Minnesota Orchestra’s ICSOM delegate, librarian Paul Gunther, was recently named the administrator of ICSOM’s mailing lists. Paul reports that the Minnesota Orchestra will tour European summer festivals at the end of August. Because of the tour, this may be the first ICSOM Conference that will see no delegate from the Minnesota Orchestra in attendance. Another consequence of the August tour will be five consecutive vacation weeks during June and July for the Minnesota musicians. (That is five weeks to agonize over balancing practice with time off and family travel.) Returning in September, the usual post-tour letdown will be interrupted by an immediate subscription season opening. Simultaneously, the Minnesota musicians must gear up for contract negotiations. One subject into which they have been delving rather thoroughly is the area of long-term disability (LTD) insurance. An ad hoc musicians’ committee, which has been researching the topic, has initiated formal talks with management about ways to improve coverage and benefits. They hope to have a report on LTD for ICSOM before too long.
Longtime delegate for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Leslie Shank, will be stepping down from that post this year. Many thanks to Leslie for her dedication to ICSOM. She will chair the newly elected orchestra committee, which begins contract negotiations this fall. ICSOM welcomes Saint Paul’s new delegate, Earl Yowell.
Another loss to our ranks is Helen Reich from the Milwaukee Symphony. Thanks to Helen for her many years of service to ICSOM as her orchestra’s delegate. Now who will schedule those viola dinners at ICSOM Conferences? Alternate and ever-present delegate Robert Levine reports that the Milwaukee Symphony season began with concessionary bargaining that resulted in a cut from 43 to 39 weeks. Fortunately, things began to improve after that. Management appears to have made significant progress over the season in meeting the income goals set in their three-year recapitalization plan, especially in the area of ticket sales. Armed with a new marketing director (Stephen Duncan, who came from St. Louis), the orchestra saw an improvement in single-ticket sales, noticeable even from the stage, and more sold-out concerts than they’d had for many years. In October the MSO became the first American orchestra to make previously unreleased recordings available for sale on iTunes. So far it has not proven to be a financial windfall either for the MSO or the musicians, but it did garner some very good local and national press. They are continuing to make new material available online and are working on their own online store as well.
Alternate delegate Cathy Payne from the San Francisco Symphony writes that the SFS is launching its new multi-media project, “Keeping Score,” with three one-hour documentaries that will be broadcast on PBS this November. The first broadcast examines Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, and the second and third explore Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Copland’s Appalachian Spring . Additionally, two live concert programs of the featured works will be broadcast on high definition channels. The goal of this project is to make classical music less intimidating for younger as well as more mature audiences. There is a companion radio series for the project that will be broadcast on public radio (eight one-hour shows entitled “The MTT Files”). An interactive website where users can explore the content of the TV and radio shows more deeply will enhance the audience experience for the series. DVDs of the documentaries and the concert live capture will be released internationally following the broadcasts. Perhaps most importantly, the SFS Administration has created an ambitious educational program involving teachers and students across the country. The plan is to involve 500 teachers and 75,000 students by using music to teach the core curriculum. This is a five-year, $23 million dollar project. The SFS Local Oversight Committee and the SFS Local Internet Oversight Committee both thank AFM SSD Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark for her tireless devotion in helping these projects come to fruition.
This September the SFS will play three concerts at the Lucerne Festival, marking the first year of a three-year residency. The final concert of this year’s festival will be Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, which is the latest live recording in the Mahler series they have recorded under the Limited Pressing Agreement. The Mahler recordings will be available for download this fall. Additionally, a Lemony Snicket recording of “The Composer is Dead” (an SFS commission by living composer Nathaniel Stookey) will be recorded this summer under the Sound Recording Labor Agreement and will be released with an illustrated book by Harper Collins.
The Utah Symphony issued a new recording entitled Symphonic Dances , featuring composers Leonard Bernstein, Sergei Rachmaninov, and Gabriela Lena, according to delegate Lynn Rosen. The recording was intended to promote the symphony’s European tour in April of 2005, but production was halted when Dorian records filed for bankruptcy. Local 104 President Erich Graf suggested that management purchase the original recordings so they would not be lost. Eventually Reference Recordings released the limited pressing CD early in 2006.
Members of Utah’s orchestra and artistic advisory committees (spurred on by ICSOM alternate delegate Claudia Norton) initiated a music director review questionnaire to be presented to management. This was largely in response to the music director’s last renewal, for which neither musicians nor board members were consulted.
The musicians of the Honolulu Symphony have just completed their second season of a 20% pay cut. According to Honolulu delegate Steve Flanter, the reduced wages have led to an increase in resignations and extended leaves of absence among musicians. Despite the shrinking of the budget allowed by the pay cut, the Symphony is expecting to post a season shortfall of at least $1.5 million due to precipitous declines in ticket sales and fundraising, lack of full-time executive leadership, and a weak board of directors. However, a new leadership team, including incoming Executive Director Tom Gulick (replacing Steve Bloom, who left in the spring of 2005) and a new board chair, has initiated a fundraising campaign both to meet short-term essential cash needs and to match a $4 million endowment allocation from the Hawai‘i State Legislature. While financial terms for the 2006–07 season are yet to be negotiated (they are part of a contract reopener), the Honolulu musicians expect compensation to be restored to the pre-cut level (adjusted for cost of living).
In September 2005 the Los Angeles Philharmonic ratified a three-year contract with significant pay increases and launched a $100 million endowment campaign. After several initial negotiations directly with iTunes, Deutsche Grammaphon, who owns Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen’s recording contract, scooped them. The LA Phil has produced four live recordings now available for download on iTunes through DG: two Beethoven concerts (including the Lutoslawski Fourth Symphony and a newly commissioned work by Andras Hillborg), and two concerts from their Minimalist Jukebox Series. They also recorded Rite of Spring and Miraculous Mandarin for a CD release under the new, almost ratified, Live Recording Agreement. Governing Board member and ICSOM delegate Meredith Snow sends her orchestra’s many thanks and best wishes to retirees Mitch Peters (timpani), Ralph Sauer (principal trombone), and Jeff Reynolds (bass trombone). All three have had long and distinguished careers with the LA Phil. Their absence will be sorely felt.
These stories were submitted by ICSOM Governing Board Member at Large and Los Angeles Philharmonic violist Meredith Snow. Newslets were prepared with the help of each orchestra’s ICSOM delegate.