There’s a terrific article by Brian Wise in the 5/20/2013 edition of WQXR.org that reports on the latest wrinkle in an ongoing lawsuit between composer Nathan Currier and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
- In 2004, Currier apparently paid the Brooklyn Phil $72,000 to premiere one of his compositions (that’s just under $89k after inflation).
- During the 4/21/04 performance at Avery Fisher Hall, Currier alleges that orchestra officials forced him to edit his piece for length during one of the intermissions because it was going into unbudgeted overtime.
- Currier complied but the orchestra allegedly failed to follow his cuts and edited for length by their own design.
- Currier claims the unauthorized cuts led to scathing reviews and as a result, he sued the orchestra for failing to deliver what it was contracted to provide.
Wise reports much of the suit’s merit hinges on interpretation of work rules related to intermission lengths as stipulated in the Brooklyn Phil’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
For most folks with more than a cursory length of time as an arts administrator, this entire kerfuffle is the type of problem that should have never occurred in the first place. Consequently, it would be surprising to learn if all of this wasn’t the result of some terrible communication (in all directions), lack of interest amidst a fee based earned income gig, and either sloppy CBA language or sloppy adherence to thorough CBA language (or all of the above).
If nothing else, Currier’s lawsuit demonstrates the value of embracing unambiguous language related to CBA work rules. Granted, flexibility is a popular buzzword when talking about master agreements and in some instances, it is the right approach; but it is far from an ideal universal solution.
Make sure you leave some time to read the comments after going over Wise’s article, some of them are a real hoot.