An Initial Look At The Jacksonville Lockout

It was simply too good to last. Although several orchestras which teetered on the brink of work stoppages this season managed to pull back in the 11th hour, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra found itself toppling over the edge this week when the organization’s management canceled an upcoming concert and all related rehearsals…

According to an article in the 11/141/2007 edition of the Jacksonville Daily Record by Caroline Gabsewics, symphony Executive Director Alan Hopper was reported as saying “We are not locking the doors. We have suspended operations and pay.” In contrast, official statements from the musicians’ spokesperson and symphony bassist, Kevin Casseday, said that the musicians were willing to continue to play and talk but the management locked them out.

According to the 11/14/2007 edition of the Florida Times-Union in an article by Roger Bull, Casseday was quoted as saying "It was management that locked us out, we’re ready to negotiate, we’re ready to rehearse. But we don’t want to contribute to an orchestra that’s shrinking."

Even though most of this sort of rhetoric wouldn’t be cause for too much concern, there is one element that, if left unchecked, threatens to push the situation into a destructive pattern not unlike what was experienced in Louisville last season. In particular, symphony Board chair, Jim Van Vleck, was quoted in the above Times-Union article as saying "I really do respect our musicians, but there’s something about a 37-week year and 20 hours a week that doesn’t seem too onerous."

Historically, that sort of public statement from a symphony board officer or executive administrator doesn’t go very far toward fostering an amicable resolution. Nevertheless, the lockout is only in its earliest stages and having the light of public scrutiny cast on events can change positions once thought inflexible.

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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3 thoughts on “An Initial Look At The Jacksonville Lockout”

  1. 20 hours a week? That board chair needs some education. Musicians may only have to show up for work that much, but they are expected to keep their skills at a high level (practice, score study). Additionally, there are the many years of specialized study required to attain the proficiency necessary to play in a professional orchestra.

    As to the 37-week season, I’m fairly certain the musicians would be happy to work a longer one, for improved compensation.

  2. Today, Sunday, Nov. 18, there was a self-serving letter to the editor of the T-U from the President of the Board which totally ignored the fact that management and marketing personnel have made over twice as much in salary as the orchestra members over the same time period.

    Also, the deficit, according to the Chairman, accumulated over the last 10 years. If this is so, then it speaks to the weakness of the Board in raising funding in a city that has increased its overall personal income level by 36% according to speech given by orchestra members
    at free concerts they gave to present their side of the story. The money is there. The problem is the laziness on the part of the Board and the sluggishness of patronage from people who could give a great deal more than they do.

    The attitude is to get as much as they can for as little as they can get it: corporate thinking at its worst.

    This orchestra deserves better, but it will have trouble getting its message out as the newspaper is fully in the pocket of the Board. So far, there has been no response printed from the orchestra to the newspaper articles and editorials about the lock out.

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