Tough Times in Detroit
Aug 30th, 2010 by Andrew Kraus


GM may be doing well again, but the good times are definitely not rolling for the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In fact, things are so bad that despite offering to cut their salaries by 22% the first year with additional cuts during the second and third years of their proposed contract, management has rejected the musicians’ counter offer and is playing serious hard ball.

According to the details in an email sent by “the Detroit Symphony Musicians” to interested parties:

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra today voted to reject management’s “Final Offers.” The “Final Offers” were actually in the form of two proposals, Proposal “A” and “B.” Management stated that if Proposal “A” was not accepted by midnight August 28, it would be withdrawn and the only offer would then be Proposal “B.” Proposal “B” is more onerous than Proposal “A.”

Proposal “A” would cut the wages of the musicians by 29 percent the first year, 28 percent the second year and 24 percent the third year. In addition, there are major reductions in pension, health insurance and working conditions.

Proposal “B” would cut the wages of the current musicians 33 percent the first year, 31 percent the second year and 30 percent the third year. It would further reduce the starting salary of new hires to 42 percent less than the current minimum.

“Such a salary would make hiring the best musicians to fill vacancies even less likely.” DSO cellist Haden McKay, speaking for the musicians, said.

Wages for extra and substitute musicians would also be slashed, he said.

Both proposals eliminate current procedures which require that only the best guest conductors be engaged.

The musicians have not ignored the current economic crisis in Detroit. Their counterproposal contains cuts in salary of 22 percent the first year, with further cuts the second and third years amounting to $9 million in savings to the DSO over three years. In the third year the musicians would be earning substantially less than they earn today.

As a result of management’s failure to file notices required by the National Labor Relations Act, the DSO will now be required to continue the terms and conditions of the expired contract at least until September 23.

In addition to rejecting management’s offers, the musicians voted to authorize the union and the negotiating committee to call a strike when they deem it appropriate. “This would include any management attempt to unilaterally impose Proposal “B”, said Musicians’ spokesperson Haden McKay.

No further meetings are scheduled.

If there’s any good news in this story, at least for me, it’s that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra still exists, this in contrast to the situation in Charleston, SC, which according to the last thing I read, suspended operations(!) on April 17th this year. See my blog post here for that story.

The glass is certainly looking half, no, make that mostly empty and leaking out the bottom, these days – at least for those of us who are passionate in our love for classical music. Smaller groups like Great Noise, to name just one example of a group of very talented musicians who are surviving on a small fraction of the income paid to members of the DSO and who make very good music, indeed, are springing up even as the older, larger groups are dieing, and that’s a good thing. But you can’t play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with less than a dozen people. It might sound just a wee bit thin.

Sign of the times, I’m sure.

Sure hope things turn for the better for all of us, musicians, non-musicians, music lovers, music haters – ALL of us – soon.

And a challenge to any who read this post: If you’ve got good, or at least better news about the state of Classical Music today, use my contact page here to let me know. I’d be more than happy to share the better news!

Bye-Bye Awful ‘Aughts
Dec 28th, 2009 by Andrew Kraus

I don’t know anybody, at least I don’t believe I know anybody, who’s doing better now than they were in 1999, the last year of the Twentieth Century – but then, I’m a working musician, and I don’t have an office on the executive floor at Goldman & Sachs or Bank of America or… you take my point.

This post being on a blog primarily concerned with music as art and inevitably with music as business, I want to swing the spotlight around to focus on your experience of the ‘Aughts, particularly if you’re a working musician.

If it’s the case that you’re doing better, how’d you make that happen?

If it’s the case that you’re not doing as well, what happened? Did the funding for your organization dry up (think Baltimore Lyric Opera, for example)? Are people spending less on music lessons for their kids? Are you being paid on time? Is it harder to find students? gigs?

And “how is Andrew Kraus doing?”, you ask.

I’m holding my own, and had some great experiences in 2009 including being a guest soloist with the Mantovani Orchestra on their China Tour in the Spring. I’ve started collaborating regularly with two wonderful musicians: Laurien Laufman – Cellist, and Jennifer Paschal – Soprano. You can see details of upcoming recitals with both of them on my events page.

Enough for now about me and my views on this topic. How about you?

Thank you, Maryland Governor O’Malley!
Dec 19th, 2009 by Andrew Kraus

As a working musician, I appreciate what our Governor has done for the Arts. The squeaky wheel got the oil; now it’s time to say “thank you” so we keep getting that oil:

On August 26th, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced details of the latest cutbacks needed in order to balance the state budget. The necessary $454 million was cut, but we, (Maryland Citizens for the Arts) are pleased to announce that the Maryland State Arts Council budget was not affected.

Live in Maryland, want to be informed about advocacy issues like this? Sign up with Maryland Citizens for the Arts here: http://www.mdarts.org/content/About/aboutus.htm.

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