DSO Denies Plans To Hire Replacement Musicians

BREAKING NEWS, 2/21/2011, 5:55pm ET: According to a press statement delivered by Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) Director of Public Relations, Elizabeth Weigandt, the organization does not have any plans to hire replacement musicians and asserts that “independent and inaccurate conclusions” were drawn in today’s Detroit News article which broke this story.
Last Updated: 6:28pm ET…

DSO Statement – 2.21.11

Today’s article in The Detroit News by Lawrence Johnson, “DSO: Change tune or be replaced” drew independent and inaccurate conclusions based on an interview with DSO Executive Vice President Paul Hogle. Mr. Hogle did not state that the DSO is “prepared to move forward with a newly assembled group of players.” The DSO has no plans of this nature.

The DSO has been consistent in expressing a belief that a new orchestra model is necessary in metro Detroit in order to grow and sustain a vibrant patron base – one that engages audiences at the community and educational level. At this time, we will focus solely on the important work of addressing the needs of our patrons, growing our already robust educational programs, building our business in presentations, special events, rentals and retail and enhancing our partnerships in the communities we serve.

We remain hopeful that the musicians will return to the bargaining table and agree to a sustainable financial terms that will end the strike.

When asked for confirmation whether or not the DSO is considering any plans that involve hiring replacement musicians, Ms. Weigandt said “We are not considering any plans that involve hiring replacement musicians or forming a new orchestra.” Likewise, Ms. Weigandt said that the Detroit News article was similarly inaccurate when it attributed a remarks from Paul Hogle stating that any future ensemble would include only those members of the current orchestra who agree to unilaterally presented terms. However, she did say “As the DSO’s financial situation deteriorates, that will affect what we can spend on a labor contract with the musicians.”

When asked if the if the quote attributed to Paul Hogle in the Detroit News was fabricated, Ms. Weigandt said “Fabricated is not a word I would use. We believe that inaccurate conclusions were drawn from what Paul said.”

Stay tuned as we’ll update this post with new information as details develop.

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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0 thoughts on “DSO Denies Plans To Hire Replacement Musicians

  1. Drew: Doesn’t this seem eerily familiar? Last November, when Ed Pilkington of The Guardian quoted DSO Executive Director Anne Parsons as telling the musicians to “Leave if you like,” you brought attention to that statement, and the management quickly asked for a correction in the Guardian, stating that Ms. Parsons had been misquoted.

    Now, it’s happened again. I don’t believe that two separate reporters on two separate continents have made the same error in fabricating the management’s position. No, I believe that Michael Hodge’s wrote exactly what he heard, but perhaps the management is having second thoughts about their intentions. Let’s hope so.

  2. Sounds to me like perhaps they asked Leonard Slatkin if he would work with a replacement orchestra and he said no way. Just thinking…

  3. FYI, the article in question was written by Lawrence B. Johnson, not Michael Hodges. I incorrectly attributed it to Michael myself and apologize to both writers for any confusion.

  4. Hello Drew. I have found your viewpoint on this situation refreshing in its clarity. This kind of back and forth with these two people is nothing new. Anne Parsons was quoted at one point saying that the problems in Detroit were unique to that locale, but then a few days later Paul Hogle was saying that ” we are quietly working on a new model…which, if we get it right will spread throughout the industry.” I believe this is an attempt to impose the Memphis model on a big league orchestra, with a few extra trimmings. I don’t believe they have thought this all the way through, and this is why we see occasional backpedaling. I suppose you could say the same thing about the other side, but at least they are still playing concerts.

  5. I simply have the best readers! Thanks for the kind words Thomas and pointing out another seemingly contradictory position. If nothing else, this demonstrates the importance of crafting a long term public relations campaign based on a well thought out strategic plan. too many broken links in that chain and people start making observations much like the one you just pointed out.

  6. I received the following reply from DSO Director of Public Relations, Elizabeth Weigandt:

    We receive many questions daily related to the strike. Each time, we do our best to articulate our position on what is certainly a complex and controversial subject with many facets and facts, and often the result is accurate reporting from the many conscientious journalists who cover us, including Larry Johnson and other reporters at The Detroit News. There are, however, relatively rare moments in reporting when messages are misconstrued. These two instances included examples of that and due to the gravity of the issues they addressed, we felt it necessary to request a formal clarification. We are grateful to both papers for their professionalism in these matters.

  7. Sorry to be a pest, but here’s a better one. In yesterdays Detroit News, Paul Hogle is quoted thusly “Negotiations are over” “After this disappointing vote, we see no purpose in further negotiating” And now their spokesperson is telling you that they hope the musicians will return to the bargaining table. Which is it?

  8. You’re not a pest at all, I’m glad to see folks are keeping track. If anything, I suggest folks include links to the source material so other readers can verify the assertions. Even if you can’t post a link, you can feel free to adopt the template I use: “The [date] edition of [newspaper name] published an article by [reporter’s name]…” That’s usually enough info for others to properly track it down.

    Nonetheless, there has been a real issue with mixed messages throughout the dispute and it hasn’t been limited to only one side. It all circles back to building a cohesive, consistent PR message.

  9. I don’t think this standoff will ever be successfully resolved if the parties and their partisans remain in the “got’cha” mode regarding public statements from either side. Perhaps a moment of silence……?

  10. The adage “herding cats” comes to mind. If anything, this dispute, length and severity, combined with the double edged sword of social media (especially FB) make it near impossible to turn that sage advice into working practice. If anything, I’d be happy if it can be responsibly controlled (and please folks, this isn’t some veiled reference to legalizing controlled substances).

  11. The Detroit News printed this retraction:

    Correction: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra maintains that it has no plans at this time to move forward with a newly assembled group of players.

    I’m sorry, but you can misquote a sentence, but not an entire article. The Detroit News should be ashamed of themselves for throwing their own reporter under the bus….

  12. Greg, I believe you nailed it. I think the entire article was inspired by a fit of pique by someone in DSO management, and when they woke up the next morning the proverbial doodoo hit the fan.

  13. is anyone consulting either side on how to deal with the media effectively!? It seems like there is gaffe after gaffe from both sides. Obviously this kind of consultation is very expensive, but if one side had more adeptly navigated the gotcha media (dear lord I hate that term), i feel as if this could have quite possibly been settled far earlier in the process. Labor disputes are political stories at the end of the day in many ways, and we all know the role the media can serve in political battles.

  14. I’m disappointed to see another reference to what we’re doing here in Memphis in a discussion about the DSO dispute and presumably about “service conversion/exchange”. While I realize that not all of my colleagues in orchestras throughout the United States agree with me, I continue to argue that we are not the sort of model that seems to bear our name because we have not exchanged nor converted any of our normal orchestral services and we have been very careful to craft contractual terms that prevent community engagement services from interfering with our core concert presenting duties.
    Process here matters too, as our optional community engagement activities were not adopted in a concessionary bargaining situation. Given where I see our name cited these days this seems to me to be a major point to drive home. It seems to me that a model involves process, and if that is the case, then, if there is a model here at all, it cannot be imposed in Detroit or anywhere else since we arrived where we are by listening to each other and bargaining in good faith to achieve goals we all believed would improve the lot for all stakeholders. That doesn’t mean that any side got all they wanted, but it resulted in agreements over three contracts now between the Memphis Symphony musicians and our board.
    Had our management taken the same approach with us that the DSO’s had with their musicians I’m quite sure that we never would have agreed to the community engagement language we now have. If we have a lesson to teach, I believe it is that musicians, management, and boards can work together when there is an open and honest dialogue. Taking this to mean that we need to convert orchestral services to anything else is more than a stretch.

  15. Note that the DSO PR Director did say that they didn’t believe the News fabricated the statement and the paper did publish an article (link) late last night where Mr. Hogle expands on his comments. If time permits, we may examine that piece in greater detail.

  16. That’s an excellent question Jack and a dispute of this magnitude is a good example of how typical PR demands can quickly morph into crisis management. It’s worth noting that those two fields are not interchangeable.

  17. Michael, thank you for taking the time to contribute to the discussion. However, I think that in the interest of finding a swift resolution to the DSO dispute, it is best if the discussions stay focused on Detroit. Once this situation is concluded, we’ll look into finding time to discuss Memphis. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to individual readers as desired.

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