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A Bold Experiment

1 Robert Levine

Events in the Twin Cities this season have both horrified and fascinated those who care about orchestras and orchestra musicians. Events of such magnitude usually have a backstory, and the months-long lockout of the musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has a very rich backstory indeed.

In 2002 and 2003, the board, staff and musicians of the SPCO went through a strategic planning process that resulted in a truly revolutionary labor agreement, representing a fundamental shift in how the orchestra would be run. The nature of the connection between the changes made in 2002 and the events 10 years later could be the subject of endless debate. But the contrast between the optimism felt back then by the participants in that process and the ill will that exists now between the musicians and those who employ them is undisputed. The experience of the SPCO will be cited for years by those who oppose changing the structure of American orchestras.

So it is timely to suggest that those who care about American orchestras re-read what the participants in the SPCO experiment said and wrote 10 years ago. Accordingly, my editor’s choice is the article “A Bold Experiment” by Bruce Coppock which appeared in the October 2003 issue of Harmony.

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  1. Comment by
    March 11, 2019 at 10:16 PM

    Given that Bruce Coppock is still on the Board of Directors, perhaps he should reread his own article. This is what one participant wrote - not all of “the participants said and wrote” (and certainly not the majority of the musicians).

    And speaking of Harmony magazine, you might want to take a look at this article by Lowell Noteboom
    http://www.polyphonic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Good_Gov_Noteboom.pdf in which he waxes eloquent about “Shared Goals”, “Shared Information”, “Civility”, “Commitment to Honesty and Candor”, and “Trust” - all things noticeably absent from the management lockout of the musicians. Total 180 degree turnaround, wouldn’t you say?

    Words are cheap - especially those written ten years ago.