Atlanta Symphony locked out, again

September 8, 2014

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Locks Out Its Players, Again

The following is tragically serious. Having been trained as an orchestral musician and having had the privilege
of performing in such an orchestra, it is painful to see the above.

Even more painful, because though excellent, this is one of our smaller orchestras, not known for many recordings and, though, in a culturally rich area, we all need this and other similar ensembles.

Yes, like many of you, I think of the joyful hours learning all of the orchestra parts of which I could think, playing al the chairs in numerous Boston ensembles, auditioning many times, sometimes failing, and, after resigning, seeing no less than 200 players auditioning for my job. That is what I wanted, and what I got. My own personal principal position turned out to be fraught with unbelievable difficulties: a desire, I thought for justice, repertoire, salary. and work condition. For all ambitious clarinetists, please note the above. It is all much less than the solo in symphony #6, with a great reed.

“The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began its second lockout in two years on Sunday when the ensemble’s management and its players, who accepted deep pay cuts two years ago, failed to agree on a new contract before a midnight deadline.

The orchestra’s management said in a statement that the impasse “may delay or cancel portions of the 2014-15 season,” which was supposed to be a celebration of its 70th anniversary.

The musicians said in a statement that the orchestra’s management had refused to budge from an offer “under which the musicians would continue to hemorrhage income and lose orchestra positions.”

The musicians accepted pay cuts of more than 14 percent and agreed to reduce the size of the orchestra after a lockout two years ago, to help right the orchestra’s finances. But the orchestra continued to have a $2 million deficit last year, management said.

The orchestra’s management said that its most recent offer to musicians would have raised their pay by 4.5 percent over the course of four years, but musicians said that those gains would be more than offset by the extra money they would have to pay for health benefits.

Last week the orchestra’s music director, Robert Spano, and Donald Runnicles, its principal guest conductor, wrote a letter urging management to recognize the sacrifices that the orchestra’s players had already made. “The A.S.O. is a jewel, which should not be lost or compromised, and the current conditions threaten that loss.


A gorgeous Aria in the midst of roaring Chaos

September 6, 2014

Hello friends and colleagues. I have been in ill health for a while now, but last night, was released from hospital, and will hope to get back to regular affairs of music.

For the past several months, literally everyone is completely at odds with literally everyone they know , know, without exception. The middle East is aflame and will continue to smolder and destroy. Russian decisions to regroup, flex its muscles and regain what it is they thought they had, may destroy us all.

Within the US, bigotry, consternation , racial murder and violence rules all airwaves.Thus far the remaining term of Barack Obama seems to rapidly disappearing , fanned by the flames of a racially biased Congress occupied with any and all attempts to destroy the first Commander and Chief of color. Going on about Congress is slippery with sewage.

In this burning cauldron of despair and hatred,only one bright strong illumination has emerged. One real agreement has taken place, for me, worldwide.
The rest is sluge, war and death, repeated endlessly.

Perhaps for some , it was not big news, but to all those who feel that the Metropolitain Opera Orchesta is the most sophisticated and polished ensemble of its kind, and that The Metropolitain Opera is certainly our most significant achievement, especially because of its unique quality and far reaching productions,( even in Cornwall,Ontario, we can see Puccinis Tosca in our movie theater.) During a roaring battle of wages for all scenery and and players, the Met came to a settlement. The head of the committee is of all things, a clarinetist. 

The economic health of opera in the 21st century became something of a flash point during the negotiations, with some workers objecting to the warnings of Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, that grand opera was struggling in the United States. Now, both sides will be making opera together again.

“We very much believe that it’s possible for the Met to present innovative, world-class grand opera in a fiscally responsible way,” said Jessica Phillips Rieske, a clarinetist and the chairwoman of the Committee.

Along with he death of loved icons, and the moribund situation of the declining American Symphony Orchestra, the MET stands as a beacon of musical and eternal hope. Thank you.

Thank all for thier supreme efforts. God Bless you .

 

sherman

 


Criminal Minds, Montreal// Nathan Friedland

August 5, 2014

With the introduction of Bill 3, the safety and security of Montrealers now carries a significant financial burden that has, by many accounts, become too expensive for taxpayers. Yesterday, when I feared for my safety, I was faced with the question: what is my life worth?
Just after parking my car on a downtown street corner at 6am, I heard shouting behind me. When I stepped out of the car, there were 4 men perhaps 50 feet away from me screaming at one another and one of them had a brick in his hand. They saw me so I calmly turned to walk away from them when one of them began driving my way with a minivan, I had no cellphone. My heart began to race; if I began to run, maybe they would chase me, were they fighting over drugs or was I their next target? I had no idea what to do next. Out of nowhere, a police-car came barreling around the corner, splitting the 4 men up, three going one way, and one the other, running for his van that he had stepped out of. A split second later, another policeman ran after the solitary man on foot and he was caught before he could get into the van. Great, but what about the other three? Not two minutes later, as I walked up the hill towards work, the three men were there in front of me acting as if nothing happened. I froze, then 4 police cruisers and a van came racing around the corner and cut the three men off. 4 cops burst out of the van screaming “get on the ground” to the three men with their tazers ready. The men resisted and they were subdued quickly. There were no gunshots, just policemen doing their incredibly difficult and dangerous jobs, protecting and serving us. All I could think of was how glad I was to see those cops and after watching how professionally they subdued those 4 men, it struck me that we really don’t appreciate them as much as we should. Is my life worth more than 77,000$ a year, the high-end salary for a policeman in Montreal?
A few years ago, my backyard deck burned down when I was at work. Someone called the fire department and they came and squelched the flames before they could have a chance to burn my house down. What is that worth?
As a taxpayer, I would gladly pay even more taxes to keep policemen and firefighters from effectively having their pensions and salaries decreased. They are already underpaid for the jobs they do and we should not be forcing them to lose money as they are saving our lives.

Nathan Friedland


Musical Chairs in New York, NEW YORK TIMES, by Gabriel Cohen

July 28, 2014

This is a very special article , which answers many questions for many readers and players. I am publishing it verbatim.

 

 

Beneath the stage of Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theater lies a dark space with a low ceiling — a cross between a suburban rec room and a submarine. Shortly before each performance of “Kinky Boots,” 13 black-clad musicians file to their battle stations, each illuminated by a small light attached to a music stand. The expectant buzz of the audience filters down from a narrow opening at the edge of the stage.

As at any Broadway show, the musicians in the “Kinky Boots” pit are expected to play flawlessly for two-plus hours — even those who are sitting in for what may be the first time. During a recent Sunday matinee of the hit show, for instance, four of the musicians were substitutes, called in and asked to unobtrusively join a band grooving at the top of its game. After all, even Broadway musicians may want to take vacations, or spend the summer touring with Sting or the Rolling Stones.

“Subbing is a bit nerve-racking,” said Ann Klein, 52, who replaced Michael Aarons, the regular “Kinky Boots” guitarist, twice in July. Ms. Klein has worked as a replacement on Broadway for five years, in five different shows. She has a career as a singer-songwriter and will pick up work on tour with other artists. But substituting on Broadway pays pretty well — like regulars, subs earn union scale, $227.42 per performance — if you can deal with the high stakes. “You don’t have the luxury of rehearsing with the band,” Ms. Klein said. “So it’s scary.”

 

Brian Usifer, the music director and first keyboardist for “Kinky Boots,” conducting during a recent Sunday matinee performance at the Al Hirschfeld Theater. Credit Emon Hassan for The New York Times
“Once,” Jeff Schiller, another “Kinky Boots” sub, recalled, “I got a call half an hour into a show, when a regular was experiencing incredible kidney stone pain.” Luckily, Mr. Schiller, who goes by the nickname Houndog, lives near the theater district. He swapped in between numbers in the middle of Act One.

Thankfully, this kind of quick-change routine is rare. Most subs get some notice before they have to step in.

Mr. Schiller, 55, has filled in on more than 40 Broadway shows, including “Phantom of the Opera” and “The Book of Mormon,” and he says that most productions follow a similar system. Each regular musician is required to name five possible substitutes, who learn their parts through a process called “watching the book.”

“If there’s room,” Mr. Schiller said, “you go in and sit in the pit and make a recording of the regular.” Then the subs go home and play along.

A regular works eight performances a week, but subs can do more if they’re playing in more than one show at a time. Indeed, Mr. Schiller has had 10-performance weeks. Part of what puts him in such demand is that he’s proficient on saxophone, flute, clarinet and a raft of other instruments. This flexibility, known as doubling, opens him to a wider range of work — not to mention extra pay.

Unfortunately, there’s a major downside to the sub lifestyle: There’s no guarantee of when you’ll play next. Mr. Schiller averages two or three jobs a week, but there are weeks when he gets none. That’s why he and Ms. Klein would love to receive regular chairs.
As recently as the late 1980s, playing in a Broadway musical was not considered the most desirable gig for a musician. Most professionals sought better-paying work in jingles and recording sessions. But as that work dried up, due in part to samplers and digital-audio software, the ace musicians gravitated toward theaters near Times Square.

But just as the competition for spots in a live Broadway orchestra has increased, the pit itself has contracted.

“The average number of full-timers per show has gone down by half since the 1950s and ’60s,” said Robert Meffe, director of music at San Diego State University, the author of a paper on the shrinking pit orchestra and himself a former sub.

According to Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, there are only 349 full-time players on Broadway now. That means that all players — regulars and subs alike — must be in top form. “There’s a lot of pressure,” Martha Hyde, a frequent substitute, acknowledged.

“I subbed on ‘Matilda’ today — mostly flute,” said Ms. Hyde, who has been doing this work since 1988. “Tomorrow I’m playing second clarinet and second flute on ‘Phantom,’ and the next evening I’m playing alto sax and lots of clarinet solos on ‘Chicago.’ ”

“It’s a little bit like landing an F-14,” she added.

“But your job is not to stick out or make a big statement. You emulate the regular; you have to be willing to be a chameleon.”

Brian Usifer, 33, the music director, conductor and first keyboardist for “Kinky Boots,” makes sure his subs fit in. Every replacement starts in an audition phase. On a sub’s first night, though, he tends to allow the occasional error to pass. “It’s O.K. if a few mistakes happen early,” he said. “It breaks the tension.”

 

Also substituting in the orchestra that afternoon was Ann Klein, on guitar. “Subbing is a bit nerve-racking,” Ms. Klein said. “You don’t have the luxury of rehearsing with the band.”
Both cast and orchestra can see him in the video monitors, he noted, saying: “I try not to show it in my face if something goes wrong. But when you have a sub who is good and who everybody likes, I don’t have to worry about them.”

Though the pressure and lack of job security are challenging, Ms. Hyde sees some advantages to subbing. “It forces you to keep your skills razor sharp,” she said, “and you play with more people.” That can mean more contacts for future jobs.

Even so, most subs supplement their Broadway stints with other work. Mr. Schiller has worked as a composer, arranger, touring musician, copyist and instructor. Ms. Hyde is a member of a chamber trio called the New River Ensemble, which sometimes plays live to silent films by Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.

The route to a regular gig is not predictable, as seniority does not necessarily determine who gets those jobs. Contractors, hired by producers to put together orchestras in tandem with music directors, make those decisions, and personal connections can trump other factors.

Despite the competition, Ms. Hyde says that she has found much camaraderie on Broadway. She has been a regular four times, in shows including “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “1776.” Whenever she gets a chair, she hands out sub slots to musicians who have helped her in the past, but also makes an effort to aid hopefuls. “If no one gives the new people a chance,” she said, “they can’t break in.”

Tino Gagliardi certainly broke in: He played trumpet in and out of Broadway pits for 30 years, as a sub and as a regular, and now he’s president of Local 802. “Being a sub is far more difficult than being a regular,” Mr. Gagliardi said. “Regulars only have to know one book.”

“Once,” he said, “I was subbing on five different shows and was so busy that I actually walked into the wrong theater. It’s a very hard way to make a living.”

But those F-14s still need replacement pilots. The goal, as Ms. Hyde put it, is “to make it as seamless as possible.”

“If the other musicians across the pit don’t notice that there’s someone different playing the part,” she said, “you’ve done your job.”


Metropolitan Opera being forced to strike

July 19, 2014

Deep salary cut demands, which its unions say are unjustified, and a company threat to close down at least temporarily, are combining to force members of the 16 unions at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera to plan to strike.
Contracts will be expiring July 31.

One Met union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, is warning its members the Met may lock workers out if it doesn’t get its way.

Met General Manager Peter Gelb demands $180 million in pay cuts from the unions, Musicians Local 802
Gelb says the $180 million equals a 16 percent pay cut. In radio interviews, he portrays the unions as refusing to give back even a penny of pay. And the Guardian reported another Gelb threat: That the Met would have to file for bankruptcy protection within three years unless it got its way

The unions reply they’re willing to sit down with Gelb to discuss cost-cutting measures. The Met ran a $2.8 million deficit last year, on a $311 million budget. But they say cuts can easily occur elsewhere.

 

This is only the latest in the troubling situation in live music in the US. The Metropolitan Opera is the most influential in the world today. It many syndicated works are shown throughout the country in movie theaters country-wide.

Its orchestra is certainly one of the best in the US, if not the entire world. The best instrumentalists, all woodwinds , make their living playing in this great orchestra.With the Philadelphia Orchestra filing for bankruptcy, and the continuing deficit situation in many US orchestras, the future for all musicians wishing to work in a professional situation is indeed bleak .

The burgeoning numbers of instrumentalists does not abate, the Graduate Schools continue to pour out superb players.

So, perhaps a bit of advice from an aging clarinetist may be in order. Consider well the advantages of playing in a great orchestra, and weigh the situation against    raising a family, touring, and existing in a lessor organization, where your enormous body of work may turn into  sheer frustration and even poverty. There are many avenues available within the business and beauty of music.

I share your sorrow at learning almost daily, of orchestras having to cut back, literally hundreds of clarinetists  auditioning for very few available positions. You are gifted and you should be able to exist well in our world.

 

Stay alert, keep practicing and the very best of good luck in your pursuits.

 

sherman


Quebec Family Ministry threatens school for autistic children

July 17, 2014

Quebec threatens school for autistic children  (Nathan Friedland)

“Pre-school for autistic children in jeopardy” July 16 2014.
I was first introduced to autism 32 years ago when I went to the Mackay Center for two years as part of their fabulous reverse integration program which enables children without disabilities to learn about life with those who are disabled. It was during those two years that I learned about empathy, respect, and how to think outside the box in order to help people. In my second year in the school, after careful consideration by my teachers, I was “buddied” with an autistic boy with the hopes that I could somehow bring him out of his shell. Even at the age of 12, I found that being with disabled children, especially my autistic friend, was life affirming. I learned that exceptional children need exceptional care and that no matter what people might think or say, helping people is what matters.
After seeing the “Little Red Playhouse” story, watching the children play and learn because of the wonderful attention they receive, I was reminded of my youth and why we sometimes must fight for what we believe in because it is right.
Clearly, the “Little Red Playhouse” (LRP) is not a regular school, but neither is the Mackay Center. One has to wonder if the LRP’s students were “regular” would the Quebec’s Family Ministry be entertaining unknown complaints that likely have no merit? After hearing testimony from parents whose children attend the school, how can the Ministry’s representative Nadia Caron site “risks to the safety and security of the children” as a reason that her bosses can’t tolerate the situation.
What we have here is a brave mother (Sharon McCarry) who thought outside the box and made a school that helps children and their families who the government didn’t think of. The Family Ministry needs to make an exception and grant her a permit to operate and remember that their definition of a normal child might not be the same as everyone else’s.

Nathan Friedland RN


“An offer he couldn’t refuse”

July 12, 2014

My father was dying. The most important valve in his body – his aortic valve which allowed oxygenated blood to be pumped to his brain and other organs – was severely damaged and was barely opening enough to allow him to stay awake perhaps 5 hours a day. A baseball lover, he couldn’t stay awake long enough to watch a game. He couldn’t concentrate or walk and after surviving a terrible winter complete with a bout of bacteremia (a blood infection), severe heart failure, two falls and a heart attack, he was referred to the Ottawa Heart Institute where we met a cardiologist named Dr Labinaz.
Ironically enough, my father, who loves the film “The Godfather”, was given an offer he couldn’t refuse. Either he would die in a few months from the damaged valve which would continue to close or, he could get a new pig valve inserted into his heart via a relatively new procedure called a TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve insertion). Only a decade ago, the only way patients could get a new aortic valve was with open heart surgery, the problem: there was no way my father could survive that extensive a procedure; he was just too sick. The TAVI meant that he would have the valve inserted via the artery in his leg and it would be pushed up to exactly the right spot where it would open, pushing the old valve out of the way, allowing the precious oxygenated blood to flow properly and perhaps save his life. Of course, he accepted the offer.
In a procedure that can be compared to changing spark plugs on engine without opening the hood of the car, the TAVI worked. The Ottawa Heart Institute and Dr. Labinaz were incredible. During the procedure, my dad’s artery – the tube through which the valve was inserted – ruptured. He lost a lot of blood very quickly and needed what can be described as “an oil change”. There was no stroke, no paralysis and he was only in the ICU for 36 hours. It was unbelievable.
Yesterday, we watched the entire Toronto Blue Jays baseball game together. We cheered for Bautista and Encarnacion, the Jays lost, but it didn’t matter. Thanks to the Ottawa Heart Institute, Dr. Labinaz and the amazing nurses that took such great care of him, my dad is back! (yes, dear folks, that’s me. sf)

Nathan Friedland RN


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