an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Brazil Facebook protest – letter from one of the judges

Hello Mr. Lebrecht,
as there are many opinions on the matter and most of those oppose the process I would like to make clear my point of view after many days of doubts:
after having arrived here in Brazil I have talked to people involved in the process and especially members of the orchestra who as well have to play in the auditions. Some of those musicians explained the “inner view” and asked me to take part in the commission – as one of 13 (!) musicians worldwide invited. So I finally decided to do this. There is as well a conviction that the way chosen is the right one or at least one legitimate possibility to give everybody the right chance, to improve the status and quality of the orchestra. I was told that there are musicians playing in the orchestra who have never made an audition to enter. So now they have the chance to legitimize their place in the orchestra – and as we all know: this is better to do in front of a different commission than the own colleagues. I very strongly believe that this is most honest.
It was guaranteed to me by the administration that there will nobody been “thrown out” or dismissed because of our comments: we only evaluate their skills – and I am sure, everybody of the orchestra is as good as it is described, but as well I am sure that the evaluation-notes the members of the commission will write, can help each one to improve. I at least would be happy if once in a while I would have the chance to play in front of an international commission so I have a feedback on what I have to work on! I am playing in my orchestra since more than 20 years.
For me fairness is first: I think fairness has to come from all sides, so from the side of the ones who oppose the process, too. I am convinced that it would be fair if everybody would participate because it is a way to improve everybody’s professional and personal life: better music, better payment, tours around the world, recordings. I of course hope very much that the administration does not fool me: I will have a close watch on the development in the future.

Hoping for the best,
Michael Faust
Michael Faust
NL: Professor Faust is principal flute in the WDR Sinfonieorchester, Köln.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Luciano de Castro says:

    Mr Faust
    I appreciate your forthright comments about your decision to participate in the re-auditioning process at OSB and I commend your attitude to send a letter to this blog stating so. Unfortunately, however, you have decided to favor a so-called “inner view” of some of the OSB musicians (how many?), disregarding the overwhelming majority who have openly expressed their refusal to participate in this process not only in this web blog, but also in a myriad of facebook messages. I think you have not understood a very important point: there is a clear message in Mr. Minczuk´s letter that only those who comply with the conductor’s decision will get a chance to keep their jobs. The others … well, as in any autocratic context, will apparently face dire consequences. So, whatever you decide as a panel member will not suffice to warrant a fair outcome.
    I wonder if your German peers would accept a similar “evaluation procedure” decided behind closed doors and without their input. You must also realize that the musicians were only told about this outrageous and uncalled-for decision two days into their vacation.
    I am sorry to disappoint you, Mr Faust, but your time and expertise are at the service of the most vicious scheme ever conceived by a member of the Brazilian artistic community in our country. Not even during the military dictatorship did something like this was suggested.
    Luciano de Castro

  2. Nina Connors says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht, Mr Faust and Mr Castro.
    I am quite surprised with this uproar against the auditions for the orchestra. In any workplace, evaluations are done frequently to gage the performance of individuals and establish new directions for training and personal development. In schools, evaluations are done quite frequently as well, even in music schools.
    Why are some members of the orchestra so afraid to be evaluated? Are they afraid they are not up to the task? As far as I understand, the OSB is not a state company, therefore I don’t think their employees can expect to have a nice cushy job where you can’t be fired and you don’t really have a boss. The orchestra is run by a Foundation that has the right to pick and choose who stays and who goes. When I was evaluated in my job (twice a year and behind closed doors, mind you), I never felt I was being terrorized or harassed. It was simply part of the job! Not that I liked it, it was time consuming and made me stay on my toes, but I think it was necessary for the company and very rewarding when I did well!
    I have followed the performance of maestro Minczuk with another orchestra, in Canada. He has raised the bar considerably and I’ve had the pleasure of watching wonderful performances with him. The musicians are outstanding and it is a pleasure and a privilege to see them play. The conductor is constantly evaluated by people like me: the audience. And believe me, if his work is not above standard, the audience does not show up! That is how we decide which conductors come and go.
    And finally, Mr Castro, your mention about the military dictatorship is certainly out of place. May I remind you that in those times, people that had jobs with the government were never subject to evaluation of any kind? Not even the president was evaluated by the population! So, although you don’t like it, I think the audition process is exactly the opposite of a dictatorship: it’s democracy at its best.
    Nina Connors

  3. Once again, seems like Mr. Faust has good intentions, but I would NOT want my name to be associated with this mess that just keeps getting uglier and uglier.

  4. OK, here it goes:
    I think all orchestras might benefit from this fair game approach.
    Many players, especially in string sections, appear to sit back in their cushy jobs and coast year after year. At least the re-audition or evaluation process from respected outside colleagues could be a motivating factor in keeping skill levels up. Sorry, I know I’m in the minority here.

  5. Leticia Muniz Barretto Volasco says:

    You’re right, Mr. Faust! Thank you for supporting the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra Foundation and Maestro Minczuk.

  6. Dear Michael Faust,
    I have read your comment where you have justified your presence at the horrible auditions/evaluations and have a few comments:
    I seriously think you have been misinformed . The management has replaced its own orchestra for the youth orchestra for large part of the coming season. If your comments should be used only as a guide line for the musicians to improve, they are not given any chance to show their improvement in concerts.
    The fact that the OSB has been suspended and is holding international auditions shows that the management wants to fire musicians. It is unfortunately as simple as that.
    The orchestra commission strongly denies that people have been given positions without auditions. Even if some had, there is an international law ( varies in some countries) that if you sit in one vacant position for a certain time period, you have the right to the job.
    Your comment that you yourself would love to be evaluated for your job at times for an international jury, has been passed on to your colleagues in the WDR. I am sure they will be happy to discuss it with you when you get back home. Good luck!
    Best greetings from Ole Bohn

  7. mhtetzel says:

    The link below gives the OSB 2011 programme. Of note, Kurt Masur will conduct the nine Beethoven symphonies. If the judges are under pressure not to take part in the audition process, what about the soloists who have accepted to play not with OSB but with the Youth Orchestra?

  8. Luciano de Castro says:

    Ms Connors
    I will only respond to two points you raise in your comments to my letter.
    1- If you say conductors are evaluated every concert by their audience, the same you should say about the musicians, since it is the sound that they produce that everybody hears, enjoys or dislikes. By the way, who can really evaluate a conductor are the musicians themselves!
    2- Since you are from Calgary, you should know that the tenured musicians at the Calgary Philharmonic would never have to be humiliated by Mr. Minczuk’s ploys because they have a union contract that protects them. Just read the news recently published by the Calgary Herald:
    “Music . The dissonance between Calgary Philharmonic music director Roberto Minczuk and his orchestra in Brazil won’t darken the CPO musical horizon, according to CPO president and CEO Ann Lewis. Minczuk currently faces a rebellion in the ranks of the Rio de Janeiro-based Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira over the implementation of a performance evaluation.‘Absolutely not,’ says Lewis, when asked whether such an evaluation could happen here. ‘What Roberto would be doing in Brazil would be working within their union agreement, which is a different agreement from the one we have in North America.’ (
    ‘There is nothing for musicians in our orchestra to be concerned about as a result of this.’”
    Mind you, the OSB musician’s contract does not contain a single word about re-auditions for the same job position, as one can falsely conclude from Ms. Lewis’s statement above. The Brazilian Musicians’ Union is fighting tooth and nail to protect the OSB musicians’ rights.
    Luciano de Castro

  9. Hi Michel!
    If you still have any doubts about what they are really doing , read this:ão-por-justa-causa/1552408103983

  10. Antonio Augusto says:

    Dismissal due to gross misconduct.
    Today, even before the scheduled time for his “performance evaluation” the musician Virgilio Arraes, 78, received the following letter by FOSB:
    Dear employee Virgilio Arraes,
    This is to notify you that you are suspended from work tomorrow, because of serious misconduct, consistent in his deliberate refusal to attend the performance evaluation previously scheduled for today.
    His performance evaluation was rescheduled for 12 / 3 at 15:10 at Teatro Santa Rosa – UERJ.
    Knowing that you have received a write warn about the seriousness of the act of insubordination committed, we warn you that repetition of such fault will result in the immediate termination of the employment contract due to gross misconduct.
    We rely on your understanding regarding these terms and in your presence on the above scheduled appointment.
    Rio de Janeiro 10 March 2011
    Brazilian Symphony Orchestra Foundation
    Some things to note:
    1. Mr. Virgilio received this letter before the time set for his test. That is, the FOSB with paranormal powers predicted “the consistent and deliberate refusal to attend the performance evaluation”. How could it happens?
    2. Mr. Virgilio, 78 years-old, never missed a day of rehearsal, never refused to attend any OSB task, even those in which a person of his age should be spared, like traveling long distances, extensive rehearsals before concerts of huge length.
    3. Surely, Mr. Virgilio for his services at OSB and during his long career devoted to Brazilian music community deserved a dignified treatment. Ending his career with a dismissal due to gross misconduct clearly demonstrates the lack of ethics and humanity with this absurd process is being conducted!
    4. Mr. Faust: wake up!!!

  11. Paul Schneider says:

    Thank you Mr. Faust! Finally I’m hearing a sensible outer opinion about the process!

  12. Paulo Maciel Carvalho says:

    If we want OSB to be an orchestra of excellence, we need to be in favor of the auditions.

  13. Pedro Carvalho says:

    The orchestra is a company, the musicians are employees. A private company demands the best of their employees. I really don’t understand why Maestro Minczuk and OSB Foundation are being so criticized.

  14. This conductor is director of two major orchestras in Rio de Janeiro:
    BSO and Municipal Theater Symphony Orchestra.
    On November 2008 both Orchestras have made a petition for the dismissal of maestro Minczuk from both orchestras at the same time!
    It was about 115 musicians in MTSO and 85 musicians on BSO in total of 200 voting for his dismissal! unanimously! I repeat it: UNANIMOUSLY!
    Imagine 200 musicians in Koln voting to dismiss one single conductor! Is that normal? Why would this happen?
    Are they 200 crazy musicians? or is he one bad conductor?
    He who lives by the sword,
    shall die by the sword.
    Good luck on the jury!
    But when you look back and have a close watch on the development of this mass, it will be too late! Better safe than sorry.

  15. Brazilian Singer says:

    Musicians are tested daily – by their audiences, by their conductors. The conductor of the BSO does have the power to dismiss musicians and has done so on the past ( I know this for a fact in the BSO).
    So why is it that they are doing this traumatic re-evaluation?
    The real reason is that they cannot afford to fire several musicians who have been in the orchestra long enough to have extremely high firing fees due in brazilian labor law. This is made to protect employees who have been in a company long enough from new manager’s whims, as well as rewarding loyalty to an organization. This is the law.
    What the BSO administration is trying to do is find a breech in the law to fire these musicians for “just cause” and not pay them their dues. Any labor court will dismiss this attempt since the law clearly states what the “just cause” reasons are and failing an evaluation is not one of them. However by creating this situation which drives the musicians to boycott the evaluations could possibly give them a case to fire the musicians for being absent at the evaluations for instance. And I cannot get it out of my mind that this is what they are doing.
    That means, they not only want to fire people, they want to fire people without paying them their rights according to brazilian law.
    I have to add that these are musicians who struggled through extremely tough times in the BSO a few years ago. I remember them playing the season with a 6 month delay in their salary payments, imagine this – people still going to work, even though they are not been payed for almost 6 months!!! These are not insubordinate musicians, these are not slackers. They are just… older – and brazilian law does not force them to retire, in fact it rewards people for working past retirement age. Also we must say that the orchestra does not have a pension fund.
    Once these musicians are fired, they would hire international musicians who would not be bound by brazilian labor rights and have yearly non-labor “service” contracts, such as the ones that bind international soloists. In fact the labor situation of these musicians would be extremely delicate since they would not even be able to stay in the country with their work visas except at the orchestra’s discretion.
    This is the reason why both the maestro and the administration of the orchestra refused to attend the labor court hearing scheduled for yesterday. They know that they cannot win the legal battle.
    Now they have a political battle to face as well, and not musical politics – and that can HURT the orchestra a lot more in the long term if sponsorship starts to drop because of political forces at stake here.
    And I refuse to even comment on the fraud that the BSO imposed on their season-ticket holders. People who bought season tickets for one orchestra and will actually see the youth orchestra in its place are not happy with this at all – expect some consumer fraud lawsuits as well.
    Just to add to the original comment poster – the Municipal Opera Choir unanimously ALSO asked for the dismissal of Mr. Minczuk for negligence of his duties as artistic director of the opera house- he simply is never around – so that adds 100 more musicians to your list of “crazed musicians” rebelling against the righteous maestro.
    And to finish this comment, I would like to make sure that I am not affiliated with the orchestra in any sense except for having sung a few concerts in the past.

  16. Paul Varella says:

    I have followed the work of Maestro Minczuk and have been constantly inspired by his constant striving for excellence, demonstrated by his outstanding career. 
    As a Brazilian living abroad, I see how this search for excellence is something prevalent in countries that have reached a high level of development. Despite being away from my beloved country for the last 14 years, I am pleased to see that our country has achieved impressive results when people no longer settle for less and start searching for excellence. The developed world is now in awe of the results of initiatives in this side of Brazil. 
    When I read the details of revaluation and improvement in musicians’ salaries (salaries of international levels!), I wonder why so much discord. Maybe this is the moment of dreaming of a world class OSB.  This is an opportunity to use the procedure proposed by the foundation of OSB and have its musicians strive for excellence. Like many other sectors of Brazilian society that have decided to reject below par standards, OSB should embrace the process. Fail to do that will keep the orchestra a second class institution, one that is below the stature of Brazil in the world today. This is an opportunity to make the OSB a more relevant entity  in the Brazilian cultural scenario as well. 
    Under the leadership of Maestro Minczuk and the essential work of musicians engaged I this evaluation process; the orchestra faces a real opportunity to reach such high goals. 
    Paul Varella, PhD
    Associate Professor of Strategy and Organizational Studies 
    Mount Royal University
    Calgary, AB, Canada

  17. sammy fuks says:

    Dear Michael Faust,
    I am glad Rogerio Wolff sent you his message here.
    I am sure this will tell you the truth.
    Please do not disapoint your flutists coleages from Brazil and from the world.
    Sammy Fuks.Flutist and member of the artistic commitee at petrobras symphony orchestra.

an ArtsJournal blog