I had the good fortune to spend some of my recent time in New York City to pay a quick visit to the offices of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and chat with their executive director, Marianne Lockwood.
One of the reasons I wanted to stop by the St. Luke’s offices in person was because of an article I read in the October 21st edition of the New York Times by Anne Midgette.
Although I thought Anne did a great job espousing n the artistic merits of the group, she kept referring to it as a “freelance” orchestra. To me, that term conjures up images of a music jobber calling around to several dozen string players hoping to find enough players to fill a dinner cruise gig he’s booked. I can hear his smoke laden voice on an answering machine now:
“Hey, Johnny, I got a gig for ya on Saturday night and it pays scale. Ya gotta wear black tie, a clean shirt, bring a folding stand, and your own copy of Eine Kline Nachtmusick. Call me back, it’s first come first serve.”
I would hardly call St. Luke’s a freelance orchestra; when compared to their big budget brother, the New York Philharmonic, St. Luke’s can rightfully claim to consistently maintain the same players on stage more frequently.
Compare St. Luke’s side by side to other orchestras and you’ll find some pretty remarkable facts:
- St. Luke’s budget is $4.3 million; the average ROPA orchestra budget is $2.8 million.
- The Fort Wayne Philharmonic and New Mexico Symphony have similar budget size to St. Luke’s but pay their core musicians less.
- St. Luke’s has a larger discography than any ROPA orchestra and more than half of the ICSOM ensembles.
- St. Luke’s maintains a great web site (which I appallingly neglected to include in my orchestra website review my apologies to St. Luke’s); they provide more information about the ensemble musicians than most big budget orchestras.
- St. Luke’s manages their organization with a smaller staff to musician ratio than most ICSOM or ROPA ensembles.
I certainly don’t think Anne meant any disrespect to St. Luke’s with the “freelance” term and she rightfully praised their artistic merits. But perhaps we all need to break out of the old 19th century frame of reference and realize that just because an orchestra isn’t organized precisely like the New York Phil or Chicago Symphony doesn’t mean that it’s a fly-by-night freelance ensemble.
After all, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”