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Atlanta: fiddling the payroll, telling half truths

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra lost three vice-presidents this week. One, John Sparrow (Orchestral Initiatives & General Manager), walked out. The other two, Don Fox (finance) and Charlie Wade (marketing) were apparently fired.

By  getting rid of them, the contentious Doctor Romanstein has reduced the payroll sufficiently so that he and other executives won’t have to share a pay cut. Here is his decidedly creepy letter to staff, musicians and chorus singers.

Letter to ASO and ASOC from Stanley Romanstein:

Dear People (to borrow respectfully from Mr. Shaw*),

We have committed ourselves to operating in the black this year and in the years to come – something the ASO has done only once since 2001. Operating in the black is vital to our art and essential to our continued existence. Simply saying, “Okay, this year we will,” won’t get the job done. If we expect a different financial outcome from that we’ve seen over the past decade, we must do different things and do things differently.

Some time ago John Sparrow, our Vice President for Orchestral Initiatives & General Manager for the past twelve years, talked with me about his desire to leave the ASO and pursue other passions. John and I began a long and productive dialogue about the ASO’s future and about the imperative to “do different things and do things differently.” He willingly delayed the news of his departure, and for that I am grateful.

To move us forward, I have asked a number of people from within the ASO staff to accept new or expanded responsibility for leadership:

Artistic Planning – Evans Mirageas
Contemporary Presentations/ASO Presents – Trevor Ralph
Development – Sandy Smith
Education & Community Engagement – Mark Kent
Finance – Susan Ambo
Marketing – David Paule
Operations/General Manager – Julie Fish

This team will assume new responsibilities on Monday, November 12. I have met with this team at length and have been impressed by their openness to new ideas and new possibilities. They are working collaboratively and are committed to our success. I’m grateful to each of them for their willingness to lead. I’m grateful, as well, to Don Fox and Charlie Wade, who will be leaving the ASO. Don and Charlie have served this organization and this community incredibly well, and we will miss them.

November will be a month of transition, and transitions can be difficult. We will do our best to handle every challenge with grace, knowing that the ASO’s best days lie ahead. Thank you for your support as we move forward.

Yours sincerely,

Stanley E. Romanstein, Ph.D.

* The Mr Shaw was Robert Shaw, a name not to be taken readily in vain. See this chorister’s blogpost.

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  1. harold braun says:

    This guy using(or better,abusing) the name of Robert Shaw makes me throw up!

  2. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    I encourage everyone to click on the link to the chorister’s blogpost and then to click on the link within it to Robert Shaw’s speech from the rededication of the Woodruff Center. I wonder if Dr. Romanstein read those important words before he invoked the spirit of Robert Shaw. If he has, I suggest that he reread it, perhaps daily.

  3. Might as well grab as much booty as you can while the ship is still afloat.

    Over half of American voters would agree.

  4. Nick Jones says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, have you contacted Stanley Romanstein or any spokesperson for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra administration? I keep seeing your postings repeating the viewpoints of the ASO players and the ASO Chorus members who have allied themselves with them, treating these as fact, but I don’t see any evidence of reaching out to those who are being villified. There are two sides to every quarrel, and the truth often lies somewhere in between.

    If you’re going to characterize Mr. Romanstein’s letter as “telling half truths,” you owe it to your readers – and to journalistic objectivity – to verify whether the remaining ASO executives will be taking pay cuts. You also should explain why you find this letter “creepy.”

    BTW, in the ASO family – singers, instrumentalists, conductors, staffers, volunteers – quotes Robert Shaw. He continues to be the conscience of the organization, and his words are the common property of all. (He also had the good sense to keep quiet during labor negotiations.)

    Nick Jones
    ASO Chorus member and retired ASO staff member

    • Mr Jones, this site has remained open throughout to the ASO board and administration. When they have contacted us with the point of view, we have published them without comment or adornment. NL

    • Garrett Pulliam says:

      Mr. Jones: I recall seeing your name from ASO concert notes. But I don’t see your name anywhere on the chorister site. Direct links to Romanstein’s letters, press releases and statements ARE posted there to be read and their quality judged. His statements are at variance with those of the musicians. But the musicians have sought to address this gap. Romanstein has not. Everyone has access to the chorister site. It is not a closed site.

      You sound irritated that all these dissenters in the ASO organization didn’t have the good sense to keep quiet during labor negotiations. Perhaps, in your view, musicians should not make such a fuss. They should merely lie back and submit when they are being “legitimately raped”, i.e., lied to, locked out, and shown no respect as artists. (Shaw, Levy and Spano, and the growing number of other artistic directors in similar circumstances, were contractually bound not to publicly discuss collective bargaining disputes. It’s not a question of ‘good sense’.)

      Quoting comments and anecdotes are one thing, Mr. Jones. Romanstein, from his position as the architect of a punitive and badly-botched contract dispute, addressed the musicians using the benevolent greeting of Robert Shaw. Even those of us on the outside get that this was Romanstein’s way of sending a message or ingratiating himself. I thought it was creepy too.

      BTW, I like the chorister site very much for the quality of writing and for the passion of the contributors. It may be biased, but it has the ring of truth. There aren’t many contradicting opinions, but when there are, the moderators are fair and their responses balanced.

  5. I’m sickened and dumbstruck.

  6. Jackson W. says:

    Speak my mind? I believe I shall. The recent contract negotiation with ASO management, Woodruff management and members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was, at best, a colossal joke. At worst, the most heinous miscarriage of justice known to humankind. Management subjugated the players into that travesty disguised as a contract. Budget shortfall or not, it is incomprehensible to me that a group of so called intelligent people could and would treat a talented group the way the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra were treated. Moreover, management’s behavior is reprehensible and they’ve shown no remorse. Management wanted to stop the hemorrhage of red ink from years of financial idiocy. I am in favor of that but management wanted, nay demanded, the musicians bear the brunt of the budget issues among their ranks with no tangible concessions from management. (Editorial note: Management obviously did not want to give up their six figure salaries to help with something that was completely and utterly of their own construct. They have names for people of your ilk.) I cannot say I am sad to see Don Fox or Charlie Wade leave or be asked to leave the organization. In spite of what Stanley Romanstein said they have contributed nothing worth mentioning to the orchestra other than to collect a paycheck and reap or more appropriately rape the benefits. If is true that John Sparrow wanted to leave to pursue other avenues, I respect that. I don’t know what part if any he played in the negotiations and at this point it is irrelevant. I wish him well. I have no kind words for Stanley Romanstein. None. There are other members of ASO top management I could speak about but I won’t…yet. Chief among them Evans Mirageas. I have several friends in the orchestra and I commend them for enduring the contract demoralization and standing strong and standing proud. In the end the music and the players’ integrity triumphed. They wanted the music to sound to the highest heaven. And so it has. And so it will.

  7. Brice Andrus says:

    Romanstein is no Robert Shaw, and for one of the parties busy dismantling his legacy to quote anything he ever said is an abomination!

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