Nicole Cash, Associate Principal Horn of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, has posted this appeal (below) to its recently elected president, Sakurako Fisher. The orchestra went on strike at the weekend.
Dear Sakurako Fisher,
First of all, I would like to thank you for your years of diligent service to the San Franciscoy Symphony and the Bay area arts community, and to congratulate you on your recent appointment as President of the Board. I can’t even imagine the extent of responsibility and duty that entails, and you have my utmost respect.
As a child, I was a bit “different.” I’m sure most of my colleagues can relate. I didn’t listen to the same top-40 pop tunes my friends listened to, and eventually got used to the blank stares I received when I mentioned how cool Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier was. Instead of going out to ride bikes with friends after school, I got in my two hours of piano practice before homework. On Saturday mornings, while the other kids slept in, I woke up early for lessons. In high school, my band, youth orchestra, and brass ensemble schedules ruled my so-called life. Yes, music was my world and I loved it, but at the same time I was sensitive to the fact that it set me apart as unusual – an outsider. It was only when I was making music with others that I knew I was not alone. Other people could hear what I heard, feel what I felt, and I knew that there existed at least one place on earth where I truly belonged.
I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it feels to win and be offered a position in a major orchestra. It is the culmination of thousands of hours of practice, a certain amount of alienation, pain, disappointment, financial stress, and that persistent and urgent desire to be one of the very lucky few who actually get to make music for a living. When I joined the San Francisco Symphony four years ago, I thought that I had finally found the state of ultimate “belonging.” For the past few seasons not only have I had the pleasure of making music with some of the finest musicians in the world, but also the joy of making this music for the best, most appreciative, and generous audiences in the world. Our San Francisco audiences really do “get it.” But ever since we musicians were forced by management to go on strike, I have felt like a fish out of water. I am not myself when I am not making music with others, and I would like to return to the task as soon as possible. We all would.
I am urging you and your colleagues on the Labor and Finance Committees of the Board of Governors to do whatever you can to encourage Brent Assink to offer the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony a reasonable contract. Demand from management complete fiscal transparency. Challenge them to justify bonuses and raises for uppermost management while crying poor when it comes to basic cost-of-living raises and pension for the people who are the very core of this institution. Invite them to contemplate the reasons for the working conditions musicians have fought for over the decades, and the protection those rules provide us and our ability to do our jobs at the highest possible level. Convince them that it is in everyone’s best interest to come to an agreement that reflects the robust artistic and financial health of this great organization. Most importantly, implore them to remember why this organization exists at all – for the music, the people who make it, and the people who come to hear it.
With greatest appreciation,
Associate Principal Horn
San Francisco Symphony