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"Let's drop the big one now"

1 Robert Levine


The DSO administration is prepared to move forward with a newly assembled group of players that would include only those members of the current orchestra who agree to unilaterally presented terms, DSO Vice President Paul Hogle said Sunday.

Without setting a date, Hogle said the time has come for a new symphony model to emerge, an ensemble that not only plays traditional concerts but also fully engages the community as ambassadors, educators and performers.

DSO cellist Haden McKay, shocked by the news that management may simply move on with replacements, said the plan is the equivalent of “an atom bomb.”

DSO violinist and musicians’ spokesman Joe Goldman said, “What kind of orchestra does (board chairman) Stanley Frankel think he’s going to have without any professional musicians in it?”

Professional orchestras are highly unionized; any musician taking a replacement job risks career suicide.

Hogle said any restructured ensemble would be professional and open to young musicians as well as veterans.

Goldman said he believed the two sides still could reach an agreement.

“The money is there,” Goldman said. “It’s a matter of management being flexible and allowing us to work with them to allocate the funds.”

But Hogle said there would be no further negotiations and the musicians must agree to terms “less generous” than the $34 million three-year package they rejected over the weekend.

“We’re facing a deteriorating financial condition,” he said, “and our last offer was going to leave us with multimillion-dollar deficits over multiple years. Our endowment is down to $19 million. When that’s gone, it’s over.”

But apparently management hasn’t bothered to ask the Music Director if he’s in on the new plan, or at least that’s the impression that DSO management would like to leave:

[Hogle] said music director Leonard Slatkin has not been presented with the idea of a reconstituted DSO.

Asked if the financially stressed orchestra could afford to retain its high-profile artistic leader, Hogle said, “We can’t afford not to keep him.”

“Leonard Slatkin is an eminent figure in the orchestra world,” Hogle said. “He has both the stature and the connections essential to our artistic mission.”

I don’t see how they can do it without him, and I don’t see how he can agree. Professional orchestra musicians will stand for a fair amount from conductors, but not this; he’s likely to get nothing but an extremely hostile reception from any American orchestra if he’s part of a scheme to replace his own orchestra with strikebreakers. For my part, I sure wouldn’t play on the same stage with a conductor who’d done that, and I’m sure I’d have some pretty distinguished company in that feeling.

And, even if he did agree, the fight over the new “DSO” would be vicious. No concert of the “DSO” would go unpicketed. No soloist with the “DSO” would leave Detroit without experiencing their own SarahChangurüng moment. It would not be at all easy to find musicians who would be willing to be replacement musicians and cross a picket line - and there will be lots of musicians from major orchestras on that picket line, including no doubt the teachers of some of the prospective replacements. And, as a matter of law, management cannot unilaterally end the bargaining relationship with striking workers, even by replacing them.

If I was a completely cock-eyed optimist, I’d view this as a desperate threat by a management that has painted itself into a corner and knows it.

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  1. Pingback by From Robert Levine of Polyphonic.org « Save Our Symphony
    February 21, 2019 at 4:00 PM

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