Orchestra Watch: Seattle Symphony May Strike; Philly Saves the Day

A Weekly Snapshot of the Ups and Downs on the American Orchestra Scene

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 10:27 AM

Symphony orchestras around the U.S. are seeing the same kind of management-labor battles that have recently afflicted groups ranging from teachers to football referees. Musicians recently settled in Chicago and Atlanta after contentious negotiations. Labor disputes continue in Minneapolis and St. Paul; troubles are rumbling elsewhere.

Orchestra executives cite flat ticket sales and slumping private support as they seek major pay concessions from musicians, who warn about a loss of talent and reputation. In this season of discontent, it can be hard to keep up with the changes in the American orchestral scene so we're introducing Orchestra Watch, a new weekly look at the country’s hotspots.

Down: Seattle Symphony and Opera Authorize Strike

"Enough already" say the musicians of the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera, who have approved a strike authorization. It comes after months of contract negotiations, culminating in an Oct. 10 contract offer that called for musicians to take a 15 percent reduction in compensation in the 2012-13 season. The Seattle Times reports that the orchestra is projecting a balanced budget this season, but it's carrying an $11 million debt from past season. Its endowment – at $25 million – is also seriously underfunded.

"The Seattle Opera announced in June that had a $1 million shortfall in its $21.4 million annual budget for its 2010-2011 season," reports the Times.


Mixed: Indianapolis Symphony, Musicians Settle

The musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony have agreed to a new five-year contract that represents $11.5 million in concessions, including a 32 percent pay cut in the first year. The contract's final year represents an approximate 10 percent pay cut from the musicians’ current salary. The ratification of the contract (and a "bridge" agreement that extends to February) ends a bitter lockout that delayed the start of the 2012-13 season. The Indianapolis Star has more details.


Up: The Philadelphia Orchestra Plays Hero

The Philadelphia Orchestra may be having some money troubles, but they're nothing compared to the trouble nine-year-old Aidan Milligan was in after someone took his trombone. So the orchestra has come to Milligan's aid, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The fourth-grader, who has Down syndrome, had left the trombone in his case at the end of the driveway, so he wouldn't forget it on his way to school. The instrument was either stolen or mistakenly picked up by garbage collectors. The orchestra has offered to replace the trombone if it is not returned, and it has invited the Milligans to the season's first family concert on Oct. 27.


Mixed: Detroit Symphony Sets Records as Star Player May Leave

The prognosis for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this season has been optimistic, with a few conditions. Last week, the orchestra announced that audiences for its classical and pops opening weekends set new records. A spokesperson told the Detroit News that 22,861 people, including internet listeners, took in the opening-weekend events.

Meanwhile, the DSO’s principal cellist Robert deMaine has been offered a job as principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, prompting concerns that he may follow on the heels of principal bassist Alex Hanna, who left for the Chicago Symphony in June. The DSO saw substantial turnover in the wake of the six-month strike in 2010-11, although a spokesman notes that it has hired 10 musicians this year (including a new concertmaster).

"The continued churn of personnel remains one of the primary artistic challenges facing music director Leonard Slatkin as he leads the orchestra through its post-strike rebuilding," writes Detroit Free Press critic Mark Stryker.


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Comments [3]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The nation's orchestras are all in the same dilemma. Audience size has greatly diminished and the remaining patrons are not doling out funds as previously. Talent uncompensated financially seeks other venues and teaching. The Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta and dozens of other orchestras may soon disband and the New York City Opera because of the Koch brothers taking over the former State Theater of Lincoln Center appears to be forced to go under. Their orchestra also was one of the best. If young singers have no place to prepare for the big time except to sing in smaller European opera houses, where the interest there is to help their own citizen, then BIG TIME STUPIDITY HAS TAKEN OVER OUR "CULTURE." What is the point of reducing our so called spending budgets to the point where nothing of value exists in the USA? My cousin MICHAEL BLANKFORT wrote both the books and screenplays for the 1953 film THE JUGGLER Hollywood film made in Israel starring KIRK DOUGLAS and the 1950 Hollywood film BROKEN ARROW starring JAMES STEWART and JEFF CHANDLER [Cochise]. The music for THE JUGGLER was composed by opera composer GEORGE ANTHEIL, in whose opera VOLPONE I sang the tenor leading role [Mosca] in its professional world premiere in NEW YORK in 1953. ANTHEIL, famous for his opera TRANSATLANTIC and BALLET MECHANIQUE looked exactly like Peter Lorre. I am a romantischer heldentenor. I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I opened my three hour concert with the Invocazione di Orfeo from Jacopo Peri's opera EURIDICE composed in 1600, the first opera, composed in the same year as Shakespeare wrote HAMLET. It, and from the same concert, can be heard my singing Florestan's "Gott, welch Dunkel hier ! from Beethoven's FIDELIO and "Sound an Alarm" from Handel's JUDAS MACXCABAEUS in the live performance on my three websites, www.WagnerOpera.com, , www.ShakespeareOpera.com, and
www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com. It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. My voice teachers were the legendary MET OPERA singers Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Frieda Hempel, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell and Margarete Matzenauer. As an opera composer myself ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"] I fully comprehend the assumed urgency of recognition of the still living. I am the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute in Boonton, NJ where I train actors in all the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers in all the Wagner opera roles. My singing of TRISTAN, GOTTERDAMMERUNG SIEGFRIED, SIEGFRIED, SIEGMUND, RIENZI, LOHENGRIN, WALTHER VON STOLZING PARSIFAL, ELEAZAR, FEDERICO, ORFEO and OTELLO can also be heard at RECORDED SELECTIONS on the three websites.

Dec. 25 2012 07:23 PM
David Assemany from Detroit

This is a valuable service, thank you! - David Assemany, Save Our Symphony in Detroit. http://saveoursymphony.info/

Oct. 19 2012 05:24 PM

I love the idea of Orchestra Watch. Keep up the good work!

Oct. 19 2012 10:29 AM

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