Breaking News: JAX Government Weighs In On Lockout

After weeks of conspicuous silence, the local Jacksonville government has weighed in on the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) lockout via an emergency resolution…

Jacksonville City Council Member, Glorius Johnson, introduced a
resolution during a council meeting on 12/11/2007 requesting emergency
passage of Resolution 2007-1361, which states, in part:


BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Jacksonville:

That the City hereby strongly urges
the Jacksonville Symphony Association and the Jacksonville Symphony
Players Association to submit their current contract impasse to an
arbitration process to reach a mutually agreeable, fair and reasonable
settlement as quickly as possible, and urges both the symphony board
and the players to end the current lockout and resume the concert
schedule for the benefit of the symphony, the musicians and the
community at large. [Download the full resolution here (pdf file).]

According to one source who attending the meeting, the resolution passed by a vote of 16-1.
Although the resolution has no authority to compel either side to a
binding arbitration process it does send a message on behalf of Jacksonville’s City Council and Mayor that the situation, and community
well-being, would be better addressed in arbitration as opposed to a

In a related vote of confidence in the city of Jacksonville and
its potential to support a thriving orchestra, Bruce Ridge, chair,
International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, released a
statement after visiting Jacksonville. It read, in part:

In my brief time in Jacksonville I
found an orchestra ready for growth in a city of seemingly endless
opportunity. For the city, my view has been confirmed. In these 20
years, the downtown has grown to become one of the most beautiful
cities of the South, with its riverwalk, shopping districts, and, yes,
the beautiful home of the Jacksonville Symphony, the Times-Union
Performing Arts Center. I have read reports that speak of a 36% growth
in the economy there in just the past five years.

And yet, seemingly in defiance of
the growth around them, the Jacksonville Symphony has not found
leadership that could harvest the opportunities surrounding the streets
of their concert hall.

No, instead, those charged to lead
the orchestra have embraced the negative rhetoric that has been
promulgated throughout the field, and now at this time of crisis they
have uttered the absurd assertions that so many of us have heard across
the table. It is impossible to believe that so many boards and so many
managers stumble across the exact same words by accident.

Those who fail to lead their
orchestras always recite the same lines of structural deficit and
greedy musicians, as if they fall back on negativity as a last refuge.
They must justify their failures in light of all the positive news that
is being reported across the country. They must justify their inability
to raise funds for an orchestra even though the nonprofit culture
industry in America accounts for $166 billion in economic activity
every year.

Across America, cities are
recognizing the positive financial impact the arts and their orchestras
can have in their communities. Inspirational leaders are finding new
donors and innovative ways for orchestras to serve their communities.

The last paragraph in Bruce’s statement ties in with one of the
components in Resolution 2007-1361, which officially acknowledges that
the JSO’s regularly scheduled concert activity has "millions of
dollars of economic impact." As such, the longer the JSO remains dark,
the more it has a negative impact on the Jacksonville economy.

According to sources involved in the negotiations, the concept
of entering into binding arbitration has been rejected by the
Jacksonville Symphony Association. However, both sides are looking for
time to meet be the end of this week and the language in Resolution 2007-1361 may be enough to convince all parties involved to enter into a process that can reach a settlement before the new year.

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: JAX Government Weighs In On Lockout”

  1. It’s so interesting to read the comments above, as I wrote very similar sentiments to the Mayor of Jacksonville, yesterday, in addition to two letters to the Board Chairman and Executive Committee, asking why Boards seemed to ape each other by cutting musicians salaries, benefits, and season instead of sponsoring aggressive fund-raising and imaginative solutions to budget problems. Kudos to the City Council for responding this way. I suspect the fact that they are deeply religious members of the community who love their annual Messiah performances, and whose constituents share that sentiment….whatever it was, it sends a very strong message to the Board, I would think. The musicians have also been exemplary in their restraint, rhetorical and otherwise, which has had a good effect. They have left the hard words to people such as I who are really, really mad about the lock out and about the contempt of the Board for the artists in the symphony.

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