Detroit Poll Friday

It’s been an eventful week in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) labor dispute. In particular, the brouhaha surrounding the Detroit News coverage of the replacement musician scheme set culture blogs and social media platforms ablaze. Speculation about intent flourished and although we had a number of productive discussions here, I realized that I never actively solicited an opinion. So it’s high time to rectify that…

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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 “Detroit Poll Friday

  1. The DSO management is currently being perceived a less than forthright. In fact that perception borders on downright dishonesty. Unfortunately perception becomes reality.

  2. There are not enough adjectives or adverbs to describe the incompetence of the DSO management or lack of concern on the part of the Executive Committee of the DSO.

  3. I wonder how the Adaptistration readership overlaps with the general symphony audience. While I’m quite curious to see what readers think, I’d be even more curious to see what the whole of the Detroit News’s readership thinks.

    • Excellent question Dave and you’re timing couldn’t be better. I do a comprehensive readership segmentation survey every few years and ever since the very first survey, the readership has been divided into almost even thirds between those who identify as either a manager/board member, professional musician, or patron. The most recent readership survey concluded at the end of January, 2011 and I planned on posting the results last week but they’ve been delayed due to the onslaught of Detroit news.

      Nonetheless, that survey produced close to 600 responses and of those, the division was right along the same three way split. The only exception this time around is I added some identifiers for students and journalists, but they comprised less than 10% of the overall responses.

      In order to determine how that compares with the general audience segmentation, the first step is to quantify the general audience membership.

      • Drew:

        Given that breakdown I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that (at about 10:15 a.m. MST) some 20% of those voting believe it would be ethical to use replacement musicians. Still, inasmuch as that would be in essence a scrapping of the CBA, I wonder if people have really considered what it means. Back on the October 1st thread, “To Strike or Not to Strike?”, I stated my belief that a CBA is nothing less than a tangible institutional history of an organization; to even contemplate its demise does a disservice to ALL those in decades past (Musicians, Management, and Board alike) who were able to reach agreements for its continuation.

        Jamie Allyn
        Double Bass, Utah Symphony Orchestra

        • As an interesting point of reference, the ratio for those voting “yes” on the ethical question was closer to 35% in the first half of the day. The ratios started to shift about 12:00noon ET. But more to your point, I would agree that most outside observers don’t have a comprehensive view of the dynamic variables involved with replacing an entire group of orchestra musicians. At the same time, when the Detroit News published their article last Monday which brought the topic to the forefront, that’s the frame of reference most folks will approach the discussion.

          What I noticed in both management and musician public relations material was a focused effort to clarify or engage in smoking gun perspectives when it would have been an ideal time to begin educating outsiders on the points you eluded to in your comment.

  4. What the DSO management and board fail to grasp is that the orchestra as a specific group of musicians IS the product, a product that produces music unique to that group of people and their history together.
    They think of the musicians as factory workers who make the product, sounds. That’s sort of true if they’re talking about certain genres. The musicians are interchangeable and it’s not vital to the product. In the orchestral game, it’s ALL about the team that’s doing it. Just like the evenings soloist, it’s not just any pianist but a particular one.
    It’s much harder to put together a great team than to pay for it, ask any sports team owner.

    • Andrew, thank you for making this point. In my opinion, it is the most important issue of this crisis and one few seem to understand. It deserves repeating again and again. It is this ensemble of musicians who play music together, listen to each other and, during performances, create a work of art that is uniquely theirs. A work of art that has been years in the making. These particular musicians performing together is the art form. Yes, it can withstand retirements and replacements along the way – but the massive string sound, the power of the french horns, the gorgeous woodwind passages – are a result of years of working together. Think about it – how many of us would do our best if our “boss” changed several times each week – and each had her own opinion about how the work should be done? But no matter which conductor is on the podium – we hear compositions performed at the highest level. Who is responsible for this? The musicians and their artistic integrity – individually and as a whole. This group of artists shines night after night. This work of art, the DSO musicians performing together, is the treasure we are in danger of losing – and the price that management is quibbling about is peanuts compared to what would be lost.

      • I don’t think anyone, including management would argue with your characterization of what makes up the product.

        The part that people are not equating is how do you pay for the product? The DSO is like a Corvette, but the owners can’t afford the up keep. The owners are Detroit. Not Management, they are stewards of the organization.

        Lets say it is Management. What would you do? Replace them? Ok, the situation does not change.

        Lets say Management should have given in at 38MM; but don’t make it, and go deeper in dept. Lets say that goes on for a 3 year contract. That could be a fatal loss.

        Every person from Detroit or even Michigan should ask if they have supported the DSO, in either tickets, donation or both. If you have, very good, I encourage you to encourage others. If you have not, well…

        If the money is not there – it is not there, taking from the endowment will only agitate and prolong the problem. The unfortunate thing, is the offer is sure to only go down (absent a 3rd party sustaining gift), because the product is not operating. The tipping point will come (if it hasn’t come already), where the savings benefit from a non-operating money losing product no longer outweigh the absent exposure. The losses will mount. The banks will not want to work with a shell, and put pressure on the debt. Donations, including long plan giving will start to revert because the are not fulfilling the subsequent conditions. There will be no charity events to keep it in the paper, and popular with the people that have the means to make sustaining gifts. There will be no advertising dollars for sponsors or print in the show books. It will give education one more reason to cut subsequent funding… “Because if the DSO’s not going to do it we can cut that budget line back.”

        What part of the above changes even when you agree with your premiss that it takes the up most skill to preform at the DSO level?

    • That’s an interesting question: What is the product?
      You say that management thinks that the product is “sounds”, but that you think the product is the orchestra itself. I would postulate that a lot of people would say the product is “live music”, or “concerts”: the experience of live symphonic music, regardless of who the musicians are.
      I think that may be one of the fundamental questions: What is the product? To what extent are individual musicians replaceable?

    • Sports team owners have the same issues. The NBA is talking about changes because the owners are losing money. They are talking about need to cut back starting salaries. Texas Rangers went into bankruptcy.

      So if it is harder to put it together than to pay for it, would you say that DSO has it? So why do they lose money? May be they should sell hot dogs in the isles. Also would you pay the ticket price for the NBA?

      If the money is not there and it is on a collision course with no cash, will the product still produce?

      Sports teams have the ability to trade and bench talent. That’s an interesting idea.

      • Please stop comparing athletes and musicians. They have nothing in common including the reality of financial issues. If the American public in general had the same passion for music as they do for sports, there would be no problem paying for their services. It’s unfortunate that the media has been influenced by the brawn of the population.

        • Except, that they do have something in common. There has been talk about sports lockdown for some months now. The NFL is looking precisely at that right now. Sports and sports stadiums are no longer sustainable despite its purportedly “more popular than the performing arts” status.

        • As a reminder to everyone: in order to keep discussions from degrading into political pundit style debates, don’t forget to include references to support conclusive statements as much as possible or consider rephrasing your position so that it clearly comes across as opinion.

        • Apologies, Drew–I was just skimming some articles about the Vikings and their *ahem* their dome issues and came across this piece ( ). I had been hearing about the impending lockdowns from a number of friends and from what I understand it’s not just football but a number of other sports.

          Given some of the data different organizations are now coming up with regards to attendance at all live entertainment, the lockdown issue(s) seems to be a precise analogy to the Orchestras issue.

          I think its all just a reflection of a broader issue regarding how Americans are spending their leisure time/entertainment money more than anything else. Just happens to be the case that Orchestras/Operas/Ballets, Sports, Stadium-sized Rock concerts are all slowly dying away as a viable entertainment outlet.

        • Many thanks John, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to post the references. Overall, although I don’t believe arts vs. athletics comparisons are mutually exclusive, they are very difficult to employ without a clearly defined set of parameters. For example, the differences in funding stadiums vs. concert halls is mostly apples and oranges but even then, it depends on which buildings you want to compare becasue not all venues are owned and were funding using the same methods.

          In general, when attempting to use comparisons, I try to look for sources elsewhere before stacking up arts and athletics.

        • Very true, Drew. Public versus Private or Corporate funding are very different animals.

          At the same time, if the owners of stadiums are wanting to cut players’ salaries as a way to cut costs, that says as much about the financial straits the Sports field is in and there has been tons of discussion about whether stadiums are economically viable for cities/regions and on the whole I’m not so sure they are.

          But with a number of folks using Sports-type marketing and engagement as a possible model for turning around the big Clasical Music institutions, I think it’s helpful to understand that on the whole, the former institutions are necessarily doing as well as many folks think, either. Or rather, what success that [sports] institution has was more a reflection of a cultural and economic environment that supported it and that the current cultural and economic environment may no longer be able to support support it and it is something that needs to change as well.

  5. I am a professional composer/musician and have been for 35 years. I have followed, with dismay, the plight of the DSO’s musicians.
    One thing keeps coming back to me. In my 35 year career, if a manager of any band/orchestra/ensemble that I was a part of were acting as Ms. Parsons is, not only would they be fired from their position but their reputation would follow them in this very small business. No one wants to work with incompetent people.
    Fire Ms. Parsons and replace the board with people who don’t require massive amounts of power and control in their daily diet.

      • With all due respect to Mr. Zaltz, I’d like to take a crack at Drew’s question. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for her to be replaced anytime soon, based on the Board’s actions so far. So, some specifics:

        1- Prior to the current negotiations, an inability to find a solution to the massive debt problem at the Max, despite having literally years to do so. Worth noting she started at DSO in 2004.

        2- Overseeing negotiation strategies and tactics that have not resulted in an agreement, have embarrassed the institution on an international scale (last weekend is a prime example, along with the Sarah Chang episode, just to pick two), and in fact now threaten the existence of the organization.

        3- as a result of 1 and 2 above, it is highly unlikely that any substantial trust or confidence in her leadership remains amongst the musicians, which (surprise) make up the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

        The “new model” (whatever it is) doesn’t look all that appealing or beneficial under these circumstances. And it isn’t as if the musicians have behaved flawlessly throughout all of it (in my view), but it certainly seems that in a broad sense they have had more of a constructive and forward-looking perspective.

        • Many thanks Frank, I think there is certainly a point when any contentious labor dispute eventually becomes a referendum on leadership, whether it be the executive committee, CEO, or musicians’ negotiation committee. Historically, of those three leadership elements, the most likely candidate for replacement is the CEO.

          What’s important to remember here, is that the organization maintains explicit procedures and conditions via respective by-laws under which all of those leadership changes can take place.

          All of the reasons you touched on are precisely the items board members should evaluate when considering whether or not a change in leadership is worth exploring.

        • What I wrote is of course my opinion uninformed by actually sitting at the table; I’m definitely an observer without the most intimate details of the process. Perhaps I’m way off, and the management has some sort of genius stratagem that everyone else has missed so far.

          In any case, the DSO most certainly has quite rigid procedures and conditions for something as drastic as replacing the ED, CEO, or other top staff, and I’m sure they would be followed if it ever came to that. As they should, since this is not a decision that should be taken lightly. But as I mentioned, I’m not inclined to think that decision will be considered anytime soon. Remarkably after all this, the Board and Exec Committee seem satisfied with the current leadership and direction despite the downward (possibly fatal) spiral. If that ever changes, hopefully some of the specific items I mentioned (a very incomplete list, btw) would be carefully considered, along with any merits overall that have positively impacted the DSO over the years.

  6. The “replacement musicians” concept in addition to being a cheesy ploy, is quite
    ill-informed. There exists no pool of musicians ready & willing to step into the jobs of others. Today’s aspiring, young musicians are better informed than ever and are very well aware that even if they were to ignore the the current contract impasse and the AF of M
    (which I’m informed by my own students, would not happen) they’d be shooting themselves in the foot producing any number of degrees of seriousness.
    Wouldn’t the INS have a picnic with musicians being imported from Asia, Mexico, South America, etc. to take the jobs of American (musician) workers.
    I’ve not seen nasty, adversarial tactics like those used by the DSOManagement (to distinguish that body from the true Detroit Symphony Orchestra whose music making has thrilled us throughout my lifetime) in this (supposed) negotiations for a very long time.
    One can only continue to take the high road and hope that the DSOManagement regains it’s true sense of purpose and accepts it’s charge to support and present the worlds finest art music in Detroit.

    • Well, as to replacement musicians, do you think it would be that hard to pull together an orchestra if you pay mileage for the free-lancers of Chicago, Indy, Cincinnati, Cleveland, etc?
      I’m not saying that it would be cohesive or exemplify great musicianship, but would management care? Here’s a question: Would much of the audience know the difference?

      In the comment above by Andrew: he states that the orchestra is the product, whereas the board thinks the product is the sounds/notes/”music”. I suspect that some might say that

  7. I think this really goes beyond a money issue at this point. The musicians have agreed to many concessions already. It’s like telling the people of Wisconsin that they need to put an end to collective bargaining to balance the budget, huh? How is that going to balance anything. I simply can’t believe that the DSO management is so stupid and suspect them of some other motive, but for the life of me I can’t think of what it would be, but someone’s making money on this and it isn’t the musicians. Now, after all this time and all these negotiations it has become a rights issue. The events leading up to this and beyond have been very strange. A serious lack of leadership from the board; everytime one of them opens their mouth they annoy someone. I worked in the music business in Los Angeles and New York for about 15 years. I worked for artist management, a record producer and an entertainment, all pretty big names and alienating the talent is pretty much the kiss of death. That is the first thing the DSO management did. I know artists can be difficult, but this is either gross incompetence or… the management has been so inept it seems like it is planned and that is a serious betrayal. I know it’s not the same thing, but in rock n roll if you alienated the talent, alienated the audience, lost ticket sales and threatened replacements (and continued to pay yourself a salary greater than the artist I might add), you would not only get fired, you would probably get sued.

  8. Drew,

    Two questions that I haven’t seen answers for (forgive me if they’ve been covered elsewhere).

    Do we know if there is contractual language that in a sense constitutes a voluntary resignation by musicians not accepting/signing their contracts? If so, the DSO may view the filling of these positions through audition not as substitutes but as open positions that need to be hired. Would the AFM’s International Musician post the vacancy notice?

    Also, does anyone have a copy of the organization’s by-laws? When is the next annual meeting? What is the process in which Board members are nominated and officers selected? In following the comments from the Detroit media, it looks like most public respondents side with the Board’s decision but is there a faction of eligible voters lining up ready to nominate a slate of officers favorable to the musicians?


    • Those are very good questions Robert, I’ll try to provide what insight I can:

      1) I’m not entirely certain about the correct answer. Currently, the DSO is on the AFM’s International Unfair list and I don’t believe (nay, can’t imagine) an orchestra on that list can post job vacancies. In this case, since the musicians went on strike, I don’t believe it would be the same scenario that existed in Shreveport but this is technical enough, it would be interesting to here what some of the labor lawyers who have been frequenting some of these discussions think about that point.

      2) I have not obtained a copy of the association by-laws (although I’m going to ask) but like all by-laws they must contain language that addressed each of those questions. Not too long ago in Aspen, they addressed these very questions regarding the attempted termination of their CEO. Ultimately, the final decision came down to procedures dictated in their by-laws and the failure to follow those rules ended up having a profound impact on the executive committee membership (and that’s as polite as I can say that).

      Personally, I wouldn’t put much weight on the Detroit Free Press comments with regard to measuring public opinion. The vast majority of replies I’ve read seem to originate from what we call “comment trolls” who post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages with the goal of eliciting an emotional response. They have no interest in a meaningful conversation and sometimes a trolling comment can come from an otherwise meaningful reader who is simply emotionally driven that they click the “submit” button before letting their emotions subside.

      As such, I don’t even think we need to look at the DSO board as a group that either supports members who are favorable or antagonistic to any stakeholder so much as factions who see the value in reaching compromise and building trust based working relationships.

    • One added thought on trolling, I’m glad you mentioned this because here at Adaptistration, I go out of my way to moderate comments in such a way to make sure that they contribute to the overall conversation. If a comment comes in that crosses a trolling line, I’ll typically respond to the reader and explain that they may want to consider that their comment will have more impact if they strip away the emotion and/or include additional details as opposed to lobbing empty accusations etc.

      I’m pleased to say that even though I’ve had to do that more than ever before via the Detroit based articles, the vast majority of readers realize the value and take the time to submit a revised comment that conforms to those guidelines.

    • The American Federation of Musicians posts a monthly magazine with a list of employers in the publications “International Unfair List”, warning paid members of poor labor practices including any and all contractual disputes, I.E. January 2011 issue of “The International Musician”, p.21. The DSO was placed on that list at the request of AFofM Local 5. In the case of the DSO, every opportunity to settle their stalemate has been offered by the musicians, including binding arbitration, only to be met by closed and locked doors. The management needs to be bought to terms or get off their ivory tower!! It’s obvious they want a cheaper product that will eventually fail when the new product insists on a livable wage down the pike…….

  9. DSO Musicians have posted on their website that management’s series of proposals over the last 8 months have always included triggers that ensure rejection by the musicians (such as forcing a librarian out of the bargaining unit, elimination of job security, or the elimination of pension contributions etc.). Drew, have you ever seen anything like this happen before in the orchestra world? It seems to me like management is looking for their offers to be rejected. Would they be doing this so that they can start over totally on their terms?

    • Presenting “an offer you can’t accept” is nothing new in the world of collective bargaining. Like any other tactic, it’s a tool. Granted, a blunt tool that isn’t always terribly accurate or produce the desired result, but a tool nonetheless. the problem in the DSO dispute is both sides have failed to produce detailed reasons why an offer is or isn’t worthwhile. In particular, both sides have routinely cherry-picked elements and excerpts from proposals to support their conclusions. And given the amount of highly counterproductive spin being generated by both sides, there isn’t enough transparency to give the benefit of the doubt to either party.

  10. Hi Mr. McManus,

    How is an orchestra’s Executive Committee selected, and to whom is it accountable? If a Committee failed to perform its duties satisfactorily, how would that be addressed?

    • those are very good questions Lisa, thanks for asking.

      1) I have a standing essay about orchestra boards you can find here: It will provide answers to some aspects of this questions. But in short, there’s no single method that all nonprofit boards use but in general, but most executive committees are comprised of the board officers although some it isn’t uncommon for groups to have a few additional members. They are accountable to the full board.

      2) Most board by-laws contain provisions and conditions on how a full board may remove one or more members of the executive committee before the end of their respective term. A typical process includes a full board meeting with a quorum of members present. Motions are made, discussion ensues, and a vote is conducted.

      Granted, that’s a very academic overview and actual instances are typically filled with a great deal more emotion and drama. In practical application, it is more common for an executive committee member to simply resign before a situation leads to an actual vote and when he/she takes that step it is also common to see supporting members from that faction leave the board at the same time.

  11. I believe DSO management has already experimented with “replacing” the orchestra when it tried to convert Sarah Chang’s concerto appearance to a recital. Perhaps it will try to present touring foreign orchestras in the future instead of the DSO. Many orchestra organizations present events in addition to the home orchestra’s concerts, but for an institution that has historically presented primarily its own acclaimed orchestra, this would be a shameful change.

    Take 6 will replace Bobby McFerrin in a March 3 appearance at Orchestra Hall. Mr. McFerrin’s eloquent statement is on the DSO website. The final sentence is “I pray this will be resolved soon, so I can come back to Detroit and we can all sing together.”

  12. Drew,

    The next Full Board meeting is March 30th. (last Wed of the month) Next executive committee meeting is April 27th.

    Does not seem like there is a sense of urgency does there?

  13. In many respects they are already using our own students as substitutes for us. The kids were told last week how their role was all the more important now that the musicians have rejected the final offer. There is some kind of gala concert using civic somewhere in Bloomfield in May. The kids were told anyone who is anyone in Detroit will be there. Slatkin will be conducting. This has been in the works a few months now.

    • As a note to all readers: please keep in mind that the vast majority of your fellow readers likely won’t know who you are and won’t know or who and/or what you are referencing so thank you in advance for including details in your comments.

      What kids are you referring to Kim? What ensemble is this? And when you say they were told something, who is the source? Without that, it will be difficult for anyone to make more out of it than simply hearsay.

  14. Yes, you are right, I am sorry. The kids I was referring to were students in the Detroit Symphony Civic ensembles. Many of these students study with us (DSO musicians) privately. The parents of my students have informed me of the above information, information they had received at rehearsals by their respective leaders.

  15. Your second question asked whether it would be “ethical’ to hire a replacement orchestra. I suspect that if you had asked whether it would be “right” or “a good idea” some early “yes” answers in the the affirmative would have switched to “no”.

    Shows the power of how one may frame the language of a survey to get a specific response, does it not?.

    • Actually, I spent a reasonable bit of time on deciding which word to use there and even solicited some feedback from colleagues and “ethical” was the clear favorite. The other choices all seemed to have enough wiggle room and ethical drilled in on a belief as opposed to a business or other perspective. It also seemed to elicit the most sincere gut reaction but in the end, it isn’t a scientici poll so there is only so much sleep to lose on it 🙂

  16. Without putting too fine a point on it, the second question (“Would it be ethical for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to consider using replacement musicians?”)caused me to focus on the Board of the DSO and whether or not it would be an ethical (i.e. responsible)item for them to put on their Agenda for consideration.

    Items under consideration could lead one to do something unethical… or they could also cause a Board to broaden and fully flesh a discussion so even the the most reactionary amongst them feels fully heard, all the while allowing the folly of something to become apparent on the way to a more reasonable course of action.

  17. Good morning Drew. I think I can help answer a question that appeared earlier in this thread. I am a former member of the DSO, and I have played in two other major-league orchestras. When our contract lapses, be it CBA or personal, our employment status is not affected. Non renewal procedures are based on years of service. Tenure is not permanent. A musician can be dismissed, but not simply because the CBA has lapsed. Unless of course you impose a contract that eliminates tenure, which is precisely what DSO inc. has done.

    • Thanks for the insight Thomas, I think it is important to point out a few distinctions at this juncture that the issues related to employment status and individual contracts signed within the context of a collectively bargaining agreement are not always clear. In Shreveport, this was a major issue when they were going through their work stoppage.

  18. I tend to look at outcomes, and the outcome of years of inept management is the end of DSO concerts at Orchestra Hall. Someone made serious mistakes on funding the expansion, and someone failed to take the musicians into consideration when working out solutions. Nobody will admit to these mistakes. The DSO had good management policies in the past, but not now. They have blundered away one of the great US orchestras. It appears that nobody cares except the audience. This could be the lesson plan for a course on corporate stupidity.

  19. I want to preface my comments by asserting that I stand on the side of the DSO musicians. I’ve been through an orchestral strike (as a musician) and have a lot of empathy for them. I hope they prevail.

    That being said, if I distance myself from my emotions and contemplate the second question, I’m left wondering why most respondents feel it’s ethical for the musicians to withhold their services during this impasse, but unethical for management to hire replacements?

    • My guess would be that there is a clear understanding that once parties agree to enter into the collective bargaining process in good faith that hiring “replacement musicians” trumps the entire process’ ethical underpinnings.

      Perhaps Drew can expand on the concept of a “lock out” and if it would relate to the situation in Detroit since management never technically claimed one.

      It’s no coincidence in my mind that the management of the DSO have been somewhat influenced by Tea Party Fever that generally seems to be presently influencing attitudes toward labor rights nationwide.

      Also, generally speaking, to dismiss an entire orchestra as simply a group of individual musicians is to ignore an appreciation for an entirely distinct musical personality to the group. It would show a complete lack of understanding, indeed obliviousness, to what makes the DSO the distinctive, great orchestra it is in the first place. It would be the complete rejection of what is understood as musical personality.

      • Those are intriguing point Ben, let me start off with the lockout question. Just to make sure everyone has an equal understanding, a strike and lockout are the two types of work stoppages that can take place within a collective bargaining agreement environment. A strike is when the employees without services and a lockout is when the employer prevents employees from working.

        In the DSO’s case, the musicians initiated a strike due to the employer enforcing a collective bargaining agreement that the employees did not ratify.

        I plan to post something on Monday, 2/28/2011 that expands on your other questions Ben so you’ll have to excuse me for not taking the time to provide as detailed of a response that your questions deserve. But I’ll quickly address one item that likely won’t appear in Monday’s post and that deals with the differences between value of the established artistic standards and the standards as they related to management’s vision. This aspect is one of the fundamentally game changing components of this dispute.

  20. I was one of the musicians who was replaced by a local musician nearly 30 years ago in a major American orchestra. It has taken nearly 3 decades to improve the quality of that orchestra to it’s original standard.

  21. The musician’s problem is that even if they are really better than potential replacements they CAN be replaced with people who, after a month of rehearsals, the audience will not be able to tell much, if any, difference in quality. There are a lot of well trained musicians out there that would play for less. The biggest problem in hiring musicians would be the absolutely hideous and vague working conditions that the dishonest management has been putting forth.

    You could probably get people to play at a lower base pay thatn is offered if there wasn’t a danger that management could be telling musician’s to play at their Christmas parties, as well as to cook and cleanup also.

  22. I want to express an observation that has become clearer to me by the day. Music, whether playing it, listening to it, or managing it (I hope) is a collective experience. An ensemble plays together, its individuality coming out of the group as a whole. Why this deliberate attempt to destroy collective bargaining? Shouldn’t a management attempt to model themselves to some extent after what they represent, the making of beautiful music? It may be an ideal, but it would certainly help in this case for all to remember that the beauty is at least in part the bringing together of the whole.

  23. I have nothing regarding the Hollywood Bowl, but here is documentation regarding the New York City Ballet labor conflict that Anne Parsons was involved with. The “she” mentioned below is Anne Parsons.

    Website regarding the New York City Ballet settlement involving Anne Parsons:

    As reported by the President of Local 802 in the Allegro Archives, Volume C No. 2, February, 2000

    “In a three-way phone conversation with the company and its legal counsel, I listened as counsel advised management not to lift the lockout until the memorandum was signed. The General Manager then told me that the recorded music would continue until she received a signed memorandum of agreement. After that discussion had ended, I learned that several musicians – members of the rehearsal staff – had been prevented from entering the State Theatre building. Management was not bluffing, as they had not been throughout the two-week lockout. I signed and faxed the signature page to the employer. We needed to stop the tape and to have done anything else at that point would, I believe, have been irresponsible.”

  24. There are several things worth commenting on here. As pointed out by several people in the thread, an orchestra is by definition a group of musicians. The management and executive board of the DSO seem to believe that they are the orchestra. Rather than that they serve the orchestra, they look upon the musicians as troublesome employees.

    There is definitely a component of political principal involved in the management actions that is not dissimilar to that being played out in Wisconsin. The musicians are willing to negotiate on the financials, but draw the line at work rule changes that exclude them from the decision making process with respect to education and political outreach. I find this a reasonable request since the musicians are by the nature of their profession educators reaching out to the community (disclosure – my grandfather, mother, sister, brother and wife were/are musicians).

    Anne Parsons has a track record in fighting unions. A musician who was in the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra when she was there has said that after difficult negotiations, his wife was not given a new contract apparently because he was on the negotiating team for the musicians. I have not been able to find evidence to corroborate this, however. According to the New York Times (April 26, 2004), at the New York City Ballet, she arranged to have the first ever Nutcracker with a recording rather than live music during a strike. The past record fits the current MO.

    The last full board meeting was on October 27th, 2010. It must be understood that most board members did not even know what was going on until the strike started. Several people I know well attended the meeting and reported that it was very controlled. When a board member who disagreed with the way the negotiations were being done began to talk, Ms. Parsons and the Chairman of the Board walked out. There is not much chance of making changes through board meetings.

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