The list of troubled U.S. orchestras seems to get longer and longer. It feels as if a dam has burst and we are being hit by wave after wave of negative publicity.
This year, it was a brief strike in Chicago. There is currently a lockout in Minnesota. There was a lockout in Indianapolis, that ended with a 32% pay cut (for one year). There was also a lockout in Atlanta that ended with a shorter season and fewer musicians.
There are rumblings in Richmond and Spokane. The musicians in Seattle have activated the power to strike and are using that language in their publicity.
A season of discontent
International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Chairman Bruce Ridge noted recently:
For the American worker, it is the autumn of our discontent. The musicians of America’s symphony orchestras are facing the same difficulties of other workers in a climate that mirrors the greater socio-economic environment of the country. America’s orchestras are non-profit organizations, but just as in the for-profit world, executive compensation rises as worker pay decreases.
Managements of symphony orchestras are also following the pattern of the for-profit world, becoming more aggressive in negotiations and resorting more frequently to lockouts. Just this fall, the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, and the Minnesota Orchestra have been locked out by their managements, and their communities have been deprived of music.
Even more orchestra lockouts potentially await. As the New York Times reported this year “America’s unionized workers, buffeted by layoffs and stagnating wages, face another phenomenon that is increasingly throwing them on the defensive: lockouts.”
By the virtue of their non-profit status, American symphony orchestras rely on public, government and corporate goodwill in order to survive.
At the grass-roots level, music education programs across the country are being slashed and burned. Fewer children are being exposed to the joy of music. According to an article from the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, reports have shown that the percentage of kids with access to music has declined 50% in the past five years.
Take a quick poll
In this completely unscientific poll, we would like to tap into what our readers think is at the root of this current trend. Take a second and cast your vote. Once you are done, the current results will display.
Be sure to check back later — in 12-24 hours or so — to see how the votes are trending.
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Follow-up article: Thoughts on Cognition, Bias and the ‘U.S. Orchestra’ Readership Poll