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Just in: Locked-out US orchestra to resume concerts

After more than six months in the cold, musicians of the St Paul Chamber Orhcestra appear to have reached a mayor-brokered agreement on a resumption of concerts, subject to a final vote. Report here.

Under the deal, players will take an 18.6 percent pay cut and their numbers will be reduced from 34 to 28.

No winners here, only losers.

st paul

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Comments

  1. PK Miller says:

    I’m glad there’s some sort of rapprochement, however tentative. These actions do NO ONE good, everyone is left with bruised feelings. It will take a long time for the mutual distrust to resolve. The arts are hurting. They are the first cut. And, being a social worker as well as musician, I understand (the hard way!) about encumbered funds etc. I was on the Board of an area non-profit that wanted to access about $10000 of restricted funds to help us over an unexpected hump. The donor said, in essence, No way Jose! There need to be compromises on BOTH sides. My anti-union sentiments have been clear in my various & sundry postings on Slipped Disc. My beloved mom had some very UNladylike things to say about unions especially as several strokes released certain inhibitions. A la Rodney King, can we all get along? If management seems to be overpaid, the orchestra needs to discuss that with the Board. Chances are they’re not for the time they put in. I was Artistic Director of an opera company once and my salary–generous as it was in 70s dollars–worked out to about $2/hour!

    • PK, the orchestra is not allowed much access to the Board, so there is no way they will be able to discuss this. The Board is perfectly happy to rubber-stamp what the Czar (i.e. the one person who is both President and Chairman of the Board AND President and General Director of the orchestra – in other words, both board and staff) wants (which is what a few big donors want).

      As for your anti-union sentiment – well, it is what it is, but this “both sides” is a false dichotomy. On one hand you have a board composed of banksters and lawyers, whose total net worth is easily over a billion dollars. On the other, a group of talented, passionate, modest and modestly-paid musicians who did not see what was in the works for years – mainly, the destruction of this world-class orchestra. Let’s keep your mother and Rodney King out of this, OK? It does NO ONE good and is totally irrelevant to the matter at hand.

      And as for the mayor – well, he’s thrown his hat in the ring for re-election, so he didn’t want this to go south on his watch. But he did manage to push the SPCO more in a month than they had been moving in several months. There are a lot of Charlie-Brown statues around St. Paul, because that is the hometown of creator Charles Shulz. There should be one of Lucy pulling away the football – AGAIN – smack in front of the SPCO building.

  2. I’d be interested to know how the reduction in players will be accomplished. Attrition? Cutting back on the size of string sections? Making some player part time? Or a combination of things?

    • There are already several vacancies, although some of them need to be filled. Scuttlebutt was that some positions were targeted for elimination – namely, those held by negotiating committee members. However, it seems that the agreement states that no current musician will lose his or her job. It will be very interesting. It is also true that mgmt had absolutely no interest in a proposal from the audience advocacy group Save Our SPCO (sospco.org) for a fundraising campaign to cover the salaries of the positions being cut. And programming over the past few years has favored pieces for smaller ensembles.

  3. David Hardie says:

    Regarding the smaller play numbers: there seems to be no need for redundancies, considering the number of players who have moved on etc.

    If they find themselves with a vacancy under the new structure (which is possible), who in their right mind would audition given the amount of bad blood circulating within the organisation?

    • The Board is certain that they can get good young players, cheap. However, that means the orchestra would become a farm team – those players would leave as soon as they get a better offer.

      • As a music fan, I’m very willing to take my chances with the “farm team” you sniff at. And since there are vanishingly few “better offers” to be had going forward, chances are good the “farm team” will stay put. With your unwilIingness to engage with reality, you have succeeded in putting yourselves out to pasture.

        • I’m engaging with the reality here in the Twin Cities on a daily basis. I’m willing to take my chances in working to preserve the quality that only a decently-paid and fairly-treated fulltime orchestra can provide. At some point you end up getting what you pay for.

  4. (since we are speaking of farms)

    • It takes years for an ensemble to develop its own distinct sound. They could fire the entire NY Phil and hire a whole new set of free-lance players, and continue to call it the NY Phil. But let’s not kid ourselves; it would not be the same ensemble. That’s why orchestras and chamber groups are so picky about new hires. They want someone who fits, not just a player who hits the right notes at the right time. From an orchestra looking for a new principal wind player, or a section string player, to a string quartet looking for a new violist, they’re seeking that special player who will help the ensemble continue in its established tradition, allowing it to retain its own stamp. How can a “farm team”, which is not much different from a pick-up orchestra, ever be an acceptable replacement for an established world class chamber orchestra?

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