New Details From The Lockout In Jacksonville Part 2

On the heels of additional concert cancellations from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) , the second installment in this series of articles examines additional details that led to the first work stoppage of the season as well as where things are headed. In order to find out more details I contacted Kevin Casseday, musician spokesperson and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra bassist as well as the musician’s legal counsel and negotiator, Leonard Leibowitz…

DM: What is the musicians’ position on the board’s proposed funding model?
KC: We have not seen a proposed funding model as yet. What we have seen are various proposals that include cuts for musicians over the life of the contract. Management welcomes our input on which cuts we would like to make, not our input on how we would like the organization to grow with the city of Jacksonville. We believe that management’s latest offer would have a serious impact on musicians’ ability to maintain the artist quality achieved to date. Many will be forced into secondary work, or will leave Jacksonville in order to take care of their families. Whittling away at a fine orchestra has never achieved positive results.


DM: How are the musicians responding to the board’s decision to continue canceling concerts until the musicians come back to the bargaining table with what JSO Executive Director Alan Hopper defined as an "understanding" on the costs of running the organization?
KC: The "understanding" seems to be another way of saying, "concede"; that only management has the solution to the future of the orchestra. The players of the orchestra are ready to work together to help raise funds for the orchestra, and we have repeatedly said so. However, contributions from musicians need to be made in a positive light, not with continued concessions that will hinder us from our main goal: to serve the public of the First Coast with music that will inspire audiences to make Jacksonville a better place to live.

DM: How do the musicians feel about the JSO’s cycle of revenues/expenses since 2000?
KC: From our first [negotiation] meeting, the musicians have insisted that contributions have lagged behind the 36% growth of the area since 2000. As fundraising has remained flat, management’s deficits have grown, with the answer always seeming to be "cutting back product." This phrase is always followed by the fact that the orchestra is of the highest caliber, and that the problem is with the area. We respectfully disagree with this assessment, and look forward to restart a dialogue with [JSO board chair] Mr. Van Vleck and [JSO Executive Director] Mr. Hopper that moves the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in a positive direction that mirrors the other fine elements of our fair city.


When asked about the cycle of revenues/expenses and how that was impacting negotiations, the JSO musicians legal counsel and negotiator Leonard Leibowitz reiterated that the organization’s board has continually turned to the musicians for concessions over the past several years. Leibowitz went on to point out that instead of adopting a strategy of cuts, the board should maximize revenues from the growing Jacksonville economy by launching capital campaigns the likes of which have been successfully implemented by orchestras in other cities with similar economies such as Nashville and Charleston.

"What [the board] are really saying is it is too much trouble to raise more money," said Leibowitz. "So the easiest target is to ask the musicians to subsidize the orchestra."

To support their position, the musicians provided figures they say are based on the JSO’€™s audited financial statements indicating that from 2001 to 2007, "Total Support" (Contributions + Grants + Fundraising) increased an average of 0.25 percent per year $3,416,937 in 2001 and $3,477,606 in 2007).

Yesterday, the JSO announced that all concert events through December 1st have been canceled. Beyond that, the next hurdle is whether or not any additional concerts will be canceled or if the organization will go through with using taped music for scheduled Nutcracker performances per JSO Executive Director Alan Hopper’s comments reported in the 11/14/2007 edition in the Florida Times-Union.

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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1 thought on “New Details From The Lockout In Jacksonville Part 2”

  1. I hope the parties will be able to come to a solution fast. The children who have been rehersing for months in preparation for The First Coast Nutcracker are very upset at the thought of dancing without the accompaniment of the Symphony. My 11 year old daughter says the symphony is what makes their nutcracker special in our community.
    And she is correct the symphony and the children make our nutcracker special. Mr Hopper is wrong if he thinks its not a big deal for the girls to dance without the symphony.
    Lets work this out soon everyone and good luck.

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