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Category: Careers

Alice Brandfonbrener, M.D.

0 Ann Drinan

I recently learned that Alice Brandfonbrener passed away on May 31 of this year (2014). I was deeply saddened to learn this, as I’m certain were many, many other musicians and members of the arts community who had come to know her over her 83 years. Here is a link to one obituary; here a

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Symphonie Addictique?

0 Robert Levine

Normal Lebrecht recently linked to an article about a British documentary on addiction amongst orchestral musicians: Addiction is blighting the lives of many classical musicians as they grapple with performance anxiety and antisocial hours, a cellist has said. Rachael Lander features in a Channel 4 documentary that brings together classical musicians whose careers have been

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A Note to Me: D.C.

0 Margaret Miller

What I Would Tell My Younger Self… As a university professor, I often tell my studio stories from my student days in order to make a point about something, usually practicing!  I have been thinking about this topic quite a bit this summer, as the new performing/academic year is fast approaching.  This is certainly not

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Some revisionist history from the AFM

0 Robert Levine

An article in the August 2014 International Musician got me thinking about Electronic Media Guarantees and their history: …[former ICSOM chairman Brad] Buckley recalled that the earliest instance of what was then called a “recording guarantee” came into existence decades ago with the Philadelphia Orchestra, during the tenure of Music Director Eugene Ormandy. The maestro

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Moving Forward

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As musicians it is quite natural for us to occasionally question our career decisions, but what if we are thrown a curve ball and something unexpected gets in the way of our well-ordered plans?  This is, in fact, what the author of this Editor’s Choice article faced at an early point in her career. How

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Experimenting with the Concert Experience: How Orchestras Are Being Creative

0 Ann Drinan

The spring issue of Symphony magazine explores how orchestras are varying what they present to concert-goers. Messing with the Model by Senior Editor Chester Lane explores new ideas from several orchestras across the country. I was somewhat surprised and quite pleased to see my own Hartford Symphony Orchestra prominently displayed in this article! The Chicago

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Donald Rosenberg’s Take on “Spring for Music”

0 Ann Drinan

In the spring issue of Symphony magazine, Don Rosenberg, former music critic of the The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the newly-appointed editor of The Magazine of Early Music America wrote a very interesting overview of the “Spring for Music” (S4M) Festival, that presented its final week of concerts this past May at Carnegie Hall, contrasting

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Well-Traveled Baggage: A Seasoned Violinist Gets Sentimental about his BSO Experience

0 Gerald Elias

I don’t generally get maudlin over luggage. But after the final bows of Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Asia tour in May, I locked my wardrobe trunk and gave it an affectionate pat. This tour may well have been the brass-clad behemoth’s swansong. Built like fortresses, BSO’s 25 trunks could last forever. Lined up backstage like dominoes,

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Newsflash: conductor doesn’t like unions

3 Robert Levine

In this week’s edition of The New Yorker (paywalled, unfortunately) is a fascinating piece by Alex Ross on Iván Fischer, the Hungarian conductor and founder of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. While the piece focuses largely on his unhappiness with the current rightward lurch of Hungarian politics, Ross also reports on Fischer’s views on the orchestra

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How To Find a Balance

0 Ann Drinan

Back when he was Principal Flute of the Utah Symphony and President of AFM Local 104, Erich Graf wrote a fascinating and heart-felt article about how he learned to be both an excellent symphonic musician and an effective union leader. He talks about his own journey to self-discovery, begun by writing a Conscientious Objector letter, the

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The Fallout from Obama’s Executive Order Concerning Ivory

1 Ann Drinan

At a seminar at Mondomusica New York on April 11, 2014, Heather Noonan of the League of American Orchestras joined with violin and bow makers, an international environmental expert, and government officials to discuss the recent tightened restrictions on bringing ivory into the US, resulting from an Obama Administration Executive Order issued on February 24,

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Millennial America

2 Peter Sachon

Orchestras need to offer compelling reasons for millennials to make live symphonic music a part of their lives.  After all, millennials are the largest generation in human history, and at nearly 90 million people they will very soon make up the vast majority of our orchestras’ stakeholders, constituents, audience, staff members and supporters – and

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Detroit Symphony Flash Mob at IKEA in Canton, Michigan

0 Ann Drinan

Rachel Martin of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday ” did an interesting piece about the Detroit Symphony’s comeback after the work stoppage. She talks about the beautiful acoustics at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, and questions what happens when you take the symphony out of that perfect acoustic and put them in — well — an IKEA warehouse!

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What the Great Strad Robbery means for the future

1 Robert Levine

Most readers of this blog have already heard of the events of last Monday here in Milwaukee. If you haven’t, the New York Times has a good summary: It should have been one of those nights musicians live for. Frank Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for nearly two decades, had just closed

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More Getty Grants

0 Ann Drinan

The latest awards from the Ann & Gordon Getty Education and Community Investment Grants, administered by the League of American Orchestras, were recently announced. The grants range from $10,oo0 to $30,000 for community-based grants in the 2013-14 season, awarded to 23 orchestras. To see the League’s press release, click here. 65% of the grants were

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Leadership, solitude and musicians

0 Robert Levine

I’ve been trying to figure out if this article, written as a speech to West Point cadets by William Deresiewicz, a noted American writer and former academic, might have some insights for us. This is a very long quote from the article: What can solitude have to do with leadership? Solitude means being alone, and

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Something you should read

0 Robert Levine

Once a year or so I read something online that stops me in my tracks; not because it tells me something I didn’t know (which happens every 2 minutes or so), but because it forces me to think uncomfortable thoughts. This year’s winner was a post by Emily Hogstad, who has consistently provided, on her

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Well… I Won’t Be Welcome There

0 Tony Woodcock

It has been said that though the "educational" kids’ concert is merely a symptom of the general malaise in programming and concert presentation in the main orchestral season. It seems to be down to asking what audience and audience development do we want?

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Misconduct in and out of the workplace

1 Robert Levine

Many years ago a colleague of mine was pressured by management to retire after allegations of sexual misconduct against him became public. I remember being bothered about that at the time, as the specific allegations were about conduct that had happened in his home and had nothing to do with the workplace. Management’s reasoning was

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Charleston decertifies

0 Robert Levine

I was reminded yesterday of a classic newspaper headline that combined obviousness with a complete lack of useful information: Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say Something similarly went wrong in the Charleston Symphony, according to Norman Lebrecht: In an unusual move that may prove a sign of the times, players in the Charleston

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Bringing Down the Sky: From Great to Good in Minnesota

3 Michael Manley

I. The Tornado and the Plow Horse I recently plugged the words “Salieri” and “Festival” into Google, which limped back with a meager Salieri Opera Festival of 2010, presented by Fondazione Fioroni in Verona, Italy. Curious, I added “2013” to the search, and Google came back with only three results, none of which led to

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Telling It Like It Is – An interview with Julie Landsman

0 Ann Drinan

Julie Landsman, French hornist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for 25 years until her retirement in 2010, is the subject of a wonderful interview in Allegro, the  magazine of AFM local 802.  She explains how she developed her career plan: My first horn teacher was Mr. Howard Howard – yes that is his actual name!

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The Getty Health and Wellness Programs

0 Ann Drinan

The League of American Orchestras had a session titled “Getty Health and Wellness Session: Health, Wellness and Music.” The session was moderated by Jessica Balboni, Director of Learning Programs at the League. She introduced the panel: Dr. Cynthia Briggs, Director of the Music Therapy Program at Maryville University in St. Louis; Lisa Dixon, Executive Director

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Explorations of Teamwork: The Lahti Symphony Orchestra

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My Editor’s Choice for this time around is a look-back to a 2002 article in Harmony by Tina Ward and Robert Wagner.  In it they write about their experiences with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. It’s an inspiring story about a small town orchestra in Finland that, at that time, was making big waves in its

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When Musicians Need Lawyers

0 Stephen Danyew

Polyphonic.org Editor-in-Chief Ramon Ricker recently contributed to International Musician, the official journal of the American Federation of Musicians with an article titled “When Musicians Need Lawyers.”  In the article, Dr. Ricker covers important topics regarding situations when musicians should consult with an attorney and how musicians can find the right lawyer for them.  To read

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How Hard Substantive Change Really Is In This Business

0 Robert Levine

In light of the recent settlement of the SPCO’s long lockout, it’s worth revisiting the events of 2003, when the SPCO embarked on a radical departure from past practice regarding institutional governance. Five perspectives are provided; those of the mediators/facilitators, Fred Zenone and Paul Boulian, that of the President and CEO, Bruce Coppock, that of

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A Very Touching Moment

0 Robert Levine

Norman Lebrecht posted about an incident between the concertmaster of the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra and Daniel Barenboim during the recently concluded performance of Wagner’s Ring Cyle at this year’s Proms. It had a happy ending, though –  Barenboim addressed the audience after the final performance, thanking them, the orchestra, and the chorus, and ending by

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What happens in Vegas might matter to you

0 Robert Levine

The first Convention of the American Federation of Musicians since 2010 begins today. As a local officer, I will be attending as one of two delegates from Local 8. I’ll also be continuing a tradition I started in 2007 – live-blogging from the convention floor. If you want to follow along, here’s the link. For

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Annual Return to Boston Symphony Violin Section

0 Gerald Elias

Well, Cecily and I have begun our annual cross-country pilgrimage from Salt Lake City to Tanglewood.  This year, though, we’ve taken an unlikely circuitous route, stopping first in Portland and Seattle to visit our kids.  As we’re so far north already we’ve decided to make our trek through Canada, stopping at a Canadian Rockies hot

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League Conference: A Conversation with Peter Pastreich

0 Ann Drinan

The final musician session was a conversation with Peter Pastreich, a well-respected manager in the orchestra world, having served as Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony for 21 years. Prior to that he served as Executive Director at the Saint Louis Symphony, the Kansas City Philharmonic and the Nashville Symphony. More recently he came

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No Time At All

0 Peter Sachon

Just like Rip Van Winkle, American orchestras have been asleep for twenty years. Season after season of the same repertoire, played again and again for generations until the idea of an orchestra participating in modern musical life seems outrageous. Last week, the League of American Orchestras focused their annual conference around the idea of “Imagining Orchestras in

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ICSOM: The First Fifty Years

0 Stephen Danyew

ICSOM (the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, which represents over 4,000 musicians from 51 major symphony orchestras throughout the United States) recently released a documentary titled “ICSOM: The First Fifty Years.” Filmed during the 50th anniversary conference in Chicago, the 38-minute film contains numerous interviews on the founding of ICSOM, telling the fascinating

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Working Together: Orchestra Musicians, Boards and Management

3 Bill Cahn

The Wall Street Journal for Friday, June 7, 2013 carries an article in the “D” Section, “After Orchestras Strike: A Tale of Two Cities” by Terry Teachout. The article compares the ways in which two orchestras – The Minnesota Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony – are dealing with their financial problems.   In Minnesota there is

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What Were They Thinking?

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What Were They Thinking? For most music students the transition to the professional world does not usually happen abruptly. A switch is not thrown and voila, you’re a pro. The normal course of events involves a period of time when some gigs are well paid , some not-so-well and some not-at-all. It’s these not-so-well and

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Labor of Love: A Primer in Symphony Orchestra Musician/Management Relations

0 Gerald Elias

You might think musicians would be at the top of a symphony orchestra’s food chain. So did I. When I joined the Boston Symphony violin section in 1975 at the tender age of 22, fresh out of college, bursting with enthusiasm, I was under the naïve misconception that the management of the orchestra worked for

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Some Good Orchestra News (for a change)

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It’s common for the general public, and even musicians to dwell on the negatives when speaking about the current state of orchestra affairs. Of course it’s not all gloom and doom. Here’s a positive. Pittsburgh Symphony settles contract with musicians a year early By Sally Kalson and Andrew Druckenbrod / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette At a time when major

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Jazz Fights For Justice

0 Stephen Danyew

Classical music organizations and musicians are not the only ones facing labor disputes, contract negotiations, and pension issues.  This recent article from the AFM‘s International Musician tells the story of New York City jazz musicians who are trying to convince jazz clubs to pay into pensions for their retirement.  Click here to read the article.

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Another take on job satisfaction

0 Robert Levine

The question of job satisfaction in our field has long been an interest of mine, both for obvious personal reasons and because the sources of much dissatisfaction lie in an area of research – stress – I heard lots about over family dinners. So I  found this article in yesterday’s New York Times to be

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Symphony Magazine, Spring 2013 Issue

0 Ann Drinan

The spring issue of Symphony magazine is now available online. As usual, the magazine contains a variety of interesting articles. Chester Lane, Senior Editor at Symphony magazine, presents a fascinating article about the health and wellness programs springing up in orchestras. Many of these programs have been funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation

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Sir Colin Davis Remembered

0 Gerald Elias

Due to the tumult of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the world all but overlooked the passing of Sir Colin Davis, one of the great conductors of the 20thcentury, who died at age 85 one day before that terrible event took place.  To list his resumé as the music director and guest conductor of

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Happy Birthday Polyphonic!

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Polyphonic.org was founded in April of 2006, making this month our 7th birthday!  We thought that a fun way to celebrate would be to interview our editors and give you a peek into the lives of the folks that curate the content here at Polyphonic.org.  Enjoy! Dr. Ramon Ricker – Editor-in-Chief How long have you

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Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra and Musical DNA

0 Gerald Elias

Roland Tapley, Alfred Krips, Harry Dickson, George Zazofsky, Clarence Knudsen, Laszlo Nagy, Eugene Lehner, George Humphrey, Misha Nieland, Henry Portnoi, John Barwicki, James Pappoutsakis, Pasquale Cardillo, Bernard Zighera, Charlie Smith.  What do these 15 men have in common?  They were all musicians in the Boston Symphony who, with some 80 of their colleagues, performed the

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Protect Your Hearing

0 Ann Drinan

Mary Plaine, Principal Librarian with the Baltimore Symphony, recently posted a New York Times article  by Jane Brody on Orchestra-L, ICSOM’s list-serve, about what causes hearing lost. (Thank you, Mary!) The article cites a new book by Katherine Bouton, “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I — and 50 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You.” According

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Getting to Know Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin

0 Ann Drinan

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the new Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra who lives in Montreal, has been garnering lots of positive press, especially after his triumphant debut with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall on October 23 performing Verdi’s Requiem. He held the silence at the conclusion of the work for many, many seconds – so many that

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In memoriam 2012

0 Robert Levine

The more-or-less annual tribute from Polyphonic.org to our colleagues who left us in 2012 is finally online; my apologies to those who were waiting for it and no doubt lost patience many weeks ago. I knew a distressing number of those on this list. Some I knew just in passing (Mark Flint, Geoffrey Fushi, Bob

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Breaking Up with Beethoven

0 Peter Sachon

Go out to hear an orchestra concert tonight and chances are the orchestra will be playing Beethoven.  The most recent Orchestra Repertoire Report, from ’09 – ’10, details that 137 orchestras in America performed Beethoven’s music 457 times that season.  His ninth, seventh, and fifth symphonies were ranked first, second and third respectively among the

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A Violinist’s Voyage

0 Ann Drinan

Local 802 has again published a fascinating interview of one of its older members by a younger colleague in their monthly magazine, Allegro. Kuan Cheng Lu, who joined the orchestra in 2004, interviewed Newton Mansfield, who joined the orchestra in 1961.

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Orchestra Management Fellowship Program

0 Ann Drinan

Polly Kahn, Vice President for Learning and Leadership Development at the League of American Orchestras, asked Polyphonic to post information about the upcoming February 1st deadline for applications for their prestigious Orchestra Management Fellowship program. The Orchestra Management Fellowship program is the League’s premier leadership training program, and is designed to launch executive careers in

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The Riot Stuff

0 Peter Sachon

  Orchestras should raise their voices to be heard amid the din of noisy modern culture and promote themselves as socially conscious public institutions. They need to embrace a more inclusive posture in society, and demonstrate an identity more nuanced than silent anonymous conservative tuxedo-clad white male.  While the price of participating in American culture

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Beyond Prestige

1 Peter Sachon

In the American system, the arts are funded mostly through indirect subsidies.  Our government’s tax policies toward charitable giving elicit billions of dollars in contributions annually.  The beauty of this system is that it not only allows the citizens to determine which not-for-profits benefit a civil society, but also it does not require the government

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An assumption too far

2 Robert Levine

A friend in the Twin Cities suggested to me that my assumption that Pinchas Zukerman and Edo de Waart had somehow requested and/or received clearance from their personal managers before agreeing to participate in the benefit concerts I wrote about here was not only unwarranted but likely offensive to the two gentlemen in question. After

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Managements not part of the reality-based community

4 Robert Levine

The musicians of the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra and the locked-out Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra got some helpful press today from Minnesota Public Radio: Locked-out musicians at the Minnesota and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras have been warning of a dangerous decline in artistic quality if they accept new contracts sought by management. They say the severe

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I really should have practiced harder

0 Robert Levine

Although maybe it’s the hair? Keira Knightley is working with violist/conductor Yuri Bashmet as a narrator: Keira Knightley and Yuri Bashmet again on one stage! When, in 2010 at the Winter Arts Festival in Sochi after the second intervention with Maestro Bashmet, Keira Knightley asked – not whether he is now developing the genre and

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Minnesota by the numbers

1 Robert Levine

In an act of remarkable generosity, Drew McManus not only obtained the actual proposal made to the Minnesota Orchestra by management but posted it on his Adaptistration website. I know he’s planning on some analysis, but it was too tempting a document for me to resist reading and writing about any longer. So here are

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Gold in them thar toobs?

0 Robert Levine

Think “orchestral institutions” as “artists” in this article and some interesting questions emerge: Are we finally entering the age of the digital cultural entrepreneur (DCE)? That is, has it now become possible for a gifted artist or writer to control the reins of his or her career from a laptop, scheduling gigs, selling books or

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Didn’t work

0 Robert Levine

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has pulled the plug on its attempt to emulate the Metropolitan Opera’s successful series of live broadcasts to movie theaters: When the Los Angeles Philharmonic launched its series of live broadcasts to cinemas in 2011, the organization touted it as an innovative program intended to broaden the popular reach of the

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Peter Dobrin says it all

0 Robert Levine

This article by Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer is the best reporting on the current crisis yet to appear. Go read the whole thing: …What someone is willing to pay for orchestral musicians in this country has changed radically in recent weeks. Yes, a brief strike last month by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra resulted

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What Musicians Can Teach Doctors

0 Ann Drinan

I attended a meeting of the Hartford Medical Society last week to hear a presentation by Dr. Lisa Wong, a pediatrician who plays violin with the Longwood Symphony in Boston – the doctor’s orchestra. She’s written a book, Scales to Scalpels, about the orchestra and the role of music in medicine. As I was chatting

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A bad settlement in Atlanta

0 Robert Levine

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony voted to ratify a tentative settlement that was pretty much what ASO management (or perhaps the Woodruff Center) wanted all along: Symphony Orchestra accepted a new collective bargaining agreement Wednesday, barely averting a postponement of the fall season. The deal will cost players $5.2 million in compensation over two

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When’s it OK to ask musicians to work for free?

0 Robert Levine

For sure it’s not when the person asking has raised $1.2 million for her new album but doesn’t want to pay back-up musicians on the road. Fortunately for all concerned, she (very grudgingly) changed her mind after considerable public outcry. Many AFM locals had a prohibition in their bylaws about members working for free, at

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That was quick

0 Robert Levine

Maybe not the shortest orchestral strike on record, but likely close to it: They entered the negotiating room in the Chicago Symphony Association’s lawyer’s office at 2 p.m. Monday, and by about 6:45 p.m. a tentative agreement had been reached in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first musicians strike in 21 years. The orchestra announced shortly

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Norman doesn’t get negotiations

0 Robert Levine

It’s not surprising that Norman Lebrecht was right on top of the Chicago Symphony strike. It’s also not surprising that much of what he wrote missed the point or was simply wrong: Chicago is where the present inflationary cycle started when Henry Fogel, the former manager, caved in to a union demand for a $104,000

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Technology in Music – The Wave of the Present

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Ask any musician who is ten years older than you how business is, and he or she will probably say, “It’s okay, but it was much better ten years ago.” If that same person asks the identical question to another musician ten years older than he is, he will probably get the same answer. “It’s [...]

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Being a Successful Entrepreneur— Envision the Future

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When I was a doctoral student, I was in a class that had an assignment that asked us to think into the future twenty years and forecast what the music profession would look like.  I wish I still had that paper.  It would be fun to see how far off I was.  Anyway, one student [...]

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Being a Successful Entrepreneur— There Is No One Model for Entrepreneurs—Gain Experience First

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If you have read my book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor, think back to Chapter 9: “Five Non-Linear Career Journeys.”  These are stories of very successful entrepreneurial musicians.  I chose to include them because they represent five different areas of the music business, but I had a secondary reason as well.  They all have reached [...]

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Being a Successful Entrepreneur — Don't Dilute Your Product in Order To Make Money

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Some musicians feel that they must dumb-down their music in order to be “successful.” I once had a conversation with Maria Schneider in which she made an interesting observation: many musicians who are focused solely on making money underestimate their audiences.  She commented that some musicians seem to think that if they write or present [...]

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Invisible Musicians

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At the end of this blog is a letter to the editor that was published in the December 13 Louisville 
Courier-Journal. In it the writer laments the absence of an orchestra at this year’s Nutcracker performance. The tone of her letter is typical of what I had read in the past when ballets have opted [...]

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What Artists Can Learn from Steve Jobs

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Today, as the world mourns the loss of visionary leader Steve Jobs—responsible for creating Apple, the Macintosh computer, iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Pixar Animation Studios—is an ideal opportunity to reflect and grow as individuals. This article o…

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Building Your Portfolio Career Part 3: Doing the Math

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This is part 3 on a series devoted to Portfolio Careers. Now it’s time to do the math and determine your Portfolio Career Plan (PCP). As you’ll see, this process is quite logical. All you need is a pencil, paper, calculator, and a little creativity.

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Building Your Portfolio Career Part 2: The 21 Income Models

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If you have money to invest, any financial advisor worthy of their corner office will suggest you diversify the portfolio. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The same logic can be applied to multiple-stream careers. This post outl…

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Building Your Portfolio Career Part 1: Imagining the Mix

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Portfolio career is the term used to describe a professional path involving multiple streams of income. This profile is commonly adopted by artists of all stripes. I, for one, have developed a portfolio career, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
 

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Someone is Stealing Your Stuff-Attitudes About Copyright are Morphing

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If you’re an older person with copyrighted material you probably have a different view toward protecting and publishing your creative work than a younger person. Here’s an interesting blog from Andrew Taylor in Arts Journal that was posted on 6/7/11. It seems that times could be a changin’. On profits, proliferation, and piracy It’s a [...]

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Guest Bloggers: Quartetutopia by Nicholas Kitchen

0 Tony Woodcock

[Nick Kitchen is the founding first violinist of the Borromeo Quartet, ensemble in residence at NEC. In addition to receiving the Artist Diploma from NEC, the quartet has gone on to win the 2007 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Lincoln Center’s … Continue reading

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Note to Conductors: Your Hand Motions Make No Sound

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For the past month or so musicians in the orchestra world have been buzzing about Roberto Minczuk, the Music Director of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).  It seems, at his urging, the orchestra management has decided to re-audition every member of the orchestra. You can imagine the outrage that this decision has

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Was it worth it?

0 Robert Levine

There is a famous (although possibly apocryphal) story about Richard Nixon’s visit to China. Reportedly, Kissinger told Nixon that Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai was a student of the French Revolution. So Nixon asked him, during their first informal meeting, what he thought the impact of the French Revolution on the course of history had

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What Professional Orchestras Should Learn From YouTube

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These days, when symphony orchestras make national news, the topic is usually not a happy one.  Yet one group has received a very different kind of coverage: the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO).  Culminating in a performance at Australia’s Sydney…

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Time to end the Detroit strike

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I am no longer working for the musicians’ union so I am just going to call it like I see it… It is time for the musicians of the DSO to make their best deal and go back to work. Sadly, we have seen this so many times – musicians using brute force to try

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Twilight in Syracuse

2 Robert Levine

The Syracuse Symphony is shutting down after musicians refused to accept $1.3 million in concessions: The decision will bring the 50th anniversary season of the orchestra to an unceremonious end. There were more than 20 Syracuse and regional concerts remaining in the 2010-11 season. The orchestra’s 18 full- and part-time staffers and 61 core and

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Another deadline in Detroit

0 Robert Levine

DSO management has apparently set yet another deadline: The musicians claimed management set an April 1 deadline for a deal or the summer season would be lost and the fall season would be jeopardized. They also said management was unwilling to meet at the bargaining table before the Friday deadline. The two sides have not

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Arts Entrepreneurship — Policy Opportunity?

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I don’t think anyone would argue that we’re in a period of policy transition in the arts and culture sector.  I would even characterize it as the most significant period of policy reexamination since the 1960’s.  The difference is huge, of co…

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Questions? Answers.

0 Stephen Danyew

Back in January, I posted a blog about Musical America’s exciting new partnership with Edna Landau – “Ask Edna.”  Since starting her new blog, Edna has addressed some excellent career-related questions by young musicians, and she has provided some insightful guidance and ideas to consider.  Recently, I figured I would throw a question into the

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Community outreach – ideas for guidelines

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It appears that a big reason that the Detroit Symphony potential settlement fell apart was a dispute over $2 million for community outreach. I am sure there is more to it than that but if there is still a spark of hope embedded in that concept it is worth taking a closer look. The term

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Orchestras and the union movement

1 Robert Levine

Milwaukee is not quite equidistant from Madison and Detroit, but it does sit precisely on the line between them that a crow (or a Boeing) would fly. So it’s fitting that events in Detroit and Madison resonate so loudly with this member of the Milwaukee Symphony – an orchestra in the Rust Belt that’s had

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Make Friends – Your Peers Are Your Best Resource

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Think about it. It’s only human nature to recommend a friend for a job. Putting aside the fact that if you recommend him or her, he or she may reciprocate one day, it just feels good to help out a friend, provided they are a good fit for the job. Even though music is a [...]

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The worst is yet to come

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If you think that the Detroit Symphony labor dispute has been hard to watch, steel yourselves because the worst is yet to come. If the parties can’t find their way to a settlement in very short order, it will be even harder to watch the orchestra disintegrate. The recent “farewell” posting by the entire DSO

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Don't try this at home

0 Robert Levine

We’re having an interesting couple of weeks here in Wisconsin, as has been reported not only by the usual suspects but by the BBC and Al-Jazeera as well. Here was my favorite sign from my visit to Madison on Saturday: Today appeared a life lesson in the form of some frank talk by our Governor

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WTF was that all about?

2 Robert Levine

That’s also the punch line to a very funny story David Sedaris tells about a slug going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions, but I digress. Sunday’s story in the Detroit News gave the distinct impression that the DSO management was prepared to: …move forward with a newly assembled group of players that would include only those

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Let The Other Guy Talk First

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Writing projects (read: compositions and arrangements) are always up for negotiation. What I always try to do is let the person hiring me talk first. After we have discussed what is involved, I quickly calculate how much time it will take to complete it. I get a price in my head that I think is [...]

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A substitute orchestra in Detroit?

0 Robert Levine

In a front-page article in the Detroit News, Michael H. Hodges is pessimistic about the future of the DSO: …outsiders warn that suspending the season involves a leap into the unknown, one that not only threatens the orchestra’s current hold on audiences and donors, but could put the 2011-2012 season and the orchestra’s entire future

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A suspension bridge to nowhere good

0 Robert Levine

The future of the Detroit Symphony may well ride on the DSO board’s definition of the word “suspend“: The crisis surrounding the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike hit a new peak Saturday, increasing the possibility that the financially crippled orchestra may not play a single note of music this season. The musicians rejected management’s final contract

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No settlement in Detroit

2 Robert Levine

There’s a management offer on the table, and a management-dictated deadline to accept it or the else, but there’s no agreement between the negotiating teams: Detroit Symphony Orchestra management made what it calls a final offer to musicians tonight, requesting an up-or-down vote on the contract proposal by 5 p.m. Thursday. The move — which

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Make the Client Feel Good

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This short phrase, “Make the client feel good,” is one of the most important things to remember in business. Often when doing recording sessions for television and radio commercials (read: jingles) the “com- poser” may be a person of little of no musical knowledge. He may not even read music or be able to put [...]

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Detroit inches closer to edge of cliff

0 Robert Levine

This is not the end, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of hope either: The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have rejected management’s latest contract offer, setting up a showdown that could lead to the cancellation of the rest of the 2010-11 season by the end of the week. With nearly 50% of the

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American exceptionalism

1 Robert Levine

I’ll admit to finding the Right’s fixation on the concept of American exceptionalism quite disturbing. But there is no other country in the world in which the article below could appear in a union publication. There’s likely no other city in the world in which it could appear either, of course – but, as the

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It's the silly season

0 Robert Levine

It’s nice to know that the management of the Louisville Orchestra think that something about the orchestra is valuable. Too bad it’s the name and not the musicians: In a sign of how far apart the two sides remain, an attorney for Louisville Orchestra Inc. has threatened legal action if its musicians continue to operate

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Have Your Price in Mind

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You should have a price in mind for the particular service that is under discussion. Different types of gigs will have different pay rates that are either set by the musicians’ union or are the going rates of the area. Many jobs pay scale and that’s it. A traveling Broadway show or an opera put [...]

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Do Your Own Thing, Then Figure Out How To Get Paid For It

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I once was invited to be part of a panel discussion at the International Trombone Association’s annual convention. The subject was orchestra opportunities for trombonists. When I arrived at the venue, I looked at the sessions and concerts that had gone on in previous days, and I saw that a sackbut quartet had given a [...]

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What a good idea

0 Robert Levine

Tom Service, who blogs for the Guardian (UK), reports on a really good idea from the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Association for British Orchestras: The annual Salomon prize is for orchestral players – or, rather, for a single orchestral player in a UK-based professional ensemble who in the eyes and ears of their fellow

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Conductors say the darndest things

0 Robert Levine

There’s been a certain amount of piling-on in response to comments that conductor James Gaffigan made on his blog a few weeks ago (h/t to Adaptistration and oboeinsight). After providing us with some details of his recent guest conducting, and news of his new apartment in Lucerne, he proceeds to some rather unfortunate remarks inspired

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Music medicine can be fun!

0 Robert Levine

… although one might need a slightly twisted view of things to find it so. An article in the September 2010 edition of Medical Problems of Performing Musicians shows us how: …in 1935, trumpeter Louis Armstrong hurt his lips from too much playing and had to lay down his horn for a year. His condition

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Social media and musician activism

0 Robert Levine

This story didn’t show up on the usual arts blogging sites, but it might well have been the most important news for our field in a while: In what labor officials and lawyers view as a ground-breaking case involving workers and social media, the National Labor Relations Board has accused a company of illegally firing

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New sheriff in town

0 Robert Levine

One of the scariest rituals of orchestra life is the arrival of a new Chief Executive Officer. A new Music Director can be very unsettling for the members of the orchesra, of course – it’s the Music Director who has the power of economic life and death over individual musicians, and obviously no other person

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Are auditions fair?

0 Robert Levine

Peter Dobrin, in an article for the Philadelphia Inquirer on the possible departure of Philly clarinetist Ricardo Morales for the New York Phil, is skeptical: Lurking in the background is the hypocrisy that has long run through orchestral personnel decisions. Both players and management have held that talent is the sole criterion for determining who

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Why don't orchestras promote from within?

0 Robert Levine

Over the course of more years than I care to remember I’ve heard lots and lots of auditions. But it was brought home to me again the other day, at another audition, that I’ve only ever heard one audition that resulted in a section musician winning a permanent titled position in their own orchestra. It

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