As we all celebrate the end of the 15-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra and welcome their return to performances next month, I’d like to remind the orchestral community that another orchestra suffered a 14-month lockout back in the early 90s, and has learned a lot by that experience.
My own Hartford Symphony was locked out for 14 months because the Board didn’t want to continue to support the newly-formed Core orchestra they’d created in the previous contract. The musicians insisted that they must continue with the new “full-time” positions, especially as several musicians had moved to Hartford after winning auditions. Things got ugly, and we were locked out. The entire experience was dreadful for everyone (but less so than for our Minnesota colleagues because it was not a full-time salary for any musician).
We went through many attempts to settle the dispute, but ultimately Ron Compton, CEO of the Aetna Insurance Company, who’s daughter played cello in the Charleston Symphony (so he was familiar with the orchestral musician’s world), put forth a compromise solution that pretty much everyone hated. (Thus a good compromise.) This solution ended up with the musicians having 10 voting seats on the board. This has evolved into the Orchestra Committee and ROPA Representative being automatic members of the Executive Committee of the Board, and the Orchestra Committee appoints the additional four. A rather unusual situation, I’d wager.
I wrote a history of our dispute for Harmony magazine, and Paul Judy came to Hartford to conduct a round-table of the major participants in our settlement, over 20 years ago. I believe many of the elements of our settlement might be of interest to other orchestras. Twenty years later we don’t do things exactly as back then, but relations between management and musicians remain very solid and I can’t imagine our going through something similar.
I wish the very best to our Minnesota colleagues as they return to work after so very many months, and hope that they can forge a new relationship with their new board leadership.