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Just in: Musicians’ Federation calls for world boycott of Malaysian Philharmonic auditions

The sacking of nine players by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s new administration, with the tacit collusion of its music director Claus Peter Flor, has finally provoked international consequences.

European auditions to fill the vacancies have been poorly attended after the full story was published on this site and in the German magazine Das Orchester. Now the International Federation of Musicians has called on American members to stay away from October auditions in New York. It’s also asking musicians to email the MPO with a short statement ‘why I am not attending your auditions’. Write to:

rainaa@petronas.com.my

timothy.tsukamoto@petronas.com.my

Please CC: to the Board of Directors, and Music Director listed below
cpf@flormusic.com (Claus Peter Flor, MD)
medan@petronas.com.my
normani@petronas.com.my
hamidbakar@scientige.com
cpkhor2@yahoo.com.sg
ta29y@hotmail.com
juni@petronas.com.my

Please BCC:
mpomusicians@gmail.com
office@fim-musicians.org

 

Here is the full statement of the IFM:

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You may have seen recent advertisements for positions in the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, to be held in New York, in October, 2012. There are several very important reasons why one should NOT attend these auditions: and more – why the musicians in the MPO need all of your support in answering the advertisement, via email, to the managers, board of directors, and M.D. as to “WHY I AM NOT ATTENDING YOUR AUDITIONS!”

Earlier this year, the new orchestra CEO – Nor Raina, appointed by the parent petroleum company PETRONAS – sent “non-renewal” notices (effectively “termination”) to 9 key musicians in the orchestra, apparently for NO REASON whatsoever. These NINE players have been employed 5 years, 9 years, 12 years, and in 4 cases, 14 years. Almost all of the players have families, most with young children. This CEO, with absolutely no music background, has never spoken face to face with any of the ‘dismissed’ musicians. The M.D., Claus Peter Flor, has remained virtually silent on the action, but has insisted that the decisions were beyond his control. His denials have been met with skepticism by the musicians…

Dismissed are: Concertmaster, Co-Concertmaster, Tutti 1st Violin (Orchestra Committee Chairman…!), Tutti Viola (wife of Orchestra Committee Chairman…!), Section Percussion (also Orchestra Committee member …!), Principal Timpani, Principal Trombone. Also included are Principal Piano and another Section Viola (Piano position is being cut, and 2nd violist is past retirement age, so they are unable to take legal action.) The other seven positions are now being advertised for the NEW YORK auditions. These SEVEN, however, have filed legal action with the Industrial Relations Court, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The file has been sent already to the Labour Minister for review and probable referral to a court hearing.

Management has consistently declared “NO REASON” for selecting these 7 players – and destroying their livelihoods. Now, however, the new contracts are out to the remaining 70 musicians, and the “reasons” seem a little more explainable… and indecent. These seven players, and the Orchestra Committee, would most certainly be the voices of the orchestra in protesting the changes and disrespect that this new contract represents to the musicians. Now, however, the intimidation effect of firing these seven has assured management of little or no resistance in getting it signed and accomplished. Musicians were asked to sign and return the new contracts within a few days.

If these were not reasons enough to boycott the MPO auditions – it gets even more serious: The“new musicians” being sought by management, to fill these 9 chairs, and 23 other vacancies are being offered much reduced contracts. New members will be signing for 20 – 25% LESS pay than existing members – replacing illegally dismissed, long-term, dedicated musicians, with scaled down contracts.

This, in itself, is an affront to the music profession, and symphony orchestra standards. The concept of FIRING long term musicians only to try their luck at hiring slightly cheaper ones, is disgraceful and beyond most decent people’s moral comprehension. ANYONE WHO TAKES THIS AUDITION, AND FILLS THESE SPOTS, WILL BE JUSTIFYING THE MPO MANAGEMENT’S ACTIONS AS A FINANCIAL SUCCESS. Further, the remaining 70 musicians and their families will simply become ‘corporate targets’ for further “cost-cutting” strategies. Fire another 10 or 20? Reduce some more costs? Beyond this, the current audition procedure is completely corrupt and without standard voting procedures. Will you waste your time and money on this type of audition?

As well, anyone receiving a contract offer had better read some of the new clauses VERY CAREFULLY. The usage of “Fixed Term Contract”, is widespread in this document – and is the management’s way out for cutting any musician at the end of any term, without cause or reason. You will not be treated as an “employee”, or be regarded as “having tenure”. Can you build a future on this uncertainty?

Musicians around the world are therefore kindly requested to do the following

  • Write a Reply to the MPO Audition ad, stating the “REASONS I WILL NOT BE ATTENDING YOUR AUDITIONS:”
  • Refer to industry standards that they are abandoning.
  • Let them know that THE WORLD knows what is going on in MALAYSIA, and the total disrespect they are showing to professional musicians. The Board of Directors must realize that the new CEO is destroying the reputation of a once great orchestra, and is harming the reputation of Malaysia at the same time.

Please send your message to Nor Raina (CEO) and Timothy Tsukamoto (new GM – actually sympathetic to the musicians)
rainaa@petronas.com.my
timothy.tsukamoto@petronas.com.my

Please CC: to the Board of Directors, and Music Director listed below
cpf@flormusic.com (Claus Peter Flor, MD)
medan@petronas.com.my
normani@petronas.com.my
hamidbakar@scientige.com
cpkhor2@yahoo.com.sg
ta29y@hotmail.com
juni@petronas.com.my

Please BCC:
mpomusicians@gmail.com
office@fim-musicians.org

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Comments

  1. Gerald Novak says:

    I’m a bit confused by the statement “Timothy Tsukamoto (new GM – actually sympathetic to the musicians)”. I would have thought that resigning his position and telling the truth about the whole sordid business would be the sympathetic (and honourable) thing to do…

    • John Chaplin says:

      Hello Gerald!

      How are you? I have often wondered about you and Anna and what is happening in your lives… but I have no contact details for either of you.

      Please make contact, or ask Anna to make contact, by emailling me at chaplinj@waso.com.au

      I am sure lots has happened to us all in the past years and I would be very happy to hear from you both. Robyn and I now live in Perth, Western Australia where I work for the local Orchestra and Robyn at a local University.

      Go on – write and send me a quick email!!!

      All the best – John Chaplin
      Ex Stage Manager, MPO

  2. while this might seem surprising to the rest of the world perhaps, i, as a malaysian, actually think this scenario is … sadly to say … common, in this society.

    as for myself, i’m no musician; rather i’m an artist (paintings). i’ve worked as a freelancer for 12 years now, with occasional stints in between in advertising agencies and such (as to WHY i mostly freelance instead of working a fulltime job, the following paragraphs will make it quite apparent).

    to begin with, being a born and bred malaysian, staying in this country for my whole life, i have come to observe that our society in general treasures little about ‘arts’ in general. no matter how great you are, there is truly very little support given in any aspect. occasionally, perhaps a nice facade of interest, but it will often fade just as quickly as it came.

    i have friends who artists and musicians locally, and for all the art movements, and anything for that matter pertaining the arts, are usually carried out by small groups, who share a similar interest. rarely would you see the government give much support.

    now, laying that foundation … we can talk about how companies, in general, operate here.

    as crude as it might sound, this is what is typically referred to here as a ‘chinaman’ mentality. bear with me, i’m not trying to be racist (i myself being of a chinese descent) but merely to share the ‘terminology’ which is used by commonfolk in malaysia regarding this kind of management process.

    how the bosses here operate is simply by often getting rid of expensive staff, and replacing them with cheaper ones. being fired is one way to go. another being … them making life so miserable for you, that you voluntarily quit. also, bosses will try to squeeze every penny they can out of their employees, and overwork them if necessary (i dont know how the orchestra works, but in other industries where people are required to sit in the office and work, this is very common) without compensation.

    of course, this does not apply to ALL business in malaysia, but its still a very common thing reported by many in the working industry.

    so here’s the thing.

    this being a common scenario that i’ve either experienced first hand, or heard from many friends second hand, am i surprised at this? no, honestly i’m not. it doesnt mean that i’m not sympathetic towards the plight; on the contrary i am. i am because i too know the value of arts, and respect those who dedicated their lives towards this pursuit … and also because i have been a victim of this similar scenario, many times over.

    would the government then intervene because, afterall the country’s name and reputation is at stake? USUALLY, no … but perhaps, if this case was brought to a big enough scale to warrant global attention … they might. not for the benefit of the musicians, but to save their own reputation.

    all in all though, i’m not asking y’all to give up hope … just to be prepared that nothing might potentially come from this~

    p.s. just to the uninformed, the reason why i brought up the topic of the malaysian government and their potential involvement, is that petronas has ties to the government.

    • Hi Max,

      I feel your pain, man. Like you I’m an artist (poet and songwriter) and I can relate to everything you have said about the arts scene here. It is also true that we have allowed such deplorable standards to replace professionalism and work ethics.

      But I do want to say one thing. We cannot allow it to continue. Yes, it is a rot that has infected us deeply with gangrenous poison, but we should not stop fighting it. I’ve seen it being beaten back little by little, as more people become aware that nepotism and corruption are holding us back. More and more young people are becoming interested in art and its future in Malaysia.

      I guess it falls on us to beat back the dark and create a a path, as cliche as that may sound. But I believe all it takes is a few good people doing the right thing, as much as they can, as often as they can.

    • Onn M Yusoff says:

      Max, my view is that this scenario is not only common in Malaysia – it is practise every where in this world more so by the West. I hv worked for a TOP Fortune 500 oil & gas company as an engineer – a US multinational and hv experienced first hand. They are more ruthless in hire-and-fire business strategy….sometimes we here called it a one-mistake company. You make one mistake – you’ll be cold storaged or fired. In my new company, our long serving staff were pinched for a much better pay offered by another first world company, only to fire them outright after 6 months when the project is completed or low business activity. At least the MPO provide the musician proper terms and conditions for entry and exit processes. Their contracts were NOT RENEWED (they weren’t “FIRED”) and given notices “FAIRLY”. The musicians knew and accepted the terms and conditions of their employment. It is suicidal for MPO to behave in an unfair manner dealing especially with expats.

  3. So you are saying musicians are for life, and cannot be fired? Is this a breach of contract in the first place? What’s wrong with looking for cheaper musicians? Of course, the MPO will breed what they sow, if the cheaper musicians do not perform as well, they get a lower quality orchestra. But what if they do?

  4. What we are seeing here is simply the Arrogance of the ruling class of Malaysia. Generally the government, gov linked companies and companies like Petronas, get to do what ever they want without reprisal. There is a complete lack of fear or responsibility in their actions. No one is fired due to poor performance or ill judgement.

    What you are witnessing is the new boss blatantly bullying their employees believing they can get away with it. And the top management does not have the integrity to stand with them because they know the will receive the same heavy handed treatment. Cowardice? Maybe, but I’ll say it’s more being beaten into submission over the years.

    Can things change? Will actions be taken. Yes! If the musicians are united and not go to to auditions, not just boycott it, protest it, apply pressure on them. And not just on the audition, but also their performance, can you get people to withdraw invitation for them to play? And more importantly why are the rest of the orchestra not doing anything? If all 70 plus of then stage a walkout… will that not drive a stronger message? Why is it not done? Could there be other facts hidden from the public?

    If these strong pressure are applied then yes, they will now face the inevitable fact that they are up against a more powerful force. Will they turn and try to recruit from other more desperate countries like Malaysia? Will they succeed? Maybe. Can the community be relentless and pursue this long enough to make Petronas realise the errors of their ways? Remember that you are up against a Tyrant, it takes time and persistence.

    On a side note, I respectfully disagree on the demonisation of the word “Chinaman” company. It’s just a more traditional approach to running a business, where staff are like family, loyalty is highly valued, but salary are usually low and the bosses are very sensitive to cost. Also there is no clearly defined job description as everyone is suppose to work together and help each other out. It is the bosses’ discretion if they want to spend in marketing or art, if someone failed to convince them, it is their own failure. Please do not blame it on the older generation.

    I do agree that there is a lack of appreciation of art in Malaysia, unlike many other country there is not many open/free platform for the artist. And also a lack of a support system, an artist can’t even survive by waiting table while he/she is perusing their interest. Not to mention the lack of freedom of expression. It’s no surprise that many of our successful artist came to fame overseas rather than at home, a few movie directors comes to mind (their movies were ban in Malaysia due to inappropriateness, but were welcomed back by the same people who banned them after gaining international recognition) Sadly this also breed a bunch of arrogant, self centred, holier than thou “artist”, whom incidentally complaints a whole lot, and wanted success without first paying their dues

  5. Just chiming in with agreement with Max above.
    Like most of the other things you see in the Malaysia tourism pamphlet, the MPO is another one of the ruling party’s (UMNO/BN) many façade’s to the world. Do they really care about progressing the arts and music in Malaysia? No, they’re driven by greed and arrogance. They see a successful/profitable idea, dive in on it, take over it, monopolize it, mishandle it, and destroy it for everybody else. This has happened countless times in various different industries here. The only thing that’s going to save it is a change of government, as Max has mentioned, PETRONAS has strong ties to the government. So unless this threatens the positions of those in power, they’re not going to give a hoot.

    That being said, thank you for writing this article and calling for an international boycott. The winds of change is blowing and perhaps this could be one of the few catalysts that will help make Malaysia a better country.

    Cheers.

  6. Gustav Mahler says:

    Musicians round the world must boycott the auditions. This so called mamangement know nuts about running an artistic organisation. They only think of profit but not quality. I have boycotted the last 6 concerts which I have bought from the last season. I will continue to boycott them until there is a chnage and reinstatment of the musicians. 14 long years and it is about to end. How sad.

  7. Meor Hizmin says:

    “…Nor Raina, appointed by the parent petroleum company PETRONAS – sent “non-renewal” notices (effectively “termination”) to 9 key musicians…”

    Does this mean that the 9 musicians’ contracts expired, and PETRONAS didn’t want to renew them? How is that illegal?

    • “….apparently for NO REASON whatsoever”.

      My dear, you left out the remaining and perhaps most important message. Are you able to understand much clearer now?

  8. Only now the world knows, the world does not mean the USA alone the World must mean the whole world EU etc. I was born in Malaysia my audience is a wide range and i have had a successful career by name but this has been a thing that has been going on for donkeys years. Agents,hotels bars in KL are a perfect example of the double stardard treatments towards foreign artist musicians who come to Malaysia and get paid more than our locals and we do have alot of good talent here but sadly it is Our Very Own People who discrimiate against us just because we dont look white or black or foreign enough cos that makes you look high class more professional it seems and better to look at than the asian skin coloured person. It will always go on unless this government puts a stop to it but then when everyone is busy making money and pocketing the extras noone is going to bother. It is in all the music business here, in the advertising industry for example they only pick light skinned. You hardly see dark skinned girls in ads. We are a sad very disturbing country and rather dated in minset, the way we treat our artist and many other things in art.
    It is wonderful that someone should take notice but we need change we desperately need change and to respect
    our own so that we can feel confident and proud of ourselves as good performers and to do our country proud as we all have been trying for years and years but we dont get the type of respect we deserve if only you knew how we all get cheated our locals put up with alot and we will never get paid more than a foreign act whether she or he is a famous act, We will never get paid the same the answer will always no budget and or for charity please.

  9. Onn M Yusoff says:

    1. Firstly I am shocked by the call of Norman Lebrecht for a world boycott of Malaysian Philharmonic auditions. It is such a destructive and narrow view. The loser is MUSIC and music lover.

    2. Does Mr. Lebrecht and others expect a “life-time” employment at the MPO. The 9 musicians may have loads of experience but do they expect to be with MPO for the rest of their life or as and when they feel like calling the day and just quit.

    3. The MPO as in any enterprise, has the prerogative to renew or extend a contracts based on the terms and conditions of the contract. Are the 9 musicians being “terminated” unfairly? No ! Their contract is not renewed based on the terms and conditions of the contract.

    4. I don’t see any ill-intent on the part of MPO.

    5. In any organisation there is such a thing as a succession plan and a business strategy. Every organisation and even Mr Lebrecht would do the same.

    6. Of course the new younger musicians would be paid less for their have yet to prove their talent and maturity on par with the 9 musicians. Give the young blood a chance to showcase their talent.

    7. Finally, I urge all the readers and music lovers not to take such destructive boycott actions for the sake of music.

    • The boycott call is by the FIM, not by NL.

      • And what if you had been the one who called for it? This band’s
        new management is behaving like gangsters. It is a service
        to the entire endangered species called symphony orchestras
        to draw clear lines between reasonable job security and
        arbitrary cut throat working conditions.

        I have a separate concern about the future of symphony
        orchestras, and its issue already informs this one. So this
        band has recorded something by Lalo. Mama mia. Orchestras
        now play mainly the top 40 or 400 of a museum culture, and
        the strongest of new music is pushed aside by counterfeits
        whose main claim to modernity are the dates when they
        were composed. Paert is not Penderecki, and I don’t see
        kids at the concerts of our local band, the Santa Rosa
        Symphony. They find nothing of interest to challenge what
        they do listen to, and most of them can’t afford it. For that
        matter, neither can I. If they are not the audience, who is?

        The answer says a lot about why these orchestras may
        not last too long.

        Disclosure: I am a pianist, once a composer who gave up
        on this museum culture.

      • Onn M Yusoff says:

        It is sad if FIM take such action without due regard for the development of music in this part of the world and perhaps not getting all the facts of the matter from both sides.

    • question to Onn M. Jusoff: Are you commenting as outside witness to this
      affair or as a member of the orchestra or its management? Your
      itemized comments indicates that you know a great deal about the
      management practices of this orchestra, and it is conspicuous that
      none of what bothers so many of bothers you.

      • Onn M Yusoff says:

        I am an outside witness. I appreciate classical music and do attend MPO concerts. I worked in the corporate world (a public listed company) here. Long time ago I hv work stints in PETRONAS of which the MPO is one of its subsidiaries. As such I am familiar with the management practices. They have a very transparent employment contract terms and conditions and every one who is engaged with the MPO must have understood the employment contract before they signed and accept them. There nothing illegal in giving out the notices of non-renewal that is against the employment contract. Usually in their contract each party has to give the other sufficient notice of their intention to renew of terminate the contract. If sending notices is “wrong” so how then would the MPO informed the musician of their intention ? Just tell them at their last working day that their contract is not renewed and go against the contractula terms and conditions ?

  10. Could worldwide recession be trickling into town? I know large, well-established companies that’ve given the pink slip to my relatives. Culprit: economic downturn. But the NO REASON clause is something I fail to understand. Let us think & react professionally, not emotionally.

    Everything is rectifiable with proper, polite communication.

  11. Requiemfor MPO says:

    It was a great orchestra. Sadly the destructive forces succeeded.

    The new management now makes it clear that they don’t want to employ musicians for a long time anymore (look at the new fixed term clause and the fact that they fired a lot of key players without reason) and that they don’t want to pay decent money anymore (look at the pay cut for all existing musicians and the clearly lower salary for new contracts) 

    Professional musicians around the world deserve to know what is going on with the MPO.

    Boycott?
    Every professional musician interested in a secure job with decent salary will think twice after knowing the facts about the recent developments.

  12. I heard a tale of supposedly high – priced, high grade violins and cellos being sent for professional inspection and evaluation, and being found to be student grade, China-made etc. There had apparently been misrepresentation on the part of certain musicians in the orchestra as to their value and provenance. Whether for purposes of insurance, subsidy of purchase price or whatever other reason, I don’t know. Perhaps that may have something to do with it.

    Being myself also a Malaysian musician, I’m also well aware of the lack of appreciation which Max writes of. (Being a blues / rock electric guitarist, I also get my share of condescension and dismissiveness from those involved in classical, jazz and other “artier” endeavours.)

    • Requiemfor MPO says:

      Dear Julian,
      The story about some musician selling overpriced instruments to the Malaysian public is true.
      It’s a well documented case. However, since the musician in question is a Malaysian no action was taken by the management. You DON’T get fired for something like that at the MPO.

  13. More proof that Malaysians are still not ready for the international stage, nor for the modern world.

    A global boycott of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra is the right thing to do.

  14. This seems to me, to be crying out for an investiative journalist to speak to all parties and write up the result. Only then can we have all the facts all of which seem to need to be aired. It’s a pitiful situation in which noone wins. Lets hope someone can unscramble this mess and get down to making music for Malaysia.

  15. At first reading, what I find most disturbing is what appears to be
    a studied washing of hands by a conductor with a background
    that places him at the forefront of his profession. There is more
    to being a conductor than making music. Championing a level
    playing field for the job security of musicians who have been
    tested and proven is if nothing else enlightened self interest. In
    fact it is a moral duty. Whatever it is, without it, no orchestra
    is ever going to be loyal to its conductor, regardless of that
    person’s gifts.

    What is this man doing in this grim, really vicious situation?
    He must be smart enough to know that with his fame, his
    role in this wretched business shall not go unnoticed.

    That in fact is what these posts are all about, the potential
    for his receiving his own pink slip as far as the greater
    industry is concerned. Will he be employed by another
    major orchestra when this gig is over? Only if it is another
    cut throat band whose management has ethics like this
    one.

    • THIS IS SO TRUE WHAT YOU SAID SPEAK YOUR MIND
      At first reading, what I find most disturbing is what appears to be
      a studied washing of hands by a conductor with a background
      that places him at the forefront of his profession. There is more
      to being a conductor than making music. Championing a level
      playing field for the job security of musicians who have been
      tested and proven is if nothing else enlightened self interest. In
      fact it is a moral duty.

  16. I doubt you know how much an average person’s salary is here in Malaysia. The expat musicians in MPO were earning several times (minimum) that. No doubt, they were not run of the mill musicians probably equivalent to professors… But still.

    When you think about it, given the tickets pricing in MPO, I doubt they had ever been in the black since their conception. And as someone wrote earlier, Malaysians generally do not appreciate the arts as much. I guess you can’t when you obviously have better things to spend your money on. Like fuel, bills and loans for your house and car. Our spending power is pretty low compared to the rest of the world, so luxury goods like the orchestra really would fall below the radar.

    I remember asking once, what are doing with an orchestra? Isn’t that overreaching ourselves? And… The musicians, they aren’t even Malaysians! So here we are a poor country by many definitions, paying top dollar for international musicians play music in our orchestra, which most Malaysians won’t be listening to because they have better use for their money. It’s crazy.

    My guess is, the government forced Petronas to pay for subsidizing the whole endeavor in order to raise the whole international culture for the country’s tourism industry. Petronas has always. Even bullied by the government to bank roll national projects e.g. KLCC, Sepang F1 and etc etc… I don’t blame them when they’re trying to reduce their overheads.

    Particularly if they can pull it off to make MPO bankable. Because ultimately, it’ll end up saving the balance of the musicians jobs and future with MPO.

    • Concerned says:

      Mr. Abas:
      Your comments about overpaid expats have been voiced by others on the NL forum in the past, and perhaps there is a validity to it, but for several decades it has existed in many sectors of the Malaysian economy – not just in the arts. Malaysia’s past 15 years of growth has depended on foreign experts very heavily, especially if you look at the top paid professionals in the oil and gas sector. But this is neither “here nor there” – at the beginning of the MPO, they decided that they wanted this same international standard, and needed to go abroad to find it, and ALSO needed to create a contract that would be attractive on a WORLD level.

      However – what you speak of, seems to be “downsizing” / “cost-cutting”, “entrenchment”- something companies do to save money. You have missed the major points of this action by MPO management: they are NOT saving money here, they are going to New York to hire more expats, pay for their flights and hotels for trials / pay for their move-ins, if they are successful in that. Furthermore – in any such ‘downsizing’ situation there is a procedure, which respects labour laws, and senior employees, family considerations, etc. What we are seeing here, is the ‘arbitrary’ sacking of senior employees, people with families and children, while at the same time hiring more foreign help to fill those positions. Check your own country’s labour code – and then decide if you respect this philosophy first. If you believe that it should only apply to certain professions, or certain groups, and not to artists, then most likely you will never understand the International Musician Community’s concern and outrage over this MPO action – and they’re reasons for boycotting. It is fine if you want to exist in a bubble, and have a local level orchestra, of no significance. But they are sending an audition team to New York ; pretending to still be an “International level” orchestra ; asking highly educated world-class musicians to view the MPO on the same scale as any other International orchestra – when they simply are not prepared to behave like one: with respect for these professional people.

  17. Disgusted says:

    The 9 musicians’ contracts are not being renewed. That’s not the same as being terminated.

    As a musician and an ex employee of the Petronas Performing Arts Dept., I sent a letter to the management saying I will not be taking up the option to renew my contract in 1999 (if it were offered) and they replied saying they were indeed not renewing my contract as well. We parted ways amicably.
    It’s something that either party has the option of doing.
    How is that “wrongful TERMINATION”?

    If we locals can understand and adhere to such contracts, why are these foreign ‘mercenaries’ if you will, not able to?
    Do they expect to live and work here forever?
    Or is it because they are earning roughly 5-8 times (tutti players; principals and section leaders earn more!) the minimum (poverty line) wage in Malaysia and find it hard to give that up?

    When the MPO was formed, the foreign ‘imported’ musicians were after all only supposed to be here for a temporary period, that is until our local musicians could raise their standards enough to fill their foreign counterpart’s shoes. And part of their contractual agreement was that they would train and prepare our local musicians for the transition.
    5 of the MPO musicians whose contracts were not renewed have been here for 14 years!
    How ridiculous is it that in 14 years they have not been able to teach or produce a local replacement for themselves. Could it be they are more interested in the luxury life they have here rather than actually fulfilling their contractual obligations?

    And to top that off, as if earning an obscene amount of money as an expat wasn’t enough, some of the current MPO musicians are ‘moonlighting’ and playing jazz and other modern genre gigs in the Kuala Lumpur music scene taking jobs away from locals who “aren’t qualified” to earn as much as foreign elite classical musicians.

    They aren’t in any way the ‘victims’ you portray them to be. They have earned much money here and now their contracts are not being renewed, that’s all. If they were as world renowned or as amazingly gifted as you make out, they will have no trouble finding new jobs with the same luxurious deals world wide.

    • Just an opinion says:

      It’s amazing how some people like you still can’t get the point. The whole thing is Obviosly not about replacing the fired musicians with locals. The whole point is that they dismissed those experienced players without (official) reason to replace them with cheaper foreigners, most likely not on the same artistic level.
      After the orchestra is blacklisted internationally management will end up paying much more to fly in substitutes.
      tax payers money at work…

  18. MISHUGINA says:

    DISGUSTED wrote:

    “How ridiculous is it that in 14 years they have not been able to teach or produce a local replacement for themselves. Could it be they are more interested in the luxury life they have here rather than actually fulfilling their contractual obligations?”

    There are two sides of a coin. While there’s no denying some musicians you mentioned lived a live of luxury here without contributing anything back, some of the dismissed members has done tremendous job in grooming young local musicians, especially those playing and graduated from MPYO. Some of these talents has won scholarships studying in Singapore, Britian and United States and a few of them has already been playing in MPO itself as guest players. Please do research before making baseless accusations and stereotyping people.

    • very concerned parents says:

      What Mishugina said is indeed true. Some of the dismissed musicians have contributed tremendously to the local music scene in the past 14 years. If you are an informed local musician, you would have known this for a fact by now.

      As a regular concert goer, it is also rather sad to see that the well-intended education and outreach program and chamber music series of the 2012 season, established before the taking over of Raina/Flor, been exploited for extra pay by the handful of musicians who coincidentally, are Claus Peter Flor’s close contacts in the orchestra (who also helped contributing indirectly to the current deteriorating situation). It is a well-known fact among MPO musicians that the same handful of people would talk about how much they do in chamber music series, but in fact, perform a sub-standard repertoire or performances to “milk the cow”. The string instrumental lessons are in similar situation. I am really sad to see that some of these people are our very own fellow Malaysians.

      Sure, go ahead. Fire those who are some of the best players in the orchestra while these people take advantages of the situation with low grade performances. This way, we will have our local talents that we wish to have.

  19. Requiemfor MPO says:

    @disgusted

    If you are really an ex employee of PPAG you should know that also several members of the closed down PPAG are suing petronas because they got cheated with their severance package ( a package which does not exist for the fired MPO musicians)
    So it’s pretty clear that the new DFP top management screws both the foreign MPO musicians and their own local people.
    Petronas has become a very art-hostile environment lately.

  20. well said!!! Concerned

  21. In a strange way everyone here has really valid points. Everything said has a lot of truth.

  22. Thank you for bringing it to light. The article states only facts and it is fair for the international music community to be alerted of these issues.

    I will not speak out against either the boycott, nor MPO. But I just want to put my few cents in for the people who want to demonize the greedy unartistic capitalists.

    1) PETRONAS is a private (but government-linked) company. It should be run like a profitable and efficient Fortune 500 but there are many complicated political issues beyond what we see.
    2) The Hall and Orchestra were formed because it’s late President was an avid lover of music. it was his dream to build and form an orchestra.
    3) It was meant as a CSR effort to make arts accessible to the public, not for profit, as someone mentioned above.
    4) Even if they replaced the entire orchestra with a CD player, I doubt they will ever be in the black. Maintaining the hall takes money, the youth orchestra they are supporting takes money.

    To the person who said ‘tax-payers money’- I hope you are not a Malaysian because we know here that Petronas bleeds a large sum back to the country and its government. If you are, and you’re feeling entitled, don’t. Worry for the company that it will one day bleed itself to death and then where will you be with the economic instability?

    I am heartbroken on behalf of the late Tun Azizan because all he wanted was for music and arts to be enjoyed by the people, at whatever great expense to the company. However, it is the prerogative of the current management to do as they wish for the company to stay afloat and profitable. No matter how they spend their money or run it, competently or not- then more’s the pity Petronas.

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