Are Orchestra Musicians Replaceable?

Drew McManus pointed out a piece written by Michaela Boland which had some interesting quotes by Greg Sandow with whom I don’t necessarily agree on many points though he is one of the critics of the current status quo of Classical Music in the US.

Among the orchestras that have shut their doors and dismissed players there are some groups that have survived due to radical restructuring, which is where Sandow sees the future of the industry. Columbus Orchestra, by way of example, staved off closure in 2008 and retained 53 full-time players by reducing salaries by 27 per cent. Detroit Symphony Orchestra is engaged in similar talks with players.

Sandow argues that players in America’s top orchestras have traditionally been well paid, with salaries above $100,000, and the cuts are having an invigorating effect. “It’s interesting to talk to young musicians about this; they don’t see it as a problem, they’d consider themselves lucky to get any of these positions,” he says.

Historically, however, because of the status and the good pay, few of them could secure such jobs.

Sandow says that if the Philadelphia Orchestra were to suddenly discharge all its musicians and replace them with young players on contract, what might be lost in polish could easily be made up for in pizazz.

“I wonder if that wouldn’t be more exciting to hear,” he says. “It might really surprise people.”

This echoes some things said by Eric Edberg during the Detroit Symphony Orchestra debacle

I’m living in New York this semester, and have met a number of young free-lance players, some of whom are graduate students at big conservatories.  Guess what?  Most have little if any sympathy for the DSO players (who have not managed to successfully reframe the conversation and are losing the PR war, even with music students). They love all sorts of music in addition to classical music.  Plenty find traditional symphony (and other) concerts boring.  There are plenty of classical-change advocates, in various stages of self-awareness, among them. Right now, they have little or no work.  Student and, in many cases, instrument loans to pay.  Fantastic players.

Many see the union as the problem (even if they’re not going through one of those college-age Ayn Rand phases).  The players have been successfully characterized to/construed by them as greedy, selfish, and/or out of touch.  A lot of these incredibly-accomplished young players (and I bet there are bunches more in Baltimore, Bloomington, Cincinnati, Cleveland, LA,Miami,  etc.) seem excited at the idea of going to Detroit to work in a “new model” symphony.

While Unions may or may not be the problem (cf. Michael Kaiser’s recent post, Are Unions to Blame?) there is this sense that for good or ill, with younger musicians (many of whom are, as Eric says, struggling as freelancers much less in this economy) who haven’t matured in the Union environment, few are going to have as much sympathy as those musicians who rely on collective bargaining to sustain their livelihood.

On the other hand, a question I’ve been exploring–or rather, I could reframe the title of this blog post in a different way–is, “Are Western Orchestras Replaceable?”

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Final Count: 8,263

il Troubadore playing Klingon Opera and Sci-Fi themed tunes during the Sci-Fi Day Celebration at the Indianapolis Children's Museum "Incredible Costumes From Film and TV" exhibit on March 26, 2011

That was the official number of paying patrons that attended the Sci-Fi Day Celebration at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis that I performed at this past Saturday.  Granted, the performance was just a small part of the total event and there were many activities for the patrons to participate in–the Frog Prince play; all the wandering folks/fans in full costume with all the concomitant photo opps; and the raison d’etre itself–the Incredible Costumes From Film & TV exhibit itself.

So no, most of the folks there didn’t come to hear il Troubadore play tlhIgan QoQ (Klingon music)–not most of them anyway–they were there for the total experience that Eric Edberg and Greg Sandow are talking about here and here.  And while I have some misgivings about that issue that I commented about here there’s a different issue I’d eventually like to blog about relating to what we might call an audience development issue that I was reminded of regarding the whole “Pop vs Classical” [non] issue that was being discussed in Greg’s blog.

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Performance: Klingon Music at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum

 

Incredible Costumes from Film and TV at the Indianapolis Children's Museum

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in Indianapolis (IN) when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is one I co-founded with vocalist and mandolinist, Robert Bruce Scott, in May of 2004, il Troubadore and we will be presenting our Klingon Music Project.

 

Yes, you read right, il Troubadore will be playing three sets of Intergalactic Music (because World Music just wasn’t enough for us), so we’ll be singing in Klingon, and Ewok, and other languages.  Also, we’ll be dressed as Klingons.  So if you’re in the area and need something to bring your kids to, then the Indianapolis Children’s Museum exhibit, “Incredible Costumes from Film and TV” might be you thing today.

There will be a children’s costume contest at 1:30 which we will also be playing background music for, as well as three sets of music starting at 10:30.

If some of you folks have noticed banners and advertisements around Indianapolis that look a bit like the image to the left, that is none other than Indianapolis’ own naHQun, Commander of the IKS lIywI’ and professional Klingon translator.  He is also helping il Troubadore with the Klingon Ballet as well as other projects.

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Performance: Greek Islands Hafla

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Greek Islands Restaurant in Indianapolis when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is one I co-founded with vocalist and mandolinist, Robert Bruce Scott, in May of 2004, il Troubadore.  Rather than give you my bad prose description of us or repost our bio from the website url I just linked, the image below, from the Indianapolis Star written by David Lindquist could just as easily condense what we’re about.

il Troubadore in the Indianapolis Star

We will be hosting our monthly World Music and Dance night at the Greek Islands Restaurant in Indianapolis, a business run by the Stergiopoulos family since 1987.  We call the monthly event the Greek Islands Hafla.  The Arabic word, hafla, means “party” but in connection with bellydance communities it has taken on a life of its own.  This is a description from Shira.net website:

Hafla. (Pronounced “HAHF lah”.) This basically refers to a party. A private hafla thrown by a belly dancer usually involves Middle Eastern music (sometimes live musicians jamming, sometimes just taped music), dancers taking turns performing for each other, and some open-floor dancing for everyone to get up and enjoy the music. A more public hafla may be effectively a full belly dance festival, with vendors selling their wares and a more formalized stage show.

The local bellydancers in the Central Indiana area know the Greek Islands Hafla as a bellydance night though we do occasionally have some folk dancers that pop in from time to time.

I’ll probably be there until about midnight or so so won’t get a chance to post today hence the autopost.  And for you perusal, here’s a video of us performing at Kira’s Oasis in the Dayton, Ohio area (11 September 2009) for a fabulous dancer, Sherena, who used to be a member of the internationally touring Bellydance Superstars.  The tune is a Greek Laika by Manos Hadjidakis called Milise Mou (“Talk to Me”) and a favorite of our bellydancers.

Performance: Indianapolis Artsgarden

Carenza and il Troubadore

Carenza bint Asya (u.l.) with il Troubadore: Robert Bruce Scott (u.r.) & Jon Silpayamanant (bottom)

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Indianapolis Artsgarden in Indianapolis when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is one I co-founded with vocalist and mandolinist, Robert Bruce Scott, in May of 2004, il Troubadore.

We’ll be performing with one of our most frequent and long term collaborators bellydancer, Carenza bint Asya, in one of the coolest venues in Indianapolis.  Basically, it’s a giant glass dome settled above Washington and Illinois Street in downtown Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Artsgarden provides a magnificent environment for more than 300 free performances and exhibits each year. The Artsgarden also houses the Cultural Concierge, a centralized source for free maps, ticket information, visitor guides, directions and more for Indianapolis arts events. The facility is available for rental to non-profit, corporate and government organizations, as well as for wedding receptions. Owned and operated by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, this seven-story-tall glass enclosed structure offers a spectacular view of the city.

Built in 1995, the Indianapolis Artsgarden stands 17 feet above the intersection of Washington and Illinois streets and connects to the Embassy Suites complex, the Conrad Hotel, and Circle Centre Mall. It is linked by the indoor skywalk to the Hyatt Regency, Canterbury, Omni, Westin, Marriott and the Indianapolis Convention Center.

Indianapolis Artsgarden

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