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Updated with Friday’s story: Atlanta Symphony musicians ask administration to share in salary cuts

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians have offered to cut their compensation by 11 percent to help balance the organization’s annual budget, but there is a catch: They want the ASO leadership and staff to take an equal cut.

Facing a deadline of midnight Aug. 25 to reach agreement with ASO management on a new collective bargaining agreement, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Committee (ASOPA) met with management representatives on Wednesday. In a statement released Wednesday evening, the players said they submitted a broad-ranging proposal that would be sufficient to cover the orchestra’s projected shortfalls for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

“We have offered to reduce the size of the orchestra, reduce the individual compensation of musicians, reduce the number of work weeks and share health care costs with management,” players association president and cellist Daniel Laufer said in the statement. But the offer hinged on management sharing the reduction equally.

On Thursday, ASO president Stanley Romanstein said not so fast, reiterating that management has already made numerous compensation cuts.

Musician salaries have gone up 23 percent since 2006, a period in which staff salaries declined 1.7 percent, ASO management had previously said.

In its statement, the players association disputed that, asserting that total staff compensation had increased by almost 50 percent since 2006, while total musician compensation had increased by 16 percent.

Romanstein called the musicians figures “curious because our musicians have had two representatives on the ASO finance committee for 15 years. They have seen all of the numbers … so this is not new information to them.

“So to say the staff should participate and the administration should participate is a fine statement,” he continued. “But you have to complete that and say, ‘And we know that they already have.’”

The ASO has operated with annual deficits ranging $5 million to $6 million in recent years, with its accumulated debt mushrooming as a result. Management projects a $20 million accumulated debt by the end of fiscal 2013 and has said it is rapidly reaching its borrowing limit.

The beginning base salary for an ASO musician is $88,400. Typically in the classical music industry, accompanying compensation packages would include 100 percent health coverage, instrument insurance, pension contributions and extended paid vacation.

“As of today we have put close to $3 million of musician cost reductions on the table, which address every aspect of what we do: salary, orchestra size, number of paid weeks, and cost sharing of health insurance,” said Colin Williams, principal trombonist for the 93-member orchestra. “But we cannot be the only solution.”

CEO Romanstein said management was looking carefully at the players’ proposal. “But we simply can not ignore the enormous sacrfices that this staff has already made.”

The next bargaining session has not yet been set.

NOTE: The following is the original version of the story above that was posted Wednesday evening:

Atlanta Symphony musicians ask administration to share in salary cuts

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians have offered to cut their compensation by 11 percent to help balance the organization’s annual budget, but there is a catch: They want the ASO staff to take an equal cut.

Facing a deadline of midnight Aug. 25 to reach agreement with ASO management on a new collective bargaining agreement, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Committee (ASOPA) met with management representatives on Wednesday. In a statement released Wednesday evening, the players said they submitted a broad-ranging proposal that would be sufficient to cover the orchestra’s projected shortfalls for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

“We have offered to reduce the size of the orchestra, reduce the individual compensation of musicians, reduce the number of work weeks, and share health care costs with management,” players association president Daniel Laufer said in the statement. “Our comprehensive solution calls for the staff to share the reduction with us in the coming seasons to help stabilize the future of this great orchestra.”

The musicians requested that senior management sacrifice salary to “avoid placing undue burden on junior and part-time staffers. This would save almost $5 million over two years.”

The ASO has operated with annual deficits ranging $5 million to $6 million in recent years, with its accumulated debt mushrooming as a result. Management projects $20 million accumulated debt by the end of fiscal 2013 and has said it is rapidly reaching its borrowing limit.

The musicians’ previous offer was $1 million in concessions. Management, the musicians said, was seeking $3.1 million in cuts and threatened to lock them out.

Orchestra management denied making a lockout threat.

“We haven’t threatened anything,” ASO president Stanley Romanstein said on Tuesday. “Three scenarios could happen: a newly ratified contract, a musician strike, or an expired contract. It is our sincere desire to reach an agreement soon.”

The beginning base salary for an ASO musician is $88,400. Typically in the classical music industry, accompanying compensation packages would include 100 percent health coverage, instrument insurance, pension contributions and extended paid vacation.

Players association spokesperson Colin Williams suggested the way to a deal was to share the burden of cuts. “The significance of shared sacrifice cannot be overstated,” the principal trombonist for the 93-member orchestra said. “This proposal represents a shared contribution to balance the budget.”

As is frequently the case in thorny orchestral negotiations, the two sides offer up figures that do not match.

ASO management has said that musician salaries have gone up 23 percent since 2006, a period in which staff salaries declined 1.7 percent.

In its statement, the players association disputed that: “Since 2006, total staff compensation has increased by almost 50 percent, while total musician compensation has only increased by 16 percent, just keeping up with inflation,” Williams said.

The statement charged that staff compensation had grown from $4 million to $6 million since $2006, not counting nearly $1 million in salaries/benefits for staff at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre,the ASO’s summer home since 2008.

“As of today we have put close to $3 million of musician cost reductions on the table, which address every aspect of what we do: salary, orchestra size, number of paid weeks, and cost sharing of health insurance,” Williams said. “But we cannot be the only solution when staff have not participated in cost reductions.”

On Tuesday, ASO president Romanstein aired some grievances of his own about the negotiations: “Management has been urging active negotiations since March 2, yet the musicians have not appeared to understand what is at stake, despite having two members on the [ASO board] finance committee for over a decade. That’s regrettable, but that’s our reality. …

“We understand what a difficult situation this presents for our musicians,” Romanstein continued. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to find resolution to our differences as quickly as possible and to turn our focus back to the music.”

The AJC will seek management’s response to the musicians’ offer on Thursday.

63 comments Add your comment

Retired Old Atlantan

August 15th, 2012
11:15 pm

Obviously this dispute between the musicians and ASO management is very serious to them. The reality is that 99% of Atlantans don’t really care whether the ASO is disbanded.

Nosey Atlantan

August 15th, 2012
11:19 pm

What’s the average salary of the musicians?

Worth Saving

August 15th, 2012
11:38 pm

It’d be a shame to lose the ASO. We shan’t let this happen.

Former Cellist

August 16th, 2012
12:14 am

@Retired Old Atlantan…..How sad…

Pam

August 16th, 2012
12:18 am

I just read that the ASO will not allow Lassister and Walton High Schools in Cobb County to participate in their holiday shows because they are not as racially diverse as they would like. The ASO has just lost my business. They should be sued for racism.

Pat

August 16th, 2012
12:43 am

@Pam – good for the ASO! As a lover of classical music I applaud the ASOs activism in relation to diversity and I also applaud their desire to share the burden of cuts with all staff. I am not an Atlanta resident. In fact, I live in Canada but I can well appreciate the cultural hole that will be left in Atlanta if the ASO were to shutter its doors.

Charles of the South

August 16th, 2012
12:54 am

Pam, why are Canadians always sticking their noses into the affairs of our nation, first, our politics, our health care, not to mention the ear bending pundits on talk radio

Joeventures

August 16th, 2012
1:02 am

@Pam -

In the ASO’s defense, and to be fair, the ASO didn’t disallow Lassiter & Walton from participating. They wanted to increase the number of participating schools. Unfortunately, there’s a limited amount of space on the stage, so the schools were asked to decrease the numbers of students participating from each school. The schools made the choice not to participate.

Tim

August 16th, 2012
1:05 am

This weekend my family went to an ASO concert. It was wonderful. I wouyd like to do my part to help it grow. It reminds you that there is more to a civilized world than people sitting around writing negative postings. It is about civilization.

Marie

August 16th, 2012
3:46 am

If the ASO’s management hadn’t been doing such a horrible job marketing the symphony for the past decade or so, maybe they would be able to sell enough tickets to fund the orchestra.

Doug of the North

August 16th, 2012
5:32 am

Charles: why are Americans (like Paul Ryan) always sticking their noses into the affairs of Canada, first, our politics, our health care, not to mention our economy and oil.

Jimbo

August 16th, 2012
6:06 am

What, management share the pain? That makes NO sense. Who will administer the pain, if they have to share in it.

Workers are interchangable cogs in the machine. Management are touched by GOD with brilliance and insight and are indespensible. We know this because they decided and told us so.

ASO Patron

August 16th, 2012
6:07 am

The Atlanta Symphony is a treasure. I grew up watching them on television each year. Since 1996, they have not been on TV. I attend many concerts with 50% of the hall is empty. The orchestra has won 27 Grammy Awards. How can a city with millions of people not go to a concert? I think poor marketing, artistic programming, and lack of corporate support is to blame for these deficits. The ASO management needs to bring some fresh ideas into their leadership. Email blasts to existing patrons does not cultivate new audiences like television and direct business partnerships. Reducing salaries seems to be a quick fix but will not put patrons in those empty seats. Shame on the business communities for not supporting the musical Arts, How much has Coca Cola, Home Depot, Rollins, and other Atlanta corporations contribute to the Atlanta Symphony?

Wrecker

August 16th, 2012
6:17 am

If the ASO musicians could make more money elsewhere at a more prestigious group, they would have done so. In case these union goons have not noticed, there has been a serious recession going on. Some of the first budget line items that people cut are charitable contributions and support for the arts, including orchestra tickets. Belt-tightening must occur at all levels.

The problem is one of perception with regard to management salaries. There may be several people at the top of the organization with large salaries, but even cutting these salaries to zero would not balance the budget. Most of the “managerial” salaries are contained in the multiple, low-level support staff jobs. Cutting these salaries 11% would devastae the finances of many of these people.

On the contrary, the musicians make significant salaries and have partially subsidized health costs. Musican’s salaries have increased in accordance with inflation since 2006, while staff salaries overall have decreased as a percentage. When the ASO added the Verizon venue, the additional staff increased the total dollars of staff salaries, but these are not million-dollar managerial jobs. I love music, musicians, and the ASO, but if they strike noone will notice or have sympathy for them.

GB

August 16th, 2012
7:27 am

In case anyone cares, Romenstein made 313k last year, up from 265 the previous year, acc to the Woodruff Art Center’s form 990.

ASO Patron

August 16th, 2012
7:40 am

@wrecker. Verizon barely produces a profit thanks to bad management. I own a business and I know luxury is cut during a recession. However, the average cost of a symphony ticket is $35. The Fox sells Broadway shows like crazy but the ASO can’t sell 2000 seats for a concert. This is a marketing problem. In a metropolitan area of 4 plus million people, there are enough people that can afford a ticket to see live music.

While I am not a fan of unions, the musicians are being asked to reduce their salaries to that of a local school teacher. Every one in the Atlanta Symphony are top grads from the most prestigious conservatories. It is insulting to ask them to take school teacher salaries when the problems exist in the administrative parts of the Atlanta Symphony.

A few years ago, there was an obituary in the AJC regarding a V President for Coca Cola. In the obituary, the article read that he was responsible for the multimillion dollar annual support of the Lincoln Center Jazz Festival by Coca Cola. Coke gives millions to NYC arts each year but gives a few hundred thousand to the Atlanta Symphony every year. Delta is an official sponsor of the Atlanta Symphony but charges to fly the Atlanta Symphony (minimal donations there). Home Depot has never given any money to the Atlanta Symphony (even though Arthur Blank has been quite generous). Look at corporate support in other same size cities (Dallas, Pittsburgh, Houston, Minneapolis). Totally different than Atlanta. The Arts enrich their employees and the cities in which they based their corporations. Same on them.

ASO Fan

August 16th, 2012
8:19 am

@wrecker in regards to cutting the salaries of low-level support positions, the musicians “specifically ask the senior staff members to share in this reduction from their individual salaries so as to avoid placing undue burden on junior and part-time staffers.” You can see their full press release at: http://www.atlsymphonymusicians.com/1/post/2012/08/atlanta-symphony-musicians-offer-28-million.html

pk

August 16th, 2012
8:25 am

yawn…sounds like a bunch of spoiled and overpaid brats. Get rid of them, I don’t know of a single persont that would miss them if they were disbanded.

@ASO Patron

August 16th, 2012
8:28 am

You are an ass.

You say ” It is insulting to ask them to take school teacher salaries” as if somebody blowing into a horn were more important than those responsible for the education of our children. Perhaps the reason this organization isn’t financially self-sustainable is due to the haughty attitude of its members and apparently, it’s fans.

Jeff

August 16th, 2012
8:40 am

Not sure what thier salaries are, but i can say they are FANTASTIC musicians, and doing what they love for a living. How many people can say that?

GR

August 16th, 2012
8:48 am

@Wrecker  You are wrong on several points. Some ASO musicians have
already left because of the situation here and others will follow if
the ASO management’s proposed pay cuts take place.  Despite the
recession other US cities have symphony management that finds ways to
market and raise money.
The ASO musicians are not currently overpaid by any stretch of the
imagination.  Their compensation ranks 14th out of 18th for fulltime
US orchestras.
The musicians are not calling for any pay cuts for the lower paid
staff members.  They are just asking senior management to take pay
cuts.  Why?  Because the musicians have already agreed to sacrifices
that include 2.8 million dollars in compensation cut.  This includes a
reduction in their salary, the orchestra size, the number of weeks
they are paid, and paying more for their health benefits.
With the 2.8 million that the musicians are willing to give up, senior
management could solve the current deficit gap with pay cuts of their
own.
Finally, the musicians have never mentioned the word strike.  It is
management that said that they will lock them out and cut off their
pay and health care benefits when the current contract expires.  That
is not a strike by workers.  It is a lockout by management.
The Verizon boondoggle is another management fiasco.  We will have to
address that money hole another day.

reality check

August 16th, 2012
9:28 am

I take issue with some of the things ASO Patron says and agree strongly with others.

First, ASO musicians make more than twice what beginning school teachers make. School teacher salaries used to increase slowly but they no longer do. There are very few teachers who make whar ASO musicians make.

I agree with ASO Patron the support from the corporate community is very tepid to horrible. Perhaps that is because they have little faith in management, but I don’t know that. I do know the musical competence of ASO is very good even when compared with other top symphonies in this country.

However, symphony hall is an embaressment. It looks sterile and more important (to me) the acoustics are horrible. Without a major donor coming forward we are stuck with a product that has excellent musicians in an inadequate venue. That hurts marketing.

The other thing that hurts marketing is the music selection. Every concert will have some pieces that the audience really likes, but we also have to suffer through some things that a lot of people do not enjoy in the name of musical diversity and education. I understand there are matters of personal taste involved, but the ASO knows they could perform things that appeal more.

Retired old Atlantan is right that there are a lot of Atlantans who don’t patronize ASO. If he or she is one of them he or she has the right not to attend, but I don’t care about his/her opinion. The patrons are the ones whose voices need to be respected.

Sultanof Smyrna

August 16th, 2012
9:45 am

“The reality is that 99% of Atlantans don’t really care whether the ASO is disbanded.”

This is a false statement. 99.99% of Atlantans that don’t care would be more accurate. Starting salery of almost $90K for blowing a horn; man I really chose the wrong profession.

SultanofSmyrna

August 16th, 2012
9:48 am

Management projets $20 million accumulated debt by the end of fiscal 2013 and has said it is rapidly reaching its borrowing limit

Time to stop the bleeding and let this outdated form of entertainment go the way of the dinosaur

john rofrano

August 16th, 2012
9:50 am

racially diversified issues? yes, the ASO has its share of orientals but i’ve not noted other minority musicians to any degree. a bit of hypocrisy? perhaps.

LRM216

August 16th, 2012
10:03 am

Ever since reading how the ASO will not allow Lassiter or Walton High Schools’ chorus to sing with them due to lack of “diversity” of the chorus members, I tend to agree with Retired Old Atlanta. I will never support them or attend an ASO concert again.

Tim

August 16th, 2012
10:27 am

Pretty soon they will be asking them to play for free like all the other clubs in Atlanta ask their bands. Funny how the bands bring in the patrons that drink & eat but most clubs don’t want to pay. If you have had the same experience, post your comment on our wall. LONG LIVE LIVE MUSIC !!!
http://www.facebook.com/notquitedevils

just sayin

August 16th, 2012
10:41 am

i always thought it was a stroke of genious to bring in schools to perform with ASO that would pack the house. The tickets cost $35 each and these schools sold out every show. Now bring in schools just to be more diverse that may not have the disposable income to afford the tickets. No wonder the symphony is hurting for money. Looks like they are also hurting for competent management. Lassiter is building its own new theater as we speak I think that will be a great place to have a Christmas show and you won’t have to endure the tired old ASO.

TommyB

August 16th, 2012
10:53 am

Sultanof Smyrna, this is all a bit much. There are respectful and reasonable ways to get your point across- and then there’s your method.

For someone who has made it clear you don’t care, you seem to have vested quite an interest here in ‘casting stones’, and yet as I read your posts I don’t see to much of you trying to understand a situation.

Clearly you don’t agree with the ASO, or classical music- it may not be your thing. That’s ok. Maybe, if you feel like spending time here checking it all out, you could try it a different way. Try to look at it from the point of view of a group of people within a company trying to keep their company afloat and viable by working with management. Regardless of the reason the company exists, it has to do with people trying to work with their management to help people who DO care about why the company is there- a bunch of employed people in the USA trying to stay that way, and get a good situation going on. There are a lot of people that DO care, even if you are not one of them.

The difference between your approach and the actual POINT of this article is that the ASO musicians are trying to seek support by letting their cause be known, and it would seem that you are merely trying to attack something you don’t care about. One of these actions shows purpose, and the other shows a distinct lack thereof.

bc

August 16th, 2012
11:09 am

ASO=Dodo Bird

Lori

August 16th, 2012
11:50 am

Atlanta needs its symphony and the musicians are doing their part in this dispute. We need to back them fully.

flare

August 16th, 2012
12:12 pm

LOL. I love how there are people who are writing thoughtful support of the ASO on one side and then people writing “I could blow a horn and get paid a lot of money derp derp” and “ASOhurr hurr=dodo bird HURR HURRR” on the other

David Wetherill

August 16th, 2012
12:15 pm

This is the orchestra Allison Vulgamore left in such “great shape” that the Philadelphia Orchestra hired her. They went bankrupt.
If you want your city to be just a collection of empty office buildings, let the museums and the symphony close their doors.
The arts are for the one or two percent who care. They need to step up and support the arts. Ticket sales never pay for the costs of art. When there is a Picasso tour, the art is worth billions. You get to see it for a few dollars.
Every musician in a professional orchestra is better trained and more skilled than you or anyone you know. If you think this is an easy way to make a living, pick up an instrument and try it yourself.
Boards should give money and raise money. Stop hiring people to do this; it is your job. Bloated managements are the biggest change in costs. And half a million for an executive director of a non-profit is obscene. Put a musician in that job. The MBA’s have failed everywhere.

GeorgiaPeach

August 16th, 2012
12:24 pm

When I think of all the great cities in this country – New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles – one of the things they all have in common is great arts. If you have ever gone to the High Museum or the Fox Theater or Phillips Arena for any kind of performance, you are a supporter of the arts. Even if you are not a great supporter of classical music like I am, I hope we can all agree that we want to keep Atlanta on the list of one of those great cities. Support the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony in maintaining the quality of our great orchestra.

PJ

August 16th, 2012
12:51 pm

If people want to go hear the ASO they will. If they don’t they won’t. The process will play out just like that of any other business. If the ASO does not produce a product able to sustain itself (regardless of how good it may be) then they should be allowed to fail. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the end result is the same. Live classical music is on life support and the cost of running an organization like the ASO is huge. For every person that swears allegiance to the ASO there are probably 100,000 that don’t care a bit. The orchestra appeals largely to a demographic that has no interest in venturing into downtown Atlanta. The ASO is another victim of the apathy that seems to typify this city.

HKHB

August 16th, 2012
1:06 pm

How many weeks of PAID vacation do most working Americans get? Let’s start with that component of the negotiations.

Karen Ferren

August 16th, 2012
1:21 pm

What a tragedy for a great city like Atlanta to be in a nasty public battle over the future of their symphony, which is one of the finest in this land, ranking in the upper tier of major orchestras. I find it also disgusting that this organization does not receive any public funding. Most states, counties, and cities give to the arts organizations within their jurisdiction. While some may criticize doing this, it is a proven fact that each of those entities receive 6 to 7 times back what they spend on their arts organizations, thus making it obvious that contributing to the arts is a win, win situation. Likewise, businesses increase their profits every time there is a concert or event. Take note: manager and conductor make many times what the musicians make, and are they volunteering to take cuts? No. Sacrifices should be shared. Wake up board, management, politicians before you lose this treasure or cut back to where it no longer is a worthy showcase for a thriving city.

Who Cares

August 16th, 2012
1:46 pm

Predicted Headline in the near future: “Atlanta Symphony Orchestra closes doors after last performance”. Reaction from 99.99% of all Atlantans – Yawn

ASO Fundraiser Plan

August 16th, 2012
1:52 pm

The horn blowers can always set up in a Marta station and let folks throw dollar bills into the instrument case as they walk by. Just make sure that you don’t take the spot where the guy who plays the 5-gallon plastic buckets as drums normally sets up.

Steve

August 16th, 2012
2:44 pm

ASO management should accept the agreement. And senior management in particular should lead from the front by also making salary sacrifices. Unless of course they’re just rorting the system from the top.

Taxi Smith

August 16th, 2012
2:45 pm

The patrons of the ASO should support it through ticket revenue. Raise your prices to meet your expenses. 1 + 1 still equals 2.

Doug of the North

August 16th, 2012
3:18 pm

Let’s see – 90k to blow my horn, or 20 million to play a kid’s game on the Braves. I guess I was in the wrong profession all these years!

Concerned in the Burbs

August 16th, 2012
3:22 pm

A high salary for those in charge while the operation goes in the tank is unconscionable. The ASO management has lived off its corporate credit to the point that it is hard to pay the interest on its debt, much less the principal. It is operating like the federal government only the ASO cannot print money.

The “Great Recession” has damaged all sectors of the economy and if any business of any kind is to survive it is going to have to save itself. Saving the orchestra (meaning primarily the musicians) is the first priority. The first order of business is to get operating costs under control which means shared sacrifice. The musicians have put a fair proposal on the table; let management do the same from their side. I would be a lot more willing to pay $35 to watch and listen to the musicians than I would to watch ASO management run the organization into the ground. If the Verizon amphitheater needs to be jettisoned to right the ship, so be it. The ASO will survive without a “summer home”. Capital facilities improvements are not going to be supported by corporate sponsors when the operating costs are underwater.

Liz

August 16th, 2012
3:41 pm

From a human side, symphony players are individuals who have spent their whole lives working at their craft and are simply trying to support themselves and their families and loved ones in the skill they have perfected since they were young. Sure, there are people who don’t care about classical music and that’s fine. But that does not negate the fact that these are people who work hard at what they do, care about their product and always strive to make it better. It doesn’t negate the fact that these workers have homes and children, with lifelong community ties and volunteer efforts that they have been a part of. It is easy for some people to be judgmental and condemn many people for the salaries they make. But mostly people who succeed in every occupation work really hard for it. Who can say that these working people make too much for the hours they have put in their ENTIRE life to be at this level, even if you think it is antiquated and not necessary. Again, these are people who are just trying to support their families in the profession in which they were trained, whether some people think it is a valid profession or not. Again, on the human side, it is sad to wish ANYBODY out of a job, especially in these times.

Joke of the Day

August 16th, 2012
4:20 pm

What do the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the band from the Titanic have in common?

Both continued to play as the ship sank

[...] “We have offered to reduce the size of the orchestra, reduce the individual compensation of musicians, reduce the number of work weeks, and share health care costs with. Our comprehensive solution calls for the staff to share the reduction with us in the coming seasons to help stabilize the future of this great orchestra,” cellist and ASOPA President Daniel Laufer said in a statement posted on Access Atlanta. [...]

[...] “We have offered to reduce the size of the orchestra, reduce the individual compensation of musicians, reduce the number of work weeks, and share health care costs with. Our comprehensive solution calls for the staff to share the reduction with us in the coming seasons to help stabilize the future of this great orchestra,” cellist and ASOPA President Daniel Laufer said in a statement posted on Access Atlanta. [...]

[...] “We have offered to reduce the size of the orchestra, reduce the individual compensation of musicians, reduce the number of work weeks, and share health care costs with. Our comprehensive solution calls for the staff to share the reduction with us in the coming seasons to help stabilize the future of this great orchestra,” cellist and ASOPA President Daniel Laufer said in a statement posted on Access Atlanta. [...]

jim121256

August 16th, 2012
6:26 pm

Several people have made comments like “Starting salery [sic] of almost $90K for blowing a horn.” Let’s look at this a minute. There are 18 full-time professional orchestras in the country (according to one writer; I’m pretty sure that figure’s close if not 100% accurate). In each of those orchestras, there are 3 or 4 trumpet players. That means 54 – 72 jobs nationally. How many guards do you suppose there are in the NBA? Pro athletes are generally done long before the age of 40. Many professional orchestra musicians play well into their 60’s with little or no diminution of skill. There are fewer jobs and the people in those jobs tend to stay in them much longer than pro athletes, yet people complain about the salaries of the musicians in ASO. I haven’t heard you complain about the salaries of the Hawks, Falcons, or Braves. Hmm… ASO has how many grammies? The Three pro sports franchises have how many championships? I don’t understand the level of vitriol directed toward the musicians by some of the commentators. If you don’t think an orchestra is important, or if you can’t understand what they’re doing, you don’t have to go to the concerts.

I agree that marketing is probably a big part of the issue here. I would also observe that it takes an unbelievable level of something… I’m not sure quite what… to offend two of the top high school music programs not just in the local area, but in the nation, at a time when your money problems are this large. I would agree with the person who mentioned that the Lassiter and Walton choruses would tend to fill the hall every time. If I was planning for ASO, I’d be asking them to come sing with us more often.

As a musician, (not at their level, but good enough to make some money “blowing my horn”) I appreciate am in awe of what the ASO players do. This is really one of the world’s great musical organizations. I truly hope they’re able to get their labor, management, and financial problems solved and move onward and upward.

Tom Bop

August 16th, 2012
8:06 pm

Having a great symphony is a mark of a great city- even if many don’t appreciate it or attend. Our musicians have constantly been praised and awarded as a great ensemble. They’ve spent their lives learning their craft and achieving greatness in their field. Here in Atlanta, the group that doesn’t seem to do its job is the administration- if they can’t make all the pieces work and support the great musicians, they should step aside and allow room for those who can. We need to let some fresh air in who can promote the orchestra outside of the WAC clique, raise funds from all the “newer” corporate citizens of the area, and reach all the potential audiences, instead of their aunts in Buckhead. Finding “darlings” like Spanos (whose concerts I avoid) and paying him $500K for TEN weeks work, paying so many other six-figure salaries to admin, and then saying they can’t afford to pay musicians at a top level is crazy! As someone else said above, no one will ever buy a ticket to see anyone administrate!!