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A musician’s Christmas message to her beloved management

The following message was posted tonight by a member of one of the several US orchestras whose players have suffered this year from rough management. We are keeping her identity and her orchestra’s confidential. It could be, literally, someone in any of a dozen orchestras, this year or next, US or Europe. Happy Christmas. 

Nothing says, “Good will to all” like getting a Christmas card from the guy who filed your orchestra for bankruptcy in order to get out of paying you, cancelled all concerts and rehearsals for an entire year, sued you for the unemployment you tried to collect while locked out, advertised on craigslist and facebook to replace you, and finally (reluctantly) signed an agreement to get you playing again. . .but with a horrible terms and about 20 of your colleagues having already fled the city and the orchestra.




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  1. 2% of federal tax dollars goes to supporting arts and sciences, 2% to education. And 20% to “defense” (war machine).

    My profession is in none of these venues, and I cannot help but wonder about the 2%….where we spend our dollars, efforts, energies–that is what we become. Or what we have already become.

    • I suppose the only counter is to ask whether, if you didn’t spend the 20% on “defense”, whether you would retain the freedom to spend the 2% on arts at all, or the 2% on education?

      A bit like saying that the US as a whole spends over $7,000 per person on healthcare (it does). That’s a heck of a lot more than it spends on the arts. But maybe it is necessary to spend on healthcare in order to have any freedom on spend on the arts at all; if everyone is ill there’s little point in having art they can’t enjoy: or is there?

      • That 20% on defense (it’s actually even more) are not for freedom. You could easily cut that in half and still be safe and have all the defense you need. The other half to the 20% is not needed for defense but for forward war operations that do actually diminish the safety of the homeland but increase the profits of the plutocracy that rules you. But as long as you have “games and bread” I guess you are a happy camper, having swallowed the propaganda hook and sinker.

        Sparta didn’t end nicely either…

      • And 50% of the money you spend on health care you spend in excess to health care providers and big pharma. They are besides the military industrial complex the other major parasite that sucks all the blood out of you complacent “freedom loving” Americans. LOL. In Europe they have socialized health care at half the price per capita than you spend in the US and yet everybody has it at comparable quality levels.

        Now if we combined the excess money you throw after the pharma and war industry voluntarily, you could afford a full symphony orchestra in every village in the US and not even charge anything for the tickets.

        • Stephen Carpenter says:

          Agree. The major element missing in the US is the sense of commonwealth. So fearful that individual “rights” will disappear that any mention of a community os met with “socialism” which is already there anyway and always has been.

    • That’s a misleading statistic, combining science and research with the trace element of arts funding. At most, federal arts funding is 0.066% of the total federal budget, the biggest shares of which go to the Smithsonian and CPB, which are not even principally concerned with fine or performing arts.

  2. This could only be Louisville, I believe. Still the worst example yet of the destruction that can be wreaked on a once-proud orchestra by inept and cravenly ideological leadership.

    There was a time when US orchestra managers who gleefully presided over a bitter strike or lockout were branded incompetent by their peers and driven from the wider industry. Today, managers that view lockouts, intimidation tactics, and thuggery as useful tools are instead invited to give presentations on their own visionary leadership at the next League of American Orchestras conference. It’s sickening.

  3. from “The Music Man.” The chorus of townspeople answer Professor Harold Hill:

    “Trouble, oh we got trouble,
    Right here in River City!
    With a capital “T”
    That rhymes with “P”
    And that stands for Pool,
    That stands for pool.
    We’ve surely got trouble!
    Right here in River City,
    Right here!
    Gotta figger out a way
    To keep the young ones moral after school!
    Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…

    These days, it’s not pool, but those blasted computer games that mesmorize our kids’ attention after school, when they are at home alone, waiting for both mother and father to get home from their twelve-hour workdays, take-out food in hand.

    It seems to me, that an investment in after-school programs for music pays back HUGE results in teaching goal-setting, self-discipline, and, working in teams; to say nothing about how music study remaps the brain to think in different ways, or even–as the Venezuelans have shown us–lower crime statistics among restless, directionless youth. Those young Venezuelans seem to be happy, happy guys, working towards big dreams, and learning lots of valuable life lessons in the process.

    Of course, I am preaching to the choir here, and the real challenge is to grab those parents working seventy hours a week, and convince them that their kids would benefit from studying music.

    And, the school systems that did away with school bands, orchestras, and choral programs, seeing them as frivolous distractions in an age of tough budget decisions and rigorous standardized testing, need to readdress those decisions of recent decades.

    Maybe more of us musicians–especially conductors, since they often have special leadership skills–need to run for school board?

    I know a *very successful and beloved* college band director who retired at a young age, from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Afterwards, he became president of the local school board. A charismatic “people person,” he had even MORE FUN in his second career, raising money for new facilities, higher teacher salaries, and overseeing improvements in instruction and curriculum. Jack W. White is 75 now, and has recently turned his over his important portfolio to someone else. He didn’t know anything about finance when he started as school system leader, but he did masterful work in getting the conservative folks there–(and this is a tough spot, where the “Duck Dynasty” reality series is filmed, and Friday night football is king–to work together towards a common good. Mr. White even got people to see why they needed to pay more in property taxes to fund the improvements in the schools, all for their kids.

    There have always been some very good school bands in the community, and I can’t help but think that those programs helped improve the smarts and cultural awareness of the local citizenry. There is also a community orchestra there in Monroe, that is not *too* bad. (They are proud of it, anyway.)

  4. That sucks!! What a lousy business to be in!

  5. In the RPO of the seventies – The diary was full, There were no mobile telephones or computers and the office and transport staff numbered less than ten. The orchestra ran its own affairs on a completely open basis and the artistic director was Rudolph Kempe who was one of the finest conductors in history. The orchestra’s performances with him were praised most highly everywhere in the world except of course in Britain. The only problem we had was the constant carping from the establishment of the Arts Council, the critics who were in cahoots with them and the Royal Philharmonic Society.Their objection to the RPO was its very existence:that there were( in THEIR opinion, too many orchestras in London. Their real fear was of course, the loss of power that self run orchestras presented to them.

  6. Stephen Carpenter says:

    I would briefly submit that maybe we will get to the point of discussing the funding of the arts as a part of our national healthcare issue. Arts Therapy is an accepted feature of many rehab programs and PTS Syndrome work. Ask a random selection of people what they remember most about their young school years and you will get an inordinate number of responses for Art, Music, Phys Ed. Funny thing that.
    Can we stop reducing everything that is healthy to a monetary cost and compare it to something that is unhealthy?
    Can we stop playing %ages which are scalable and abstract and start coming up with a social and culture measurement for how viable our commonwealth really is?
    Artists are people who have come from the ranks of the large people pool. A few geniuses maybe but mostly hard working people honing and plying their craft everyday. Who told you not to like what they do? Why do they have the target on their chest?

  7. Brian Hughes says:

    I was going to chime in at the 2% figure, but CW beat me to it. When one just includes the National Endowment for the Arts, you quickly discover that the city of Berlin supports the arts to a greater extent than the entire USA. Of course, on defense we spend more than the next 17 nations combined, so that keeps us “safe.” But I must ask “from what” and “at what cost”? And I am talking about more than dollars and cents.

    • Stephen Carpenter says:

      Such a great point. In a free and “open” society, Everyone and no-one at the same instant is ever safe no matter what is contrived or machinated. Awhile ago there was a book “Outliers” followed by a better book “Black Swan” (no the movie). Both talk about unforeseen anomalies. The US is a whole nation full of anomalies as I see it. We seem to have a problem embracing anomaly as a fundamental reality. the arts deal with it on a constant basis. Maybe that’s why we are so hell0-bent to erase the arts.

  8. Good point, @Reiner, but who hired them?

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