Dear Young Musician,
I understand how difficult it is when you're coming out of school and trying to find a job.  I know what it means to stand in the grocery store and wonder if you can afford that extra packet of Ramen noodles.  I realize it's scary to not know when the next gig will come along, how the rent is going to get paid this month, or if you can scrape together the money to take auditions.  I get all this because I've been there.  Right after college I dove headfirst into the freelance scene and it was really tough.  So tough that I may have been tempted by an audition like Louisville's.  It seems like a pretty decent deal, good pay, steady work, but trust's a wolf in sheep's clothing.  I urge you, DO NOT TAKE THE AUDITION.

Here are a few of my reasons why:
1) Salary- Consider this the bait.  $925 plus benefits seems like a decent deal, but this is a board that just fired THE ENTIRE ORCHESTRA.  Do you trust them to work with the new musicians to maintain that salary package?  What happens when you move your whole life out there, away from family, friends and other work and they suddenly decide they "can't afford" to pay that much.  
2) Quality Control- As musicians, we all aspire to be the best we can possibly be.  We spend years honing our craft, but I have seen little evidence that the orchestra's board understands or respects that fact.  Keep in mind, this is an organization that put out a job advertisement on Craigslist.  This fact alone makes me distrustful of their ability to assemble an orchestra that can play at anything approaching a professional standard.  When we finish school, we tend to think we've learned what we need to know about playing our instruments.  I can tell you from personal experience that it's just the beginning.  After you win an audition and join an orchestra you learn an incredible amount from your colleagues.  If you really want to reach your potential, you need to draw on their experience and expertise with the repertoire.  
3) Personal Marketability- If you're considering this to be your "first job" and that you'll be able to "move on to something bigger" think twice.  Having the Louisville Orchestra on your resume is going to be like having a big red flashing neon "Don't Hire Me" sign over your head.  Why?  By working for them, you are hurting a fellow musician.  You have taken someone else's job. The music industry is very small and your reputation is all you have.  Don't tarnish it by working for an organization that has garnered the hatred of virtually every professional musician in the country.

Please, respect your colleagues, respect yourself and know that other jobs will come open.  The Board of the Louisville Orchestra has proven that they are untrustworthy and do not value the well-being of the orchestra or its musicians.  If you win a position you will be walking into a situation that could very well end your career before it has even begun.  
Thank you for listening, 
Karen Birch Blundell


Kate O'Brien
04/08/2012 10:33

This is an extraordinarily well-written and accurate letter. It will be tempting to take these jobs... But don't. It would be a horrible decision. I've had the honor of playing alongside Karen when we were young, and I can vouch for her musico-social skills and intelligence. She is right. Period.

Gina Caviar
04/08/2012 20:50

I liked your blog until you ended it by virtually threatening said individual who should take the gig. this is clearly a heated and sensitive issue, I dont think it helps to add that anyone who should take the job has just blacklisted themselves from any future position.

04/08/2012 22:38

Gina, the fact is, it is true. Most any serious musician on an audition committee will see a 2012 hired L.O. musician and vociferously fight against their advancing or hiring for a position in their orchestra.

Zack Scud
04/09/2012 09:44

You'd be a scab to work during the strike, and Karen is completely correct: since the music world is so small, you'd be blacklisted in the eyes of any future musician looking to hire you if you took the job.

04/09/2012 10:21

The only thing is that it is true. If you have ever taken any audition you would know that you have to have your most recent experience on your resume just to get accepted to take the audition. This would inform the orchestra committee that you had worked in a scab situation and you wouldn't even get invited to the audition let alone hired.

new model
04/10/2012 10:58

Auditions are held behind a screen, sometimes even through the final round, to eliminate discrimination based on former employment, sex, disability, etc. It's also illegal in many states to require union membership as a condition of employment, so they do not have the right to ask about your union affiliation, or lack thereof.

04/10/2012 12:02

Some orchestras still have open auditions- anyone who wants to audition can send in their resume and deposit and be assigned a time regardless of what is on the piece of paper. What matters is how they play which is done behind a screen, at the very least for the first/preliminary round(s). I do not have an answer as to how a committee might react to a candidate once the screen is taken down and therefore anonymity is gone. I can imagine that having L.O. on a resume in this case would probably raise some questions but it would be up to the committee to decide if it was worth disqualifying the audition candidate or not.

04/13/2012 12:40

04/08/2012 20:59

thanks for posting. i'm pretty sure that it's also hard for young musicians to then become members of musician unions later if they take this job, too? do you have more info on that?

Christine Rutledge
04/09/2012 23:03

Fabulous letter. I hope all musicians read this and take your words to heart. As a former LO violist during the years right after it became a full time job, I am just sickened by the actions of the LO board. The musicians have been gracious, smart, open minded, and patient. Solidarity amongst all musicians is key to our long term success in making our profession legitimate and valued by all. Do not be a SCAB!

04/12/2012 22:30

Symphony musicians are clearly delusional. They live in a bubble. The rest of us out in the Real World have to change jobs, market ourselves, hustle. No one is entitled. Since when are PhD's longshoremen, most of whom moonlight teaching. The intense adversarial environment reflected in this and other posts serves only to antagonize those who pay the salaries. Move on.

Tamara Meinecke
04/08/2012 10:58

A resounding YES. From a violinist in the Louisville Orchestra. By the way, I don't believe in their "offer" of $925/week. I'd call it "bait."

Lisa Bressler
04/08/2012 11:14

What a to the point, tell it like it is letter! Bravissima! Thank you for writing it.

Julia Preston
04/08/2012 11:25

I would like to add one additional thought to the above logic offered by Ms. Blundell.
Please carefully consider this: if many of the presently locked out Louisville Orchestra musicians had not fought to take the Louisville Orchestra to full time status in 1981 and if, since that time, subsequent musician committees not researched, negotiatiated and spent years of work creating and defending decent working conditions, salary and benefits, the Louisville Orchestra would not even exist as a full time salaried orchestra and thus there would be no position for you to fill.

Our musicians voted time and time again to reduce their own salaries to keep every musician employed as part of our family. Likewise there would not be any full time orchestra in Louisville for the current administration to mismanage and disassemble. If someone spent 30+ years designing and building a house, would you think it correct, wise, compassionate or ethical to move in and take that house away from the person who built it, free of charge?

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 12:24

So what you are saying, is someone who has studied their entire life to become an orchestra player who is bagging groceries, waiting on tables, working at Target or Wal*Mart, has a huge student loan from the school of music, finally has a chance to play in a real orchestra, and they shouldn't take it and sit on the sidelines working at some crummy non-music job wasting the best years of their lives? Why? For what purpose, to give credit to those who have had these jobs when the economy was good? This is the world we live in, not 1981, not the 1950s, it is 2012 and it is now! How dare you tell young musicians not to take a job which might be their only chance to fulfill their dreams of playing in an orchestra. Your comments are not based on knowledge but out of bitterness and resentment. Shame on you!!! Young people, don't listen to this, take the job!

04/08/2012 12:31

Dearest Edward: you're an idiot.

Chris T
04/08/2012 12:45

Oh sweet lord.... Dude..... bening a scab is not 'fulfilling ones dreams' ... gonna just leave the rest

04/08/2012 13:19

Advertising for musicians on craigslist does not make an orchestra "real". You obviously aren't a professional musician, are you? If a similar situation were taking place with the Austin (where I live) Symphony, I wouldn't take that audition - and I'm at a level where I *am* paid to play in smaller "real" orchestras here in Central Texas.

I'm lucky that music is a side gig for me, and I have a day job I enjoy and get paid well in.

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 22:47

What's wrong with Craigslist? They aren't going to put an ad in the musician's union paper now are they? They are doing this on the cheap, which is what the issue is all about money.

Time to come down from the ivory town and face the economy like
everyone else. These replies have such a strong sense of
entitlement it's sick. You were out-sourced? Well, join the rest
of the people and learn to work harder and better at what you do.
Maybe actually think like a business person for once in your
life instead of waiting for others to solve your problems. If you can
play in a orchestra, you can teach private lessons. That and
$30k along with the low-cost of living is manageable. Consider
starting other smaller ensembles and get them to work. Don't
wait for others to do these things for you and come up with ideas.

Lance Chambers
04/08/2012 13:23

I hate to break it to you Eddie, 27k a year for a full time gig isn't "a real orchestra," it's what people call a "crappy job."

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 22:48

$27k for 30 weeks a year? Yes, you are correct, that is not a full time gig. It's a part time job. Find other work, teach, other performances, write, arrange, copyist, orchestrate, etc. Musicians do this all over the country.

Aubrey Foard
04/08/2012 13:40

Because, Edward, by taking that same job working for the same management, you will likely soon find yourself unable to pay the bills and therefore end up working for Wal*Mart or Target anyway.

Also, the players didn't use to have those jobs; they STILL have those jobs.

Monika Ratzenboeck
04/08/2012 14:36

Edward, With those words you aligned yourself with a board of directors that destroyed a wonderful orchestra. It is no different than companies outsourcing work to other countries for the sake of the bottom line thus forcing a lot of manufacturing in this country to close its doors and putting our own people out of work.

04/08/2012 15:11

Your comment shows zero education about the subject matter, as well as a total lack of compassion or any common sense. I wonder how you would feel if your boss dumped you with no explanation or willingness to discuss terms, and replaced you with an unskilled, untrained, young laborer? How would your family feel? How would you make a living then...would you move your entire family to another city? Pull your kids out of school, away from their friends? Or, would you work hard to get your job back, one that you spent a lifetime training for and that you earned, only to have stolen from you? You might try educating yourself before wagging your finger at the musicians. I would also guess that you are NOT a musician, or at least not a professional anything.

Julia Preston
04/08/2012 15:51


I have not said one bitter nor untrue statement. My comments are based on considerable knowledge both of the orchestra situation, the community I have called home for 30 years, and as the mother of a recent college graduate with a degree in violin performance in pursuit of a career. I would encourage any hard working musician to take any legitimate audition. I have spent my entire professional career successfully preparing young musicians to earn scholarships to college and to take professional auditions. I have some former students who could most likely win a position here, one of whom has been a substitute musician in my section. They have called to ask how they can help support the musicians efforts.

Whether our musicians have been here 3, 5, 10, 20 or more years, we are each invested in this orchestra and our community and we have learned from each other and have been part of the artistic evolution which is the Louisville Orchestra.

So to reply in a tone you can relate to: How dare you encourage young talent to pick up and relocate to Louisville on false promises and encourage them to enter into an unhealthy environment to start their career (you realize the LO advertisement is for 1 year position, possibly permanent). Start a career off by crossing a picket line? This is what you wish for them? Clearly, your comments are the ones grounded in ignorance. Shame on you!!!

04/08/2012 18:21

How dare YOU lecture us about our knowledge or motives.

A "real orchestra," regardless of full time vs. per service or pay scale, is one that has ethical, professional hiring and firing practices. This is not a "real orchestra," it's a Potemkin village. It has far more potential to be a career-killer than a dream maker. And believe me, it won't be anyone's only chance. Taking this gig would be fatally short-sighted.

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 22:50

If someone pays you to play in an ensemble with 55 musicians, that's a real orchestra. It's not a school or college ensemble, it's a professional orchestra. If you are really that good because of your high standards that you don't consider this one real, then get a job in Chicago, New York, or Cleveland.

04/08/2012 21:01

He's probably the one who decided to fire all those musicians and realized how big a mistake it is and is so desperate to get anybody.

04/08/2012 22:46

Can't tell if trolling or just stupid...

04/12/2012 08:03

@Fry - smells like a Troll to me. Has decent insider knowledge, and takes a strong adversarial role and adds baiting questions. Looks and smells like a TROLL.

Jay Jay
04/09/2012 06:25

An insider has leaked that 11 people agree with you and submitted applications to the lso. At least we know who one of those 11 people are! I hope to never play with you!

04/09/2012 06:26

Troll detected

04/12/2012 08:04

Agreed. TROLL.

04/09/2012 07:30

Dear Edward,
I am a 15 yr. old musician, and I would never take this job. The board is made up of idiots. It is shameful. For instance, the Louisville Orchestra MUSICIANS tried to make a deal with all the schools in Louisville, so they could encourage kids to support and love classical music. As soon as the board found out, they made sure to shut that down. THE BOARD DOES NOT CARE ABOUT MUSIC. This proves it. They just want money. Edward, you may think you are a person trying to defend young musicians by agreeing with Rob Birman and the rest of the board; however, I am a young musician telling you that you are VERY WRONG to do that.

04/09/2012 10:32


If you or someone you know has a "dream" of playing in a "real" orchestra, then this is still not the situation for you/them. It would not be a good experience as is evidenced by the situation the orchestra has put themselves in. This orchestra will most likely not exist in the not too distant future and then the musicians who take this audition will be out of a job too. Not to mention being controlled by a board who clearly doesn't have the slightest idea of how to run an orchestra effectively. As a professional musician and college teacher myself, I would never advise any of my students or colleagues to audition for an orchestra in this situation.

Lois Dix
04/09/2012 11:49

Actually, you are probably right. If they get a job here, it most likely will be their "only" chance to fulfill the dream of a professional orchestra career. Nobody else will bother with them when reading their resume. So, let's hope the board of the LSO doesn't do an encore performance of their action.

Lois Dix
04/09/2012 11:49

Actually, you are probably right. If they get a job here, it most likely will be their "only" chance to fulfill the dream of a professional orchestra career. Nobody else will bother with them when reading their resume. So, let's hope the board of the LSO doesn't do an encore performance of their action.

Lois Dix
04/09/2012 11:50

Actually, you are probably right. If they get a job here, it most likely will be their "only" chance to fulfill the dream of a professional orchestra career. Nobody else will bother with them when reading their resume. So, let's hope the board of the LSO doesn't do an encore performance of their action.

Lois Dix
04/09/2012 11:50

Actually, you are probably right. If they get a job here, it most likely will be their "only" chance to fulfill the dream of a professional orchestra career. Nobody else will bother with them when reading their resume. So, let's hope the board of the LSO doesn't do an encore performance of their action.

Lois Dix
04/09/2012 11:50

Actually, you are probably right. If they get a job here, it most likely will be their "only" chance to fulfill the dream of a professional orchestra career. Nobody else will bother with them when reading their resume. So, let's hope the board of the LSO doesn't do an encore performance of their action.

04/10/2012 07:42

In case this isn't just trolling. . .

Your short-sightedness is painfully evident. You want it now at the expense of whoever suffers in the future. Do you understand the concept of precedent? Do you understand that by taking a job sometimes you are hindering your own cause? There are many examples in history that are far more serious than this where the people in power took advantage of some opportunists within a population to help them defeat the rest of that population. An extreme example, possibly, but the extreme generally proves the case.

Further, your status as a debt-laden (grad?) student or recent gradate does not qualify you to make an objective decision here, or even a somewhat informed one. Once you get out of your early/mid-twenties and learn a thing or three, you might change your tune. If I'm wrong about this, it's because yours is an attitude of someone in that position.

I should qualify myself by saying that I make my living by doing everything you listed but am not an orchestral musician for the most part. I work at 4 colleges (including Juilliard) and perform on a very regular basis, including as a member of AFM 802 on Broadway. I have also published several scores as well as a book that, among a couple of other topics, discusses how music schools such as the ones you and I attended, don't adequately prepare their grads for the real world. You couch your responses in the harsh, lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, "join reality" philosophy. Do you really think these musicians don't do work beyond their orchestral endeavors? You assume you know better than other people because you are not capable of understanding anything other than your own, idealized perspective. You are also too easily dismissing the part where orchestra members elected to take a pay cut to keep the ensemble together. That sort of selflessness should be lauded, not ridiculed.

Real, working musicians are among some of the humblest, hardest working people around. At what point should we stand up for ourselves? After the next full time orchestra fires their contracted players? After Lincoln Center lets the Met perform with recorded music?

To everyone else that is trying to explain and educate dear Edward, don't waste too many more calories. Given his understanding of human nature and the industry, he is probably looking to invest in the Madoff fund soon as well. After all, it'd be really really hard to find another good opportunity and the people in charge there who betrayed people they originally claimed to work with and for deserve trust and a second chance.

04/08/2012 12:39

To reply to Mr. Coast: the choice to become a "scab" (a term usually applied to a picket-line crosser, but I feel appropriate here) will damage to one's future career prospects (something Ms. Blundell outlined clearly). To claim that this may be an emerging-professional's "only chance to fulfill their dreams" is ludicrous - but will prove true when they are later blacklisted for working for Louisville. The choice is clear: immediate gratification of orchestral playing for a company that clearly devalues its artists, or continuing to scrape by until ANY OTHER ensemble or organization holds auditions.

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 22:58

The union's days for musicians have been over for many years. No one is going to care about a scab. If they did, there wouldn't be so many dark dates in the recording industry. It's come place to have musicians show up and pay them cash, and send them on their way, or someone else will take the job.

It seems like everyone here just wants to hear the sound of their own voices and talk amongst themselves how terrible it all is, without realizing it is 2012 and not 1981.

No one is going to be blacklisted. That's a fantasy today. Yes, at one time if you crossed the line, or played dates with non-union members there was trouble and a fine. Not any more.

04/09/2012 06:12

Can I just ask for your credentials, or, at the least, sources for what you're saying?
Ps- go ahead and take the audition, I think you're exactly the type of person they're looking for

04/09/2012 10:45

Edward I am afraid that you are delusional. There are way more fine musicians than there are jobs currently and that means that the orchestras or any other musical organizations for that matter can be very selective about whom is hired. This also includes university positions by the way. So yes blacklist ing will most certainly occur.

04/09/2012 19:10

As an orchestra musician, I would not invite any musician who scabs with the Louisville pickup orchestra to an audition, nor would I seriously listen any audition presented by such a musician.

04/12/2012 08:06


Anne Richardson
04/15/2012 06:48

It's impossible to argue with stupidity, so it's impossible to argue with you for that reason. I feel extremely sorry for you. That's really all I can say. Arguing against this letter obviously isn't convincing us to side with you. Just look at how many comments are against YOU. Give it up Edward.

David Blumberg
04/08/2012 13:02

Most likely the only job that the scabs will get ever will be that Orchestra...... There's no way that they won't cut the salary by probably at least 1/3 within 2 years.

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 22:53

It's a stepping stone. Young people will populate this orchestra and move on to orchestras and teaching positions elsewhere. Nothing will change. The days of the union's power have been over for years and this is yet another example of it. People will admire those who continued to work instead of sitting on the sidelines because of some last century concepts of employment.

JAy Jay
04/09/2012 06:28

Young foreigners who need a green card will populate
This orchestra. I sincerely hope the Lso is ready to deal with the load of stuff that will come with that.

Lois Dix
04/09/2012 11:47

You are correct - they will see it as a stepping stone. However, it will probably be the ONLY stone they will ever step on. Do you realize how many musicians audition for EVERY opening in any professional orchestra. They may get something in the LSO, but that will be their career, because there will be so much competition for every other position they may audition for, and when those who have a say in the hiring for any other full time orchestra of any value or ability will see their resume and probably not even bother to listen much - there will be any number just as, or more talented than any of those "young musicians" you are encouraging to take these spots. I have a nephew who currently plays professionally in an orchestra, and has been all over the world playing auditions, the closest finish being last cut. He has also played all over the world with several orchestras who have hired him when they were without a player on his instrument. You seem to think it is something like filling out an application at WalMart or McDonalds. Nothing of the sort. There doesn't have to be a "blacklist" to be blocked from getting a job in a career orchestra. It can be done just as well by reading the resume.

Bud Burridge
04/10/2012 07:05

Edward, you have no knowledge of the 2012 AFM or you wouldn't make such uninformed statements. The standard radical talking points re cheap labor and ivory towers is starting to wear a little thin, and your rejection of professional and artistic standards is beginning to see some pushback. Hopefully, people with more ambitious visions will eventually prevail over the shortsighted amateurs who have taken over most national debate.

04/10/2012 11:51

From another comment thread: "Why do we need the union?" Let's see: No unlimited rehearsals without breaks, not being fired on the spot for dubious reasons, collective bargaining for better pay, temperature clauses, negotiating in good faith, etc. etc. etc.

-Terry O.

Lance Chambers
04/08/2012 13:05

If someone is willing to be a vulture, it is their prerogative, much as it might disgust those of us who already have employment in music. Here's what those vultures need to consider. What kind of outfit is it that you're going to be working for? This is the very same board that has locked out and showed little regard for its current workers, who've never had cushy jobs to begin with. Their attitude towards employees isn't going to change with a new group. You'll be the ones fighting a $10000 pay cut in 3 years. And when your new vulture job pays about $23000 after tax before they ask for cuts, where's that going to put you? I wouldn't audition for this group even at their former levels of pay.

04/08/2012 13:08

Dear Edward
Take the audition, get a job and get yourself blacklisted. Then we'll never have to represent you on a real orchestra's player's organization.

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 23:01

Krista, 1981 called and wants your comment back. No one is going to be blacklisted that would have any meaning. In a few years, you will see more orchestras going this way and become non-union if they manage to stay in operation at all.

04/09/2012 07:07

"Ed" I'm trying to figure out who you are. Are you 1.) An old person with no life posting a dozen threads late on a weekend evening, or 2.) A young person hoping to audition for the Craigslist Orchestra who really ought to be practicing?

04/09/2012 17:05

Sir, the International Musician's Union, of which nearly every professional orchestra is a part, has had the Louisville Orchestra on the "Unfair" Blacklist for months. If a person is hired by the LO/LSO/whatever it is to be called, they cannot ever audition for a single major North American orchestra.

04/12/2012 08:09

Edward acts and smells like a TROLL - an insider that is baiting you folks.

Keith G
04/08/2012 13:36

I have a hard time believing that being a scab for Louisville would really hurt your long-term career prospects. Winning an audition even as a scab there will still be tough, and will look better on your resume than a stock-boy job at Wal-Mart. Honestly speaking, 95% of orchestral musicians have pretty dismal career prospects, so being in any orchestra is going to be a better deal than not being in one.

I understand solidarity and appreciate it, but it doesn't pay the bills if you're in a bad place financially. And if the union wants to remain the good guy, they should probably stop the intimidating threats of blacklisting scabs (for life? Who knows.)

Keith G
04/08/2012 13:43

Argh, it said this one didn't go through, so I revised and re-posted. The post below this is the "real" one.

Aubrey Foard
04/08/2012 13:44

But, you see, by accepting work for an organization that has already treated its musicians extraordinarily poorly, you are guaranteeing that you will be subject to the same treatment. If you end up somehow losing that employment, you are guaranteeing that you will essentially get no more music performance work EVER, until the day you die.

04/08/2012 14:04

Keith, you and Mr. "Coast" up there seem to not understand the music scene very much. Who are you? Are you from Louisville?? ;-)

Young musicians aren't likely to end up "working at Walmart." Most of the cities that have America's finest music conservatories DON'T HAVE Walmarts. They're the kind of big cities that prevent Walmart from setting up shop. It seems as if you might just be an older person, from outside of music, who's spent a lot of time in a place like Kentucky.

Keith G
04/09/2012 15:30

Well . . . you were close . . . I'm a full-time musician and teacher in my mid-thirties.

I gave up on orchestral music in college when I realized how incredibly long the odds are, how stupid the audition process is, and how ridiculously rare openings are (thanks to tenure.) Many of my friends from college made it into full-time orchestras eventually, often at enormous personal cost, but many (many) more did not and had to either switch careers, live half-way around the world, or find a sugar-daddy. These weren't students at a rinky-dink school, either, but one of the most respected music schools in the country.

I *love* classical music, and I love orchestras, and I want nothing more than for live orchestral music to be a bigger part of everyone's life. However, I'm saying that the snobbishness, the group-think, the threats of life-time blacklisting, etc., do *not* play well with the public, and *that* is why I think the people here bad-mouthing management in general and Louisville in specific (or capitalism! Good luck with getting that banished!) need to back off a bit and calm down.

04/08/2012 18:38

Keith, I'm sorry but no, the conventional wisdom that any audition is better than no audition simply does not apply here. Believe me, as a freelancer, nothing is more paramount than one's reputation among colleagues. Keep good faith, and people will line up to help when you fall on hard luck; burn bridges, and watch your gig life evaporate.

04/09/2012 05:09

I am a professional musician myself who has sat in on audition committees. I can tell you right now that once I see that resume of someone crossing a picket line to scab a job I am going to vote no and all of my colleagues will also.

Louisville is a big deal. We all know what is going on. Even auditioning there will close doors to gigs regardless of whether they hire you as a scab.

I am pretty sure they can assemble an orchestra of some type and play a few concerts but the folks they bring to do so are going to mark themselves for the rest of their lives.

Reputations take a lifetime to form and only moments to destroy. Not worth it. Pass this one up.

Keith G
04/08/2012 13:41

Just a few counter-thoughts:

I have a hard time believing that being a scab for Louisville would really hurt your long-term career prospects. Winning an audition even as a scab there will still be tough, and will look better on your resume than a stock-boy job at Wal-Mart. Plus, honestly speaking, long-term career prospects are kind of a joke if you're an aspiring orchestral musician. I imagine 95% of them will never have a job as nice as even scab-work for Louisville. If anyone is the bad guy here, it's probably the colleges that still willingly take the (student loan) money of every 18 year old who made all-state band and give them false hope of a career, or the orchestras who give life-time tenure to musicians who probably don't deserve it.

I understand solidarity and appreciate it, but it doesn't pay the bills if you're in a bad place financially.

04/08/2012 22:34

Before I joined the union, I worked some non-union jobs. I did not have the benefits of a union-negotiated contract, so the working conditions were appalling. But, I suffered them gladly because it was a job, and I was desperate to play. Anywhere. With anyone. Just so long as it was a paying gig. I completely sympathize with the questions about the union's role, particularly for young players who have not yet established themselves.

But, during that same period of time when I was playing non-union gigs, a good friend of mine took an orchestra job with a management that had proven itself to be untrustworthy. He, too, was desperate for any job that paid. He moved thousands of miles away and turned down other, lower-paying, gigs in favor of the high-powered orchestra seat. Only a few months into his contract, the orchestra stopped sending out paychecks. He had to move back home with no financial resources whatsoever. It took him years to recover from the economic complications stemming from that orchestra job.

Regardless of your position on the union or the sustainability of the model, it is highly unwise to accept work from an employer that has proven itself unlikely to compensate you for your efforts.

new model
04/10/2012 17:32

The above sentence is the smartest bit of commentary to be found here.

04/12/2012 08:12

Hooray - a voice of reason.

Edward Coast
04/08/2012 23:04

Keith, You are correct. Long-term it won't matter at all. Even short-term it won't matter outside of the area. Winning any audition is an accomplishment regardless of which professional orchestra it is. I will be cheering on those who manage to stay with the orchestra and welcome the new blood. For years people complain that guys get these jobs and stay in them for decades not allowing the next generation to ever play in an orchestra. Now is this rare chance to do just that, and any young person would be foolish not to audition and look over the situation.

04/09/2012 09:05

I am a tenured musician in an ICSOM orchestra. In my ten years with the orchestra, I've been on four audition committees, including three times voting on resumes. If I ever see a resume that includes time spent in the Lousiville Orchestra as a scab, I will vote "no," which is in my power. After I vote "no," my colleagues will vote "no," and the resume will be thrown in the trash. Tenured players decide who receives an invitation to audition, not the management.

Your comments reveal a complete lack of understanding of how orchestral collective bargaining agreements are structured. Fortunately, some people in arts management know how to support the artists. It's a shame Louisville doesn't.

new model
04/10/2012 16:29

So Sculpin, just to clarify: Your devotion to a certain political ideology trumps your devotion to the pursuit of artistic excellence, because you would turn away a possibly outstanding player based on strict adherence to Union dogma. Have I got it right?

J man
04/09/2012 13:11

Ok, since we're making this a social issue, let's replace the words musician and orchestra with murder and food. Would you kill for food in a society where food was in abundance? It's sort of the same thing here. The last I checked, there are a number of jobs in the music industry. Get off your spoiled hands and work for it. I you don't want to work for it, get off the pot and work at walmart! If you're in a bad place financially, your number one goal is finding a way out of the financial mess not an audition, not scabbing in Louisville. If your prospects are that low and you can't find a way to live within your means, do not look at a music career to hold you up, especially at the expense of others who have found a way through the madness and got crapper on anyway!

04/12/2012 11:29

Essentially anonymous postings on blogs seem so worthless in a situation like this. Whenever one listens to an opinion or statement of "fact", it is important to consider the source. Keith has a jaded opinion considering that he is a failed orchestral musician. He is correct in stating the difficulty and ridiculousness of the process of auditioning but donwe know that he possesses the talent, work ethic, and intestinal fortitude to win an audition or perform real pressure? I kind ofnsoubt it. The proof is in the pudding. If they can help it, musicians won't hire scabs. To me this seems quite logical and apparent.

Aubrey Foard
04/08/2012 13:49

Very well said, Karen. I would add that if you audition for the orchestra and you *don't win*, you'll have double-screwed yourself: no job right now and a lifetime of unemployment.

Tom Shriver
04/08/2012 14:28

I'm a USAF bandsman and former principal timpanist of the West Virginia Symphony, and I've been following this situation off and on. From the persepective of someone who is no longer in the symphony scene, I have to admit I see pros and cons on both sides here.

During my 11-year tenure with the WVSO, I met many of the young musicians who dreamed of "bigger and better", and who, to be bluntly honest, saw the WVSO as a "stepping stone" to a better orchestra. My situation was different; I was a WV native, and frankly, if I hadn't been fortunate enough to win the Air Force audition, I'd still be there. So, my question is this: What about the LOCAL musicians in the Louisville area who have already established lives and careers in that area? If this had happened to the WVSO while I was there, I would have quickly taken the audition and not worried about the union. Now, before anyone here decides to vilify me for that comment, please hear me out.

I remember clearly telling one of my colleagues in the percussion section about my winning the AF gig and that I was leaving the WVSO. His reaction: "When's the audition?!" That's right, not "Congratulations" or even "Drop dead", but "When's the audition?!" That left me thinking "So much for solidarity"; these people would have gladly walked up my back to take my job. In that light, I have no problem with those who need to consider their livelihood (and that of their families) over the union's needs. I learned a painful lesson that day, but it's a lesson that rings true even in the LO's situation: It's everyone for him/herself in this business. Plus, we see how useful the union has been in preserving the jobs of the present (former?) LO players.

As to consigning oneself to a lifetime of unemployment within music, I agree wholeheartedly with Keith G; a union that intimidates its members with threats of "blacklisting" and subsequent unemployment is no union I'd want to be a part of. It makes me quite glad that I've left the symphony rat-race behind me.

Having said all of this, I do sympathize with the ousted LO players. Management could have handled this situation far better than it has, no doubt. But encouraging others to shun this audition without considering their personal situations is at best bad advice, and at worst vitriolic. There IS musical life outside the orchestral realm; I'm living proof.

Best of luck.

Aubrey Foard
04/08/2012 15:03


Greetings from another WVSO player! As the orchestra's principal tubist, I can assure you with 100% confidence that nobody in that orchestra feels as you do now. In fact, we all share solidarity with the musicians of the Louisville Orchestra, especially since some of them now work with us - I wish they would stay, but I'd much rather they'd be allowed to go back to work in Louisville!

As to your comment about blacklisting, the AFM has *not* taken that position nor will they. (Some players above have commented about how people that audition for the LO "might get blacklisted," but there have been no statements by the union itself which support this idea.) What WILL happen to players that audition for the LO is they will not be given work outside of the orchestra because what they are doing is viewed by every union musician (in other words, the vast majority of full-time orchestra musicians) as abhorrent: they are proactively taking food out of the mouths of the musicians who have the jobs RIGHT NOW. *That* is what guarantees that whoever auditions for the LO will not receive union work for as long as they continue to pursue a career as musical performers.

Tom Shriver
04/08/2012 15:13

Very glad to meet you! I had no idea Terry wasn't still playing tuba in Charleston. Congratulations to you for winning the gig!

I'm also very glad to hear that the AFM presently doesn't plan to blacklist the incoming (for want of a better term) LO players.

Hope to hear more from you and the goings-on at the WVSO!

Will Wise
04/08/2012 15:09

Tom, with all due respect to your experience and success, there's a fundamental difference to someone expressing interest in a position that you are vacating and one that you have been locked out of. It's absolutely true that there's always someone waiting in the wings, but you were moving on to bigger and better, and that musician probably wouldn't have walked up to otherwise and said, 'so when are you gonna leave so I can audition for your job?' The young musicians of the Louisville area would be much better off aligning themselves with the locked out members of the LSO and working to create an organization that could squeeze out the board from the Louisville music scene. Now THAT would be some impressive resume fodder.

Tom Shriver
04/08/2012 15:25

VERY good point, and well-stated. Thank you!

04/08/2012 16:39

Who exactly would have "walked up your back to take your job?" Certainly not the person you describe above, who waited for you to leave it voluntarily before deciding to go for the resulting opening himself. One has to twist logic far past any recognition to see that as a lack of solidarity. Lack of class in interpersonal relations, maybe, but no more than that.

Tom Shriver
04/08/2012 16:50

Bratschegirl, please refer to my response to Will Wise.

04/12/2012 16:18

Tom, you're absolutely right that there is musical life outside of the orchestral realm--the military is the single largest employer of full time musicians with benefits in the US as I'm sure you're well aware though cuts to the budget have been threatened, right?

I wouldn't advise any musician to take the audition, nor would so myself, but do understand where you're coming from and have had many conversations with musicians both local and regional who, unfortunately, aren't so sympathetic nor caring about who they might be replacing (and in some cases, don't even feel as if they are replacing anyone).

04/08/2012 14:38

I can only add my voice to those who have told it like it is: taking this audition will be professional suicide on many levels. The chances of the new orchestra even being in business after the first year is slight to none as the community audience is largely very sympathetic to the original players and will likely stay away in droves. I personally know of at least 15 subscriptions which are not being renewed for this very reasons. The "scabs" will find virtually all freelance jobs in Louisville shut to them as the choral directors, churches, and other arts organizations are not going to consider hiring them. So when it folds, those who have played in it will have no local prospects whatsoever, and no national prospects in any union orchestra. End of career, except for non-union freelance, bar scene, street playing. I don't mean this to sound threatening, I would personally have empathy for people who would take this job out of need, but they need to know the reality of the consequences.

Ray Weaver
04/08/2012 14:43

Tom, I appreciate your story and that things worked out very well for you, but outside of the Armed Forces, what professional symphony jobs that are "non-union" are you aware of? Is it really wise to counsel a young player to take an audition that will relegate their future choices to auditioning for perhaps 3 professional but non-union orchestras - or the 100+ that are union?

Tom Shriver
04/08/2012 14:57

Ray, thank you for your well wishes.
To address your question, I say it depends on the player. There could just be those whose financial situations necessitate them staying with the LO, or auditioning to join. I'm sure they understand the risks of either blacklisting or continuing money problems. Either way, however, I personally would not be willing to vilify a player for his/her choice; only they know what best suits their needs. For that, they have my sympathy.

To be honest, the AF has it's ups and downs as well; I want to clarify that, lest I be accused of "recruiting" on this thread. It's not for everyone, but it underscores my previous point - there IS musical life outside the symphonic world; the military is only one example.

Ray Weaver
04/08/2012 15:07

I agree with you about the vilification of such players, and I'm sorry I used the word "scab" earlier - I have tried to avoid doing so but it seems an easier way of defining the composition of the new orchestra while not assigning it to the individuals themselves. I would assume they must be desperate. But I personally would not employ them, because they knowingly chose to take another players job, allowing a feckless management to weaken the collective strength of professional orchestra players everywhere. And they should be informed of the ramifications of their actions - whether those ramifications seem fair or not. You do understand them but I expect you have had a lot more experience than some who may hear of this audition. I used to play in West Virginia myself many years ago.

04/08/2012 16:28

What is sad is that we live in a world where the Board of the Louisville Symphony may succeed in hiring a 'new' orchestra.

Why are musicians fighting amongst themselves about whether this is the right thing to do or not? It isn't right to take this audition.
Whether you are currently, or were formerly, or are NOT YET, WE ARE the union.
Young musicians (college-age and high-school age) need to take the long view: Would they want to find themselves in a future job being replaced by students?

As so eloquently written above, if they have any hope of having a livelihood as an orchestral musician, young musicians should stand with their older colleagues.
It simply is the right thing to do. It is not about black-listing or ending careers. However, it is very much about allowing our Boards, our donors or corporate sponsors, our audiences, our students, and Joe or Jane Public to continually de-value what a professional orchestral musician has to offer.
Take the long view, young musician. Do you want to have your talent and your skills valued in your future? Then don't take this audition; don't let the Board of the Louisville Symphony devalue their musicians.

04/08/2012 19:25

Well said!!!

04/09/2012 03:00

I agree that young musicians, such as myself about to start my DMA, should stand next to the more experienced musicians. We learn from the ones who have succeeded. However, I find the rhetoric of this entire thread to be volatile to the advancement of one's career. Knowing people who are trying to get orchestra jobs in states with unions and without unions need the experience. I am not advocating taking the position at all. I would be advocating going to the audition for practice. Nothing is more important than getting more experience in the audition process. And, as it sounds, since the LO will probably take whatever they can get, the younger local musicians should take this cheaper audition experience as a blessing. But, I agree with all the currently working musicians, do not take the job. If you start giving more power to a less responsible board, it shows other boards they can get away with the same tactics. Forget the hard work the former LO musicians have accomplished in 30 years, it goes against the work of thousands of musicians for hundreds of years. I agree unions are dying, but it's only because the dismantling of unions is a cheaper alternative to negotiations.

Philip BRoderick
04/08/2012 17:11

What about the much larger problem--that the current model is completely unsustainable?

It's absurd to think that every year, with every graduating class of every school of music, we put out far more musicians than the market demands. FAR more. These kids are pouring time, money, talent, *ahem* MONEY, into an education that will almost surely never yield them a career.

I got my two music degrees, I've even played professionally for a couple of years, and I still think it's all a crock. Demand for our services isn't increasing, it's doing the opposite; yet we turn out more and more musicians every year. It's completely absurd. People who went to trade courses are doing better than I am, and better than most music graduates.

What if we'd all done something more useful with ourselves? Let's face it; you can be a top-ten musician in your state--a tuba player, for instance--and still not get a job, depending on demand. So what if you were, say, a top-ten doctor? Or psychologist? Or even a welder? There's no question you'd be far better off.

I honestly resent that music is presented to naive young students as a viable career option. Look around you, people--the number of people who make a decent living with their music degree is deplorably small, and shrinking every year. If we leave teachers out of the tally, the number is smaller still.

Music as a career is a total crock. It's about as realistic as being a professional athlete, or an actor. Universities and music teachers owe a real debt to all the students to whom they've misrepresented music as a responsible or realistic course of study.

04/08/2012 17:45

If you're not #1 or 2 in the State, don't even consider a performing career.
And 2 is on the bubble a bit more than 1, which is still on the bubble. Cause there are 49 other #1's out there each year.......

04/08/2012 17:45

If you're not #1 or 2 in the State, don't even consider a performing career.
And 2 is on the bubble a bit more than 1, which is still on the bubble. Cause there are 49 other #1's out there each year.......

04/08/2012 17:59

Philip, while this is almost an entirely different issue it is still a relevant one. There used to be a public service ad that went on during NBA basketball games (I'm a hoops junkie violinist). Basically it was about the staggeringly small odds of "making it" professionally by playing basketball. I have often thought that the classical radio stations should run similar adds about the odds of "making it" as a classical musician. Of course at the elementary, middle, and high school level there is still immense value in educating oneself and improving one's skills that can later translate to the ability to do so in other fields as well as the personal joy and satisfaction of making music. At the college or conservatory level, though, I wonder exactly as you do. Perhaps it is time that those institutions consider paring their size or at least making it clear that a degree or resume only goes so far. And for private teachers, while always wishing to encourage the improvement and learning, it is also a responsibility to offer an accurate assessment of their students as far as likely professional prospects.

BJ Jones
04/09/2012 07:43

Music schools don't just create more musicians, they create audiences. If a music school "pares" its students, it eliminates its own ability to survive, for one thing, and it also shrinks the educated audience who will pay to hear musicians perform. Reduced music education in the US is the CAUSE of problems like the Louisville Orchestra, not the solution to it.

Laura P
04/08/2012 18:05

Philip: I think you actually are arguing the same point. A sustainable livelihood as a musician is difficult because what a professional musician does is devalued. How many orchestral musicians have heard from an audience member: "Oh, you are actually paid for playing?" There is a disconnect.
I would point out that there are many different means of being successful or defining success as a musician. One hears continually of how the Internet is making it easier to reach the public, and to create momentum for what you wish to create for the world.
Rather than be bitter at the state of affairs, we, collectively, must work to make the connections for our audiences, our students' parents, our symphony Boards, our donors and for each other.
An audience member just last night said: "What about a donor campaign that reaches out to all the people who once studied an instrument, or played in an orchestra (school, community, etc.)?"

I would also point out that difficulty finding a job in your field for which you attended college, is not a plight limited to musicians. One reads about this all the time and hears news reports on this very subject.
It is the world we live in. One where the median income has been stagnant for the last 40 years. Maybe that is the problem...

Laura P
04/08/2012 18:05

Philip: I think you actually are arguing the same point. A sustainable livelihood as a musician is difficult because what a professional musician does is devalued. How many orchestral musicians have heard from an audience member: "Oh, you are actually paid for playing?" There is a disconnect.
I would point out that there are many different means of being successful or defining success as a musician. One hears continually of how the Internet is making it easier to reach the public, and to create momentum for what you wish to create for the world.
Rather than be bitter at the state of affairs, we, collectively, must work to make the connections for our audiences, our students' parents, our symphony Boards, our donors and for each other.
An audience member just last night said: "What about a donor campaign that reaches out to all the people who once studied an instrument, or played in an orchestra (school, community, etc.)?"

I would also point out that difficulty finding a job in your field for which you attended college, is not a plight limited to musicians. One reads about this all the time and hears news reports on this very subject.
It is the world we live in. One where the median income has been stagnant for the last 40 years. Maybe that is the problem...

Matthew Seneca
04/08/2012 18:06

Phillip, I think you've really nailed it on the head. I hate to say it but I think it's entirely likely that Louisville will be able to fill its orchestra with outstanding young musicians who are fresh out of conservatory and hungry for the work, or else outstanding older musicians who are tired of freelancing and hungry for full-time work. The supply and demand is just far, far too imbalanced. I agree that the current model may very well be unsustainable. Too many orchestras are running significant deficits, and too many conservatories are putting out extremely skilled musicians. Someone needs to come up with a better model from top to bottom, perhaps one involving fewer professional musicians and more musically-educated audience members willing to spend money to see live classical music. If all those unemployed musicians were doctors or lawyers (or welders!) who also loved playing piano and seeing live classical music, orchestras across the country would have a lot more money to work with. I'm an amateur musician who has a "real job," is under 35 and subscribes and donates to my city's symphony every year. We need more of me!

04/08/2012 18:50

There is a time and place for the discussion of this valid question, but I do not think it is here and now, as it changes absolutely nothing about the underhandedness of the Louisville situation.

05/06/2012 14:47

I apologize in advance for off-topic discussion but I could not resist replying to this blunt non-sense. I do not mean to start a flame-war but simply feel obliged to disperse an illusion and misrepresentation of reality in the post above.

Dear Phil,

I was absolutely appalled by your post. First of all if you were naive enough to think that a simple piece of paper from a prestigious music program will automatically secure you a spot in an orchestra you were deluding yourself from the start and shouldn't shift the blame for your own lack of motivation and perseverance on your teachers who tried to give you the best education they could.

The degree of presumption with which you state your misguided perception is downright deceitful. As far as I remember you hung around a couple of years after graduation meekly attempting to teach and "freelance" in a city that is known for its booming teaching market. As far as your “professional” experience here it goes:
The latest survey released by musician's union states that it takes an average of 17! auditions to win a job. But that simply discourages people who treat music as a hobby and weeds out passers-by from people who actually want to pursue music as a professional career. How many auditions did you take in those two years before giving up? 1-2? And now after being out of circuit for 5-6 years you have the guts to accuse your teachers and musical institutions for not preparing you for the hardship of real world?? I set in the same orchestra as you did and as far as I can remember we got bombarded almost every rehearsal by a simple truth that without motivation and stubborn plugging away you have no business doing music. If all you took out of it is that you can get by that’s your own fault.

You will pardon me my sarcasm when I state that a person who spent only a few years in the real world and took a couple of halfa$$ed jabs at the job market hardly qualifies to make broad and misinformed statements about the whole system. There is such thing as competition and only the motivated and diligent persevere.

I will gladly retract my comments and apologize if I hear that you have come out of your hiding cave and actually gave it a decent try but until then I say stop shifting the blame for your own shortcomings to the institutions and individuals who tried to share their knowledge and experience with you.

Stephen Swanson
04/08/2012 17:51


You have taken things very much off-topic, but I nonetheless feel I must respond to what you have written about the viability of music as a course of study.

It is absolutely true that winning an orchestral position is exceptionally difficult - perhaps equal to the challenge of getting the lead role in a major film or getting drafted by the New England Patriots - and it would certainly be drastically irresponsible for a music teacher to promote orchestral playing as a career to a student who simply does not have what it takes to get one of the few jobs there are in that field.

But to say that music as a whole is an unrealistic course of study is utterly ridiculous. Thousands of people are gainfully employed in America's orchestras, and many, many more have used creativity to piece together a nice living from freelance work.

One will of course never get rich from being musician, but that is an extremely modest sacrifice I (for one) am willing to make in order to make a living in a profession I love, as opposed to a profession that is "safe." I deal with career frustrations just like anyone else. I would love to be playing with the Cleveland Orchestra or the Boston Symphony, but I would never give up my $12,000 a year job with the Spokane Symphony for a different profession. Naturally, I have to supplant this with as much outside work as I am able, but I would like to think I have put together a relatively nice living without being in one of America's top orchestras.

If the difficulties of living well in music are not to your taste, than you absolutely should choose a different line of work. That is completely understandable. But it is wrong for you to belittle music as a profession when there are so many of us who are happy to face these challenges in order to do what we love. There are many struggling actors and athletes who would tell you the same thing, and I don't think anyone has the right to tell them that they are wrong to make their own choices.

04/08/2012 17:53

It is true, there are so few jobs in music for so many musicians. I have a performance degree that has made me very little in income. I have a MFA degree with a major in music composition and it earned me nothing. I also hold a PhD in music composition that is not worth the paper it is printed on. The only degree that I possess that is worth anything and has made me any income at all is a BS in music education that I picked up along the way. That degree is the reason I have a car, home, wife and kids. Yet everyone in the music world turns up their noses at us second rate musicians, the lowly music educators. And

04/08/2012 18:03

And yet every time I hear of situations like in Louisville, the musicians want me to band together to support their cause. Whose cause do most orchestra musicians champion other than their own? How do composers get their new works performed? Who gives lessons to poor kids that can not afford them? Who advances any player except the self? Who supports their local music educator? The music world is ill.

Ray Weaver
04/08/2012 18:32

I know of examples of Louisville orchestra players who in fact have established entire programs that provide reduced and free lessons. I know that many of the LO players have in the past spent extensive time in the school supporting their local fellow teaching musicians both individually and in small ensembles. They in fact tried to do so this year until blocked by the LOI who would not give up their "contract with the schools" even though they had no product. I know that the orchestra that I play in has a brand new, commissioned, or recent (last 5-10 years) composition on virtually every concert and that players have embraced this and actively seek to direct our conductor towards compositions which we have heard elsewhere. As far as advancing any player except the self I really don't know exactly what you mean - certainly at the audition one must advance oneself. But as far as being supportive in general - the music community of Louisville is generally quite that between LO musicians and freelancers.

04/08/2012 22:17

I second Ray on this one. My (per-service, union) orchestra just played a new commission last week. We offer reduced cost lessons in our economically depressed town. We provide resources and assistance to the educators of music (whether or not their primary class is band!) in the area.

No aspect of professional music is easy, whether one is on stage, in the executive office, or in the classroom. It is difficult to "make it" in the arts regardless of one's personal definition of the term. We are all constantly struggling for resources and exposure. But, every day I see professionals across the field, at multiple levels of success, collaborate to help realize the potential of each other's art.

(another) David
04/14/2012 07:17

Ken, I will gladly answer your questions:

How do composers get their new works performed?

They hope that there is an orchestra available with performers of sufficient quality (ie, professional full-time musicians) that can give their music an even recognizable reading. Submit it through the numerous channels provided, and hopefully your money on that composition degree will have been well spent if it is of high quality and the stars align properly.

Who gives lessons to poor kids that can not afford them?

Orchestra musicians. They're the best around at playing the instruments.,but that does not mean that only the best can study with them. Look around. Education is a huge part of every major symphony orchestra's work. You will not find more passionate advocates for giving cihldren the chance to make their lives better with music.

Who supports their local music educator?

Orchestra musicians. We remember why we were even inspired to pursue this career and love music with an intense passion, so much so that we are willing to devote our lives to it. I personally have spent many many hours in elementary school classrooms and I am a musician in a "major" orchestra. I will continue to do this and so will my colleagues ...with vigor. This has been going on for decades.

Don't let your frustration with the music business cloud your ability to see what is already going on and that while the orchestra field is definitely not in it's golden age in America, it is because of outside forces that you as a composer and I as a player both face together.

04/08/2012 19:16

Sadly, like too many of the L.O.'s remaining string players, Ray Weaver can't play. Sorry, but if Louisville can't field a GOOD orchestra, better to fold.

Ray Weaver
04/08/2012 19:36

I'm sorry Steve, do I know you or you me? Is it your impression I am a member of the Louisville orchestra?

04/08/2012 20:02

This guy is a troll, he's just baiting you. I wouldn't pay any attention to it.

Ray Weaver
04/08/2012 20:16

Thanks, Oh I know, I just like to think that even trolls can do their homework so they can be the best trolls they can be.

Speaking of trolls...
04/08/2012 20:29

I'm with the troll. You're ties to the LO aren't fooling anyone, Mr. Weaver. And I dare say that if you (and many former players) spent as much time practicing in the first place, or playing your concerts with a little bit of life, and, failing that, working towards constructive forward motion in this situation as you do "trolling" the message boards over EVERY post I see online, you might not be without a job that a "scab" will soon take. And better yet, the rest of us wouldn't have to deal with you and your incessant nagging, whining, and general "woe is me" and "woe are the players" comments...

Ray Weaver
04/08/2012 20:36

Well, Steve, I don't exactly make a secret of being a union member, or a violinist, or knowing and supporting the LO musicians but I am in fact not without a job as I am not and never have been a member of the orchestra. I am actually a businessman as well as a musician. And I must ask what YOUR interest in the situation is if you constantly follow this topic but are clearly not a professional musician. And never, in all the comments have I ever suggested "woe is me" as in fact I am quite satisfied with my professional situation and business situation. But thank you for your entirely cowardly personal attack.

04/08/2012 20:53

Has the board released a statement?

04/08/2012 21:25

There are so many factors contributing to orchestral decline in this country.. I do think positive energy is critical for any art, whether in the board room or on stage. Respect and the benefit of the doubt is also important. Otherwise, we're all just like Keith Olbermann....

04/08/2012 21:43

I want to know who is going to be on the audition panel. Assuming there will be people foolish enough to audition, who will be judging them?! The board?

04/08/2012 21:45

1) bait perhaps, i'd be more concerned a deal could be reached in the 11th hour and you would be replaced by the original musicians anyway, as always the case with line jumpers and scabs

2) elitism? fortune 500 companies post on craigslist (its true they really do) of course these are not for the 6 figure salary jobs, but it is a 'in' that enables you to work your way up. The Pittsburgh Symphony just posted a open cattle call via youtube. One thing we discover when we go off to music school is we find surprising good musicians come out of the woodwork. You may be expecting (or even hoping) the high schoolers and amateurs show up to audition, though consider how many students were in your graduating class at the conservatory, now consider how many graduating classes there were in that institutions history, now consider how many outstanding music schools there are in this country, now the world (we all know those japanese and koreans will jump at any opportunity to get a green card) While your efforts were well intentioned in writing this post, perhaps they were also out of threat and fear

3) fair point, though personally, who says you have to put this credential on your resume? And some (even very strong players) may not want to move on to 'bigger and better', they just want to play music alongside their day job; which leads me to the summation of this whole sad affair;

in todays economy post the global 2006 meltdown, there may not be any 'bigger and better' in the classical music world. All but 3 orchestra's declared chapter 11. The board may be wrong for not bringing in a arbiter to open their books, however it really may just be the case, they simply do not have the money, as with 90% of orchestras. Some have even lost their trust funds. Remember that career development class in college, where they advised you on headshots and audition rep, when they should have been advising you how to build a private studio, budget, invest, and flat out remind you "YOU WILL NOT MAKE MONEY DOING THIS"?
I certainly understand your need to organize Mrs Blundell, even threaten fellow musicians. If anything, get angry at the conservatories, who charge the same Harvard law does (and doesnt even pay their deserving faculty a decent wage -where does all this tuition money go?) or bloodsuckers like the New World Symphony who charge more for tickets then most professional orchestras do and do not give a dime to the talented players of this "training orchestra" who deserve their fair share. I can understand you looking out for your own interests, job, and union, and unfortunately in this career field and current economic state, getting angry and divisive with your own fellow musicians.

04/08/2012 22:30

In English we use an apostrophe to indicate a possessive. We never use an apostrophe for plurals. Even some of "those Japanese and Koreans who dream of a greencard" might know that.

04/09/2012 05:15

"musician", you make some good points (several not relevant) but make sure to post facts. 90% of orchestras don't have money? All but three have declared chapter 11? These comments are ludicrously incorrect.

New World Symphony Alum
04/09/2012 06:46

I was not going to comment here until I saw this comment about the "bloodsucking" New World Symphony. Even though I agree that there are too many many conservatories and music programs pumping out way too many musicians for not enough jobs. To bring NWS into that discussion is crazy. NWS is a great opportunity for those who get to experience it, to get some "experience" and not have to be temped by this lousy situation with the LO. I am sorry but this comment of the "musician" is clearly somebody bitter that they did not make it into NWS in the first place. NWS is not about money, it's about a great experience to work closely with great musicians. Maybe try re-auditioning and you will get to experience it yourself.

04/09/2012 16:22

What are you talking about? NWS fellows receive a stipend plus free housing, which combined come pretty close to the base wage of small salaried orchestras, especially if you consider how much it costs to live in Miami.

04/12/2012 13:40

Actually - when you consider the stipend and housing, NWS fellows do better than the paltry sum the replacement LSO is offering.

04/08/2012 22:12

I'm a 23 year old aspiring orchestral musician. This situation with LO is not the only type of situation like this in this economy. My advice to my young colleagues is to not be discouraged by the current economic situation, because it's only temporary. Also, a great bass trombonist once told me "there's always room on the top". Be the best, and persevere through this economic "rough patch".
Things will eventually work out. Maintain a high level of professionalism always with no exceptions (especially out of desperation)! We are lucky that it's even possible for music to be a career. Smile, and enjoy the music no matter where you are. That's the whole point, right?

Lance Chambers
04/08/2012 22:13

The situation in Louisville is awful, whether it be from the Louisville musicians' perspective, the Louisville audience's perspective, or even from the perspective of a new low-salary Craigslist Orchestra. However, there are too many comments about the death of classical music upon this thread. There are many of us who play professionally in other comparable orchestras that are just fine. Endowments shouldn't be shrinking lately, isn't the Dow near 13000? Corporations are now strong and so is the investor/philanthropic class. These aren't the dark days of 2008. Although classical music is currently in the ditch in Louisville, it's not dead everywhere. Many of us are fortunate to work for better run organizations than Louisville, groups with good CEO's and supportive boards. There are many fine players in the Lousiville Orchestra and hopefully the best of them might join our orchestras as a result of this. It's a shame that the business office at LO couldn't do better than they did. Music is always an iffy career choice for a young person, but the picture everywhere in America is NOT as terrible as it is for the Louisville Orchestra. If you're talented enough, lucky enough, and audition well, there's no better career.

04/09/2012 05:27

Who will conduct this new orchestra or will they be like Orpheus and play without a conductor? I don't think any experienced music directors would be associated with such a controversial situation. Or maybe the board will advertise on Craig's List again... To me it is akin to demolishing a historic landmark to put up a boring new building built with cheap materials and unskilled labor. You get what you pay for. The building might be there, but have you really created anything meaningful to your community or is it just an eyesore?

H. Kurzbauer
04/09/2012 06:11

I agree wholeheartedly and published an opinion piece in Strad Magazine (January 2012 edition) that outlines similar reasons NOT to take this audition under any circumstances!

04/09/2012 06:29

I can't wait to hear the Bruckner!

04/09/2012 06:49

First of all, as someone who has been both a student at a major conservatory, and is now a teacher at a small public university music school, I take issue with the characterization of conservatories and of the music field in general by the small minority of negative commenters here.

I am old enough to know several of my classmates who elected not to go into music as a career. Unlike the commenters, none of them seem bitter. In fact, they seem quite happy with their career choices. I also know several musicians who are either in music administration or other careers not directly connecting to solo, orchestra or chamber music who are, as far as I can tell from their facebook status updates, quite happy. In fact, I discovered this post because they all posted it and were appalled at the comments.

The truth is that a degree at a major conservatory is valuable not because of the training one gets (which is, by the way, excellent, regardless of how one feels about it when you are there). No, the real value of a conservatory training are the people around you who will be your colleagues and possibly your source of income. Music is a small community, and the people who make your career are likely to be those from your peer group. And yes, your ability to communicate with these people will make or break your career, not just your ability to execute your musical instrument or field of choice.

This is why the actions of the Louisville Orchestra board are disturbing on the highest level. Most rational human beings in the situation the management finds themselves in would simply accept personal responsibility and either resign or close down the orchestra altogether. This action suggests that they actually believe instead that the mismanagement was entirely the fault of the musicians and even suggests that they believe the problem is the musicians' inability to play at a high enough level.

Lincoln, Nebraska has a small symphony that was in danger of folding and had labor problems just 11 years ago. This season, through brilliant management, they moved into a larger, more expensive hall, lowered ticket prices, then proceded to more than double their subscription tickets to each of the concerts. As a result, they have actually exceeded previous season's ticket revenues and are operating in the black. In other words, the symphony is becoming more of an essential part of the life of the citizens of Lincoln, Nebraska, than it was even last year.

Does this sound like music is dying to you?

No, the truth is that some people can manage an orchestra and others can't. Blaming the musicians is just stupid.

04/09/2012 07:13

Does anyone know where music director Jorge Mester stands in all of this? Will he be auditioning the Craigslist group or does he stand with the original orchestra?

Ray Weaver
04/09/2012 07:48

My understanding is that Chuck Maisch went before the Fund for the Arts to request a grant of $30,000 to pay for extra time and costs associated with auditioning the orchestra. I believe the money was for Mester. I know that he has avoided making any public statements in support of either side, but he remains on the orchestra payroll drawing his salary.

04/09/2012 07:22

To those claiming that taking this job will not hurt your career prospects: what you have have failed to realize is that even without an "official" union blacklist, I would bet that in 99/100 auditions the audition committee would see the LO gig on a candidate's resume and immediately want to hear the next candidate. You don't need an official blacklist to point out to you who is a scab that is contributing to the demise of our field. An audition committee will see this in a person's resume, official blacklist or not.

Billy Joel
04/09/2012 07:22

#3, "We'll blacklist you", (even though likely true) doesn't seem like a very good argument for defining a distinction between "professional" musicians and "disingenuous" symphony boards.


just to clarify: Even though I still have NOT been able to find an IMPARTIAL and JOURNALISTIC report of all of the events of this conflict precisely as they've occurred (and don't expect to), I'm NEARLY CERTAIN that the way in which the musicians were dealt with displayed PROFOUNDLY POOR JUDGEMENT with MULTIPLE BAD CONSEQUENCES.

Companies in nearly all industries can fire just about anyone for just about any reason. The fact that people and their friends can anonymously slander former bosses on facebook (etc.) is one reason why I've severely downsized my own company to immediate family members.

Finally, I don't believe that copying and pasting pre-manufactured snide memes on social media paints the AFofM in a particularly good light (other than to ardent AFofM members).

Ray Weaver
04/09/2012 07:29

The Louisville Orchestra is not a company. If it were, some of the objections to what has been happening would not exist. I don't copy and paste - it sure would save a lot of time though so thanks for the suggestion. And I agree with you, there has not been an impartial and journalistic report of the events - which is precisely why I've gotten so fired up about finding out what has been going on.

04/09/2012 07:38

These "money situations" in orchestras like this are never black and white. Does anyone really believe that the CEO of Louisville isn't making a huge salary? If you have been following all of the newspaper articles about the situation, the Management rejected the musician's offer of arbitration because the binding arbitration would have forced them to make changes on their end too.

I know that I didn't really understand this side of the music business until I had a few jobs myself. And all unions are not bad! The orchestra that i play in, the Local AFM is extremely helpful to us, and most definitely has our back. It's just too bad that the Louisville local didn't involve itself more in the beginning, when there was actually a chance of salvaging a better outcome.

I have many friends that play in LSO and I have subbed with them myself in the past. It really is a great group of musicians and it's a shame that this is happening now.

Being in the music business is so competitive and people have to fight tooth and nail to get any respect. If we don't stand in solidarity with our colleagues, then we are giving up our power. Our strength comes from our numbers. When I first got out of school, I too was very anti-union and didn't understand what they were doing for me. I have since reversed that opinion. The AFM does do good for musicians and the work that we accept if musicians choose to become well-informed about the issues, and get involved in the union.

Ms. Blundel hits the nail on the head with this letter! There is so much about being a professional musician out side of playing and taking auditions. The management of the LSO is hoping that young people just out of school will be ignorant about these issues and accept work with them. I hope that people considering responding for the audition call realize how disingenuous LSO management is. Please take the time to educate yourself about all sides of the situation!

Tom Shriver
04/09/2012 07:38

I've had an idea that I'd like to run by the commentors on this thread; it may not be a particularly GOOD idea, but that's why I'm interested in your feedback.

Could the striking LO players turn the tables on management by forming a new orchestra and sending out a national call for new managers? Is that possible, feasible, desirable, legal, etc.?

Anne Lemieux
04/09/2012 08:10

Tom, I've spent my morning reading through the various comments here and I was wondering the very same thing. Would it be possible to turn this around a little by getting together and making good music no matter what? I don't know whether it's legal or desirable, but it seems like it would at least be productive. I'm interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.

Ray Weaver
04/09/2012 08:13

The former LO players have played some concerts as "Keep Louisville Symphonic" particularly last fall. There have been none I am aware of recently but I would hope one of the players would answer this in more detail. I have mixed feelings about the concept.

04/12/2012 11:08

Great idea. The LO saga is a very sad one, mostly because the LO musicians have refused to give an inch. All they have done is bitch and moan and blame their board and CEO for all their woes. Even their last offer was not very different from where they started more than a year ago. The only concession they have made is to agree to a 30 week program. Other than that it is more of the same thing. They did not agree to having 55 players and they did not agree to binding arbitration (see there letter on the Courier Journal Website). All they agreed to is a binding recommendation of a industry consultant who would have dictatorial power over the program, which guest artists and conductor would be hired, management, the board, but could say nothing about the quality of the players (the quality and professionalism of the majority who is still there is not much to cheer about). If they think they know so much better how to run a sustainable AND professional orchestra than start your own, appoint your own board, raise your own funds, do your own marketing. Let the community decided who deserves their support: the LO with replacement players or the LO musicians with replacement administration and board.

Ray Weaver
04/12/2012 11:35

Tessa, I can not disagree more. Is it not a fact that their previous contract was for 71 musicians? Did they not, over the course of a number of months negotiate down to 55 at one point only to have the attorney Smith inform them that their acceptance was null because it was several hours late? Did they not just propose 59 players? Did they not also agree to the shorter number of weeks, which means they lose the salaries for the 7 weeks (about $6475.00 per player or almost 20% of their salary?) Their proposal for arbitration is at at a least as reasonable as the board hand-picking the options before the players could decide.
So in effect, you are saying that giving up at least 12 and perhaps 17 positions (as in firing people), giving up 20% of their salary is not "moving an inch". I hope you are either a child, or God help us all perhaps a board member who is not in the loop (but needs to be).
If the LOI does in fact hire a replacement orchestra I would welcome the KLS competing directly with it - on the same night in fact. I think you'd be in for a brutal surprise as to the loyalty of much of the Louisville audience. I know the dozen or so subscribers I have talked too are all not renewing and I am in a position to influence dozens more. Whitney will be a cavern where the LOI board gets to bury itself in ignominy before filing the inevitable Chapter 7.

Ray Weaver
04/12/2012 11:35

Tessa, I can not disagree more. Is it not a fact that their previous contract was for 71 musicians? Did they not, over the course of a number of months negotiate down to 55 at one point only to have the attorney Smith inform them that their acceptance was null because it was several hours late? Did they not just propose 59 players? Did they not also agree to the shorter number of weeks, which means they lose the salaries for the 7 weeks (about $6475.00 per player or almost 20% of their salary?) Their proposal for arbitration is at at a least as reasonable as the board hand-picking the options before the players could decide.
So in effect, you are saying that giving up at least 12 and perhaps 17 positions (as in firing people), giving up 20% of their salary is not "moving an inch". I hope you are either a child, or God help us all perhaps a board member who is not in the loop (but needs to be).
If the LOI does in fact hire a replacement orchestra I would welcome the KLS competing directly with it - on the same night in fact. I think you'd be in for a brutal surprise as to the loyalty of much of the Louisville audience. I know the dozen or so subscribers I have talked too are all not renewing and I am in a position to influence dozens more. Whitney will be a cavern where the LOI board gets to bury itself in ignominy before filing the inevitable Chapter 7.

Ray Weaver
04/12/2012 11:36

Tessa, I can not disagree more. Is it not a fact that their previous contract was for 71 musicians? Did they not, over the course of a number of months negotiate down to 55 at one point only to have the attorney Smith inform them that their acceptance was null because it was several hours late? Did they not just propose 59 players? Did they not also agree to the shorter number of weeks, which means they lose the salaries for the 7 weeks (about $6475.00 per player or almost 20% of their salary?) Their proposal for arbitration is at at a least as reasonable as the board hand-picking the options before the players could decide.
So in effect, you are saying that giving up at least 12 and perhaps 17 positions (as in firing people), giving up 20% of their salary is not "moving an inch". I hope you are either a child, or God help us all perhaps a board member who is not in the loop (but needs to be).
If the LOI does in fact hire a replacement orchestra I would welcome the KLS competing directly with it - on the same night in fact. I think you'd be in for a brutal surprise as to the loyalty of much of the Louisville audience. I know the dozen or so subscribers I have talked too are all not renewing and I am in a position to influence dozens more. Whitney will be a cavern where the LOI board gets to bury itself in ignominy before filing the inevitable Chapter 7.

Ray Weaver
04/12/2012 11:54

(I apologize for the multiple postings - my screen kept saying there was a problem with submitting and to try again)
Tessa, if you wish to dispute any of the facts I cited I would truly like to know. It gets frustrating when I attempt to correct factual misstatements and then the original poster simply disappears without further comment - even as an anonymous
poster. I am not anonymous.

Billy Joel
04/09/2012 07:44

I like Tom's idea better than the lack of an impartial journalistic timeline (supplanted by emotionally-based opinions) that I've seen to date.

04/09/2012 08:04

My wife has played in this orchestra for over 20 years. Twenty years ago, she was making more than today's offer as this orchestra has cut musicians benefits at every contract negotiation. Your pay might start at $925/30weeks, but it can only go down from there. Twenty years from now, bagging groceries will pay more than the Louisville Orchestra.

It is inevitable that with 300million people in the USA alone, there are 50 people that will take these jobs. They just will not be able to advance to other positions and they will have no growth potential in this position. Your first job can type cast your whole career. There are more jobs I wish I had turned down than jobs I wish I had taken. If music is going to be your life, shoot for the stars. If your life goal is $27k/year and constant fighting with management, the orchestra has a place for you.

04/09/2012 08:57

Regarding no blacklisting: It is my understanding that any union musician playing with an orchestra on their national 'unfair labor practices' list can be fined, ejected from the union for life, or both. The potential fine was substantial, as well.

04/09/2012 10:11

Let me start by saying that I do not agree with the decision made in Louisville, and I think you are right in encouraging young musicians not to apply for a position there. This is the whole point of a strike; it's tempting to take the bait and the work, but it does a disservice to the industry which will bite everybody in the rear eventually.

However, musicians should think of this situation - our entire economic situation - as an opportunity to get educated about the difficulties faced by orchestra administrators and boards.

To claim that the board and administration are simply "idiots" or "know nothing about music" demonstrates your own short-sightedness. Administrators must make extraordinarily hard decisions all the time. Please don't forget (or worse, be disdainful of) the fact that our industry is based ENTIRELY on the largesse of wealthy donors and to a lesser extent foundations and corporations. Concert tickets, which already seem to price out a lot of potential attendees, rarely cover even 50% of expenses and often more like 25%.

The reason nonprofit orgs have boards is so community members and business people can oversee the operations of what is, ultimately, a business - and a hard one at that. They may seem unsympathetic to the players of the orchestra, but in any business, "labor" is just one (important) piece of the puzzle.

Louisville made an unfortunate decision. Other ensembles have simply closed their doors when expenses beat out revenues. Other organizations are drastically scaling themselves back. The NY Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and other flagship ensembles are running huge deficits and will have their real reckoning sooner or later.

While I agree with the premise of this essay, many commenters here do betray a sense of entitlement. (I certainly hope those commenters are not the same people who roll their eyes at the prospect of playing fundraising gigs, or refuse to sign thank you notes to donors, which is sadly quite common.) Assuming that the orchestra world is an us-against-them battle royale between dedicated musicians and moronic administrators is a sure strategy to help nobody.

Ray Weaver
04/09/2012 11:21

Jeri, I think your point is well taken and I agree that it can sometimes seem that the musicians do not appreciate the time and money which board members and donors provide at no great benefit to themselves. In theory, the respect should flow both ways and the musicians should not fall into the entitlement trap which does happen. I must say that when this dispute began to percolate well more than a year ago I saw the online videos management posted and listened to their arguments and frankly thought their position quite reasonable. While I would have preferred the ensemble remain at 71 players, and as supportive of the players as I have been, I then and now understand the desire of management for a smaller core and still find it reasonable. But the vindictive nature of the negotiations (a vindictiveness that seemed entirely one-sided until recently) and the fact that the players essentially surrendered about 95% of the way towards the management position found me rapidly off the fence. The final straw was the day on which the players voted to accept the management proposal of 55 players after meeting with Chuck Maisch, the CEO, and a scant two hours later a missive from the union busting attorney (that is his career reputation of thirty years, not a slur directed at him just because he represented the management) declared that the players voted "too late" and the deadline had passed and now the had to drop to 50 players. As you can imagine, the reaction was furious. All of this is from my best understanding of these events as told to me by many different people - if any of this is in error I am happy to hear a different version.
I fear that the relations here are so frayed it will take a long time to heal if it ever will.

04/09/2012 10:35

I don't know where to begin. The real/true problem here is the orchestra world as a whole and how it's set up. Management works for the musicians--or tries--and the musicians constantly criticize the management when things aren't perfect. I really want musicians to stop and think about these people who go to work every day and work 40-80 hours a week dealing with all of the fund raising, marketing, personnel issues in the orchestra, artistic administration, etc. and many of them don't make nearly as much as the musicians playing--please remember this. It is a joint effort and for the musicians to consistantly BLAME management is really disheartening. It is not a good business model--the way it is set up. The union is good for some things (i.e. over time, cold temperatures, helping with limiting rehearsals, etc) but I think it is mostly a problem for the organizations. There is a division between the musicians and management that is too hard. And, Louisville is a prime example. I say that the graduating musicians need to take this audition. It is a pitty for those in the Louisville Orchestra who played there for so long and want to keep their jobs--but they need to remember that this economy is dismal and there are SO many people out there who have NO JOBS and also worked hard to get where they are. I don't fault the Louisville Musicians for being angry--they're not angry at the musicians for wanting to take the auditions--I believe they're angry at the system and feeling powerless to help keep their orchestras alive.....It really is a problem with the business as a whole. It's time for a change!

Ray Weaver
04/09/2012 11:29

Judy, are you in non-profit management? Do you have firsthand knowledge of the specific circumstances of the Louisville situation? I don't mean these questions to be aggressive - I am genuinely curious. Everything you say is generally true of most management/orchestra dynamics. The devil is in the details, and that's where I have such a problem with what has happened here.

And I might add, that the union is really only a name to give the players as a unit. The Union in Louisville is not seen as particularly helpful to the players, but in fact more likely to want to accommodate management. The facts on the ground are a lot different than in the theoretical ideological baggage people bring who are both pro and anti-union. The issue in Louisville doesn't revolve around the Union at all, simply how the former players have been treated.

Aubrey Foard
04/09/2012 11:50

In most situations where it's management vs musicians, both sides can be idiotic. Management IME *usually* has some very smart people running the show, but that doesn't mean they won't make stupid decisions. In the case of the LO, management has made a *very* idiotic decision in locking out all tenured musicians and trying to replace them in the most shifty, underhanded way possible. Can't come to terms on a contract with your employees? Fine, shut down. But don't make the entire organization look bad in the eyes of the public and the industry by trying to replace your employees with scabs. This is VERY bad for the organization and for the industry as a whole.

04/09/2012 12:05

I agree that they were not smart to post the (ridiculous looking) advert on their website and perhaps Craigslist was a bit outrageous--but what are they to do when the Union obviously won't post their advertisements and really--if they shut down---when can they start up again? After a year?---and then they will be seen as OK in the musicians eyes to have people audition there and not be blacklisted? I agree that they were a little crass about the adverts--but it doesn't matter which way they would have gone--they would have been blacklisted anyways -=-- by the union. Which brings me back to the same point--I really think it's a problem in the entire industry and the set up and not just for the Louisville Orchestra. The musicians and management don't work well enough together.

04/09/2012 11:01

Read the letter, and most of the comments. Good one Karen I think it was well said. I would also add that I do not see someone who has put a HUGE amount of time, money, and work into learning how to play well enough to win an audition(they are not easy to win)
as having entitlement issues for wanting to receive reasonable compensation for their work. I would say to young musicians who may be thinking of taking this audition, "What makes you think that these people will not do the exact same thing to you?" They have already done it once...

04/09/2012 11:11

Using the term "scab" in this day and age is ridiculous. It's not 1930 and only an old fossil would use it. Ultimately, we must all adapt to a new world. Blaming management and calling people scabs only takes away mental resources from working out real solutions.

Foreign Observer
04/09/2012 11:42

I play for a professional orchestra in Brazil, and we just had a similar situation in one of the larger orchestras here, in Rio de Janeiro, where the conductor fired a large segment of the orchestra and sought to replace them. In that situation, though, the issue wasn't a lack of money but rather they wanted to give a large pay raise and didn't feel many of the players were qualified to work at the new pay scale.

Different people took different sides on whether it was appropriate to take the audition for the replacement seats, but the audience OVERWHELMINGLY took the side of the fired musicians, to the point that the orchestra essentially ceased to operate for the entire season and part of the next season. Because of the audience protests, riots, etc the scandal blew to such proportion that actually resulted in congressional hearings (orchestras here are largely publicly funded). At the end of the day, the fiasco cost the orchestra so much money that they are now having problems where before there were none, and they may have trouble paying the higher salary which, ironically, engendered the entire fiasco.

So I see a few points that are worth taking from that:

1) The locked-out musicians should work fervently to get the audience visibly and passionately on their side.
2) Management has and probably will continue to drastically underestimate the scandal that this will cause.
3) Any musicians interested in taking the audition should be aware that they are getting in bed with a management that has already demonstrated themselves to be immoral and worse incompetent, therefor it is exceedingly unlikely that they will be able to meet whatever salary obligations they are advertising.

04/09/2012 12:09

To the commenter who criticized NWS: You couldn't be more off base about what NWS provides young musicians. It's no coincidence that when you look around America's orchestras and their broader constituency, some of its most engaged and intelligent and vocal leaders are NWS alumni - including the author of this post.

To those who assume musicians operate ignorantly off of negative board stereotypes: Most orchestras allow/require musician involvement in governance. Many of us have seen boards operate up close and personal - great ones and dysfunctional ones.

You know what's rare in our industry? A board that ever acknowledges its own failures first. So often, board members are lightning-fast to externalize the fault for their own failures so as to avoid diminishing their own reputations or standing within the community.

Here's what I hear from my colleagues around the country who are in leadership positions. We hear board members talk about the bad economy (no longer true by any statistical metric, outside of housing), donor fatigue (usually a result of boards and development staff failing to market aggressively and develop a broader fundraising base), labor costs (which in most orchestras has barely moved in the last 10 years), and declining attendance (often fueled by overly cautious, uninspired programming insisted upon by board members and management to avoid "alienating" old people).

It's no coincidence that the orchestras that are succeeding right now - whether it's Los Angeles or Nashville or Oregon or Kansas City or others - are producing inspired and creative programming, executing at a high level on stage, and have boards and management that are responsive, committed to marketing the hell out of their institutions, and raising the money necessary to grow.

It's no coincidence that while Louisville struggles, Colorado is revitalized and working to right its ship. Of course, Colorado also canned its CEO and replaced all the naysayers on its board, too.

Building and sustaining a thriving arts institution isn't rocket science. Do inspired work and market it aggressively. The best magnet for fundraising is success.

When board members start resigning themselves to "right-sizing" or whatever other absurd buzzword comes out of the League of American Orchestras these days as a way to conceal managerial failure, it's very difficult to break the death spiral without a complete change in leadership. Otherwise, here's what happens.

The board cuts the budget. Talent starts to leave. Audience members and donors take note and begin lessening their own financial commitments; after all, who wants to pay more money for a worse product? The board fails to meet its even lower revenue targets. The board blames everyone but itself. It cuts the budget again. This happens in perpetuity until the board is no longer able to pay its creditors, at which point it files for bankruptcy, and usually blames the community for its inadequate support. Even in death, it's *never* the board's fault.

Louisville *can* succeed. It wasn't so long ago that Louisville was thriving and just down the road, Nashville was in trouble. Now, a generation later, the roles are entirely reversed. Both communities are similar in size and demographic. Both have musicians committed to doing great things on stage. So what caused the change in fortune? What's the big variable that caused one institution to thrive and one to fail?

Make no mistake - whether it's the San Francisco Symphony or the Podunk Philharmonic, organizational success depends on clear, passionate, inspired leadership, both on the stage and off the stage. Here's hoping the musicians in Louisville can find a management team as committed to growing and producing great art as they are.

Tom Shriver
04/09/2012 12:29

Excellent post, Ryan. It also backs up my idea of the present LO musicians starting a new orchestra and hiring new managers of their own, perhaps even from the pool of musicians themselves.

Ray Weaver
04/09/2012 12:41

Wonderful post Ryan.

04/09/2012 12:41

Ryan, I so often disagree with your positions, but not here. Bravo!

Tamara Meinecke
04/12/2012 09:58

You nailed it.

04/09/2012 16:12

There will be no "union" blacklist. Those throwing around this politically charged word have no idea how the orchestra "industry" works. I guarantee even non-union contractors hiring for non-union gigs will avoid hiring the members of the faux-LO. It has nothing to do with a union boss in a pinstripe suit and fedora; it has everything to do with the fact that musicians know that the only way to preserve both their own quality of life and the artistic integrity of professional orchestras is to fight tooth and nail against musician-busting boards and managers wielding metaphorical baseball bats and lead pipes.

I'm living the freelance "highway symphony" lifestyle right now, plus I have a day job, plus I'm aggressively auditioning. Yeah, it sucks, but I know that even though a salaried gig (even a low paying one) would make my life easier, auditioning for the LO orchestra is completely selfish. I would be putting my future, the future of the musician I'd replace, and the future of the industry as a whole in jeopardy.

new model
04/09/2012 16:23

I challenge everyone on here complaining about the possibility that an orchestra might hire an entire roster of non-union musicians, to admit if they've ever played a non-union gig. Fess Up. How deep has your solidarity really been?
You know, in many states, it's illegal to require union membership as a condition of employment. "Blacklisting", then, as it were, is patently illegal in those places. Not a damn thing you can do about that!

new model
04/09/2012 16:27

How's this--- why don't we "blacklist" all the 60-70+ year olds holding down seats in ICSOM orchestras who can no longer really play?

04/09/2012 17:16

Lol.. Although I'm not taking a side, there is a bit of truth to this.. In the end, it's all about creating opportunities. We were all never trained in this, but it is ESSENTIAL for art! We must all individually make the case and bring passion and energy to what we do. At some level, we all wish to become complacent, both management and performers..

Freeway Phil
04/09/2012 22:11

I recently did a set for a union orchestra that was having some cash flow problems and found out that the conductor and the executive director represented some 30% of the orchestra's annual budget.

Looks like the union really had our backs on that one! Good grief.

Amateur Musician
04/09/2012 23:59

As much as I love going to the symphony and deeply respect the tremendous skill and experience of the performers in professional ensembles, I'm afraid to say not all cities are cut out to have one. It seems that a lot of self-identified professionals here (sorry, I can't, er, won't Google all of your names) are saying that this is a fixable problem, though the solution has not presented itself. I'm mostly an ignorant bystander. It could be poor management alone, for all I know. From my outsider perspective, it appears serious LO funding and budgeting problems have existed for decades, despite the willingness of its musicians to accept pay cuts year after year, or through unsuccessful changes in management (though I don't know how recently).

Maybe the performers should just move on like Birch Blundell tells the potential scabs to do (since "other jobs will come open"), and, let the Louisville Orchestra be as mediocre as it might be!? Its just lost pride if you aren't reemployed. I understand why the statement was made, and its clear that this is how the industry works.

If they so up in arms about this, maybe such concerned X and Y union members could collectively donate a portion of their pay to sustain the Louisville Orchestra? Or perhaps volunteer to work with them in finding a more permanent solution to their funding problem? Many responses here indicate there is such a thing as a successful, viable orchestra, regardless of circumstances.

Decorum aside, I think its beneath the honor and dignity of grown adults and master musicians to threaten the careers of starving artists and hundreds, if not thousands of professional-level performers who have been passed over or on the long waiting list for this type of employment. I'm not one of these aspiring future performers, just to set the record straight. However, I do find it sad that the national culture creates a necessity for this type of discrimination; but I'm told that's the way it is, for better or worse. That there are limited seats in professional ensembles seems like pretty unavoidable math to me, so lets not limit a critique of a Darwinist mentality to the business side alone. Survival of the fittest doesn't mean just the "best players," or those within the existing hierarchy, as much as that is bound to wound some egos.

Even if the economy really isn't as bad as some here are saying, there is some truth that general interest in this branch of the fine arts is declining and that funding for the arts faces real difficulties into the future. Unfortunately, a large portion of this society is either ignorant of fine art, indifferent, or has moved on to other forms of entertainment.

On a side note, I find it curious and quite disappointing that many symphony orchestras don't bother posting content in the greater public domain, like YouTube. Just a few selections would suffice and they are worth donating. Even running into a concert or selection by accident online could change a person's attitude toward this wonderful art and contribute to its exposure and future support.

Eric Berlin
04/10/2012 05:20

I could not stand to read the entire thread of comments here but would like to highlight to the vitriolic remarks from Edward with just a few points.

1) That the union days of musicians is over is easily proved untrue by the viral spread of of this blog, petitions in support of the LO musicians and constant commentary on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media. We are united and take this issue personally no matter how far from Louisville we are.
2) What makes an orchestra perform at a level which makes it a source of pride is not merely the time when the musicians are in the chair. Even ignoring the decades of investment leading up to a successful audition, maintaining one's skills at the level needed to perform the difficulty of repertoire to the fine polish expected by a community is considerable. Unlike your average job, we don't clock in and clock out. The time invested in performing our job is several hours a day in many cases in addition to the time spent at rehearsal or in performance.

To the members of the Louisville Orchestra management, I ask you to remember that together your management and musicians built a reputation for excellence with the adventurous programming and top notch performance on recordings. The musicians who you have now are playing at a level well beyond what you had a few decades ago and are eager to maintain that legacy. By callous disregard for the collective bargaining process, management alone is responsible for desecrating the name of the orchestra.

04/10/2012 08:37

Louisville old-timer musicians: welcome to life. Start your own orchestra, form your own board, raise your own funds. This is your opportunity.

04/10/2012 10:35

I am truly saddened by this situation. (It was my great pleasure to perform Elgar's Violin Concerto with the orchestra in 2001.) The letter is directed towards musicians who might consider auditioning for the "reformed" Louisville Orchestra but the ensuing comments bring in many other aspects.

Unfortunately, the public's perception of classical musicians is often quite unsympathetic overall and this situation is likely to badly affect the future support of the orchestra, at least in the near future.

It also seems to me that, in general, the boards of many orchestras often consist of business people from the community who think that they should apply the same standards and operating practices to a "charity," including executive pay levels that are completely inappropriate. (And my own pet peeve: these are the people who hire "star" soloists that an orchestra really can't afford. Although the attendance for the concerts may be excellent it doesn't usually result in higher overall attendance throughout the season. This must be especially galling to the orchestra members who are taking pay cuts.)

Similarly, many musicians do not realize just how difficult it is to support this level of organization and financial obligation, but it is usually they who ultimately pay the price for questionable decisions made by management - and for economic factors that are beyond everyone's control.

Local businesses - and governing authorities - should acknowledge the role that an arts organization can play in bringing in income and business to their communities, and collaborate in whatever ways possible to help promote the health of these organizations.

The idea of the musicians reforming and starting anew is intriguing. I've played with a number of orchestras that eventually went bankrupt and then reformed. In this case, however, the public in Louisville and its environs would be asked to support two orchestras, or at least until one prevails over the other - which is a difficult scenario.

new model
04/10/2012 10:39

No professional orchestra sounds bad because it has too many young players. The problem in the industry is that people who won jobs 30, 40 years ago are still playing. The field is exponentially more competitive now than it was when they got in, so there are literally thousands of people out there better suited for the job than they are. But the system is established on the premise of holding a lifelong job. Union rules make it extraordinarily difficult to weed out weak players. Often, the problem is not acute enough to seem to warrant action-- but these "lifers" do not play anywhere close to the standard that they uphold for young auditioners. They don't necessarily sound awful, they just sound bad--- while one small, momentary mistake can eliminate a much more qualified player from an audition. Lifers who have lost the qualifications for the jobs they hold often mitigate their own boredom and guilt by conjuring reasons to complain about their work conditions--- positioning of chairs, proximity to other players, placement of plexiglass shielding, lights in their eyes, etc etc etc. The system is totally out of balance. Too many talented young people are shut out of positions that they should be rightfully be holding, because they are the best players out there, and the people who have been sitting in the orchestra for 30 years are not.

Ray Weaver
04/10/2012 11:04

New model, There is plenty of truth in your statements but I don't think they are particularly relevant to the situation in Louisville. The orchestra has never sounded better in my opinion and I haven't heard anyone who knows music say otherwise - so how is it the fault of the players that the finances and audience has fallen apart? Plenty of LO players are relatively recent additions in any case. And I also think there is truth in your analysis of some older players but there is something to be said for experience. I have had the experience of having a recent hotshot player win an audition and when rotated behind me, demonstrate why playing in an orchestra requires more than fast fingers and excellent technique. The inability to blend, to count, to prepare the part, and to recognize stylistic differences was painful. Yet I'm sure the concerto they played for the committee sounded great. Orchestra players know when someone is a good symphony player and auditions can't always provide an accurate reading of that skill, not that there is any practical or fair alternative.

new model
04/10/2012 11:25

The problem you describe is much less pervasive than in decades past. Typically, young players are who advance at auditions these days are quite seasoned, and have spent a lot of time playing in various orchestras. Many walk onto the job with much more intensive recent playing experience than the people sitting in the chairs around them.
Hopefully, in your case, the system worked effectively, and that person was prevented from keeping a job for which s/he was not qualified.

Ray Weaver
04/10/2012 11:13

And, carrying the point further what sort of career would it be if after winning your position at age 20, by age 23 you had to re-audition for your chair against the next crop of 20 years olds? If there were no tenure and each year they had to compete anew the career expectancy of an orchestra player would be like an NFL running back - minus the astronomical salaries. So who in their right mind would go into such a career?

new model
04/10/2012 11:36

Ah, yes, right on schedule, here we have the fear-mongering argument... So, the only way to change from the status quo is to suddenly be like the NFL, is that what you're saying?
Well, I really don't see what is wrong with expecting people to keep up the quality of their work, if they're getting paid to do it. If you can't execute certain technical maneuvers on your instrument anymore, then you shouldn't be pretending that you can, for years on end, only to serve your own needs, when there are others who can do it better.
The question "who in their right mind would go into such a career?" already applies to orchestral music as it is. Apparently, people want to play.

04/10/2012 11:57

The NFL might not be such a great example.

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, might. It's not about age, it's about cost - a younger musician looking for his first gig will probably be cheaper than an experienced player, regardless of the "technical execution" that one or the other has.

In short, scabbing at Louisville or another orchestra exacerbates the "race to the bottom" prevalent in other industries - "we're not competitive or making enough money, so let's make the employees more worried about keeping their jobs and let's continuously recruit the young, the unskilled, or the very poor so we can keep wages down."

"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot sold his savior for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British Army. The modern strikebreaker sells his birthright, his country, his wife, his children, and his fellow men for an unfulfilled promise from his employer, trust, or corporation." - Jack London. (notice that the promise, much like the Louisville Orchestra's promise, is unfulfilled.)

Ray Weaver
04/10/2012 12:01

If you had seen my post below (which unfortunately although directed to you was not in the right position) I was asking you if you had a proposal that was workable that would stake out some kind of middle position. It seems clear that you are both young and bitter that no one has voluntarily acknowledged your superior skills and resigned so that you could take their place. I don't blame you exactly, but I think your view is myopic. Plenty of older players do work to keep their technical chops and approach each concert as a challenge - I know I do. Maybe in some of the really busy ICSOM orchestras they do get blase. But the specific topic of this blog is the Louisville Orchestra (of which I am NOT a member) and I think it is full of mostly 20-40 years olds, with some older. It is not just a lineup of white hair and graybeards.
And if you have a thought about a proposal to change the status quo I'm truly interested.

new model
04/10/2012 12:11

But Wal-Mart is not relevant because we're talking about non-profit arts organizations. Obviously, they do not make enough money-- they do not "make money" at all. And I'm not encouraging anyone to "scab". I think one way for people to express solidarity with the greater cause of musicianship, however, would be to remain self-aware enough to recognize when the time has come to retire from a position that they know they really should not be holding on to any longer. People selfishly cling to the idea that they're owed something, when they are no longer contributing artistically.

04/12/2012 16:55

And of course "no longer contributing artistically" can be very easily objectively judged, especially by someone who wants that person's job ...

Kids just coming out of college are used to being surrounded only by people their own age, with the exception of professors. I'm sorry, but these kids need to get used to the idea that they will be competing with other humans who are not exactly like them. Yes, that means older ones. Tough crap. It's not unfair that upon exiting college, they will suddenly confront people who are decades older than they are in more than a parental or mentoring context. Welcome to the human race. After college, you will never again be part of a direct social or professional circle that consists of people who are, at maximum, four years older than you. Deal.

new model
04/12/2012 22:33

The job we're discussing here is playing musical instruments. Older people that can do the job are not a problem. Older people that can not do the job, ARE a problem. Young people that can not play are kept away from the stage by a grueling audition process. Old people that can not play are protected, way past their usefulness on the job. THEY are the ones living outside reality--- the reality of the marketplace of talent.

04/13/2012 09:39

You can argue it as much as you want, but the fact remains: if you want someone's job, you are living in la-la-land if you think you are the most objective judge of whether or not they are "contributing artistically" -- your own words, I remind you. First, it's "contributing artistically," and now you've shifted the goalposts to "can they or can they not play a trill as fast as I can?" Shifting sands, dude. Besides, how many 90 year old violinists are there in the world, really? I can think of ONE who is working in a big-name orchestra, and given that he experienced premiering Rachmaninoff's works when Rach was still around to write them, I'd say that that experience is more than enriching enough to merit his hanging around. (I'm sure you'll mention two more and manage somehow to rhetorically multiply that into another million unknown ones all cruelly making YOUR MONEY.)

Seriously, dude. You act like there are seventeen million 85-year old string players with dementia stacked up like cordwood in the path of ten or twenty teenaged wannabe Perlmans. That's just not reality. You are projecting your fears in a crappy economy on people who are simply not a threat even in the remotest sense.

I'm neither young nor old, and not a professional musician, but every profession in the world seems to have to deal with kids who think that anyone over the age of 50 should die and get out of their anointed way.

College kids have spent their lives in artificial environments where they are competing only with people their own age and everyone who is older is in a parental capacity. They get out into the world and find out that this is simply not the case and that, as all young people must do, they need to work very, very hard to establish themselves. They don't want to. They are impatient as all hell and think that they need to make that first million before they turn 25. They scream and rant about how experience shouldn't count so much, only because they haven't got any yet. And in your case, they multiply the very, very few 80+ orchestral musicians in the world into an army of Alzheimers-saddled drooling placeholders lying in their way.

You really need to learn who your real enemies are, and what's really standing in your way, instead of just whining that everyone older than you in the world isn't acting in a parental capacity toward you.

new model
04/15/2012 14:09

Janis: You are quite mistaken if you think that young people do not work hard to establish themselves. Are you an auditioning orchestral musician? Are you familiar with how competitive the market has become? It's the 60-70 year-old "lifers", who are reluctant to retire because they have not planned wisely, who are gumming up the works.

I'm not young, by the way. I'm an ICSOM veteran-- more than a decade logged.

Ray Weaver
04/10/2012 11:32

I think it very much depends on the orchestra - and some of our recent additions are in fact superb players in every respect. I'm just not sure at what point one draws the line - how would you propose a system where there was some middle ground between having new auditions for every position each year, or complete security until very "old" whatever that might be.

Ray Weaver
04/13/2012 06:45

New Model, you have identified a perceived problem. What is your proposed solution?

04/13/2012 09:09

I don't want to speak for Mr. Model, but I definitely think there should be mandatory reviews for all members of an orchestra every 5-10 years or so. These reviews could consist of simple interviews with peers, artistic administration to flat out re-auditions. I mean the average life-span of a music director at any orchestra is between 7-10 years... how's that for job security?

George Szell once asked, "What is the purpose of a symphony orchestra for which so many people give without compensation their time - I am now talking about the board - and collect money... What is the purpose? Is it the purpose of a symphony orchestra to make it possible to have the best of music? Or is the purpose of such an orchestra to give their members the easiest and unchallengeably permanent job?" (Szell-Culnshaw 1968).

I can attest as a close observer of the orchestra for most of my life that it's quality has become truly abhorrent.

Ray Weaver
04/13/2012 09:31

I can't seem to reply to the reply by "Observer". I find nothing to quibble with in paragraphs 1 and 2. The final sentence I find astonishing in it's opposition to what I have heard with my own ears. I played in the orchestra as a frequent substitute for a span of about ten years including performances in Washington and NY, though it has been ten years since I last did so on a regular basis. There is no way that it was a better orchestra then than it is now. To say otherwise is about as absurd as I can imagine. Therefore it is hard to take any of your observations very seriously. No the LO is not world class, anymore than our airport is "international" or our city is world-class. It doesn't PAY like a world class orchestra either, paying less than a third of some nearby orchestras that themselves don't even pretend to be in the penthouse of the American orchestral world. If you are comparing them to LA, or Chicago the level is not the same. But to say they are worse now than they were before leads me to believe that only some personal animosity or grudge colors your observations.

04/13/2012 10:09

Mr. Weaver, I will cede to you the fact that my perceptions of quality orchestral playing have certainly changed through my years of study and professional work as a musician. Perhaps it's just that the LO has not gotten better, and this is what I perceive.

And I absolutely hold no grudge to the players or administration, nor to I hold any personal animosity in any way. Quite the contrary. I just want for things to be better, and that includes having the best orchestra that Louisville can possibly field, which I believe sadly has not been done for many years.

Ray Weaver
04/13/2012 10:23

Sounds reasonable....

04/13/2012 15:21

I strongly suspect that new models' proposed solution is one that assumes that an orchestra is a collection of individuals playing to the top of their individual ability with no gestalt qualities whatsoever. (Only someone who has zero experience working in a group setting could possibly imagine that individually measured performance should be the major determiner of fitness.)

Individual-level testing is an extremely untrustworthy way to ensure gestalt-level performance. The typical orchestra should not be regarded as a trading floor where the bottom 15% is fired every quarter. You're free to attempt an Ayn-Rand-style implementation of that philosophy and give it a try, though. Let me know how it goes. :-)

There's a common joke that to escape the bear, you don't have to outrun it, you just have to outrun your buddy.

In truth, you don't have to do either. All you have to do is TRIP your buddy. Implement periodic reviews like this, and I predict a bunch of shitty players who learn right quick how to sabotage their colleagues more than improve their own level of play. It's the same sort of behavior that tanked Enron managerially.

new model
04/15/2012 16:08

Hey, Janis? (Not Joplin, I hope.) It's real easy to make assumptions. But, just for kicks, let's settle it: I bet I've been a professional player longer than you've been alive, and an ICSOM player a lot longer than you've been driving a car. Professional career started: 1990. ICSOM: dues paying member since 1997. Am I right, Janis?

new model
04/15/2012 16:15

'Night, gal. Get your beauty sleep! Take your theories and stuff 'em, with all due respect.

04/10/2012 12:40

I am a music student at Indiana and have already been warned on multiple occasions by my teachers, music directors, orchestra personnel director, and many others to say away from the Louisville Orchestra at all costs. I am inclined to believe that they are adamant about this not because they are selfish, but because they are looking out for our careers as young musicians - and to be clear, there was a school-wide announcement to ALL music students that we should not have anything to do with Louisville.

As a student, I have never been on the other side of an audition panel, but I know of many circumstances where a fabulous musician has been declined an audition because his or her resume and I can only think that having performance experience with the Louisville Orchestra during the dispute with their musicians would cause a resume to be thrown out as well.

Reading through the comments above, it is truly appalling to see how many people think it's okay to go ahead and audition for an orchestra that is on the AFM "unfair list" and has already proven less-than-ethical in their dealings with the musicians who are actually contracted with the group to perform.

There may be an increasing number of highly-trained musicians entering the work force every year, but the music community remains small and I have no doubt that any involvement with the Louisville Orchestra will be noted, as much as some may not like to think so, and will affect a musician in their future efforts to find work. Also, as a student body, if any of our colleagues were to take that audition and win, there would be no congratulations or pride . . . it really would mean that you are the least terrible player to show up that day.

04/12/2012 06:10

I am the Artistic Administrator for a regional orchestra in the Midwest and I can say with confidence that we will not hire any musicians either as subs or as permanent members who have any affiliation with LO during this impasse. The same goes for conductors and soloists. There's our blacklist for you.

04/13/2012 08:44

What if at the end of the day both sides are unable to reach an agreement, thus ending the 'impasse' and the LO administration then hires new players. What will your attitude be towards them?

It's seems mighty harsh to punish someone for wanting to make a living and a difference in their community, when a fair and legal offer of employment is extended.

Bill Dennison
04/12/2012 09:27

Someone from the Louisville Orchestra or AFM LOCAL should contact Craigs list and urge them to take down the ad. In 2003 there was a similar ad posted on Craigs list for scabs on Broadway as Local 802 prepared for a strike. I talked directly to "Craig" and he agreed the ad was inappropriate and agreed to take it off his website. I do not have the contact info anymore but you should be able to find it.
Bill Dennison, former Vice President Local 802

Ray Weaver
04/12/2012 10:09

I didn't know that! I have already forwarded your suggestion to the local President. Thanks!

04/12/2012 12:24

As a long time resident of Louisville I support the musicians in their efforts to maintain their positions in th Louisville Orchestra. I will NOT support an orchestra that does not include them. The management of the Louisville Orchestra, and its boardare the ones who need to be replaced!! A big thank you from a member of the community to the musicians for giving us so many years of beautiful music.
To Edward - We as a country have allowed this mess we are in. We as individuals have allowed the economic mess we are in. We accepted the lie from the Reagan years that said we should be lucky to have jobs. We accepted and demanded cheap goods from foreign countries. We bought our way out of good jobs by purchasing junk we didn't need with money we didn't have. An economy can not survive on low wage service sector jobs. Manufacturing built the economy our parents and grandparents enjoyed. A strong middle class kept this country strong. Now we pay the price for our compulsive consumerism.

04/12/2012 13:48

Last I heard it was not a strike, it was a lockout. HUGE difference.

chris a
04/12/2012 15:11

Ok, I actually agree somewhat with the bad guy though I think his tone is unacceptably harsh but so is the author's.

Let me put all of you into a bit of reality. I have been working in the corporate and non profit world while pursuing composition and have gotten performances of my works. Some organization based in New York cannot pay their performers starting out - all they can offer is recordings, exposure, and bend over backwards to accommodate.

Secondly we live in a society where for 30 weeks a year an orchestra player can be paid $925 a month and charge anywhere from $35 - $80+ an hour to teach. The orchestra will play basically an ossified repertoire of music because classical orchestral music programming has taught listeners what "classical music" is supposed to be Mozart, Mendelssohn, a few Weber, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, some Bruckner, Mahler and oh maybe some Bartok, much less often Webern and Schoenberg (well for Schoenberg some of his early stuff would get far more circulation), and Copland and every few years a possible premiere of a living composers work (usually the well established ones who just aren't as famous as say Glass) . This is not true of ALL orchestras - look to San Francisco Symphony for their American Mavericks programming, but I am stating the norm.

Now, let us take a home health aid who is paid anywhere from $6 - 9 an hour and unless she belongs to a union probably gets little or no health benefits or time off. To progress in their careers they need to go to resources which may be open similar hours to the home health aide. They may have a family and therefore have limited opportunities to make extra money. They are hired by agencies and they may have periods of unemployment because there is no one in need of their services for short periods. They may work long hours - 40 - 50 hour weeks. They may do overnight shifts and then switch to day shifts. They travel mostly in their surrounding area.

I have worked with such people so to hear someone who is at a workplace which is undergoing turmoil but has had a great history of premiering new music and the job does not involve the health and safety of your aged mother, father or temporarily disabled friend, I really do think you sound horribly entitled and unaware of what other people are going through. On the other hand I admire your musician's struggle and the need for far better treatment. So I wish you'd focus your post on that and quit scaring kids away from your orchestra. Rather let them know the facts and warn them it may be tough but if they are willing to fight for their rights and better management, they may be pioneers in revitalizing the orchestra. And what is with this - if you take this job you will be basically blacklisted? What are you, Joseph McCarthy?

For those musicians who do take your advice, and their money is running out, parents cannot afford your teaching rate of $50 bucks an hour for their kid, the rent is two months past due and you are waiting for your Food Stamps card, I guess you can go to many other orchestras: Scottsdale, New Jersey Symphony, oooh yeah try NY Phil ..or go to Europe. Oh wait, you're on food stamps and cannot pay the rent and mom and dad have paid for prior months rent. Gosh what will you do? God forbid you accept an offer from Louisville.

04/12/2012 16:50

I can see your objections in the last paragraph going both ways, though -- I don't know if the poster was threatening kids or playing at being Joe McCarthy. The fact is that there is a gigantic land mine <i>right there</i> that could blow the legs off of the kids who might otherwise take these auditions. Is it right to not warn them of this because there is an ideological quibble as to whether or not that land mine should even be there?

That aside, I can also see what you're saying about the entitlement of the union's attitude. I am very, very likely to NOT support any scab work of any kind just out of my own blue-collar upbringing, but it does bother the hell out of me to see these otherwise privileged, white-collar people working in a relatively safe work environment in effect comparing themselves to the pennies-per-item sweatshop laborers who were killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire or coalminers who died of black lung at age 45. The fact is, if there is no money and there are no jobs, the unions AND the management are just arguing over a corpse.

It's also important to remember that a "musician's union" also encompasses more than just classical orchestral musicians, methinks. In that case, I'd say that session players who may play on recordings that make lots more money definitely DO need the union to ensure that they get fairly compensated.

God, this is complicated.

04/13/2012 02:57

There is one issue that I've seen no one speak of, and that's the issue of former LO players taking positions with other orchestras around the country during this impasse. The fact is that they are then taking an opportunity away from a local musician or student, who could so desperately use the experience of playing with a great orchestra, for their own personal survival.

So tell me how this would be different than a young musician taking the job in Louisville? Other than the fact that the current LO musicians are locked out (a fact which we are all painfully aware).

Ray Weaver
04/13/2012 06:43

This is a bit of the track of the discussion but you do raise an interesting point and one that generally relates to the dynamic of fulltime orchestra players versus local freelance players and subs. I don't have an off the cuff answer but I'd be glad to hear from a different perspective.

04/15/2012 14:09

I think it's awful to see ANY of you calling anyone who wants to take the audition a scab. I've always been disgusted with catty self-interest disguised as wisdom and patronage. You're all of you two-faced liars and it's no wonder your world is going to hell.

Any honest person would tell young musicians "look--go for it if you want. It's a shaky situation and it might suck, so don't imagine for a second that this is going to change your life or turn your luck around. But yeah if you're bagging groceries waiting for ANYTHING to come along then you should do the audition. You can't afford to worry about solidarity sometimes and we all know that."

Don't pretend it's even actually about solidarity, or about giving sound advice, when you know in your heart it's not.

Ray Weaver
04/15/2012 22:06

I don't like the term scab either. Otherwise I can only assume your post indicates that 1) you are not a professional musician 2) You are not educated about the professional classical world. The fact that you don't like how that world operates doesn't make the people who describe it into "liars".
If it wasn't about solidarity I'd be first in line to play - I'd love a full time salary in my hometown. But I, and the many free lancers I both know as friends and employ, while feeling the same desire for such a position wouldn't dream of taking such an audition. Not because of fear of the Union, but because of a sense of right and wrong. Ethics is also going to hell in our world as we succumb to the Ayn Randian philosophy of screw everybody but oneself.

04/15/2012 14:33

I'm not really one way or another on a lot of this stuff.. It's a difficult position for classical music in general right now, and we need more passion.. I do, however, COMPLETELY AGREE that the term "scab" should not be used anymore in this day and age. The kind of people who would use that term probably aren't good musicians to begin with, and use "solidarity" to hide their inner anger behind. THAT SAID, if musicians do not hang together and fight for fair wages, they will get abused and taken for granted by society. Give the world true passion, and it will usually pay for it. Give the world anger and bitterness, and it won't... Love, understanding, peace, forgiveness are emotions central to good art. Terms like "scabs" serve no purpose other than to make the person saying it feel superior, and turn the public off. But again, we must all positively work together for fair compensation. And I've got rocking gestalt, baby... I'll send pics even..

Nancy Tompkins Christie
06/07/2012 16:34

Dear all,

I just came across this extended discussion. While I have a few minutes before my next client, I would like to respond on the topic of the extraordinary value of a musical education. Like many of those posting, I have two degrees from a very prestigious school, earned during the '70s. Although I had offers from engineering schools after high school, I followed my heart and went to the Eastman School of Music. At the time, I remember distinctly that I very much believed that the study of my instrument at a conservatory--with its process of immersion, study and training--was the most real education available to me.

As I write this now, more than forty years later and with the value of hindsight, in my experience this was absolutely true. Professionally, I was very fortunate, being hired as an assistant professor of music right out of graduate school, playing in the local symphony and other ensembles and later making the jump to a better orchestra as principal bassoon. Subsequently, after a few years, my life took a different turn and I left the orchestra to pursue opportunities in other fields of endeavor.

I offer this simple comment--I hope with all my heart that no person who takes the chance to follow their dreams in music ever looks back on that decision with regret. Regardless of whether I was playing in the orchestra, teaching, debugging computer code, editing advertising copy, or passing the California bar exam, the effort of those years at Eastman set a standard of excellence that has informed and influenced everything I have done since. It made me who I am today and I honestly believe that my investment in that education was among the best decisions I ever made.

The world has changed greatly over the years and along with it careers in music. I don't envy anyone trying to get started in any field in this economy. But what I do know is that the effort expended toward mastery of one's instrument is unique, transformative, brutally honest, and all-consuming. Any one who wholeheartedly, and without reserve, has subjected him or herself to that fire comes away with far more than the ability to play well or to potentially win an audition. Such an person is well situated to be successful at whatever they put their hand to, no matter what the field.


Nancy Christie

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