Not even a month following the tragedy in Oregon where two members of the Eugene Symphony were killed when their car was hit by a drunk driver, another musician dies in an automobile accident while traveling home from a performance…
Theophanis “Phanos” Dymiotis, a violinist in the Delaware Symphony Orchestra was killed while returning to his home in Lutherville, Maryland following a performance in Wilmington, DE with the DSO.
According to the 03/12/07 edition of the Baltimore Sun, “Police said the driver of a northbound car crossed the center line in attempting to pass a tractor-trailer and that the resulting collision killed Mr. Dymiotis and the two occupants of the other car.”
Although this could simply be terrible timing these two fatal accidents may indicate a disturbing trend in the world of low to mid-budget size orchestras. It is worth pointing out that in both cases, Oregon and Maryland, the musicians died while traveling more than 70 miles one way to earn money as an orchestra musician.
Most musicians in this business refer to such jobs as “Driving for Dollars” or performing in “Freeway Philharmonics”, nevertheless, it look as if the quantity of musicians and the distance they are willing to travel for these organizations is on the rise.
I am unaware of any official study which follows the average distance as well as the accidents/fatalities for orchestra musicians, regardless, perhaps it is time to begin tracking these statistics. Perhaps it is also time to begin considering whether or not the personal safety for musicians who are required to travel long distances in order to cobble together a living wage is something ensembles need to acknowledge.
For example, other industries pay employees hazard pay for their willingness to work in dangerous environments. Others offer employees accidental death or injury policies in addition to their pay.
Consequently, do orchestra managements and boards need to concern themselves with these two incidents or are these tragedies not their professional concern? Should orchestras report how many musicians, if any, have died in automobile accidents related to work required travel in job advertisements? Should they begin providing the same sort of incentives to their employees along the lines of what is mentioned above?
Coincidentally, Nathan Kahn, Symphonic Services Division Negotiator with the American Federation of Musicians, recently did a video interview with Greg Sandow at Polyphonic.org to talk about the wide variety of roles and services which he performs for orchestras. One of the video interview segments focuses directly with “Driving for Dollars” ensembles and you can find out more about issues which concern musicians in those ensembles in the other video interview segments.
What do you think, is this just an unfortunate coincidence, is it something the business is going to have to address, or is it something else entirely?
UPDATE: The 03/14/2007 edition of the Cecil Whig reports “Police cited alcohol on [the driver of the other car] as a factor in the crash. In addition, the Camry was reported “not returned” in an unauthorized use of a motor vehicle case investigated by Elkton police on March 7.”
Postscript: McDaniel college, where Phanos Dymiotis served as an adjunct lecturer in Music posted a press release about Phanos’ passing which provides some additional insight into who Phanos was as a musician and colleague.