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Orchestra Lockout continues: now with more obnoxiousness - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Orchestra Lockout continues: now with more obnoxiousness [Nov. 17th, 2012|05:06 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Dear Minnesota Orchestra Management:

Please stop sending me letters badmouthing your musicians. Stop sending them to my e-mail. Stop sending them (in duplicate copy, no less!) to my postal address. Stop calling me to ask for money while you are making this mess with your musicians, but particularly stop badmouthing your musicians. I have asked you this in private several times, and now I will ask you in public.

Do you know what you sell me, Minnesota Orchestra Management? You sell me tickets to concerts played by your musicians. If you succeed in making me think poorly of your musicians, I will not say, "You're right, darn those musicians! I should go to concerts with those crappy horrible musicians, but at whatever pay scale and benefits management wants to give them!" I will instead say, "I live in the Twin Cities area. Why would I go listen to crappy musicians? There are opportunities to hear good ones instead." But in fact I don't believe your propaganda. I've been to Minnesota Orchestra concerts. One of the musicians who is acting as a union spokesman is Doug Wright. Guess who has moved my stoic Nordic self to leap to her feet in spontaneous applause? Doug Wright. Guess what you've done in that direction? NOTHING. I don't even particularly like the trombone. It's not in my top five favorite instruments. And that man can play the trombone to make me jump up and shout, "Bravo!" I am not a shouter of "Bravo." But I shouted it anyway. Do you understand that at all? Have you had that experience of the orchestra you run? Do you remember that that's what you're supposed to be facilitating, at all? What do you think your letters are going to do to override that?

Orchestra patrons are not stupid. We know that an independent financial valuation is a reasonable thing for musicians to ask, and is the road to them knowing what kind of specific counterproposal they can make. Without one, you can just keep repeating, "That's impossible, do it our way," no matter what they say, no matter the facts. We also know that you are a great deal more replaceable than the musicians. So hop to it with the independent assessments. And stop harassing me about how it's all the musicians' fault. It's not true, and it would be counterproductive even if it worked.

In frustration,

[User Picture]From: redbird
2012-11-17 11:11 pm (UTC)
Well said, indeed.
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From: athenais
2012-11-18 12:19 am (UTC)
Orchestra patrons are far from stupid. Pity about the orchestra management, then.
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[User Picture]From: pameladean
2012-11-18 05:34 am (UTC)
I have seldom seen anything less well calculated to create the effect it wants to create. I too have been getting some emails, because you handed that first-attendance certificate to Eric a year or two ago and we have attended several of the entry-level dissections of the classics since then. I think that since they are saddled with such idiot management, the musicians should have whatever they want, AND A PONY.

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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2012-11-18 05:54 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: auriaephiala
2012-11-18 06:13 am (UTC)
Very well said.

Given the amount of training needed, the risks of physical injury, and the skill and practice needed, I think almost any symphony musician is underpaid. (And ditto jazz musicians.)
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[User Picture]From: timprov
2012-11-18 06:56 am (UTC)
Orchestra patrons are not stupid.

I can tell you haven't been to the clap clap clap clap clap clap
orchestra recently.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-11-18 12:23 pm (UTC)
Okay, the patrons that night were stupid.
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[User Picture]From: cakmpls
2012-11-18 10:40 am (UTC)
I am not a shouter of "Brava!" but...
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2012-11-18 05:29 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: Patty Mitchell
2012-11-18 08:43 pm (UTC)

May I post a link, please?

May I post a link to this, with a wee bit of it as a "teaser" on my oboe blog? This is just wonderful!

Patty from oboeinsight.com
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-11-18 09:04 pm (UTC)

Re: May I post a link, please?

Please do feel free to link. Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: Patty Mitchell
2012-11-18 09:07 pm (UTC)

Re: May I post a link, please?

Thanks so much! It'll go up tomorrow (I am off to opera at the moment.) And thank you for what you wrote. MUCH appreciated by musicians everywhere, I'm sure! :-)
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2012-11-19 12:37 am (UTC)
Well isn't that just fucking genius.
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[User Picture]From: madwriter
2012-11-19 04:45 pm (UTC)
I wonder if the management is hoping they'll locate a lot of people who believe in the musician's version of "Why get paid? Think of the exposure!"

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-11-19 04:48 pm (UTC)
For a professional full-time symphony orchestra that seems highly unlikely. I think even the management is not that dumb.
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[User Picture]From: irontongue
2012-11-22 07:06 pm (UTC)
This is great, t hanks. It is tremendously sad to see the Minneapolis Orchestra in this kind of trouble, along with so many others just now.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2012-12-03 08:23 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine what they hope to achieve by this. For the life of me, I can't figure out what orchestra managements are thinking -- who are these people?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-12-04 05:40 pm (UTC)
One of them had a letter in the Strib today calling the Board members bold leaders--and saying that he himself is on the Board.

They are the kind of people who think nothing of writing to the paper to say, "Look at me! I am a bold leader!" They are the kind of people who would do that within the culture of Minnesota, for the love of Pete. That's who we're dealing with here.

I think it's a very indicative letter--he goes into all sorts of buzzwords about strong leadership making difficult decisions and not winning popularity contests. What it boils down to is that the people in the MN Orchestra's leadership think that "the Orchestra" is a thing in itself, not made up of Doug and Burt and Wendy and Cathy and all the other actual musicians--and that they are better leaders of that entity than the people who actually comprise it could ever be. It looks fairly clear to me that they made decisions about fundraising direction and how to handle financials and are now so locked into those decisions that they cannot see them as malleable. Their proposed contracts have become what they have to do--not just one option that they have selected among many. And even when you think that you've picked the best option, I think it's crucial to remember that it was a choice. Your opinion of the best option may have to shift when you take other people's thoughts and behaviors into account, or when other factors in the world change.

I think the management of the Orchestra has gotten itself into a mindset wherein their opinions and decisions are Cold Hard Reality. We in science fiction can watch people shrieking about "The Cold Equations" and know how badly that can go wrong. But if I'm reading them right about the Cold Hard Reality, it certainly explains why they are treating musicians and the listening public like children, why they feel they don't have to explain themselves, etc.

I think that actual artists--visual artists, writers, musicians--are intimately familiar with doing things one way and then another. It's part of selection, revision, interpretation and reinterpretation. It's not exclusive to the arts, but it's essential to the arts. And it looks like a major worldview clash to me from here.

I could, of course, be wrong about all of this. That's another option.
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