Monday, November 19, 2012

Hey, Kids! Let's Build That Hall!

Scott Freeman's ArtsATL interview with Stanley Romanstein.

Let me see if I've got this right:

When he was hired in 2010, Dr. Romenstein's 'mandate' was to reduce the deficit and build audiences.  Knowing the orchestra's contract was to be re-negotiated in 2012, he did NOTHING ... he gave the orchestra no plan, no heads-up as to how bad things were until eight months prior to the contract deadline ... at which time, he suddenly began poor-mouthing the orchestra ... presenting a dire financial picture (complete with PowerPoint presentations) ... telling the players the 'levers' they needed to pull in order to address the deficit:  salaries, benefits, playing weeks, etc.  He made the players jump through innumerable hoops to pull all those 'levers' and reach a settlement ... which WAC then rejected ... and then locked the players out to insure the musicians signed the punitive contract WAC wanted in the first place.

So, technically speaking, Dr. Romanstein's 'mandate' was (partly) fulfilled by making the orchestra shoulder the debt by reducing their size, salaries and playing weeks, and eliminating benefits.  Well played, Dr. Romanstein.

But building audiences by building a bigger hall?  WAC's symphony hall isn't a great facility and no one disputes that a world-class orchestra deserves a world-class venue.  But what this organization needs -- right now -- is a cohesive plan to restore the orchestra, restore trust between players and management, and build a firm bridge between the arts community and the city it serves.  Frankly, I don't think current management is up to the job.

Was this was all thought out ahead of time?  The promise to build a new symphony hall mitigates reducing the orchestra to part-time status?  A new hall will make up for the mountain of black ill will incurred by the lock-out?  Make people forget the refusal of WAC to let the musicians address the Board while they were fighting for their livelihoods, or the refusal of top ASO Management to make a similar sacrifice?  Does a new hall make up for the ill-conceived and expensive blunder that was, and continues to be, Verizon?  Does ASO Management believe that years and money spent on architectural bidding wars, wining and dining donors and designers, glamorous fundraising parties and exclusive receptions will make people forget the shameful zero-sum contract debacle that just took place?


  1. Re: "thought out ahead of time..."

    D'ya think?

  2. When will Herr Doktor share his plan? I am very interested to see what he has in mind and whether it rights the course for the orchestra- that's the priority. Talking about a damned hall when we aren't hearing a 52-week season is premature. Sure, I would love to sing in a new hall after 30 years in the pathetic Symphony Hall, but that's in a different realm when the orchestra has been cut to regional size. I also wonder how long SR even has; seems to me that he was brought in to clean up the financial house and will have to go so the healing can begin. Who's going to believe anything he has to say at this point?

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  4. I so wish there was a LIKE button!

    Now with today's news about embezzlement - well what a mess! How to build trust now not just with the musicians, but with pretty much everyone now!

  5. Yes ... Jon Gunnemann's Crisis of Trust essay is looking more and more like a playbook.