Louisville Orchestra verteran board member resigns

Scab letter sent to Louisville Orchestra Musicians by LOI

This comes after the LOI decision and announcement to hire replacement musicians for the orchestra.  So much news this past week that I can’t hope to summarize the situation right now.  Here is the piece in the Courier Journal.

Also, notice the image to the left–a copy of the letter sent to the current musicians (that’s a bit misleading as the musicians aren’t under contract right now).  It’s a bit edited but you get the point, I think.

Whither the Louisville Orchestra?

Image/still from "Music Makes a City" documentary about the Louisville Orchestra

Drew McManus has a good roundup of the current LO situation in his most recent post.  I really don’t have much to add except that given how closely I’d been following the situation I kinda saw this coming while I remained hopeful.  Drew also saw this coming: as an industry expert and consultant he’s seen this happen and saw all the checkpoints that lead to this destination.  His advice to the parties involved is in the post but I’ll post here for my reader’s convenience:

  • Managers & Staffers: get out of Dodge as fast as you can. There have been a number of very nice job openings posted at Adaptistration Jobs this past week; stop by and see if there’s one you’re qualified for.
  • Musicians: get out of Dodge as fast as you can. I know a number have already left for other work; some of which is orchestral playing but others have found academic positions.
  • CEO: save every penny, start planning for an employment transition, and take the first reasonable offer that comes along.
  • Board: unless staying in the fight offers some sort of side political benefit (in which case, I’m sorry), resign now and move on to a new philanthropic endeavor.
  • Patrons: buy a bottle (or twelve) of your favorite spirit, put on an old LO recording, and gently sob while lamenting the fact that you no longer have a professional symphonic orchestra.
I might disagree a little with Drew’s comment that “Neither side has displayed any real vision or leadership, which only reinforces the notion that having either side cave only prolongs the dysfunction” to an extent.  I thought the Keep Louisville Symphonic was a grand idea that, if it were allowed to, might have been a way actively involve the musicians in the LO organization in ways to help generate and maintain buzz about live Symphonic music.


In some ways I feel as if the musicians caved in too early with that organization (though technically it isn’t defunct organization by any means).  It could possible be part of the foundations of a new orchestra (or at be a part of the infrastructure that helps to create a new orchestra from these ashes).  What was difficult is that the organization was so clearly a plea to the LO as well as to patrons and that implicitly made it a threat to the LO organization itself (as one of the rejected contracts the LO gave to musicians in the past can attest).


Regardless, I think it might be best to cut the losses and move on with rebuilding an orchestra.  I think the musician owned Louisiana Phil might be an agreeable model for our musicians here!  Maybe what would have been the 75th anniversary (this past September) can now be the year of the new orchestra!

Latest Louisville Orchestra news and concert cancellations

I haven’t been posting as much about the Louisville Orchestra situation lately as I would like to have, but since the recent court ruling for the LO reorganization plan a few weeks ago so much has happened.  Rather than my own thoughts about the situation, I’ll post some links given insightful commentary by other folks who have been closely following the events.

Drew McManus – Expect Things To Get Worse In Louisville Before They Get Better

Drew has been posting quite a bit on this recently and rather than clog his blog with trackbacks from mine I suggest searching through recent posts about the Louisville Orchestra–well worth a read from this industry expert!

Robert Levine – Louisville CEO surprised that AFM will support picket line
and Louisville management arms Tsar Bomba

Lots of local press about this as well at WFPL.  Here are a couple recent piece by Gabe Bullard.

Gabe Bullard – “Unfair” Listing Won’t Change Orchestra Contract Talks as Season Approaches, Says Birman

and Union Puts Orchestra on “Unfair List”

You can also find many more recent pieces under the “Arts and Humanities” tag.

Continue reading “Latest Louisville Orchestra news and concert cancellations”

Certified Letter to Louisville Orchestra Musicians

This says it all:

Dear *********:

Our counsel was advised by counsel to the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, Local 11-637 and the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Committee that the Louisville Orchestra should contact you directly to confirm your willingness and commitment to appear for upcoming Orchestra performances and rehearsals.  That being the case, this letter is to confirm your willingness and commitment to perform at future Louisville Orchestra concerts and rehearsals, or your refusal to do so.

If you are willing and intend to accept the assignments listed below, and if you are selected for such assignment(s), you will be paid a pro-rated per-service rate based on the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement and you will be paid in accordance with the terms of the expired Agreement.  You will not, however, receive payment under a per-service model for any benefits under the expired Agreement, nor will benefit payments be made to any fund on your behalf.  Benefits will only be available through a ratified collective bargaining agreement.

Please indicate your willingness and commitment to participate in future Louisville Orchestra concerts and rehearsals by marking “Yes” or “No” beside each scheduled performance and rehearsal.  A “Yes” will indicate your willingness and commitment to work under the terms above.  A “No” will indicate your refusal to work.  Not marking either choice will be treated as a refusal to work.  [Then it lists the 159 services offered for next season.]

The Louisville Orchestra management, in consultation with the Music Director, will determine now many musicians will be selected.  If fewer musicians are selected than those who are willing to work, the final selection for employment will be based on the individual musician’s section seating order, consistent with the Orchestra’s etablished practice for performance assignments.

If you indicate a willingness to work and you are selected to perform, your failure to appear and perform will be treated as an abandonment of your employment, absent a prearranged approval with the Louisville Orchestra management excusing you from such obligation.  If you fail to indicate either “Yes” or “No” for any performance, that will be treated as a voluntary refusal to work.  In such event, the Louisville Orchestra will take whatever steps are legally appropriate to fill your position.  Similarly, if you indicate a refusal to appear and play the scheduled performance, the Louisville Orchestra will take whatever steps are legally appropriate to fill your position.

You must indicate your commitment as requested in this letter, execute and date the letter in the space provided below for your signature and return the executed letter to the Louisville Orchestra office no later than 5:00pm Wednesday, July 13, 2011.  Failure to return a copy of this letter with your commitments identified by this date will be treated as a voluntary refusal to work at the scheduled performances.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Robert A. Birman

Chief Executive Officer

End note: Per Service Scale

Using an 8-service-count week as the standard, as defined in our expired Agreement, “per-service” base pay shall be $115.62.  We will apply standard “over-scale” percentages to the base pay for the following provisions only: “One on a Part” = $117.29; “Assistant Principal” = $123.93; and “Principal” = $137.21.  Senority pay will be prorated at 1/8 weekly scale as well.

Orchestra News

Dixon of Who's Minding the Score has this to say about the Philly Orchestra situation

Officially, the Louisville Orchestra currently employs no musicians.  Yesterday was the deadline for the bankruptcy reorganization plan to be submitted by the orchestra (which was actually filed on Monday), and midnight Tuesday is when the musicians current contract expires.  There was no new CBA agreed upon, hence no employed musicians.

Earlier last week, the concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Emmanuelle Boisvert, leaves for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra after 23 years in that position with the Detroit SO.  Drew McManus has linked some interesting pieces regarding her departure which happens, of course, after the Orchestra and Musicians finally settle a months long dispute which resulted in a strike by the musicians.

And similarly like the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra earlier this year, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra has risen from the ashes as the New Mexico Philharmonic.


In Ethnic Orchestra News

The Liverpool Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra recently got more funding.  There are a handful of Chinese Youth Symphonies in the US, many of which are feeders into the adult Chinese Orchestras in their respective regions.

I’m continuing to find even more Ethnic Orchestras in the US, a massive updating of my Ethnic Orchestras in North American Page is imminent.  At some point I will create a more useful database to correlate the growth of ethnic populations with the ethnic orchestras to give a better picture of the nature of the growth of these non-Western Orchestras throughout [especially] the US.


International Orchestra News

I found a recent blog about orchestra management that has a bit of an international focus that has some good reporting on some general issues as well as specific events reportage (such as the recent FIM International Orchestra Conference in Amsterdam).  The blog is simply titled, orchestramanament: Develop the Orchestra World.