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Category: Labor relations

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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The League and Minnesota

1 Robert Levine

Drew McManus created a bit of controversy last week when he wrote: There’s a fascinating article by Lee Rosenbaum in the 3/27/2014 edition of her CultureGrrl column where she discusses the decision by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) to denounce one of their members for selling off key items from their collection in order

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The Northern Front: Stunde Null

1 Robert Levine

In the aftermath of the most devastating conflict in human history, the epicenter of that conflict, Germany, experienced in 1945 what the Germans called “Stunde Null” – zero hour. It was an expression of the fact that communal life as they’d known it had ended but the society that would replace it was not yet

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Armistice Day on the Northern Front

1 Robert Levine

There’s been what intelligence analysts call “chatter” for a few weeks about a settlement in Minnesota being close. I heard some new chatter in the past couple of days, which led me to to set up a Google watch on the news. About twenty minutes ago, the official news came through, after some preliminary reports

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Another missed opportunity

3 Robert Levine

The great Israeli diplomat Abba Eban famously remarked, after the 1973 Geneva Peace Conference, that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The same could be said of the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra. At their annual meeting yesterday, the Board passed on the perfect moment to let the current board chair

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Our conspiratorial industry

15 Robert Levine

One of the more intriguing aspects to the psychology of our industry is a general propensity to conspiratorial thinking. It’s not hard to find amongst musicians; the widespread belief that the League of American Orchestras A National Service Organization is behind all our woes is the best-known example, but conspiracy theories fester within orchestras as

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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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No good news from the Northern Front (with update)

0 Robert Levine

Today is what most observers are assuming is the deadline for a settlement in Minnesota that will keep Osmo Vänskä and the November Carnegie concerts in the picture. It doesn’t appear that negotiations are going well, though. One indication of that is the management offer of last week, made with great public fanfare and certainly

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Why not try negotiating? (with update)

1 Robert Levine

It’s clear that crunch time is coming on the Northern Front (aka the Minnesota orchestra labor “negotiations”). The board has said that they’re willing to indefinitely delay the unveiling of their shiny new $50 million toy lobby, to see the prospect of ever going back to Carnegie Hall evaporate, and to watch Vänskä walk. The

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Bought and paid for

4 Robert Levine

The Minnesota Orchestra leadership released a “financial review” yesterday. Most of the coverage, though, focused on remarks made by MO board negotiating chair Richard Davis, who told the Star Tribune editorial board that he was prepared to say bye-bye to music director Osmo Vänskä, the upcoming Carnegie concerts, and the opening of the newly-renovated Orchestra

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It’s getting weird up there…

0 Robert Levine

It is possible to say with assurance that something is happening in the Minnesota Orchestra labor war. Just what that something is, on the other hand… Yesterday there was a flurry of activity. First there was what appeared to be a new proposal by management, with a new deadline. Then there was a statement by

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Red line in Minnesota gets redder

0 Robert Levine

I promise that some day I will post on something other than the Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute. But, at the moment, it’s the most important thing happening in our field. The news yesterday from the Northern Front was not encouraging. The first item was that Minnesota Orchestra management has apparently set a kind of deadline

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The latest bad news from Minnesota

0 Robert Levine

There have been several developments in the trench warfare that goes by the name of “Minnesota Orchestra negotiations” recently. The first, and (to my mind) least consequential, was DomainNameGate. Emily Hogstad, who has done remarkable commentary and reporting throughout this dispute, discovered more or less by chance that the Minnesota Orchestra Association had been buying

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The Role of the Orchestra Committee vs. the Local

0 Ann Drinan

An interesting musician session at the League’s June conference featured a panel discussing “The Role of the Orchestra Committee and the Local Union.” The panelists were Robert Levine, Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony, Senior Editor at Polyphonic and former Chair of ICSOM; Tom  Jöstlein, Associate Principal Horn of the St. Louis Symphony, and Chris

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What we should hope isn’t next for Minnesota

0 Robert Levine

There was a flurry of press reports last week on the state of the Minnesota Orchestra lock-out; most about the apparent involvement of George Mitchell as mediator. Norman Lebrecht also reported on some back-and-forth between musicians and management, although other reports disputed the accuracy, or at least completeness, of what he’d written. Since then, there’s

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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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Mediation in Minnesota

0 Robert Levine

The Minnesota Orchestra lock-out – the longest second-longest formal lock-out in our industry’s history – may have entered a new phase, according to Graydon Royce of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: The Minnesota Orchestra’s management and musicians — now in the 11th month of a bitter labor lockout — are quietly talking again behind the scenes.

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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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When Vampire Squid meets orchestra

2 Robert Levine

One of the best metaphors in recent years was coined by Matt Taibbi, who wrote one of the great articles on the financial crisis of 2008: The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face

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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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A normal strike

0 Robert Levine

It’s a measure of just how bizarre is the state of labor relations in the orchestra field that only now, months into the most brutal negotiating season in memory, are we seeing the the first “normal” labor dispute – by which I mean a strike (and not a lock-out), not immediately settled (and thus more

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NLRB happens

1 Robert Levine

In a nice example of synchronicity, the Jacksonville Symphony musicians, with the assistance of their counsel, Liza Medina, proved my point about the dangers of an employer declaring impasse within hours of my having written this post last week by winning a ruling from the NLRB on the subject: There is enough evidence of unfair

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Why no impasse in Minnesota?

2 Robert Levine

One of the continuing mysteries of the Minnesota Orchestra dispute (for me, at least) was why the management chose to lock out its musicians rather than declare impasse and impose its proposal. Drew McManus believes he has an explanation: On the surface, the MOA executive committee’s public angst over the lack of a musician offer

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The Empire strikes back

1 Robert Levine

The shockwaves from the Minneapolis Star Tribune article on Monday are still reverberating, judging by today’s response from the Minnesota Orchestra board leadership. It’s quite revealing, both of the board’s real position and of some of the thinking behind it. It’s also full of half-truths and rather creative constructions placed on their actions and those

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Cooking the books

11 Robert Levine

This is a pretty amazing story: For four years, the Minnesota Orchestra board has walked a tightrope between managing public perceptions about its financial health and making its case to cut musicians’ salaries. As early as 2009, board officers were discussing how much money to draw from investments, and the advantage of reporting balanced budgets

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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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Osmo joins the party

0 Robert Levine

It’s been a bad week for the management of the Minnesota Orchestra, and this very public letter from their Music Director was was likely the cherry on the cake: Dear Members of the Minnesota Orchestra Board and the Musicians of the Orchestra: In the last few years, the Minnesota Orchestra has truly established itself as

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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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Is a tree embarrassed if it doesn’t hear itself fall?

4 Robert Levine

This is pretty amazing news: The locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today announced former music director Edo de Waart, and former concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis will join them for two concerts in mid-December. The news comes one day after management cancelled all concerts through December 23rd citing lack of progress in concert talks. Meanwhile

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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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What the election tells us about the press

0 Robert Levine

William Goldman, a remarkably prolific screen writer who wrote the screenplays for, among other movies, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, and The Princess Bride (which was based on a novel he wrote), began his memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade with a three-word opening sentence. He wrote:  “Nobody knows anything”

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Another day, another conspiracy theory

0 Robert Levine

Except that, of course, it’s the same conspiracy theory, only this time in the hallowed web pages of the Huffington Post: It’s the voodoo. That horrible, Kuru-inducing zombie voodoo. These are heady times for the League of American Orchestras (LAO) and their ilk. True, their suits have grown a tad more maggot-ridden since their early

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The curious incident of the Boards in the night-time

1 Robert Levine

These have been dreadful times for the musicians of the orchestras at the epicenter of the current epidemic of radical salary-slashing. Those orchestras’ audiences have been affected too, as have businesses in the areas around the concert halls. For students of labor relations, though, these have been very interesting days. No doubt pathologists during the

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Minnesota nasty

0 Robert Levine

Minnesotans are known for being averse to conflict, generous to arts and educational groups of all kinds, and generally plain-spoken (unless, of course, such speaking would lead to conflict). So, on top of the ongoing Minnesota Orchestra lock-out, this comes as a shock, even if not a surprise: The Twin Cities’ distinctive status in the

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The rest of the ugly

0 Robert Levine

Although the guts of the Minnesota proposal (and the damage done by it) lie in the economics, there is plenty of other stuff not to like as well. In particular, there are loads of changes proposed to work rules; far more than one would expect in a normal negotiation, much less one in which the

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The reason why

5 Robert Levine

It seems inherent in human nature to look for someone to blame when bad things happen. Bad things have been happening in our field of late (or at least to a higher-than-usual number of orchestras), so those on the receiving end – who are mostly, although not exclusively, musicians – look for an enemy who

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One Wow and One Uh-Oh

1 Robert Levine

This letter appeared in Saturday’s Minneapolis StarTribune: As former music directors of the Minnesota Orchestra, we came to the state because we believe that it wants and deserves to have a world-class orchestra. We are proud of the cultural gem we have built, with the musicians, for more than half a century. It required long

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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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Ground Zero for the Payless model

2 Robert Levine

Every negotiation cycle seems to have one negotiation that symbolizes the trends underlying what happens in that cycle. I had thought that last season’s epic battle in Detroit would serve that role for this round. But I think I was wrong; it’s looking as if Minnesota will define the era. And the Minnesota negotiation is

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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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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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Note to Conductors: Your Hand Motions Make No Sound

0

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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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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More about community engagement

0 Robert Levine

The most important benefit to our field from the Detroit strike will be the ever-necessary reminder that strikes are a sub-optimal method of resolving labor-management disputes. The next most important benefit will be the jump-starting of the discussion about what’s come to be known as “community engagement.” Whether either of those will be worth the

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The worst is yet to come

0

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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More details on the Detroit negotiations

0 Robert Levine

The AFM put out a press release yesterday (February 20) which contained some interesting details on the most recent negotiations: Although Senator Carl Levin and Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert had stepped in last week to help broker an agreement, DSO management did not show up at face-to-face meetings with the arbitrators until the third

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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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Why conductors should STFU

1 Robert Levine

Because otherwise they’re going to say things as dumb as what Leonard Slatkin said today about the DSO strike: …A settlement now would serve both parties well since the DSO’s popular, high-profile music director is the scheduled conductor for next weekend’s concerts. “What’s really cool is that we would be doing Michel Camilo’s Second Piano

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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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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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And they could sell tickets to staff meetings!

0 Robert Levine

Labor law bars managements from implementing the governance solution outlined by Bertold Brecht: After the uprising of the 17th June The Secretary of the Writers Union Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee Stating that the people Had forfeited the confidence of the government And could win it back only By redoubled efforts. Would it not

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Tea leaves in Detroit

0 Robert Levine

Two items in Detroit’s newspapers yesterday make me think that things are not going well there. The first was in the Detroit Free Press: Management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra reiterated today that it would make a new contract offer to its striking musicians this week and would request a response by Feb. 11. Citing

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Detroit Update 1/23/2011

0 Robert Levine

According to the Detroit Free Press, there were negotiations today: The musicians and management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra returned to the bargaining table this afternoon to try to settle the contentious strike that enters its 17th week on Monday. DSO board members received an e-mail from management today saying that talks had resumed, said

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More Detroit

0 Robert Levine

The war of words heated up during the time I was writing the previous post: Musicians’ spokesman Greg Bowens disputed the $40.1 million figure, saying, “That must be another example of the fuzzy math that got the orchestra into the deficits it’s in now.”… Bowens declined to address most other issues in management’s Saturday morning

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A press blackout with a very short lifespan

1 Robert Levine

Detroit Symphony management and musicians met all day Thursday under a press blackout: The status of contract talks between the musicians and management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra remained unclear early this afternoon in the midst of a news blackout by both sides in the dispute. The parties met all day Thursday in an effort

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AFM wins in court; won't matter much

0 Robert Levine

The AFM (or at least its lawyers) had a good win in labor law land the other day: The AFM has won a significant victory affecting orchestra media negotiations. The AFM has consistently taken the position that orchestra managements who are signatory to AFM media agreements (such as the Symphony, Opera or Ballet Audio Visual

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Movement in Detroit: PS

0 Robert Levine

It’s understandable why the musicians might be wary in light of DSO management’s public statements regarding their new “offer”: DSO officials said it would up the orchestra budget to $36 million, $2 million more in player pay and benefits than its late November offer. But the offer is contingent on musicians accepting work rule changes

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Movement in Detroit?

0 Robert Levine

Maybe: The striking musicians and management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra traded barbs and accusations on today while a settlement to the 15-week-old strike remained elusive — even as management appeared to sweeten its offer for the first time since November. The musicians called a news conference to accuse management of threatening to cancel the

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The moralistic approach to orchestra scheduling

2 Robert Levine

Interlochen Public Radio did a piece yesterday on the DSO strike; in particular the service conversion proposals that management has put on the table. The whole thing is worth reading. But I was particularly struck by comments made by Joseph Horowitz: …there are those in the industry who argue this discussion is way overdue. Joe

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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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Ice Bowl

0 Robert Levine

Long orchestra strikes come to resemble a labor relations version of the infamous Ice Bowl; a painful and slow grinding out of points in horrible conditions that caused almost as much pain to the spectators as to the players on the field. Detroit shows some signs of becoming almost as infamous in the history of

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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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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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Wassup in Detroit?

1 Robert Levine

The Detroit Symphony went on strike a little over four weeks ago, although negotiations broke down several weeks before that. That puts the strike clock at around 11:45PM, by normal standards – negotiations seem to begin to get serious, during an orchestra strike, after about six weeks. Why is that? Why not sooner? I think

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Time to go short?

0 Robert Levine

When I first came into the business, the conventional wisdom (as expressed by Len Leibowitz at many ICSOM conferences) was that it was in musicians’ interests to propose one-year agreements and let management pay for the privilege of several years of labor peace and not having to deal with negotiating committees.

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Bad cases make bad models

1 Robert Levine

The NY Times has a story on what appears to be the inevitable strike in Detroit scheduled to start Monday: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has weathered decades of strikes, deficits, criticism over its racial makeup, mediocre concert homes, cuts in state aid and canceled tours. It has always bounced back, rescuing and restoring its beautiful

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Daddy, what's an 8(d) notice?

1 Robert Levine

The short answer is that it’s something that’s about to bite the Detroit Symphony management very hard. The long answer follows after the jump.

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