Friday, November 30, 2012

Con Blog? Senza Blog?

As the end of a year approaches, it's customary to reflect and take stock:  What have we accomplished?  How do we move forward?   Because I could answer the first question, but not the second, I began musing out loud, wondering whether the ASOC Singers and Friends Blog hadn't run its course ... and was considering archiving everything, letting the blog expire with a morendo.  Maybe 'go dormant' is a better term for what I had in mind. 

Fortunately, Laurie Cronin doesn't possess my anxious navel-gazing tendencies. She wrote to me yesterday ... and her words are, as always, cogent, wise, and inspirational: 

"We know the musicians who were involved in the negotiations are tired, and the others are resigned, or worse.  The hardest thing to do is to sustain the energy and idea generation once the crisis has passed, but we somehow need to do that. Unfortunately, there is no real leadership within our ASO/WAC organization from those we could reasonably expect to take that role -- not just the type of driven artistic leadership that builds the musical side of the house, but more to the point, the moral leadership that not only says, 'This really matters ... standards really matter ... being world-class really, really matters' ... but who has the intestinal fortitude to take those arguments to the community at large.  There is definitely a leadership vacuum, and has been for some time.

As you've asked many times, 'Who speaks for the art?'  We need to continue to try doing that ..."

"Who speaks for the art?"  Well, we do.  We must.   In mid-September, ASOC members were driven by the whip-hand of a specific crisis and an uncertain outcome. Contributors to the blog did an excellent job telling the story of the ASO lock-out.  And for better or worse, the ASOC Singers and Friends Blog has become the repository of that history.  This is what we have accomplished.   

But how do we go forward?

Laurie's letter reminds me that the ASO is still in crisis.  The situation hasn't improved at all ... the 'emergency' didn't go away when the musicians signed a contract. True, there is no immediate deadline, no eleventh-hour save ... but as we've seen with recent events, the ASO continues to be threatened by the lack of financial transparency at the highest level.  WAC and ASO Management -- without submitting to full disclosure themselves -- can impose any conditions they choose when contract negotiations come around again in just 16 months. Cooperation between management and musicians broke down because management violated their trust and made it impossible for the players to carry their concerns to the ASO Board.   How can ASO musicians grow artistically if they are unable to form an alliance with their Board?  Some recent exits aside, good people are leaving the organization as well as the Board.  The city, to my dismay (but not to my astonishment), is staying out of the discussion entirely ... while the Atlanta community, which the symphony has served for over half a century, continues to be fed management-generated press statements by the local media.

One of the few good things to come out of the lock-out crisis is the strong friendship forged between the ASOC and the orchestra.  Beverly Hueter reminded me today that it's the players' livelihoods which are at stake, not ours, so we must look to them to take the active lead.  But we can continue to show them that they are not alone in this struggle; the chorus literally stands behind them.  We publicly demonstrated our support in NY and we can find ways to do this in our own city.  Keith Langston, for example, wonders what would happen if the ASOC should request a couple of seats on the Board.

One other thing to come out of all this is the establishment of ASOC Singers and Friends Blog ... with which we can continue to educate ourselves and our global readership, adding our unique voice -- which is not insignificant -- to the international debate as to whether a world-class symphony matters.  Our opinions, expressed in letters, essays, or comments are important to this debate. And, while it's tempting to express our thoughts solely among our friends on Facebook, in order to get the message out to our audience around the world, we also need to publish them here.  

Let's help the ASO organization move forward, con blog.


  1. Laurie,
    Well said and I totally agree - this blog is necessary and has not lost its cause. As the Chorus you can say and state facts where some of the players may not feel as comfortable doing so in such an open forum. So while you all are a tremendous part of the ASO as a whole, not being on the staff gives you an outside and inside perspective which is beneficial.
    I agree there is still a great deal to be done financially and even more emotionally. The issues still exist and the next go round will be here very quickly. I think your unique position has the ability to help and bring not only their plight to the public, but as I have loved, you also keep us up to date with what is going on around the country with other orchestras. It makes the situation with these orchestras a larger national issue and that is certainly important to keep in mind.Atlanta is not alone.
    I too am sorry to see the City's apathy toward the arts - this does not speak well for the City's understanding of the importance of arts to its citizens and tourists.
    It seems to me that the ASO board will certainly need to play a major part in the healing process and the understanding process, don't know about the WAC board. I also think your idea of requesting representation on the board is excellent. I hope they will be open to entertain that idea - I think this blog alone give them enough reason to consider the idea. It would be someone very close to the players yet not affected in the same way as the players or staff which would be helpful to both sides.

  2. Con blog, yes! And thanks, Sally, for keeping it going!

  3. Sally, thank you so much for keeping your blogs relevant. Years ago when the ASO board decided to fire Mr. Shaw the chorus saved his job. Atlanta was a small town in 1972, so when the word went out from the chorus the public responded. Now, the task of saving orchestras is as daunting elsewhere as it is here, and many cities are scrambling to keep their organizations in tact. It seems to me that it is time for us to look at the orchestra in the 21st century and help management with some ideas that would bring energy and a new outlook. When I read this fall's repertoire for the ASO I was reminded of my husband's comment one time to a friend that the orchestra is a "music museum." We all know that the organization can be much more than that but it will take more ideas than are currently being generated by the Atlanta management. We MUST focus on the musicians for the sake of morale and developing a feeling of family necessary to strengthen our community. I would be happy to host some think tanks for the purpose of moving forward and providing fresh ideas to a management that by now probably feels as battered as the musicians. Please message me on Facebook if you are interested in having face time with like minded advocates of our ASO.