I have received the following letter from Roberto Minczuk, music director of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra.
Dear Norman Lebrecht,
After hearing and reading many untruthful letters and messages mostly on the internet, it is very important to clarify some key facts concerning the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra and the present evaluation process.
First of all, the purpose of the evaluation is not to fire or dismiss anyone – nobody that participates in the auditions will be dismissed. As part of the deal to improve musicians’ working conditions, including raising the wages, the Board of OSB Foundation decided to go through an evaluation process. It is important to emphasize that Brazilian Symphony Orchestra Foundation is private and to support itself counts on the sponsorship of more than thirty private and public companies and institutions.
These evaluations will help fix a few old problems. There are, for instance, no written records for admissions for the orchestra prior to 2006. It is a known fact that often auditions were held in a very informal way and did not follow standards that guarantee fairness and exemption. They were not held behind the screens and the repertoire was over simplified in all positions. There are in the orchestra musicians who were admitted without any formal auditions even in key positions which generate much complain among the musicians themselves.
After being heard individually in the evaluations, musicians will be given feedback and will have the opportunity to show improvement. In addition, we are fully aware that musicians that have been playing in the group for more than twenty years might not be in the same shape of younger players. Even so, we know how much experienced musicians can contribute to the orchestra’s routine. The evaluation will be considered, as I personally wrote to all musicians, only one component part of the process of development of the orchestra.
We took special care that everybody had the opportunity to prepare themselves. Besides the regular vacation of the 41 days, the musicians where given another month of paid vacation to dedicate themselves only to preparing for the evaluation.
When I was first invited to become Brazilian Symphony Orchestra’s Artistic Director, five and a half years ago, the orchestra wasn’t fully organized in its internal structure and the Foundation’s total budget was around three million dollars. Musicians had a very low monthly salary of 1.200,00 to 1.800,00 US dollars that often was delayed up to six months. That situation appeared to me as the biggest challenge of my life, even greater than the one I had faced side by side with John Neschling in São Paulo (1997 – 2005), when we worked hard to restructure Osesp (São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra).
After last year’s season, when we celebrated Brazilian Symphony Orchestra’s seventieth anniversary, the general conditions had significantly changed for the better. In 2011, the annual budget is approximately of twenty million dollars, the deficit is settled and the salaries can reach up to 6.500,00 US dollars (x 13) plus benefits
, accumulating a total of eight five thousand dollars yearly plus health insurance.
I hope I have clarified some of the misunderstanding and I would like you to feel free to contact me for any further information you might need.