Knowing when to bow out…reply to SD blog

This is a difficult situation, and it is agonizing to read this article.  I witnessed first-hand what happened to my teacher, a Principal with a major orchestra, who ran into analogous circumstances, though with much less fanfare.  I was one of a number of people who called the Director to plead for him to keep his job.  That did not help, but only postponed the inevitable.


Reply to The Fiscal CLEF on the S+D blog…

I respect your position, Ron, but given the gravity of the current situation it seems to me the MO players need to find a contract negotiation that is comparable with the current financial situation and use it as a cookie-cutter to get back to the table to negotiate. Drew has mentioned Pittsburgh. I also think they should ask for cuts across the board. That is only fair.

For the future, an alternative to the current business model needs to be developed; something that empowers the players, not leaves them as pawns in the hands of a disrespectful management. The NYPhil began as a player-coop. A new paradigm can be found.

In the meantime, in the snowy TC, let’s curl up with the Grammy nominated MO/Vanska Sibelius 2+5 CD and their scores. 🙂

Saltzburg headless, what next? reply to SD blog…

With all the tumult in the arts at this time, this announcement hardly comes as a surprise.  Could it be that the entire underworld of music that contributed to the untimely death of Wolfgang Mozart is now in the process of being destroyed?

Thank you Don Lee, comment to his MInnpost article…

In all of the angst and distress of the last two months plus over the lack of communication between players and management of both the MO and SPCO, it is refreshing to hear a voice of sanity. This paradigm — this ‘business model’ has failed everyone; and in this case, it has failed the players who trusted management to look out for them. How is this situation any different than, for example, what Mozart had to suffer over 200 years ago? One can easily envision the same sort of frustration in the voices of the players and in the agonizingly honest letter of Maestro Vanska.

The NYPhil began as a player-coop. It is not impossible to think outside of the box. Nobody expected the players to have to be money-crunchers and financial analysts as well as musicians, but they have stepped up to the plate and are looking at more than just having their needs met. They want to know how the mission statement of the MO was changed behind their backs, and they want to know exactly where the money went. They will never relax into complacency again. All this struggle can be used for good for the future — to find alternatives that work for everyone.

Let’s find a working model…players turned number-crunchers and financial analysts…

@Anon said, “Or has management been put in a difficult position by players demanding salaries that are not commensurate with the audiences they are pulling in?”

I might have thought that at the start of this dual lockout in the TC, but now my thinking has changed. It seems to me players have every right to ask for the best for themselves. If they are not the orchestra, then who is? What good are soloists or conductors without them? What good is management without them (unless they want to change the focus from having a critically acclaimed symphonic orchestra to just managing a hall with acts passing through it — oh wait, the MO mission statement has just been changed, hasn’t it? :-0).

That doesn’t mean, however, that, under the current ‘business-model’ (that is failing them) they have the right to bankrupt the orchestra with their demands. Nor can they — they have to be agreed upon by management.

Negotiations should be made and at the very least cuts should be made across the board – management and players alike. A working model needs to be found in an agreement already made by another comparable orchestra with a similar financial situation (having nothing to do with artistic acclaim). Drew suggested Pittsburgh.

I am not an expert and could be wrong; this is just my impression at the present time.

More ‘no reading allowed’ reply on SD blog…

@Allison said,”Nowhere could I find “reader” defined as someone performing music, and there’s a very good reason why. It’s simply not an accepted use of the word. In fact, to use that word to describe orchestral musicians really makes it sound like you are disparaging them–is that something you are doing consciously? It does seem to be a recurring theme with you.

Honestly, if you think that the word “reader” aptly describes what an orchestral player does, then I don’t think you fully understand orchestral playing, no matter how many reviews you’ve read.”

Hopefully we are in agreement that I did not invent the term, and that others use it, whether you agree with that usage or not?

Tell me then, if you are not improvising, what is it you are doing?

Here is a definition of the musical use of the term ‘reading’…


 [ree-ding]  Show IPA



the action or practice of a person who reads.

Speech. the oral interpretation of written language.

the interpretation given in the performance of a dramatic part,musical composition, etc.: an interesting reading of Beethoven’s 5thSymphony.

the extent to which a person has read; literary knowledge: aman of wide reading.

matter read or for reading: a novel that makes good reading.
With all due respect, I completely support your finding and using vocabulary that works for you.  Nevertheless, nothing you have said is persuasive to my changing my position, for this is a term and understanding that works for me.  It is also something I do.
Who doesn’t love to curl up by the fire in complete silence and read a good score?  Who doesn’t want to immerse themselves in it and absorb its every detail until it plays in one’s head?  That is what I do.  That works for me.
You also seem to be jumping to a conclusion that I am speaking in a negative manner about orchestral players.  Who else could perform on demand day and night under all circumstances in a manner with which the composer would not only be comfortable, but perhaps even pleased?



Apples and apples? Minnesota Orchestra and Pittsburgh…reply on SD blog…

Drew, as this MO stalemate drags on, I am beginning to understand your insight that the players should model their response on that of Pittsburgh. They need a model that will work. The connection you seem to be making is not artistic, but financial.

Tony Ross, in his PBS interview, said that he preferred the MO to be compared to Cleveland rather than Detroit. That, imo, was an artistic comparison, when the issue is to find a comparable financial situation.

Apples and oranges, anyone? Reply on SOL blog…

I appreciate Tony Ross’ preference for the MO being compared to Cleveland rather than to Detroit.  However, he seems to be basing his preference on the level of artistry and critical acclaim (which is totally fair) when the real issue is that Cleveland seems to have more revenue coming in and a larger endowment, due to their owning property and buildings.  

Time for a new paradigm…

Fair enough, Chris. After the terrible position the players have been put in, one would hope they will always be proactive and take nothing for granted. Nevertheless, they did their job, and it was the job of management to bring in funding and protect the endowment. This is where the failure lies, it seems to me; but nobody is asking that they take pay cuts.

Obviously, the paradigm has failed. Something that will work in the 21st century with all of its new technologies, markets, changes in the public’s tastes and access to entertainment needs to be developed. The NYPhil, for example, was originally a player-cooperative orchestra. If everyone agrees that the players are the orchestra, or that, surely, without them, there is no orchestra, then I don’t think an evolution of a new ‘business model’ is an impossibility at all.

In fact, maybe there ultimately is no other choice.

More on the outrage of my MO teacher at having to perform with Rampal!

@Allison said, “Did your teacher ever specify why he or she did not want to perform a duet with JPR?”

He seemed to think Rampal was just a grandstanding circus showman. That was in part true, of course, but there was so much more. He appeared to have little respect for Rampal and seemed to be almost spitting nails at the duet (arias from The Magic Flute). It didn’t make sense to me at the time that someone who had such a wonderful sound and technique (unfortunately, health issues were intervening that compromised that) would not appreciate Rampal.

They both played Louis Lots too, which tend to have a unique sound quality. But he considered the orchestral players to be the true musicians — he would regularly say or imply that anyone can be a soloist.

Hmm…where have I heard that before? 😉