Up To And Over The Edge Of The Cliff

It’s odd how things tend to work themselves out in this business.  Yesterday the musicians of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.  However, being concerned about some timing issues regarding auditions scheduled for Monday, January 3 and Tuesday, January 4 they also approved having the musicians slotted to serve on the audition committees to continue working in order to not interrupt the audition.

This gesture is reminiscent of the decision by the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra not long ago to postpone a vote on their proposed contract, which could have resulted in a strike at that time, so as not to interfere with a series of scheduled children’s concerts. 

Unfortunately, according to some newspaper reports and a press release issued by the Saint Louis Symphony Musicians’ Association the orchestra’s management has refused to allow orchestra members to hear the auditions. 

If those reports are accurate, it’s a very disappointing development.  The musicians who have arrived for the auditions shouldn’t be made to suffer for issues related to the negotiations. 

Hopefully, the management at the SLSO will release a statement later today explaining in more detail what’s been happening related to the auditions.

By all accounts the SLSO president & executive director, Randy Adams, seems to have done a superb job at raising funds and putting the organization back on track toward economic prosperity, thereby allowing increased artistic accomplishment.  And besides a few bumps in the road his relationship with the musicians seems to have been respectful and generally positive.

That’s why this audition issue is puzzling.  It would be sad to learn that the environment in Saint Louis has deteriorated so rapidly that auditioning musicians, who have paid $200 – $500 just to go to the audition, are being caught up in all of it.

Stay tuned, hopefully I’ll be able to post some further details later today as the situation develops.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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