***^^***!!LOOK HERE!! We Need PERMANENT Musicians***^^*** (Louisville, KY)

Just when you thought the Louisville Orchestra (LO) labor dispute couldn’t get more bizarre, it manages to surprise. Just before Thanksgiving, the orchestra’s replacement musician advertisements started appearing on dozens of Craigslist job boards. For those who may be unfamiliar with Craigslist, it a national online classifieds forum and a self described location where visitors can find “jobs, housing, goods, services, romance, local activities, advice – just about anything really.”

At the same time, social opinion about the nature of posts at Craigslist tend to be ripe for parody. For example, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart uses Craigslist as a regular punch line, like this one from 2009:

“Free Ikea end tables in exchange for a [bleep] job.” They’ve got everything!

And this one from 2011:

“You can bang girls on Craigslist or you can be in Congress, but you can’t do both.”

But one of the realities of Craigslist is there’s no way to verify the author of any given post so in order to find out whether or not the LO is posting the ads I contacted Robert Birman, LO CEO.

“It is true that the Louisville Orchestra has used Craigslist as one means of distributing its announcement of a national call for applications for positions,” wrote Birman in an email message from 11/30/2011. “As a social media tool, Craigslist serves a broad constituency and has become one of many standard vehicles employers use to advertise job openings.”

So there you have it, the LO is indeed the source of the Craigslist posts.

In a related item, there has been a bit of discussion at some online orchestra musician discussion forums claiming that the LO has been contacting non-Louisville based orchestra musicians directly via email and inviting them to apply for open positions. But according to Birman, this isn’t the case.

“No,” wrote Briman in an email message from 11/30/2011. “We do, however, reply to musicians who contact us seeking information concerning available positions.”

If nothing else, it is clear that the LO intends to move forward with their attempts to hire permanent replacement musicians.

What do you think about all of this?

Click to view a copy of a LO Craigslist ad

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 “***^^***!!LOOK HERE!! We Need PERMANENT Musicians***^^*** (Louisville, KY)”

  1. Clever and accurate post, Drew, from the exaggerated heading right down to the hysterical Jon Stewart musical. Unfortunately, it underscores the obvious problem that Mr. Birman (intentionally or not) continues to reduce the Louisville Orchestra to the laughing stock of the orchestra industry during it’s 75th anniversary. We are living a craigslist parody. And of course if that is not his intention, then certainly he is once again exercising painfully poor judgement with regard to the reputation of the organization. This seems to be only about winning at any cost and the price being paid won’t be recovered any time in the near future. I thought their bold new vision included being “sustainable”. This activity does nothing to inspire the community to support the organization, a community that is needed if there is to be any sort of orchestra in the future.

    Ironically, the Louisville Orchestra has added a large donation button on their landing page, and when you click it it takes you to: http://www.louisvilleorchestra.org/?page_id=1342

    The text reads: We want to count you among our supporters. Your gift of any size will keep the Orchestra thriving and this hometown team of players going strong in our community.

    “What hometown team of players? And for that matter keep what orchestra thriving?

    On another note, the Craigslist ad also appears in Birmingham, UK, which might imply that this no longer a “National Call” (or perhaps just a geography lesson is needed as demonstrated in Mr. Birman’s you tube video placing Charlotte in South Carolina. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY-gFPn2pYw&feature=related).

  2. If nothing else, it will make for a great “natural experiment” in the area of arts administration. What kinds of jobs are musicians willing to take? What kind of loyalty (or lack thereof) will musicians show their colleagues and unions?

    How will the Louisville community respond? Will the community support the musicians, or do they simply want something fancy to do on Saturday nights? Or are orchestras simply becoming a hobby for community leaders and board members?

    Or is all this just a notice from Father Time that we can’t expect the cultural landscape of 2050 to look like 1950 anymore than the cultural landscape of 1950 looked like 1850.

  3. The Louisville Orchestra has needs. The kinds of needs only grown-ups can understand. And they’re turning to Craigslist to fill them.

    I would urge them not to. At the end of it, they’re just going to end up getting mediocre service from people who aren’t emotionally invested. They’ll also feel dirty and guilty about it.

  4. None of the Board Members of the Louisville Orchestra, I imagine, would EVER consider looking for highly-qualified employees for their OWN businesses on Craigslist. But posting ads for classical musicians on Craigslist is completely consistent with the L.O. management’s ongoing lack of respect (or understanding) that world-class orchestras are comprised of world-class musicians — of which they once had 70 or so employed, but which they have since squandered. Instead, the L.O. management obviously thinks that all they need to do to is fill the stage with players obtained from anywhere, and of dubious experience and so-so artistry, and that this will be “good enough.” For classical musicians, as well as lovers of fine classical music everywhere, this is a tragic philosophy. If there ever was a moment in time when a management team and board of directors should be charged with malpractice, this would be it. In the meantime, it is even more heartbreaking that the totally world-class MUSICIANS of the Louisville Orchestra are sitting in Louisville NOT playing, and contrary to the line projected by management, have indeed made concession after concession because they truly DO want to play. Most people turn to Craigslist to find encounters that will end with the proverbial “happy ending.” Sadly, there is going to be no happy ending for anybody in Louisville — especially the audience — when there is no understanding or cognition from management that the Louisville Orchestra was a national treasure that cannot be replicated or rebuilt by taking out ads on internet websites. What’s next . . . Match.com?

  5. I’ll come play flute. I’ve even got a music stand I can bring! Someone will have to loan me a flute, though. Just kidding.

    More seriously, I think this is making a laughing stock of the LSO’s brand. It’s very important that educators instruct their students not to reply to these solicitations. The idea of firing an entire orchestra for being in a union (this is, in effect, what seems to be happening) needs to be squashed before it gets any kind of steam.


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