Brewing

Another day, another orchestra labor dispute.

I have to say, this continues to astonish me. Here we are, yet again, with the classical music ensemble of a major metropolitan area facing yet another labor battle with its management. Once again, the same tired arguments are dragged out, based on the same murky numbers and the same sloppy appeals to conventional wisdom—classical music is dead and there’s no money for the arts.  Once again, we’re told that only by imposing sacrificial cuts on unionized musicians and workers right this very minute can management save the organization from bankruptcy.

It wasn’t enough that we saw this exact same pattern happen with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, San Diego Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Binghamton Philharmonic…

…now we’re seeing it happen in Texas, with the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO).

I’m losing patience. And my willingness to be polite.

A news story in the Ft. Worth Weekly has a useful account of what’s happening now. Allow me to share a few thoughts. Continue reading

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Yet Another Tiresome “Death of Classical Music” Article

Oh boy. I think my last flicker of patience has finally burned out.

This week, USA Today published an article by Matt Daneman that once again trumpeted the death of classical music (“As Interest Wanes, Classical Music Hits Sour Note.”) The core of the piece was an interview of Robert Freeman, who previously served as director of University of Rochester’s Eastman School and president of the New England Conservatory, before moving to his current position at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Fine Arts.

With respect to Freeman’s enormous contributions to music education, and his familiarity with the classical music world, I have to take issue with many of his points… along with Daneman’s overall framework of the article.   Continue reading

The Lockout is Over, and the Rebuilding Begins

Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,

Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

          – Walt Whitman

 

It appears that the ugly lockout of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) is over, and the ASO musicians have reached a new four-year agreement with their parent organization, the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC). The new contract retains a fixed complement of 88 and provides small pay increases for the musicians. It also gives the WAC time to improve marketing and fundraising. Continue reading

Statements, Part 2

Yesterday (in part 1 of this blog entry) I noted that the negotiations between the locked out musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and the management of the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC) hit a rough patch; shortly thereafter the two sides had begun making statements in the press. My main point was that the WAC’s statements were, to be honest, bizarre, and they did not inspire trust in the WAC’s ability to manage the situation.

Well… I’m disappointed to report that things only got worse. Continue reading

“Mediation”

A few short weeks ago there was a new development in the ongoing labor dispute between the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC) and the locked out musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO). Following a few false starts, both sides agreed to meet with federal mediator Allison Beck to try and find a resolution. Continue reading