orchestras/trouble

June 24, 2015

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the VIenna Philharmonic, summer concert

what an orchestra can be

It has been a dark few years for this country’s orchestras. In the past season, a bitter strike in San Francisco and a lockout in Minneapolis led to cascading cancellations, including of the San Francisco Symphony’It has been a dark few years for this country’s orchestras. In the past season, a bitter strike in San Francisco and a lockout in Minneapolis led to cascading cancellations, including of the San Francisco Symphony’

This remarkable venture, which resulted in works by Lukas Foss, Paul Hindemith, Roy Harris, Gunther Schuller and many others, put Louisville and its orchestra on the international cultural map and attracted luminaries like Shostakovich and Martha Graham to visit the city. But that wasn’t enough to fend off the regular financial crises that have dogged the orchestra over the decades since, until its recent bankruptcy filing.

This perennial instability has stemmed in part from an overreliance on bailouts from private sponsors and large corporations, some of which reduced donations during difficult economic periods or moved out of town. “No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” said Jorge Mester, the orchestra’s current music director, in a telephone interview.

One solution being discussed is to reduce the Louisville Orchestra’s 71 salaried players to 55 and fill in the gaps with freelancers. “The musicians, of course, don’t want to abandon their colleagues,” Mr. Mester said. While the ideal is an orchestra that plays 52 weeks a year, he added, “it’s not a calamity” to use freelancers. He doesn’t fear that quality would suffer.

A reliance on freelancers is growing increasingly prevalent in many industries. Some first-rate orchestras, like the New York ensembles Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s, have long had freelance structures. But even with lower overhead many freelance music organizations are now playing fewer concerts and producing less income for the musicians.
Stewart Rose, a horn player with St. Luke’s since 1983, also plays with Orpheus and the New York City Opera Orchestra and is currently on a temporary arrangement with the New York Philharmonic. He enjoys “the variety that comes along with freelancing,” he said in a telephone interview. But the time lag between performances during a slow stretch can be demoralizing, he said. “It’s really been tough for everyone with the decline in the amount of work out there.”

While the freelance model can be perilous for musicians, the upside for orchestras is a more flexible operating system. The rotating work force of the excellent Orchestra of St. Luke’s, for example, makes it easier to survive challenging times.

“One of the things that makes us resilient is our flexibility,” said Katy Clark, the orchestra’s president and executive director. “We don’t spend what we don’t have. We don’t guarantee work to our musicians and don’t require that they turn up. Even though you might think this would be anarchic, we have very stable personnel to an amazing extent.”

Another benefit of freelance orchestras, Ms. Clark added, is that they tend to have more inclusive management styles and thus suffer less labor friction.

St. Luke’s currently has balanced budgets, no operating deficit and a new revenue stream from the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, a complex for performance and rehearsals that opened in March, with rooms for rent by outside groups at affordable rates. The orchestra, which is often presented by Carnegie Hall and other organizations in collaborative partnerships that Ms. Clark described as fundamental to its success, has not cut any of its self-produced programs but has received fewer fee engagements during the recession.

This perennial instability has stemmed in part from an overreliance on bailouts from private sponsors and large corporations, some of which reduced donations during difficult economic periods or moved out of town. “No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” said Jorge Mester, the orchestra’s current music director, in a telephone interview.

One solution being discussed is to reduce the Louisville Orchestra’s 71 salaried players to 55 and fill in the gaps with freelancers. “The musicians, of course, don’t want to abandon their colleagues,” Mr. Mester said. While the ideal is an orchestra that plays 52 weeks a year, he added, “it’s not a calamity” to use freelancers. He doesn’t fear that quality would suffer.

A reliance on freelancers is growing increasingly prevalent in many industries. Some first-rate orchestras, like the New York ensembles Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s, have long had freelance structures. But even with lower overhead many freelance music organizations are now playing fewer concerts and producing less income for the musicians.

Stewart Rose, a horn player with St. Luke’s since 1983, also plays with Orpheus and the New York City Opera Orchestra and is currently on a temporary arrangement with the New York Philharmonic. He enjoys “the variety that comes along with freelancing,” he said in a telephone interview. But the time lag between performances during a slow stretch can be demoralizing, he said. “It’s really been tough for everyone with the decline in the amount of work out there.”

While the freelance model can be perilous for musicians, the upside for orchestras is a more flexible operating system. The rotating work force of the excellent Orchestra of St. Luke’s, for example, makes it easier to survive challenging times.

“One of the things that makes us resilient is our flexibility,” said Katy Clark, the orchestra’s president and executive director. “We don’t spend what we don’t have. We don’t guarantee work to our musicians and don’t require that they turn up. Even though you might think this would be anarchic, we have very stable personnel to an amazing extent.”

Another benefit of freelance orchestras, Ms. Clark added, is that they tend to have more inclusive management styles and thus suffer less labor friction.

St. Luke’s currently has balanced budgets, no operating deficit and a new revenue stream from the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, a complex for performance and rehearsals that opened in March, with rooms for rent by outside groups at affordable rates. The orchestra, which is often presented by Carnegie Hall and other organizations in collaborative partnerships that Ms. Clark described as fundamental to its success, has not cut any of its self-produced programs but has received fewer fee engagements during the recession.

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From Malaysia, clarinet budget is much too high

June 13, 2015

Hello, my name is Nur Daniel and I’m 17. I lived in Malaysia. I played Clarinet for about 4 years now and I’m very passionate in developing my skills. I played only in a wind band competition and I never had a chance to played with a symphony. As youngsters like me career are important we faced SPM or O level. By the results we achieved we may get scholars and study abroad. But the problem is classicals music or instrumental music are not to popular in Malaysia in terms of job prospects. I really dissapointed with the facts that I cannot pursue my ambitions. And one day, my father gave me an idea. He says that I should take my musics as the seconds part of life . So I had been wandering, what is the best way to study something at the same time I can studies music too? Secondly, I am from an average family.So,any plan that I should take to keep on studying music but only use least amount of money? For your info, Im trying to save up some money to buy a clarinet. For 4 years playing clarinet, what are the suggestions of clarinet brands that I should buy. And my budget would be around $4000-5000.

You have lived in Malaysia, third largest producer of rubber in the world.  So, why not a clarinet budget of,circa 1900 for arguably the best made and the most stable material for a clarinet, the best tuned, and an instrument that will never crack or vary in pitch , in variable temperatures.

William Ridenour designs and produces this clarinet from Duncanville, Texas

Without question, your best choice . 

Ridenour responds:

Sherman, I don’t think it can be said better than you said it.
With all the advantages of hard rubber–and the remarkable lower cost–you wonder what clarinet players could be thinking…..actually, you wonder why they don’t think but act like sheeple.

 


storm in buffalo philharmonic woodwind section rages

June 7, 2015

for those even thinking of the orchestra business, look elsewhere, for there are fewer positions and much better ways to sustain oneself,  musically,during our time.  

stay well, sherman

 The accusations might seem insignificant – even trivial.

The sweeping gesture of a musical instrument. Hitting a flat tone. Or playing too slowly at times.

But to some musicians in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, it smacked of sabotage.

And it cost Pierre Roy his job as principal oboist for the orchestra.

Not even an apology to the orchestra or his skill – by all accounts he is a highly talented player – could mend his relationships with the principal flutist and the second oboist, among others.

Normally, the ins and outs of a workplace squabble aren’t news. Most everyone knows what it feels like to work alongside co-workers who don’t get along – or are hard to deal with. But this infighting played out in one of Western New York’s highest-profile cultural institutions and affected the performances and moods of its members.

In workplace disputes, people often don’t like to talk on the record, and that is the case with the orchestra, where hard feelings drove a wedge in the wind section. The Buffalo News reached out to lawyers for Roy and the orchestra, offering an opportunity for anyone involved to speak. Roy’s attorney spoke. No one from the orchestra responded. So The News pieced together what happened by reviewing court documents, including an arbitrator’s report and the emails, letters and testimony from musicians and orchestra managers that leave no question about the turmoil inside the orchestra

Several musicians supported Roy, citing their good relationships with him and admiration for his musical skills and professionalism.But others felt belittled or annoyed by what they called his distracting behavior in rehearsals.

“I felt like he was mocking me when I was sitting there,” flutist Betsy Reeds told an arbitrator, of several occurrences. “Just the tone. I felt like he was making fun of my tone and my movements when I play.”

After orchestra managers investigated complaints against him, they fired Roy in July 2012, ending his nearly 17-year career at the orchestra.

But Roy won’t go away quietly. In March, he filed a petition in State Supreme Court, hoping to void the arbitrator’s ruling that supported his firing. He wants to be reinstated. The case has since been moved to federal court.

e hall and the musicians were warming up.

“Why did you hit me?” Roy asked him.

“That little bump?” Christner replied, according to Roy.

“Then he said … ‘If you want to start something, go right ahead. But if I would have hit you, I would have knocked you (down),’ ” Roy recounted.

The confrontation happened in view of the audience, though it’s unclear if anyone in the crowd could hear what was said.

Christner, in his testimony, said he tried to stop the argument with Roy.

“I said this is no place to do this,” Christner said. “If you’re having an issue with me, don’t do it on stage. It was just inappropriate.”

Six months later, the orchestra sent warning letters to both, citing Roy for pursuing Christner on stage and Christner for his remark to Roy.

Mimicked and mocked

Musicians reported more incidents after that, but only one occurred during a concert. Second oboist Kate Estes testified Roy played “extremely under the pitch and very much behind the beat, almost half a beat behind the rest of the orchestra” at a concert in January 2012.

“I didn’t know whether I should play with him or with the orchestra,” Estes said. “I decided to play with the rest of the orchestra. There was no way I could match his pitch level at that point.”

On Feb. 11, 2012, Davis filed an email complaint saying Roy had mimicked her movements during a rehearsal for the Broadway Rocks concert.

Roy testified that he was cleaning reed shavings off his lap. But Davis didn’t buy his explanation.

“Pierre mimicked and mocked everything I did for the entire rehearsal, from brushing lint off my pants to how I was sitting in my chair, to taking the hair off the back of my neck, to how I was cleaning my flute,” she testified.

Several musicians noted Roy’s gestures, which surprised them because they described Roy as a player with minimal body movement.

“It wasn’t a gesture that I had ever seen before in the orchestra and I wondered what was happening, and then I saw Christine brush something off her pant leg and immediately afterward Pierre Roy did the same thing but in a very big gesture,” Estes said.

Yet another long-tenured musician, in court documents, said she did not witness anything unusual or rude in the behavior of Roy, or any flaws in his playing, during this time.

Later in February 2012, Davis again complained to managers about Roy, accusing him of aggressively swinging the bell of his oboe into her space, in a side-to-side movement, during rehearsals for John Adams’ “Lollapalooza.”

She said he consistently made the gesture at a particular place in the score where she was having trouble with an entrance.

“When we got back to the same place to rehearse, Pierre Roy made a very sharp movement with his oboe, pointing his bell at me,” she said in an email to the orchestra manager, Hart.

Mattix, the horn player, testified that Roy made similar gestures toward Estes.

Once, “I was concerned because I thought he was about to strike her instrument with his instrument,” Mattix said.

Roy denied making such gestures. He said he was cuing the principal clarinetist. But after Davis’ complaint, orchestra managers installed a Plexiglas shield between her and Roy.

In his testimony, Roy said that he felt Davis was a “very dangerous person in the orchestra” because she would complain and write letters about others she was not happy with. He said she was “sort of like the orchestra police.”

Fallout with Falletta

During rehearsals for the Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in March 2012, several musicians noticed Roy “playing flat,” according to the arbitrator’s report.

“They concluded that this could only have been deliberate,” the report said.

“It was really horrifying,” Falletta told the arbitrator. “The playing was deliberately out of tune, which, of course, creates a situation that is completely confusing for everyone. A person of Pierre’s level, skill and professionalism would only play that way intentionally. It was something I’ve never heard in my life. I can’t remember another situation where a musician would sabotage a rehearsal like that.”

g, she said, “is just not the way things are done.”

Roy and Falletta seemed to have a good relationship for a long time. In court documents, he talks of her support for him over the years, and her kindnesses to him with words and tokens.

“I think she’s been very complimentary to me throughout my history with the orchestra,” Roy said.

They talked about music, he said, and Falletta told him at times “how much she has enjoyed my playing.”

Yet, Falletta by March 2012 issued a warning letter to Roy about his employment.

She cited an episode in early March that year, saying Roy played during a rehearsal with “a marked lack of musicianship.”

 He said he didn’t think that was fair, and that it seemed like more was being required of him than of others.

Personality conflict

While the arbitrator said he admired Roy’s musicianship and spirit, he ruled out giving Roy his job back.

“He never came to terms with his anger problem,” Rabin said in his Dec. 1, 2014, decision. “He engaged in unacceptable conduct that made it difficult for the musicians around him to do their job. His return would cause unacceptable anxiety.”

 


Fear, Lennie, Trouble in Tahiti, and after

June 1, 2015

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Above 1960, Carol Plantamura, sf and pianist, George Crumb, rehearsing.

I have been quite ill for more than two years, am now unable to walk, and in a long term care home.
they do what I need, and i am comfortable and well cared for.
This site has been my second career in music, and i have, almost desperately, been trying to write something that would be true, of quality, which has eluded me until, perhaps today.. It started with a call from my doctor telling me to go to the hospital, as I had pulmonary edema.

I was given an echocardiogram, and told to go for angiogram, which found an aortic valva worn out, was told that i had about two weeks to live, unleass i had surgery, was too old, abd offered a less invasive surgery that would provide me with a replacement from a pig( ), faster healing less invasive, and possible.
It took abot a year, operation successful, except that my femoral artery ruptured and I lost almost all of my blood.
I survived and much of this will describe the last year and where I am today.

One of the many gifts we have, is the joy and recollection of musicswhich we havent remebered for years.  Truly unbelievable,

That is what I did before lunch: listen to, and watch, Trouble in Tahiti. (you can find it easily on youtube.) This work, like all of Bernstein, contains all of Bernstein; three notes followed by the leap of a sixth or seventh; before On The Waterfront, and of core West Side.

And I was at the  rehearsal in Waltham, at Brandeis Univesity, invited by my teacher, who was playing Bass clarinet . 

It is where I first heard Felix Viscuglia, who was playing eb clarinet, as beautifully as this difficult opening can be played. In retrospection, he is the finest player of my lifetime. Playing all on everything, and exemplary saxophone, as well.He had the intuition of Wright, without quite the imagination and pristine presentation. But phil could do all of the possible with ease. He became my best friend in the business, my most fondly remembered, may he rest in peace.

more soon.