FWSO WTF

That Amy Adkins… CEO of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO)?  More and more I’m convinced she just ain’t right.

The FWSO musicians are currently on strike, and in a recent article in the Dallas Observer, Ms. Adkins faces hard questions about her and her administration’s actions leading up to the strike.  Are the punitive cuts she’s seeking from the musicians just a cover for her own wasteful spending and fundraising blunders?

Rather than justifying her actions, or justifying the necessity for further cuts to the musicians’ paychecks, Ms. Adkins engages in a bit of jaw-dropping spin.  And I’ve come away more convinced than ever that she has no business running an arts organization.

A few responses to most egregious statements.

Continue reading

The Pacific Symphony is “Unsustainable?” Really?

I hate buzzwords. I hate it when people casually throw around jargon as a substitute for real-world knowledge. I hate it when people paper over complicated, nuanced issues by tossing out an oversimplified term or phrase.

And I really hate when those tossed-off buzzwords aren’t even true.

“Sustainable” is just such a buzzword that sets my teeth on edge.

I freely admit that like all popular buzzwords being bandied about right now, there is value to it. I applaud the notion that we have to look at both the long-range prospects and the long-range effects of the things we do.  And I applaud the notion that we have to be planful, and think of the future… not just the fleeting needs of the moment.

But as often happens, the term has been misused by people who fundamentally misunderstand its meaning.

And far too often, the people misusing this term seem to run arts organizations… organizations like the Pacific Symphony. Continue reading

The Tribune-Review’s Disastrous Op-Ed

Here we go again.  Another great arts group has been hit by another editorial hit piece, by another media company whose ideas of “fact-finding” begin and stop at the management’s press release.

This time, this bit of kabuki theater is playing out in Pittsburgh.  The musicians for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra—one of our nation’s great ensembles—are currently on strike.  The issues involved mirror those of several other orchestra labor disputes;  the management of Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc. (PSI) has demanded steep cuts to the musicians’ pay and benefits, and insisted on reducing the size of the orchestra to a level it feels is “sustainable.”   Continue reading

“You Are Doing it Wrong.” Advice to Orchestra Leaders from Ed Stephan

Earlier today I ran across this Facebook post from Ed Stephan, Principal Timpanist at San Francisco Symphony.  Ed was previously with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO), and has taken a keen interest in both those ensembles’ respective strikes.  Ed does a fantastic job about laying out some real issues involved in these disputes; but beyond that, he provides a powerful testimony about why the arts are important.  With Ed’s permission, I’m reposting his piece here, to give it the audience it deserves.  —Scott Continue reading

A Curious Letter from Fort Worth

Yesterday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published an interesting letter regarding the ongoing Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) strike.  It came from Mark G. Nurdin, chairman of the executive committee for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association (FWSOA).  This is, essentially, the voice of management.

And I found it to be, well… problematic.

I have no interest in smearing or attacking Mr. Nurdin… a man I’ve neither met nor corresponded with. But as someone who has worked in nonprofit management—particularly arts nonprofit management—for many years, and as someone who serves as President of the Board of a music group here in Minneapolis, I feel I must respond to his points. Continue reading

What *Does* it Take to Be a Professional Orchestra Musician?

Same song, different verse… yet another round of labor disputes is rippling through the world of classical music.  Earlier this month the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra went on strike, and today the venerable Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra went on strike too. [Edit: Scant hours after this posted, the musicians of the great Philadelphia Orchestra also declared a strike… although it was resolved 48 hours later.]

Something I’ve noticed… each time news of a strike, lockout, or even difficult negotiations breaks out, there’s a chorus of people unfamiliar with the business of running an orchestra who, after hearing a couple of sound bites bandied about in the press, decide musicians are wildly overcompensated.  Again and again, these people ask, “Where can I get a job with 10 weeks paid vacation, full benefits and $70K, $100K, [or whatever the so-called ‘inflated’ salary is that’s been ripped out of context and floated around by the press]?”

When we’re lucky, these folks are asking this as an honest question.  When we’re unlucky, it’s simply a sarcastic retort meant to belittle the musicians.

A few thoughts. Continue reading

Slime and Slander: The FWSO Email

I’ve had the… um, “pleasure” of witnessing several classical music labor disputes, in a variety of locales, in a variety of guises.  Most obviously, my personal and professional connections to the Minnesota Orchestra gave me a front row seat to observe its near-disastrous, 16-month lockout… but I’ve also been drawn into similar battles in Atlanta, New York, and elsewhere. I thought I’ve pretty much seen it all.

Well, I’ve just witnessed a new low.  I’ve never seen a CEO so openly denigrate members of the community, nor so deliberately and maliciously slander a private member of the public simply to score points in a labor dispute.

I have now.  Let me explain. Continue reading