Troyens

Troyens

Friday, September 27, 2013

Minnesota Deadline Approaches

The Times reports that the Minnesota Orchestra Association has made yet another inadequate offer to its musicians:
The new proposal offers the players an annual average salary of $104,500 and a signing bonus of $20,000, made possible by special financing provided by a group of Minnesota foundations and community support organizations. 
The proposal is to expire at noon on Monday. Next week has been specified by Osmo Vanska, the orchestra’s music director, as the latest the orchestra can begin rehearsing for its new season, which includes important concerts at Carnegie Hall in early November. The musicians’ salaries have been the main issue in the dispute. Under their last contract, the players were making an annual average salary of $135,000.
The "average salary" business amounts to weasel words. What you need to know is the base salary and increments over time.

That said, here are some remarks I made a couple of years back about responsibilities within an orchestra or opera company:
....let's remember the division of labor at opera companies and symphonies:
  • The musicians and singers are paid to put on concerts and operas.
  • The nonmusician union members are paid to make costumes and sets and wigs and move stuff around the stage.
  • The administrators are paid to raise enough money to pay for putting on concerts and operas, and to perform myriad administrative tasks with some degree of smarts.
If an opera company or symphony orchestra finds itself in financial trouble, it's rarely because the musicians can't play and the costumers have forgotten how to sew. (If you know of such a case, please provide details in the comments.) It's invariably because the administration has failed in some way or there has been a major economic downturn. They haven't raised enough money, there's been some kind of major leadership failure, they have incurred new costs for some reason - and so on. And it's important to keep in mind that the administrators were involved in union negotiations, and signed the contracts with their eyes open.
I also said that the Philadelphia Orchestra and NYCO were poster children for bad management. Well, Minnesota tops them all, I gotta say. My expectation as of now, I am sad to say, is that Vänskä will quit and the orchestra will fold.

2 comments:

Paul H. Muller said...

"If an opera company or symphony orchestra finds itself in financial trouble, it's rarely because the musicians can't play and the costumers have forgotten how to sew."

Nails it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you. I am excessively fond of that summary of orchestral problems.