I'm not actually a member of the HSO, I've subbed a couple of times, but that hardly qualifies me to wear their shirt. However, I am in every way shape and form a product of the Hartford Symphony. It is my hometown orchestra, and I never would have pursued a career in music if it hadn't been for its' musicians. I studied with members of the orchestra, and my youth orchestra conductor was long-time concertmaster Bernard Lurie. He taught me lessons about musicianship and professionalism that I still rely on every time I perform. When I was in high school, the HSO musicians were embroiled in a strike, and I vividly remember the drain it caused financially, emotionally and artistically for all involved. I don't want to see that happen again.
Yet I've been largely silent on the current crisis. I didn't feel I had anything useful to add to the conversation at this point. I figured running the race in their colors was one small way I could show my support, but I realize that's not quite enough. I do have a few opinions I'd like to share.
1. HSO musicians need to be paid a competitive wage and to be offered feasible working terms that include a recognition of their need/desire to accept additional work.
2. Management needs to recognize the value of the product and take the proper steps to ensure the health of the organization.
3. The community needs to be encouraged to experience the incredible gift of live performances of orchestral masterworks by professional musicians.
1. The musicians are highly skilled performers who have dedicated their lifetime to bring the highest possible standards to their work. A competitive wage structure will allow these musicians to live locally, thus enriching the community. Creating a schedule that allows for "outside work" is a recognition that many performers are also educators. For example, Stephen Perry, HSO tubist, teaches in the Wethersfield schools. My nieces have both started instruments under his tutelage. I've been to their concerts, and the energy he brings to working with the kids is electric. He is an inspiring, passionate educator and the kids adore working with him.
2. I get the feeling that some in the management team really don't understand where the value of the HSO resides. People don't attend concerts to be mindlessly entertained. In fact, Classical music is often the antithesis of mindless entertainment, which is precisely why it's so crucial to have a professional orchestra offering live performances in the area. The more connected we become electronically, the less connected we seem to become spiritually. Classical music allows us to create emotional connections across space and time. It is transportive and transformative. If you approach it as entertainment, you're missing the real value, and the real selling point that can help you build audiences. People need those connections, we need to feel that others have experienced the same emotional landscapes we traverse. Across the country, orchestras that have embraced this understanding are flourishing. Audiences and financial support for those organizations are growing annually and entire communities are becoming revitalized in the process.
3. A few years ago, my husband and I bought afternoon passes to a professional tennis tournament. He doesn't even particularly like tennis, but we had an incredible experience. It was unbelievable to watch a match between two players who had such control and finesse. Watching any professional practice their craft is inspiring. It is energizing and it gives hope for what people can accomplish. Classical music is available widely on recording, but those recordings can never replace the energy and vitality that one feels in a live concert. Carolyn Kuan and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra are playing at a world class level. They are an incredible team and well worth hearing in person.
As I run on Saturday (truthfully, run/walk, I'm a slowpoke) I'll be very proud to show my support for the HSO. I sincerely hope the community rallies behind them and demands that this dispute be resolved fairly.