WDET News broadcast a segment by Noah Ovshinsky on 11/29/2010 that examines the work rule and job description issues related to the ongoing Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) labor dispute. Clearly, this is one of the more contentious issues and in the course of examining the topic, Ovishnsky includes what might be considered inflammatory commentary from author Joe Horowitz…
For years now, Horowitz has maintained that, by and large, orchestras perform too many concerts and he states that as a reason for the DSO’s problems to Ovishnsky. Moreover, Horowitz reportedly said that being an orchestra musician should no longer be a full time vocation.
Horowitz says concert over-kill is one of the reasons why many orchestras are struggling financially. He says musicians should think of themselves as more of an educational resource than solely as concert performers. Moreover he says…players should no longer expect to work full time.
The broadcast segment includes a direct quote from Horowitz justifying that position with what might be best characterized as hasty generalization.
“I write books. I’m on my ninth book…I don’t expect to support myself and my family through that one activity. I have to do other things because in deciding to be a writer I chose a field that’s not like a being a doctor…it’s not as lucrative. It has other rewards…and musicians all made that choice and they refuse to live with it.”
What is perhaps one of the more disturbing elements of the DSO labor dispute is how some voices are using this specific and unique case as the basis for trumpeting sweeping universal changes across the entire field. For example, Horowitz uses the DSO dispute as a platform for talking about orchestra musician employment status at large; how that helps or relates to the DSO situation (or the field as a whole) is unknown.
The problem with discussing the DSO job description and related service conversion elements in a thoughtful and constructive fashion is a complete lack of information. Simply put, we have no idea about how the DSO administration and board define these elements nor do we know what the imposed contract language dictates. I’ve submitted formal requests to Elizabeth Twork, DSO Director of Public Relations, asking for a copy of the contract that was imposed several weeks ago in order to replace speculation with fact but that request was denied. According to Twork, “We have not shared [the contract] with anyone outside the DSO because of our desire to refrain from negotiating in press.”
So until that policy changes, speculating on details or making sweeping categorical statements is at best, ill conceived and at worst, irresponsible. A much better alternative is to identify a specific component within the service conversion/job description discussion and focus on those details.
In the meantime, WDET News has a transcript of the segment available at their website and you can listen to the segment below.