The authorities in Odense have decided to get rid of three of the Nielsen competitions, for flute clarinet and organ. Professor Milan Vitek, who chairs the violin competition, has posted the following objections:
As the Chairman of the Carl Nielsen Violin Competition jury, I have sent the text at the bottom of this note, adapted in Danish, as an open letter to the supervisory organ of Odense Symfoniorkester, the Odense City Cultural Administration. I have also sent a copy of the letter to the major daily newspapers in Denmark. I feel that I cannot remain silent as yet another established music organization disappears into the cultural void.
To quote John Donne:
“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
~ John Donne, Meditation XVII
The Carl Nielsen Violin Competition was not cut this time around, but the day may come when it is, when orchestras are cut, when orchestras have more and more unfilled positions and fewer full-time musicians on their roster, etc., etc… All musicians have an interest in not remaining silent when cultural budgets are cut, regardless of where in the world this happens and which organizations are the victims. For who knows? One may find oneself in a situation where one needs the support of many colleagues so one’s work place does not disappear.
If you wish to share your opinion of the actions of Odense Symfoniorkester and/or the Odense City Cultural Administration, email to (you can write in English as it is commonly spoken and understood in Denmark):
Att. Steen Møller
Chairman of the Odense City and Cultural Administration and the members of the City and Cultural Administration
Email to: Sekretariatschef Martin Petersen, email@example.com
Dear Steen Møller,
Two days ago, I was notified by a private friend that Odense Symfoniorkester has cancelled the Carl Nielsen Flute, Clarinet and Organ Competitions. To this day, I have not received any formal communications about the cancellation from the Orchestra, and have only been able to get further news through reading articles in Danish newspapers. The orchestra plans to continue the Violin Competition as usual in the future, so I and the jury of this competition are not directly affected, but I do not feel I can remain silent in the face of such lack of courtesy and professionalism.
In the newspapers, Odense Symfoniorkester has stated that the competitions did not reach a broad enough audience because they were “closed club” events and that the orchestra wanted to save money in order to present a “special celebratory season” in 2015, the 150th anniversary of Carl Nielsen’s birth. These statements have, however, proven to be a smoke screen, since the newspapers have written that the real reason is that the orchestra has to save 900,000 DKr. per year in each of the coming 4 years.
I realize that the cultural sector is under pressure in most countries these days and that budget cuts are the norm for symphony orchestras these days. Nonetheless I have the following issues with what has happened:
1. Neither I nor any of the other Jury Presidents of the other competitions were notified of the orchestra’s plans in advance of the Orchestra’s announcement to the press that the competitions were being cancelled and that “staff members were being fired”. Because none of the Jury Presidents were consulted by the orchestra before its decision to cancel the competitions, we were not able to try to prevent the cuts by appealing foundations and Danish corporations to inquire if they would sponsor the competitions so they might not have to be cancelled.
2. As a result of Odense Symfoniorkester’s decision, the Competition President and President for the International Association of Music Competitions, Marianne Granvig, was apparently unceremoniously and suddenly notified that she was being terminated. without any acknowledgement or honoring of her 30 years of managing the Carl Nielsen Violin Competition, as well as her work to create the other competitions. This is a terrible and disrespectful way of treating a long-standing employee with whom I have an excellent collaboration and who, I think you will agree, has facilitated our work during the Carl Nielsen Violin Competition impeccably.
3. I am appalled that my fellow Jury Presidents of the other competitions which are being cut were, like me, not informed about the cuts until they read about them in the newspapers. I feel that this completely unprofessional treatment of our colleagues deserves a comment from us.
For this reason, I am writing to you, the Board of Directors of Odense Symfoniorkester, since the Board ultimately has to approve the actions of the Orchestra’s management before they are carried out. I hope you will reconsider your decision until the matter can be discussed in greater detail and possible alternatives be found to firing staff and closing down competitions.
Signed Milan Vitek & the musicians listed above.
PS I’ll post any publicly printed replies to my letter on my facebook page. They will be in Danish, but you can use Google Translate or a similar program to read them in English.