Friday, October 5, 2012

A Grim Tale: Looking Back in Anger

There was once a group of skilled musicians, praised and esteemed for the quality of their musicianship, their versatility, and the beauty of their sound.  These musicians were very busy:  winning Grammys, giving concerts, visiting schools, mentoring the next generation of musicians, practicing, rehearsing -- committed to doing their jobs as well as could be done, working tirelessly to improve what was already a superior ensemble.  It was universally agreed that this group of musicians was one of the finest in the land.

Unbeknownst to the musicians, their overlords were busy at the same time, running up a stupefying deficit ...  adding staff -- 15 people in management who made more money than the musicians did --  building costly arenas, and generally doing nothing but spending money faster than the musicians could bring it in.  That is, until the newly-commissioned Commissioner, skilled in exchequer, came into the land and was truly appalled by the sight of such a bloated, top-heavy beast.

The Commissioner vowed to fix this ... and after a few minutes' thought, came up with the winning idea of having the musicians -- the primary revenue stream -- bear the brunt of the debt.   By reducing their numbers, slashing their salaries, playing weeks, and benefits the problem would be solved! The overlords would be allowed to stay nice and fat with barely a dent in their purse or loss of perks.

The plan would do nothing, of course, to add luster to the artistic future of the musicians, but the debt would be reduced, and thus, no argument against it was brooked.  The musicians said bravely that they would not accept this solution. So, with the help of her puppet, the Chief High Overlord, the Commissioner laid siege to the musicians.  Horrified, the musicians looked around them.  "Who speaks for us?" they asked.  "Who speaks for the music?"  But there was no answer.

The Commissioner and the Chief High Overlord took no pity.  They locked the musicians out of their Hall, cut off their health benefits, hijacked their educational programs ... until the musicians, who had been unprepared for the viciousness of the attack, and possessed no weapons or strategy, realized they were facing damage to their artistic reputation and loss of livelihood, and bent to the will of the overlords.

There was much celebrating in the imperial halls of the overlords, who were now able to give up the onerous tasks of fundraising, seeking donor patronage, and the tightening of their own belts.  14 weeks of paid vacation!  A mere 6% salary reduction!  No staff lost!  Let the Casino Party begin!

The musicians, suddenly finding themselves saddled with a massive debt not of their own making, were troubled, but they did not despair.  They took up their instruments with the same accustomed resolve.  The purity of their art would not be stained by the machinations of the foolish ones, who saw no value in the musicians' music, other than the gold it brought them.  The musicians vowed that no matter what these overlords in their ignorance and lust for power had decreed, no matter what humiliations they inflicted, the music would go on.

And so it did.

We need to read this again and again.


  1. And the comments- don't forget those. It is no less tragic today than it was a week ago.

  2. Please don't pick on the staff. They are not the same thing as the ASO or WAC Management and they don't deserve this sort of sniping at all. Where did you get the preposterous idea of 14 weeks of paid vacation?

  3. Thanks for your comment, Michael. You are absolutely right. I am so glad you speak up for WAC staff. We have been in contact with several of them who are in full support of the musicians ... and have used the word 'crucify the poseurs' in their communications. It's true that there is a difference between a High Overlord and a staffer, which is why -- on the strength of your comment, I changed the High Overlords and High Commissioner, and took out general references to WAC. Virginia Hepner and Stanley Romenstein have repeatedly and very publicly cast themselves as the authors of the solution, and the leaders of the organization, so they are fair game. The 14 weeks came from information received. I'll send you the source.

  4. I love this story and I strongly disagree with the poster above. This does not snipe at the staff even when you just said WAC. Nobody in their right mind would read Grim Tale and think that this business was the fault of a secretary or box office staffer. It was obvious who the writer was referring to. The staff of WAC and symphony management should be embarrassed for their bosses behavior but nobody has said that they are responsible for it.

  5. Unknown - You should know that Sally had edited her piece after I commented and took out and rephrased some things. I have no issue with it as it now reads.

  6. I didn't change it much ... I just took Stanley Romanstein and Virginia Hepner's names out, and substituted Overlords for WAC. It was a small concession to a friend who had enough outraged feelings to forget to whom he was writing. Many of the staff at WAC support what we are doing here ... they consider themselves a bureaucracy that would be happy to remain at WAC, working in the arts ... if only certain people be given the heave-ho.