The 9/19/2010 edition of The Detroit Free Press published an article by Mark Stryker that dives into the non-monetary issues Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) labor dispute. It is good to see an article of this length focus on work rule oriented items, doubly so given the depth and magnitude of the changes being proposed…
Of particular note is the fundamental change in the mission driven activity being proposed by the DSO management, the results of which they claim will expand their vision. Moreover, Stryker’s article includes comments from New England Conservatory president and former Minnesota Orchestra president Tony Woodcock, who asserts that expanding musician duties and responsibilities, such as the DSO’s proposed extensive in-school mentoring and performance activity, would make the organization a more vital part of the community and increase support.
Undoubtedly, that’s a wonderfully idealistic notion but it is a far cry from a predetermined outcome. For instance, if the community felt that having increased music education through in-person and exposure to performances were important, they likely wouldn’t have allowed their schools to cut the programs in the first place. If nothing else, a vast amount of additional study is required to move this point from theoretical ideas to worthwhile conclusions.
The article is loaded with plenty of point-counterpoint content (for even more, you can check out the comments), but the overriding point is whether or not a period of substantial financial quandary is the best time to reimagine a multi-million dollar nonprofit performing arts business.
Postscript: I had an intriguing conversation with a long retired orchestra executive about all of this a week or so ago and I found his reply intriguing and with his permission, I’m going to post what he had to say.
“All of these sweeping work rule and job description proposals are a brilliant distraction tactic on management’s part to get what they really want, which is to permanently lower the budget. And if the players ultimately accept some of the proposals then it’s a negotiation twofer: lowered budget and less musician interference.”
Cynical? Perhaps, but it’s an outlook that certainly conforms to Occam’s razor.