Breaking News: JSO Negotiation Update

In an email message from Friday morning, 11/30/2007, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) Executive Director, Alan Hopper, confirmed that if an agreement between the Association and the musicians is not reached before the end of next week then “the Nutcracker would go on with recorded music as do many Nutcrackers around the country.” In a comprehensive view, although there are Nutcracker productions which utilize recorded music there are very few who promote the use of live music and then substitute that with recorded music.

Hopper went on to write that the Jacksonville Symphony Association is hopeful that they “can resolve a contract with the union shortly.” Questions as to whether or not the JSO Board has amended their previous position to negotiate only if the musicians present an offer which includes concessions were not addressed in Hopper’s communication.

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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2 thoughts on “Breaking News: JSO Negotiation Update”

  1. I would like to ask Executive Director Alan Hopper if he plans to reduce the ticket prices for the Nutcracker production if the proposed plan to substitute recorded music for live goes through? Cheaper product, cheaper ticket prices? Why not show a video of the dancers instead of using live bodies on stage? The image is just as absurd as using “canned” music. If Alan Hopper uses recorded music for this production, does he plan on compensating the musicians who produced the recording for it’s use? Management doesn’t look good in Jacksonville.

    As a follow-up to Dr. Berglund’s questions, I contacted the First Coast Nutcracker organization on 11/29/07 to inquire about their ticket policy and if they plan to offer refunds for any current ticket-holders who may be displeased by the use of recorded music. To date, the organization has not returned phone calls. ~ Drew McManus

  2. Dr. Berlund’s comment makes a very important point: canned music is like canned video of a performance. There is a “dead” quality to the experience, and the dancers who perform to canned music do not dance as well to such music, as it does not adjust to the variable cadences which are often encountered as a dancer moves across the stage. To accommodate slower tempi for slower moving dancers, the recording has to be slowed down with the inevitable change from the original key the segment was written in. It’s horrible to listen to, and not according to either the composer’s or the choreographer’s intentions.
    Only rank amateurs would make such a choice over live music. A lowering of the price of a ticket should be one option, but refunds are the honorable way to deal with the situation in Jacksonville, as Alan Hopper, manager of the JSO, is engaging in what might be false advertising.

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