New Details About The Louisville Negotiations

The Louisville Orchestra musicians issued a press release outlining their current offer to LO management and detailing their vote which turned down management’s proposal to reduce the number of full time musicians from 71 down to 54

Following is the press release in its entirety…


<blockquoteWith Orchestra Shutdown Looming in Four Weeks, Musicians Resubmit Cost-Savings Proposal

With only four weeks before a board-imposed deadline for shuttering the Louisville Orchestra, the orchestra’s musicians will again present a proposal that will produce the cost-savings the board says it needs to avoid Chapter 7 bankruptcy on April 3.

At Monday’s 1 p.m. meeting, the board’s negotiators will hear the results of a secret ballot vote by the full orchestra overwhelmingly supporting the musicians’ proposal to maintain 71 musicians in the LO. By lopping six weeks from the season, the musicians’ plan would save over $400,000, a quarter-million dollars more than the board’s proposal. The board’s latest proposal cuts the LO’s full-time musicians from 71 to 53, freezes their annual pay, and retains another 21 musicians at part-time status with an annual base salary of $19,907. All musicians would also have to assume more health care premiums.

Monday’s meeting will determine whether the orchestra’s management wants to preserve orchestral music in Louisville past the arbitrary April 3 deadline, according to musicians’ chairman Tim Zavadil. “This will be a test,” Zavadil said. “If we can save the same money using either plan, then the board’s demand to downsize the orchestra seems to reflect a mere desire to apply some arcane management theory rather than a commitment to save the institution and its artistic integrity.”

Under the musicians’ proposal, first proposed at a Feb. 25 mediation session, the musicians suggested that the orchestra’s interests would be better served by a shortened season that preserved the artistic cohesion developed by the full-time corps of 71 musicians. The plan would save $265,000 more than the board’s proposal. However, the board’s negotiators rejected the musicians’ proposal, and insisted on the smaller core orchestra.

The management’s proposal would have 53 musicians filling full-time slots during a 39-week season, with 21 more musicians receiving part-time pay. “A 53-person orchestra is really not a symphonic orchestra,” Zavadil said. “You just don’t have enough bodies who are together frequently enough to perform the symphonic repertoire with the degree of precision and cohesion that the music and our audiences deserve.”

The current dispute erupted when the orchestra’s management withdrew its contract proposal to the musicians on Jan. 17 after only three formal negotiation meetings, and declared it would seek Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the musicians did not agree to an acceptable contract. Unlike Chapter 11, which permits institutions to continue operations while they reorganize, Chapter 7 suspends the company’s activities, and sells its assets to pay its debts.

If the board follows through with its plan to declare bankruptcy on April 3, the last classics concert of the Louisville Orchestra’s 69-year history will be a performance of Beethoven’s final symphony, the Ninth, on March 26. “For nearly 70 years the Louisville community has been able to depend on our boards to advance the Louisville Orchestra,” Zavadil said. “But we’re concerned about how the stewards on this board will respond to the test that every other board has fulfilled.”

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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