Jumping The Gun

Whenever an orchestra goes out on strike, it isn’t unusual for folks to get a little jumpy and the bigger the group that strikes, the jumpier folks get. Case in point, not long after the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) went on strike, I started receiving messages from readers asking when I was going to write something about the Fort Worth Symphony shortly after that organization’s negotiations made local headlines…

The reasons I gave against writing anything about the Fort Worth negotiations was that they weren’t out on strike yet so there was no real need to throw any fire on the flames. Neither side in the dispute reached out with private or public statements so it seemed premature to post anything and as it turns out, the group announced a concessionary settlement on Tuesday, 1/16/2010.

According to a report in the 1/16/2010 edition of the Star-Telegram, the musicians voted to ratify a two year concessionary contract by a “definitely close” margin that reduces the number of weeks from 52 to 45 in year one and then 46 in year two. Clearly, one item that isn’t addressed in the newspaper report is how/if the group plans to approach recovery.

Typically, a short contract like this is seen as a waypoint to a larger destination but we’ll know more details when the musicians file an International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) settlement bulletin. In the meantime, both sides aren’t saying very much.

Consequently, now that news has emerged that the Louisville Orchestra might be entering into a round of tough negotiations, it would be wise to see if both sides are going to (re?)engage a press blackout while they work on a solution before jumping to any conclusions. You can find out some details in an article from 11/15/2010 in the Louisville Courier-Journal by Elizabeth Kramer as well as a report from Gabe Bullard on 11/12/2010 at WFPL News.

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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