Oregon Gets A Haircut

Although not exactly a buzz cut compared to their peers, the musicians of the Oregon Symphony (OS) recently agreed to midterm amendment to their existing collective bargaining agreement that reportedly waives a lump sum end of season payment along with the planned 2.6 percent base salary increase for the 2013/14 season.

A little off the topThe 5/28/2013 edition of The Oregonian published an article by David Stabler where the author describes the latest round of austerity measures as a “slow, relentless shrinking of the Oregon Symphony.”

Neither the Oregon Symphony website nor the musician run website provided any statements about the budget cuts; if you wanted something like that, you could find it at OregonMusicNews.com, which published an OS press release on the matter.

Fortunately, Stabler provided additional details as well.

His article chronicles a series of recent and projected program cuts alongside additional cuts to the administrative staff and the lack of an executive leader for nearly 10 months.

Also last October, the Oregon Symphony cut three administrative positions and reduced salaries by 4 percent for 22 of 33 staff members who received pay above a certain baseline. The orchestra has been without a president since Elaine Calder resigned in August.

Of particular interest, however, is the degree of uncertainty related to whether or not OS music director, Carlos Kalmar, has shared in the austerity measures.

An article by Brian Wise appearing in the 5/30/2013 edition of WQXR.com reports that the status of Kalmar’s compensation is unknown.

The orchestra did not say whether music director Carlos Kalmar took a comparable pay cut. Nor did it specify the amount of its overall deficit.

Lopsided sacrifice among stakeholders is rarely a recipe for harmony and success, in worst case scenarios it can lead to an overall reduction of artistic excellence. Consequently, it will be interesting to see if the organization or Kalmar offer up any public statement regarding his salary before the end of the OS’s fiscal year.

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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