Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ASOC Supports ATL Symphony Musicians

ASOC’s history as, arguably, one of the finest symphony choruses on the planet is the story of a partnership. Over the years, we singers have committed our talents, hearts, and a sizable chunk of our existence to this organization. And if we believe what we are constantly told -- that we are an important member of this ‘family’ -- we can no longer be

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dr. Romanstein Says Good-bye ...

The man with two mandates -- close the deficit, and fill the seats -- is gone. I remember talking to the symphony players on the search committee, who had, once upon a time, found him credible.

So how does a man of his moderately distinguished background, who was, by all accounts, eager to work with one of the nation's top orchestras, decide to put away his pride to become WAC's whipping boy?  Why did he elect to go down in history as a featured player in WAC's destructive move against Atlanta's symphony players: two years, two lockouts.  When did he decide that misrepresentation was the best way to negotiate with musicians fighting for their livelihoods, making him largely responsible for the massive generation of ill-will among all parties?

The bonuses paid to Dr. Romanstein are one answer, but I doubt that money can compensate for the deliberate choices he made, in the name of his masters, which permanently stigmatize him as a man who betrayed his orchestra for money.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

NPR: "Magnificat"

At the conclusion of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday report on the ASO lockout, the choral piece they aired was  J.S. Bach's "Magnificat"  by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Robert Shaw. Shaw used to quote the first few lines every year during our "Christmas with Robert Shaw" concerts.

Note that the Magnificat expresses a strong judgment upon the proud, the powerful, and the wealthy who have lost track of what is important in life.
Bach knew that; Shaw did, too.

For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, this music is DIRECTLY APPLICABLE to the current American economic/cultural crisis of wealth and income disparity, and to this lockout of musicians by the ASO/WAC boards and management.

Here's the text from the Lutheran Service Book (2006):

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior;
For He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden.
For behold, from this day all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things to me, and holy is His name;
And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Road Map

Thank God I didn’t have to write another 6-page article. Fortunately, everything that needs to be done now, has been done before, by actual experts. Example:

[Please note that this publicly-available information is provided for illustrative purposes only and not as an endorsement of Aperio (http://www.aperio.ca/) or any other firm.]

No new trails need to be blazed, although some out-of-the-box thinking will be required to tailor a generic protocol for our specific case. But the timing for spinoff of the ASO into an independent non-profit meets at least two principal criteria for this type of divestiture: (1) the parties have come to an impasse where continued status quo coexistence will be detrimental to both; and (2) the potential spinoff “child” cannot mature further within the existing organization, due to lack of dedicated focus on the child’s mission and lack of transparency regarding its management and finances.

Surely the WAC’s founders did not intend for its component institutions to achieve a certain level of accomplishment and then indefinitely maintain that status quo. As we all know, if you are not moving forward – continuously improving and setting higher goals – you stagnate. Moving forward requires concentrated effort and money, and the WAC can no longer supply the necessary forward impetus for three separate art forms. But if the parent enables the “problem child” to leave home, I can envision the day when the High has expanded to cover the entire current campus (perhaps a Hadid building to integrate and complete the Meier and Piano structures?); when the Alliance has built out over the MARTA Arts Center station (despite the beauty of the current station, it occupies highly-desirable air space that would be far cheaper to build out for theater than for music performance); and when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has – well, a new hall. But one step at a time.

Conceptually, the process is simple. A leadership group fully vested in the future mission* of the ASO coalesces; the interested parties come to the table to agree in principle on a course of action; they retain objective professional guidance to facilitate the spinoff process; and then their functionaries begin working through the minutiae with an established timeline. Egos are checked at the door because it’s in everyone’s interests to manage the process to a win-win outcome. Rather than closing the salient in a bloodbath, the encircled troops can exit, only slightly bruised, to campaign on another front.

Meanwhile the sins of the past need to be absolved and laid to rest. The WAC’s decisions regarding budget allocation and endowment management have exacerbated the tenuous financial situation of its ASO component – but now it’s time to move on. Training all the sights on arcane details of forensic accounting is a waste of time and energy. Leave the specialists the task to follow the money and investigate, as many questions do require answers for the purposes of lessons learned documentation. But let them do that on their own time – not on the time of the locked-out musicians, who will shortly be losing their healthcare benefits and dipping into retirement savings to pay mortgages and other routine expenses. Time is of the essence, not only for them, but because a protracted lockout combined with a tedious mediation process will produce a level of negative PR surrounding the arts that this city can’t stand. Work needs to resume under a “play-and-talk” scenario, guaranteed by ongoing restructuring negotiations.

We have many assets in this initiative. We have world-class musicians who are willing to get back on stage and give their all to put their case for excellence directly before the community. We have a music director who speaks on behalf of the cause with both passion and intellect, in words that resonate at a national and international level. We have a volunteer ethos in this city second to none. We have the money – it’s out there. We have leaders that are emerging from the community as well as from the shadow of the WAC who can leverage their financial and experiential resources to form the core of a new organization. And we have a mission*.

We have the ingredients, the recipe exists. Rise up, Atlanta, and make it so.

*(e.g., “to enable the continued development of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra into a world-class institution, internationally recognized for artistic, educational, and administrative excellence”)

Friday, September 26, 2014

ASO: A Public-Relations Black Hole

I posted a status on Facebook yesterday asking why there was so little outrage about the lock-out from the citizens of Atlanta.  I compared the apparent apathy we are seeing now to the headline-grabbing announcement about the Braves moving to Cobb County, when everyone and their sister had an opinion about the news.  I have since gotten lots of comments that echo my questions.  

But one friend, partly in jest and partly serious, intimated that “regular folks” aren't emotionally invested in the symphony.  He said, “It's that high-brow, elitist classical music. Can't drink beer and eat a hot dog at a symphony show.”

This comment had me stewing all day, because, I had to admit, there is some truth in his assertion.  I regularly encounter people who don’t even know that we have a symphony orchestra, much less that we have one of world-class caliber.  If people do know something about the ASO, they often express the feeling that it has little to interest them because they 'know nothing about classical music'.  When I tell them that the ASO has won over twice as many Grammy's as Elvis and the Beatles combined, they are amazed that they have never heard this fact. 

Everywhere in our city, those of us who are working to Save Our Symphony are seeing evidence of the public relations 'black hole' which surrounds the ASO.  One professional musician friend, whose music-loving mother lives in Atlanta, reported that his mother wasn't even aware of the lock-out.  How many thousands/millions of other Atlantans have no idea about what is going on?

The orchestra musicians are not to blame for Atlanta’s lack of knowledge about what they do and why they are important.  I don’t know why the local media is so silent about the lockout, but I did discover that the ASO lists the following media sponsors on their website:  The Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper; both Georgia Public Broadcasting and WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station; B 98.5 and WSB radio; and WSB-TV Action News.  Perhaps these media groups have conflicts of interests and don’t want to make waves, but in their absence in covering this important issue, it is up to us to keep the news in the public eye.  

The best way we can convince citizens that they should care is to point out how the ASO contributes to the quality of life in Atlanta.  I suggest that we all take a look at a detailed list of facts and figures about the ASO musicians.  Once complete, this can be made into a document of speaking points, which we can post on social media, send to the media, and hand out to everyone we know. 

I have started the list here, and ask others to contribute to the list through the comment section.  As details are added, I’ll combine them into a single document and we can get other ASO and ASOC members to edit the list until it provides a clear picture of the ASO's involvement, relevance, and importance to the people of the city of Atlanta.
If you have definitive answers to the questions posed below, please respond.  Let’s let Atlanta know the cultural jewel they have right here.  Unfortunately, it's one of the best kept secrets of the city.

A Year in the Life of the ASO

  • Classical concerts (How many in a year? What big name stars in recent years?)
  • Pops concerts with such stars as Steven Spielberg and John Williams (How many, and with what other stars in recent years?)
  • Holiday concerts with ASOCC, ASOC, Gospel Christmas – any others?
  • MLK Celebration Concert (Important details?)
  • Family concerts, both by the ASO and ASYO (How many in a year?  We should also share info about the Halloween concerts with orchestra members in fantastic costumes)
  • Concerts for Young People, separate programs for grades PK-2, 3-8, and 6-12 (How many in a year? How many children reached?)
  • Outreach programs in local schools (How many musicians take part?  How many hours of service in how many schools?)
  • Outreach programs in libraries and community centers ((How many musicians take part?  How many hours of service in how many locations?)
  • Outreach concerts in cities beyond Atlanta (How many and to which cities?)
  • Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra coaching sessions/side by side concerts (How many service hours per year?)
  • Talent Development Program lessons and coaching sessions (How many service hours per year?)
  • Chastain Concerts
  • Verizon Amphitheater Concerts
  • Free Parks Concerts

This list is based on what I can recall from the days when I worked for the ASO Education Department.  I realize that the cuts two years ago may have had a negative impact on some of these programs, and there are probably new programs that I don’t know about.  

If you feel this effort is worth fleshing out and you have details to share about the day-to-day activities of the orchestra members, please share your insights.  This is a real exercise in proving to Atlanta, as well as to ourselves, the depth and commitment the ASO musicians have always had to the city of Atlanta.

Brenda Pruitt
ASOC #304

Thursday, September 25, 2014

'ASO Lockout is Enforced Silence'

Here's an article from Alan Fletcher at the Huffington Post:



I rarely resort to this kind of appeal for help. ‪#‎DeafeningSilence‬ - simply, profoundly, an existential call for help by a remarkable orchestra in the face of a breathtaking and incomprehensible assault on their integrity and survival. My dream is to share this with the world. If governments can be brought down through social media, then may the power be with you, to you both personally and collectively who has, who have taken the trouble to read these heartfelt words and potentially can make the difference. Share. Please share the hashtag. I have no idea if that is how one refers to this awesome machine for change. What the heck. Please. Thank you. It is with humility and gratitude that I confirm, shout out anew, my love and deep respect for the astonishing musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the no less astonishing Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Yes we can.

--Donald Runnicles

DeafeningSilence Vigil in support of ATL Symphony Musicians
Thursday, September 25, 2014
7:15-8:00 p.m.

Sidewalk, in front of Woodruff Arts Center
1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309

If you arrive early, please congregate with us across the street at the Christian Science Church, on the corner of Peachtree Rd and 15th Street.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Must-Read Blog Post From Trudgemusic

"The Incredible Shrinking Orchestra" is the latest from Michael K's blog, which offers personal insights into the effects of a smaller orchestra on the players of his section, and the orchestra as a whole. In any dispute, it is always instructional to walk a mile in another's shoes. He also has some wonderful things to say about the ASOC.  Thanks, Michael!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014


The management of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has now “regretfully announced today the cancellation of its orchestral concerts through November 8, 2014, including the Opening Night performance of the 2014-15 Season on September 25 due to negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement between ASO management and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players’ Association” according to their press release on 9/22


Let’s be clear, the cancellation is not due to negotiations, but rather to management’s refusal to engage in “play and talk” or to negotiate at all with the musicians

(see http://maskoftheflowerprince.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/preemptively-cancelling-concerts/)

Have the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Woodruff Arts Center management really thought about the long-term effects of this lockout? The following quote from James Levine regarding the Met’s brush with disaster this summer is to the point:

The Met has not had a lockout since 1980, and at least one member of the company dreaded repeating the experience. “The effect on the morale, the effect on future planning, if we hadn’t been able to agree .... ” Mr. Levine said, trailing off in his first public comments on the union dispute.

“I lived through one of those,” he continued in an interview in the patrons lounge at the opera house. “That was the worst nightmare of my life, in artistic terms. It went on for years, the ripples. This would not have been a good time to have that problem, with City Opera, etc.,” he said, referring to the recent bankruptcy of New York City Opera, a worst-case event that loomed over the Met’s talks.

Georgia On My Mind ... by Erin Freeman

Erin Freeman's wonderful essay about growing up to sing for Mr. Shaw.

'A Desperate Ploy'

There is much you can say about the nice new side-by-side graphic ASO Management has published, in their attempt to Explain Things To You.  However, the hardened among us -- because this isn't our first rodeo -- have taken note of the distortions, misinformation, and lack of adequate description.

My favorite:  'flexible complement to manage costs'.  I'll bet they really lit up when someone at the table said, "Let's say 'flexible!'  That'll make it seem like we're bending over backwards."

Norman LeBrecht has a few thoughts:  http://slippedisc.com/2014/09/23426/

In the same spirit, I would like to offer a fun graphic of my own: http://www.phibetaiota.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/real-org-chart.jpg

ATL Symphony Musicians: One Night, Two Concerts!

ATL Symphony Musicians
Michael Palmer, conducting

ATL Symphony Musicians

Kennesaw State University - Bailey Center
1000 Chastain Road   Kennesaw, GA    30144

Date: Friday, September 26, 2014

Two Concerts:  7 p.m. & 9 p.m.

Special Open Dress Rehearsal for KSU Music Students - 4 p.m.

Michael Palmer conducts the ATL Symphony Musicians in both programs, which include the Beethoven Egmont Overture, Op. 84, and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70.

Concert admission is free.  Seating is first-come, first served, with no ticket required.  Donations to ATL Symphony Musicians are gratefully accepted!
This concert replaces a paid-ticket performance originally planned for the same night at 8:00 p.m., which was cancelled by ASO Management.  ATL Symphony Musicians were scheduled to performed on Friday, under the direction of their conductor Robert Spano, as the first concert in a series of three as part of an extended residency at KSU, during the 2014-2015 season.  After their management cancelled these engagements, the ATL Symphony Musicians decided to make the appearance as planned.  

Michael Palmer’s strong artistic ties with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began in 1967, when he was Assistant Conductor under Robert Shaw, and later Associate Conductor.  Mr. Palmer was named the first director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra in 1970.  During the 2012 Lockout, he conducted the ATL Symphony Musicians in successful benefit concerts


Details about parking, admission and Live Streaming of the concert are included below. Please SHARE this with all who plan to attend. Thank you for your support. 

PARKING - Free parking is available in KSU's Central Parking Deck - Detailed parking and campus map:http://bit.ly/1uttJ5u - Central Parking Deck address: 525 Central Parking Deck Dr NW / Kennesaw, GA 30144 

ADMISSION - Admission to tonight's performances is free of charge and seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Venue address: 488 Prillaman Way NW / Kennesaw, GA 30144 https://s3.amazonaws.com/data.instantencore.com/pdf/1032151/ksu_2d_map+edit.pdf

Doors to the 7pm concert will open at 6pm. Doors to the 9pm concert will open as soon as the house is clear from the 7pm concert. - Please enter the Bailey Center via the main lobby doors on the west side of the building. 

LIVE STREAMING - Tonight's concerts will be streamed LIVE at 7 and 9 p.m. - View the live stream on the Kennesaw State University School of Musicwebsite here:http://bit.ly/mksulvst 

Does WAC = Women Against Culture?

The current President/CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, as well as the President of the ASO Board, are successful businesswomen who hold positions of authority that were only impossible dreams for women little more than a generation ago. Being comparable in age to them, I’m sure they have not forgotten that successful female role models were few and far between at the time we were growing up and making decisions about our own education and career. Now, when they are both in highly-visible positions where they could act as positive, proactive role models for young women who desperately need them, they are choosing to be the exact opposite. They are choosing to be examples of poor leadership (“look what happens when you put a woman in charge”) rather than constructively engage with the concerned parties to seek for and find a consensus solution. They have fostered a negative, adversarial environment. They have condoned the traditional hardline tactics that ruled business in a time when they could never have hoped to be anything but secretaries. In an environment where civilization is increasingly threatened and eroded with each passing day, they have chosen to help destroy a piece of it.
Ms. Hepner, Ms. Lloyd, you can choose not to continue on this course. You can take the high road and face your critics with humility and strength, and find a better way. You can inspire young ladies by demonstrating the courage and wisdom surely gained from your career and life experiences. Please do not disappoint me any further. More importantly, do not disappoint the many young women who are striving to become the leaders of this city’s and this country’s future.
Laurie Cronin
Former ASO Subscriber
ASO Chorus Alto I - No. 361

Monday, September 22, 2014

ASO Chorus Open Letter to ASO/WAC Management

September 22, 2014

From the singers of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus (ASOC):

An open letter to the management of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Woodruff Arts Center:

We, the members of the ASOC, declare our unwavering support for and solidarity with the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in their effort to continue to provide our city with nationally and internationally recognized first-class performances of the orchestral and choral repertoire.

We are a group of volunteers, and so are not subjects of the recent contract negotiations directly. However, we believe that we know this orchestra as well as anyone, since we have stood behind them for the last 44 years since Robert Shaw established us, and we stand behind them today. It pains us to see what they are experiencing, not only because of the harm to them as individuals, but also because of what we see as the long-lasting harm that can come to our making extraordinary music together.

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra can no longer perform as a result of a lockout imposed upon them by the ASO management. This lockout occurred despite the diligent efforts of the musicians to meet face-to-face with management in an attempt to avoid shutting down the ASO season.

Management believes it holds all the cards. During the last negotiations in 2012, the ASO musicians agreed to salary cuts of 14 percent, largely due to a reduction in the ASO schedule from 52 weeks to 42 weeks. As a result, some of the ASOʼs top musicians have left for other orchestras. They did not want to leave Atlanta and a symphony orchestra widely acknowledged to be one of the countryʼs best. They had no choice, as recent negotiations have made clear.

There has been a remarkable lack of good faith in these negotiations. ASO President and CEO Stanley Romanstein, who makes $360,000 annually plus bonuses, refused all requests to meet with the musicians during the final hours before the 2012-2014 collective bargaining agreement expired, forcing them to submit their proposals via email, despite the fact that they had offered to continue working under the previous agreement while negotiations continued.

The Woodruff Arts Center and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management appear to believe that downsizing and reducing the quality of the orchestra will somehow reduce a deficit that has actually dropped substantially over the last two years, largely due to concessions the musicians have made. The proposed four-year contract would offer the musicians no raise in the first year and minor raises in subsequent years, all of which would be more than offset by increases in the amounts they would have to pay for health care. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, management has demanded that the size of the full-time complement of the orchestra be left undetermined in the contract, a condition that is completely unacceptable to any self-respecting orchestra. Management has also demanded that they have a final say in the selection of orchestra personnel, an artistic decision that has always been and should always remain solely the province of the Music Director.

The proposed agreement is so egregious that internationally acclaimed Music Director Robert Spano and Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles have taken the unprecedented step of weighing in to ask the board and management “to acknowledge the sacrifice the musicians have already made, and to examine other ways and areas to establish sustainability.” Spanoʼs commitment to the ASO is such that he has donated a substantial amount of his salary to the Symphony and personally has helped fund an appearance at Carnegie Hall last spring that management would not finance.

We are members of the unpaid ASO Chorus, an award-winning group of dedicated singers who donate our time, talents, and energy to ensure that the players of the ASO have a choral organization worthy of their high standards. We have a long shared history with the ASO and we stand solidly behind these professionals in their efforts to ensure that the ASO remains one of the countryʼs most respected musical organizations. Atlanta should be proud of these dedicated men and women. They have given up enough. It is time for the ASO management and the City of Atlanta to reward them, not just for the sacrifices they have made over the last two years but for the amazing professionals they have been and continue to be. The loss of the ASO for even a few months is something no city that claims to be an international destination should countenance.

Signed by 154 Members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus
(Ranging in Years of Service in the ASOC from 5 Charter Members (1970) to 13 New Members)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's About The Music

I see this from a somewhat simplistic point of view.  Ultimately, it’s about the music, which brings us beauty and joy, fills our hearts and souls, challenges our minds, changes our lives. Next it’s about the orchestra which plays the music, and, in essence, serves as the bridge between the composers of the music and those who hear the music.   Everything else - everything else - evolves from that – management, sales, the audience, the chorus. 
Because there is music, the orchestra can do what it does.  Because there is music, played by the orchestra, all the rest of us can do what we do – sell tickets, manage, sing, come and hear.  I’m in the sing part, and have been in the chorus since the very early Robert Shaw days.  Regarding choral music, I have long said that when it all comes together – great music, a prepared orchestra, a prepared chorus, and a great conductor – the experience is like dancing on the mountain tops.   I have been incredibly fortunate and privileged to get to dance on the mountain tops over the years with this orchestra.
So I find it outrageous that the orchestra, which is the reason that all the rest of us can gather in Symphony Hall, is being asked to shoulder the major burden of years of poor financial decisions made by others, and being asked to partner in an agreement that guarantees moving backward, or worse, destroys what they have worked to build.  The players have done their job of building an outstanding musical organization, while those in charge of running the ship have been grossly inadequate in doing their part of the job, and now seem to have taken the role of spoilers.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Right now, I am grieving . . .

To My Friends on Facebook:

Some of you are family, some are very close friends, some are colleagues, and many are acquaintances. A few are friends only because someone suggested the friendship. Most of you I have met at least a few times. I joined Facebook in September of 2007, way back when status updates were mostly one-line blurbs like one of my first: “Jonathan Rick Smith…believes you can’t pop popcorn with cellphones.”

In these seven years I have tried to respect my friendship with you all by refraining from constantly giving you “traffic reports” on how I happen to be feeling at the moment or how someone has done me wrong. I try very hard to be a positive influence on those with whom I come in contact, especially to those I consider to be my friends.

But this time I’m going to share my feelings. And yes, it will probably be long and, to some of you I’m sure, boring. But that’s why Facebook handily includes the “Read More” link after several lines, so that people’s timelines aren’t clogged with long rants and soliloquies.

So if you’ve clicked “Read More” then you probably are actually interested in what I have to say. Or maybe you’re just curious at this point.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saving the ASO by Burning A Bridge

The last time we sang for Mr. Runnicles here was very recently, the Brahms 'Schicksalslied', in May 2014.  I gave him a Music is On-Going t-shirt that I'd been saving for him since 2012, for which gift -- much appreciated by him --  I got into trouble.  I was told I was on the 'wrong side' ... That I need to 'move  on'.

Mr. Runnicles pretty much sealed his future as persona non grata with the current ASO and WAC boards.  I recognize that he has risked his reputation in order to speak out against the great wrong being done to an orchestra with which he is so intimately connected.  A passionate, generous and articulate man, he was compelled to defend his art ... but my heart says he did it for us.

Thank you, Mr. Runnicles ...


News: WAC Engineered the ASO Deficit. No!

The ASO Lock-Out: A Crisis of Trust

Letter from Jon Gunnemann (#153) ... in response to the 2012 Lockout.

Ms. Virginia Hepner
President and Chief Executive Officer
Woodruff Arts Center

Dear Ms. Hepner:

I write to you as a long-time supporter of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Woodruff Arts Center, at several levels:  My wife and I have been members of the High Museum of Art for more than two decades; we make a modest annual gift to the Alliance Theater and attend plays every year; we have been Subscribers to the ASO for three decades and Patrons for almost two decades; and I have sung with the ASO Chorus for more than twenty years. 

Like many in the Chorus—and certainly like many Subscribers and Patrons—we have been deeply distressed by the WAC’s lockout of the ASO musicians.  As the lockout continues, our distress is turning into anger and a profound distrust of the WAC Board and the ASO administrative leadership.  I am keenly aware that there is always more than one side to a story in situations of conflict; I do not pretend to know all of the details of the negotiations between the WAC and the ASO musicians; like most reasonable people I am aware that no institution can survive if it is running annual deficits of five million dollars; and like anyone who reads the newspapers I know that symphony orchestras across the country—indeed, all of our important cultural institutions—are threatened by decreasing financial support.  Finding ways to cut costs is a painful process, and those of us who support the arts and music in Atlanta are beneficiaries of the work you and the WAC board have done on our behalf. But you are also trustees of the funds you receive from us, both through subscription tickets and annual contributions, and the lockout is, for us, a violation of the trust we have placed in you.  It is not in keeping with our understanding of what the ASO is, and not in keeping with our understanding of how we can best work together to weather difficult times. 

A lockout transforms an already difficult process of negotiation into something different:  It is an act of coercion, essentially ending negotiations and placing the immediate pain of cost-cutting on one group, the ASO musicians.  Lockouts are coercive, virtually punitive, because the workers (in this case, professional musicians of the highest caliber) have their livelihoods at stake, but no one the Symphony board or on the WAC board have their livelihoods at stake.  Because livelihood is at stake, some states in the U.S. have laws requiring businesses to pay health and other benefits during a lockout, recognizing the vulnerability of those who depend on their jobs for fundamental human needs.  Georgia clearly does not have such a law; and apparently the WAC has not had the humanity to pay at least for essential benefits for the musicians.  (Note:  I have heard conflicting accounts of the health care coverage provided for the ASO Musicians during the lockout.  It is important in situations like this to be certain about any factual claims.  If I misstated the facts on this issue in my previous e-mail, I regret doing so.  It would not, however, affect the substance of my argument.)

Social Psychology: Why ASO Management Fails. Why ASOC Stays Together

I'd like to preface this by saying that these are, in essence, little more than assorted musings about connections that I see between my area of professional study (social psychology) and the current ASO lockout situation. To be clear, I'm speaking as a newly minted ASOC member who just happens to have some background in many things psychological - not as any sort of formal expert . As this frustrating situation unfolds, these are things that come to mind.

1. Interpersonal relationships - particularly long-term ones - necessitate trust. It's a cornerstone of successful partnerships, be they platonic, romantic, or business-related. Take away that trust, and you end up with suspicion, and often-times irreparable schisms in the relationship (whether it is between individuals or at the group level). Trust, once violated, is very hard to re-establish. Employing tactics that violate trust (e.g., locking out musicians instead of continuing to negotiate) in hopes of short-term gain can do great, lasting damage to inter-group relations moving forward.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Report Card for the WAC

I have been struggling to write my feelings about this current lockout situation, but I just couldn’t find the right words to express what is going on in my heart.  And then Monday night, in the midst of a powerful musical experience, it suddenly came into clear focus.  As members of the ASO Chorus performed on the picket line to express our support for the orchestra, the three acappella pieces felt poignant and appropriate to the occasion.   But as we sang the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, it felt all wrong.  There was no orchestra underneath us driving the triplet motif that adds such energy to the choral part.  And then, when we reached the climax of this section, there was no orchestra to continue on.  There was just silence, and it was deafening.

Think of the long history this work has with the orchestra and chorus -- the life-changing performances behind the Iron Curtain, anniversary celebrations in Symphony Hall, honoring Robert Shaw at the Kennedy Center and on and on. It has marked our shared times of great excitement and great sadness, and it is a piece that requires both an orchestra and a chorus. Is the silence we heard last night what we have to expect for Atlanta’s future? I can’t even comprehend what that would mean.

The orchestra has already been decimated and demoralized by the contract enacted two years ago.  I have watched the steady exodus going on over the past few years of fantastic players heading out to other orchestras.  This exodus began even before the 2012 contract dispute because it was already evident that the symphony and arts center leadership didn’t see a lot of value in maintaining the integrity of the orchestra. Not only have treasured players left for other places to perform, but equally treasured performers have just given up and retired because they could see the writing on the wall.  I hate the fact that such brilliant musicians and dear friends have been forced into these decisions.  I really do believe that the WAC wants to get rid of the orchestra, though why they would want to do this is a mystery.

No ASOC Without The ASO

Speech to Fulton County Commissioners in Assembly Hall, September 17, 2014

Good morning, honorable ladies and gentlemen of the commission, and thank you for this opportunity to speak in support of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Musicians.

My name is Kiki Wilson, and I am here as a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, a world-class chorus started 45 years ago by the venerable Robert Shaw. I speak for myself today, and not on behalf of that organization.

My husband’s family has lived in Atlanta for generations, and my father-in-law ran Grady Hospital for many years. I have been a member of the ASOC for 33 seasons.

The members of the ASOC perform numerous concerts with the orchestra each year: together we bring a vast repertoire of the sung word to audiences in Symphony Hall – everything from traditional holiday music dating from the Renaissance, to the poetry of Rumi and the voices of 9/11 set to music by living American composers.

Additionally, members of the ASOC participate annually in community events such as the ecumenical service held each year at Ebenezer Baptist Church celebrating Martin Luther King Day; special concerts like the “Defiant” Requiem commemorating the victims of Terezin concentration camp; and performances of the National Anthem, opening the Falcons’ football season. During the week of 9/11, the ASO and the ASOC brought music to help heal a grieving community. We are invited regularly and often to Carnegie Hall to perform, where only the world’s finest grace the stage, and, though never covered in the local media, our many recordings with the ASO have garnered multiple Grammy Awards, most in the ‘best classical’ and ‘best choral performance’ categories. We have represented Atlanta 3 times performing with the Berlin Philharmonic, reputedly the world’s finest orchestra and we hope to return some day to Berlin with our own world-class Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

And yes, some of us even sang on a picket line recently.

Each singer volunteers hundreds of hours every year for the opportunity to share great art with our community, and to experience music-making at its highest level, in an environment where excellence is the only acceptable standard. We work tremendously hard, but we understand that together we are better, as musicians, as people, and as citizens, than we could ever be individually.

The power of this organization, a sparkling gem in Atlanta’s crown, is in striving for and achieving of excellence each and every performance. And without this standard, we would stay closer to home and sing exclusively in our local community choirs. Said differently, without a world-class orchestra with which to perform, not a diminished regional one, we are nothing.

There is no Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus without the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Thank you.

Hark The Sound ...

(speech to the Fulton County Commissioners in Assembly Hall, Atlanta GA September 17, 2014)

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

My name is Sally Kann.  I’m a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus.  ASO Chorus members are here today with our symphony colleagues, dressed in our concert attire, because we have no place to sing.

I would like to read you something:

‘Culture-lovers revel in Atlanta lifestyle and the arts and theatrical communities. From the Atlanta Ballet to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra - which has won more Grammy's than any other U.S. symphony - the city is home to world-class acts in dance and classical music.”  

That’s from the metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce page.  Here’s another one.

"The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is recognized as one of the most creative and innovative orchestras in North America. Atlanta Symphony serves as the cornerstone for musical performance and training far beyond Atlanta's borders, through its various concert series and its diverse initiatives in music education and outreach. Since the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s founding nearly 70 years ago, the ASO and Chorus has produced 100 recordings and garnered more than two dozen Grammy Awards."  

That is from Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.  

Ladies and Gentlemen:  This is how Atlanta is pitching the ASO … as part of the culture and aesthetics package being sold to visitors from all over the world.  

I’m not a sports fan, but I know about big leagues and minor leagues. Symphony orchestras have big leagues, too.  Macon, Columbus, Athens, Rome, have fine regional orchestras.  But the city of Atlanta has a major league orchestra.  Right here.
The difference between a major league symphony orchestra and a regional orchestra is the sound. You may not be a classical music aficionado … but if you like music – any music – what you’re tuned into is the sound.  Why do people fight traffic to get to Symphony Hall, instead of going someplace more convenient to get to?  Because they know they are going to hear something extraordinary. People who are tuned into classical music can tell the difference between a Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording and an ASO recording … because they are tuned into the sound.  

This is the sound you hear on those 100 recordings … the sound that won 27 Grammy’s … the sound that gets invited to Carnegie Hall every year. And it’s the sound that has been locked out of Symphony Hall by the governing body of Woodruff Arts Center, who are the trustees of a public institution which belongs to the people of Atlanta.

If the orchestra is reduced in size, there are symphonic masterpieces that the ASO cannot play anymore.  Yes, subs could be hired to fill in, but even I know that is unthinkable in major league sports.  Lose key players, you lose the sound.  If the ASO is down-sized, you will have lost what makes this orchestra world-class.  You will lose Robert Spano … you will lose Donald Runnicles …you will lose the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

I am here today with my ASO Chorus colleagues because we have no place to sing.  We want to remind the Fulton County Commissioners that a city which distinguishes itself as having ‘major league’ culture and attractions needs a major league orchestra to help back up that claim.   

And it has one.  Please Save Our Symphony Atlanta.

Thank you

Lockout Sources and Resources

Websites and Facebook pages of the major participants and support organizations who are involved in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra lockout of the Atlanta Symphony Musicians
Feel free to post and share, especially to/from sites and people beyond our internal sites and pages.
Updated: 11/08/2014

ASO CBA Press Releases and Statements 9/7/2014 to date
Save Our Symphony Atlanta

ASO Players Facebook page

Project Perpetua

YouTube: End the ASO Lockout

ASO Official website

Woodruff Arts Center website

Woodruff Arts Center Facebook page

Woodruff Arts Center Board of Trustees

American Federation of Musicians website

American Federation of Musicians Facebook page

International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians website

International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians Facebook page

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

League of American Orchestras website

League of American Orchestras Facebook page

Twitter Hashtags

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Low Can They Go?

This is a question I dare not ask of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management, because there is no seeming end to their hubris and failed attempts of manipulation. Mask of the Flower Prince did a beautiful job of analyzing the communication between the ASO and Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra (ASYO) parents in which privately the ASO blames the Atlanta Federation of Musicians (AFM) for auditions being canceled and in a public press release used "softer" language.

The latest communication has the ASO offering the option for parents to donate the audition fee back to the ASO (and therefore the Woodruff Arts Center). Of course the fee will need to be paid again if the student decides to audition again. My, the ASO is very generous.


Wanda Yang Temko
Soprano 1
Member Since 1992

Begin forwarded message:
Date: September 16, 2014 at 4:06:18 PM EDT
Subject: Application Fees
Dear Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra Candidates and Families:
We hope to reschedule ASYO auditions after the current labor dispute has been resolved. We are happy to hold onto your application fees until the time we are able to reschedule. However, since we do not have a rescheduled date, we are giving applicants the opportunity to request a refund or donate their fees as alternative options. So at this time, your options are:
1. You may request we hold onto the fee in anticipation of an upcoming rescheduled date
2. You may donate the fee back to support the symphony (Fee will need to be paid again if student decides to audition when a new date is scheduled)
3. You may have the fee refunded to your credit card (Fee will need to be paid again if student decides to audition when a new date is scheduled)
Please click here to complete a brief survey by Monday, September 22, 2014 to advise on how you would like to move forward. If we do not hear from you by the end of day, Monday September 22, 2014, we will hold onto your fees until the issue is resolved. If you choose to have your fees refunded, we will be able to process an immediate refund to all credit cards within 10 business days.
*If you made payment in another form or if for any reason we are unable to refund your credit card, you will be contacted directly regarding your refund.
Thank you for your patience and assistance while we begin processing refunds of your application fees.
Please contact me with any questions or concerns.
Program Assistant
Student Musician Programs
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
1280 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 4074
Atlanta, GA 30309

Monday, September 15, 2014

Concert - Riverside Chamber Players (Roswell)

Although the stage of Symphony Hall is regrettably empty, the ATL Symphony Musicians and the many ensembles drawn from their ranks continue to perform at many and diverse venues around Atlanta. In the coming weeks you will have many opportunities to hear great repertoire all around town. For starters, please consider coming this Sunday, September 21, 4:00 p.m. to the Chapel (Building B) of Roswell United Methodist Church to hear the Riverside Chamber Players perform music by Mozart, Dvorak and RCP's own Composer-in-Residence (and ASO bassist) Michael Kurth. Featured on the program will be the premiere of Paul Salerni's arrangement of Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words" for string quartet. The musicians will be Kenn Wagner and Domenic Salerni, violins; Jessica Oudin, viola; and Joel Dallow, cello - all are members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
For more information, www.riversidechamberplayers.org. The concert is free with a reception to follow. And as a special incentive, any ASOC'er attending the concert in their ATL Symphony Musicians t-shirt is invited to Mac Mcgee's (easy walk from the church) for a first round on me! How can you go wrong? Wonderful music, free food, and a cold one to wrap up the weekend.
The music is - and always will be - on-going.