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Detroit Symphony Orchestra - financial problems


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
but there are requirements on their non-contractual return ...

Last Updated: March 01. 2011 3:17PM
DSO musicians vote to return to work with no contract

Michael H. Hodges / Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians today voted to return to work without a contract if management accepts their plan for binding arbitration, they announced in a press conference outside of Orchestra Hall this afternoon.

In a press release on the subject, the musicians said they would offer a plan to "end the strike by returning to work under the conditions management has imposed on the employees and without a new contract settlement."

That plan includes binding arbitration with three arbitrators, one chosen by each side and the third chosen by the arbitrators themselves.

"We're very encouraged the musicians took this important step," said DSO spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt at the conference. "Clearly our legal team needs to talk to their lawyers to determine the conditions under which the musicians would return."

The musicians are ready to return to work once there's an agreement on the arbitration, said principal horn player Karl Pituch.

Management's implementation of a contract with more than 30 percent pay cuts in first-year base pay sparked the Oct. 4 walkout. In January, DSO officials put a more generous offer on the table with cuts of about 20 percent, but withdrew it and suspended the rest of the 2010-2011 seasons when musicians rejected the proposal Feb. 19. The arbitrators would work with the offers each side proposed in January before those talks failed.

(313) 222-6021

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110301...return-to-work-with-no-contract#ixzz1FNiegJ9i



Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
One of the guys that I occasionally use as a sideman used to play in the Tulsa organization during a prior life. He said that the mismanagement was incredible, and that he was glad that he was never dependent upon the income from the orchestra.

(Both he and his wife are odd ducks in that they are both doctors, but neither of them practices medicine. She has a doctorate in nursing, he in clarinet.)

San Jose is the prototypical case of what's wrong. They have just enough interest there to organize an orchestra, but nowhere near enough interest to support one. They have risen and fallen no less than three times in my living memory.
I'm curious what the mismanagement was?
Not able to bring in enough donor $
guest players, guest conductors, expanding (or shrinking) concert schedule ?


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Hey, I can't believe this! There are still journalists who rely on spiral bound note padlets!

You may now proceed with your routine. Sorry for the interruption.
management can't seriously consider arbirtration since arbitration is a wild card and is always about "what's fair". It will no doubt run comparibles to other similar orchestras to determine salary, which the DSO simply cannot afford.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
one update with the AFM

Last Updated: March 04. 2011 1:00AM
Support for DSO strikers

Michael H. Hodges / The Detroit News

Musicians from four U.S. orchestras plan to wear bracelets during performances to support the striking members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

American Federation of Musicians spokeswoman Honore Stockley said Thursday that players are participating from the Colorado
Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

She says the bracelets will read "AFM Solidarity," which refers to the national federation that is coordinating the effort.
Stockley says talks are under way with other orchestras.

The Detroit musicians walked off the job Oct. 4. Management suspended the remainder of the season last month after musicians rejected a contract proposal.

Musicians have proposed returning to the stage and creating a binding arbitration panel to work out unresolved issues.
They're awaiting a response from orchestra management.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110304/ENT01/103040316/Support-for-DSO-strikers#ixzz1FmpfveHv


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
pre-post-talks update
Last Updated: March 05. 2011 1:00AM
DSO talks to last into weekend

Response pending to union proposal for arbitration

Michael Hodges / The Detroit News

Attorneys for both sides in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike continued to talk Friday, according to musicians' and management sources.

"We expect that activity will continue throughout the weekend," said DSO spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt.

At issue is whether DSO officials will agree to binding arbitration to settle the five-month-old strike, as musicians proposed Tuesday. The proposal included no deadline for a response, though some have since complained about the time they've waited for an answer.

"We continue to hold out the hand of friendship in hopes we can find a pathway to settlement," said musicians' spokesman Greg Bowens. "But our patience is not without end."

Paul Hogle, DSO executive vice president, cautioned against imposing a countdown on the process or reading too much into how long it takes.

"The musicians' attorney, Leonard Leibowitz, has been in regular exchanges with our negotiating attorney (Bernard Plum)," Hogle said. "When exchanges are going on with the attorneys, that's a good thing. Serious matters should allow for serious exchange."

Musicians walked out Oct. 4 after talks collapsed and officials at the financially strapped orchestra imposed a new contract with wide-ranging changes in work rules and base-pay cuts of 30 percent. Over time, the two sides edged closer to an agreement. Management's most recent proposal softened the pay cuts to 20 percent. It also included a contentious $2 million that would be exclusively restricted to community outreach and education. Musicians rejected that offer Feb. 19.
DSO officials then suspended the remaining season.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110305/ENT01/103050353/DSO-talks-to-last-into-weekend#ixzz1FmqCmkMd
Arbitration just isn't going to happen. The whole idea is probably just a way to manipulate public opinion on the part of the musicians. 100k in the national scope is certainly in line with "what's fair" from a wage standpoint, which is what arbitration will likely decide, but it's not remotely affordable for the DSO.


Old King Log
Staff member
They just need to stop churning up the mud, and face the fact that the orchestra, for whatever reason, does not have the money to pay musicians at the level that is a fair wage for their abilities. The net result is that it's time to bite the bullet, take the loss on the house, and go somewhere where there is a demand for this sort of thing. They're not the first that this has happened to, and they won't be the last. People may have to rent out their houses rather than sell, but that's happened a lot over the last fifteen years in towns a lot more prosperous than Detroit or Hamtramck. (I like typing Hamtramck...)

Detroit has enough other problems to worry about without agonizing over an obsolescent musical organization that not one in a hundred gives a hoot about. If San Diego, rich in industry and monied folks to the gills, cannot support a symphonic organization, what chance does Detroit, depressed and decaying, have?

It's too bad about the tradition, and those who enjoy the live music, and the musicians, and even the management, but the demand for their talents just is not there. Take a deep breath and move on, just like the foundrymen at the River Rouge did when they shut the doors for the last time at that magnificent monument to human ingenuity.

It's time to move on...


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
detroit news

march 31

Last Updated: March 31. 2011 1:00AM
DSO board backs offer to striking musicians

The Detroit News

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra board of directors Wednesday endorsed management's latest offer to striking musicians, with the proviso that an agreement be reached by Friday to save the summer season and plan concerts for 2011-12.
The offer boosts compensation for musicians to $34.3 million over three years, plus $2 million for community outreach and education activities. The union rejected a $34 million offer Feb. 19, prompting management to suspend this season.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110331...cks-offer-to-striking-musicians#ixzz1IBXBTsTy


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
Syracuse Symphony

Last Updated: March 31. 2011 1:00AM
Syracuse Symphony suspends its season

N.Y. orchestra to lay off staff, close office; cites $5.5M debt

Michael H. Hodges / Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

In a sign that the financial woes at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra are not unique, the Syracuse (N.Y.) Symphony has voted to suspend the rest of its 2010-11 season as well as all business operations.

The upstate New York orchestra recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. On Monday, officials said it will lay off its staff.

"It's tough," symphony spokeswoman Vicky D'Agostino said Wednesday.
"Ninety-three people lost their jobs last night."

The symphony's board of directors blamed financial woes, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Unlike Detroit, no strike was involved. But the symphony has a debt of $5.5 million on an annual budget of $6.9 million.

The board of directors decided to throw in the towel after March fundraising efforts fell short, according to the paper, and the 61 orchestra musicians refused to accept $1.3 million in wage and benefit cuts.

The musicians' union had reportedly offered $715,000 in new concessions, with another $200,000 possible by temporarily changing the mix of orchestra and contract players.

Management and musicians are scheduled to meet today to see if compromise is yet possible, the Post-Standard reported, and noted that a similar suspension at the symphony occurred in 1992, from which it recovered

DSO musicians walked out on strike Oct. 4 when management implemented a new contract with more than 30 percent cuts in starting salary and wide-ranging changes in work rules.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110331...se-Symphony-suspends-its-season#ixzz1IBXKA3BU


Old King Log
Staff member
If I were a practicing symphonic musician elsewhere, I would be worrying myself to death.

The Detroit and Syracuse folks are bad off, but at least they know exactly where they stand right now. Employees at other art music operations are now most likely paying a lot more attention to the financial health statements of their endowments than they were before.

Sadly (for them), outside employment opportunities are very limited right now. Their chosen field is almost a closed shop, with dozens of potential applicants for every position. And, employment in other fields is often quite difficult for folks with music degrees in normal times, much less the way it is in these days of recession.

"Work at something else to make a decent living, and play music for fun," I have always preached. A downer of an idea for many in the field, but a lot more realistic than the stardust and unicorn dreams of many of my musician friends.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
more news

DSO, musicians to return to bargaining

8:49 PM, Apr. 1, 2011 |

Maestro Leonard Slatkin, center, conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in February, 2010 during a performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, Fla. / Steve Nesius/AP Photo

Musicians and management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra are heading back to the bargaining table Saturday for their first face-to-face negotiations in six weeks.

The meeting is an encouraging sign that the two sides may have narrowed their differences to the point that a settlement in the bitter six-month strike is in sight. But given the topsy-turvy plot twists and rancor of the epic dispute, no one should be popping champagne corks just yet.

Still, both sides acknowledged late this afternoon that each had accepted compromise terms in a proposal by a mediator and that a negotiating session would be scheduled. A deal by early next week would clear the way for concerts to resume at Orchestra Hall with music director Leonard Slatkin next weekend.

Management had said all or part of the summer season could be canceled without a settlement by today. Officials said in a statement that a decision was on hold pending the outcome of weekend talks.

Working through e-mails and phone calls between attorneys and negotiating teams, the two sides recently reached consensus on a $36.3-million framework for a three-year deal, including $2 million earmarked for public outreach initiatives. But a major conflict remained over the size of base salaries in the final year of the contract. This is the so-called “hockey stick” recovery that management said from the start was unacceptable and the musicians demanded to prevent the DSO from dropping too far from its historic spot among the nation’s top 10 orchestras in pay.

Other stumbling blocks included the length of the season, broadcast payments and scheduling of outreach activities like teaching and chamber music.

Management’s final offer from February proposed guaranteed minimum salaries dropping 23%, from last season’s $104,650 to the low $80,000s in all three years, while the musicians’ latest counterproposal put scale at $85,000 in the third year, plus $3,000 for broadcast media.

Management’s proposal also offered an additional $7,100 annually for musicians who volunteered for outreach work.

Neither side would discuss the compromise proposal devised by mediator Matt Cullen, president and COO of Rock Enterprises.

“We have a framework and I don't want to go into details that could be outdated by tomorrow,” said cellist Haden McKay, a musicians’ spokesman.
Management issued a statement that said, “The DSO agreed to get together to work through the remaining issues as soon as acceptance of terms proposed by one of our intermediaries had been acknowledged by both parties. The DSO agreed to these terms on Monday.

“The DSO learned this afternoon that the musicians have accepted this framework as well and we will be scheduling a face-to-face meeting … to resolve all other remaining issues.”

The cash-strapped DSO has lost $19 million since 2008, remains in default on the terms of its $54 million in real estate debt and is rapidly depleting its endowment to cover the red ink. The two sides have struggled to create a contract that will lower costs enough to sustain the orchestra financially and enable more outreach initiatives — while answering musicians’ concerns about parity with peer orchestras and minimizing changes to their work schedule. The strike began Oct. 4.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
well an agreement but it doesn't solve the financial woes of the organization.

DSO, striking musicians reach tentative agreement

8:04 AM, Apr. 4, 2011 |

Music maestro, please.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra announced this morning that it had reached a tentative contract settlement Sunday. The deal paves the way for the end of the bitter six-month strike that has left deep institutional scars while symbolizing a turbulent era of change among American orchestras.

If approved by the full membership of the orchestra, the deal would end the longest and most contentious labor dispute among American orchestras in decades. A vote is expected in the next 72 hours. The settlement was confirmed by DSO spokesperson Elizabeth Weigandt.

The DSO could be back on stage at Orchestra Hall as early as this weekend with music director Leonard Slatkin on the podium. About 75% of the season has been canceled due to the strike, and DSO management had said that a settlement was necessary over the weekend to salvage the final two months of concerts and preserve some or all of the summer season.

Details of the settlement were not immediately available
The deal came after a weekend of marathon bargaining, including more than 17 hours of talks on Saturday, ending at 5:30 a.m. Sunday. A final 10-hour session started up in the early afternoon, wrapping up around 11 p.m.

The negotiations were the first face-to-face talks between the two sides since February. They came in the wake of both sides accepting compromise terms devised by intermediary Matt Cullen, chief operating officer of Rock Enterprises — a $36.3-million framework for a three-year deal, including $2 million earmarked for public outreach initiatives.

Musicians’ spokesman Greg Bowens said the deal hammered out over the weekend was the first contract that the negotiating committee felt it could take back to the full orchestra. “This is the first negotiated settlement that they had,” he said. “Back in February it had been a take it or leave it deal.”

The heart of the dispute has been over the size of pay cuts aimed at stabilizing the horrific finances of the DSO, which has been drowning in more than $19 million in losses since 2008 and $54 million in real-estate debt on the Max M. Fisher Music Center. The value of the DSO’s unrestricted endowment (cash reserves) has plunged to $23 million from nearly $60 million in 2008.

Even with the significant reductions in musician costs promised by a new contract, DSO leaders are still projecting operating deficits of more than a million dollars annually in the next three years, and the debt on the Max hangs over the institution like an anvil.

Management had initially sought cuts in minimum base pay for the musicians of about 30%, but recent offers had centered on 23%, from last season’s $104,650 to the low $80,000s in all three years.

Management also sought work rules that would make it more affordable and easier to schedule outreach initiatives seen as key to broadening the DSO’s audience and donor base. Its recent proposals had offered an additional $7,100 annually for musicians who volunteered for outreach work like teaching, school concerts and chamber music.

Meanwhile, the musicians insisted on a contract that would keep the DSO within striking distance of its historic status as one of the 10 best-paid American orchestras. They also sought to minimize work rule changes that they said would downgrade the quality of the orchestra and, in combination with the pay cuts, make it harder attract and retain the best musicians.

The musicians’ latest counterproposal prior to last weekend’s talks had set minimum base salaries at $85,000 in the third year, with an extra $3,000 in pay for Internet and radio broadcasts and recordings. Those numbers were considerably less than the musicians’ previous proposals, which had set third year pay as high as $96,600.

The increase in base pay in the third year — the hockey-stick recovery sought by the musicians -- had been a particular sticking point. Other stumbling blocks were control over the scheduling of outreach activities, payment for media broadcasts and recordings and the length of the season — management wanted 36 weeks, the players, 35 weeks.

Pay cuts of more than 20% would be unprecedented among major American orchestras. And if adopted, the extensive opt-in approach to outreach work that’s been on the table would also break new ground for orchestras of the size and stature of the DSO.

The strike has taken an enormous toll. The DSO has lost millions in ticket income. Subscriptions have fallen to their lowest level in decades and it could take years to woo back audiences — and donors — alienated by the dispute. The strike has also cost each musician at least $55,000 in salary.

Beyond dollars, trust between the musicians and management has plummeted to what some players have described as an all-time low and, given the vitriol exchanged by the two sides during the strike, repairing relationships won’t be easy. Four musicians announced plans to leave the DSO for other jobs in recent weeks — three percussionists and acting principal flute — and at least some of the defections were tied to the turmoil.

Many other DSO musicians are known to have taken auditions for other orchestras so the losses could go higher.

DSO management considered a settlement in the strike the first step in rebuilding the orchestra’s business model into an enterprise sustainable in a state and city battered like no others during the recession. The second step is to reach a long sought-after deal with the banks that hold its $54 million in debt and could foreclose on the Max, forcing the DSO into bankruptcy.

The banks have been pushing DSO leaders to cut costs before agreeing to restructure the debt, which costs the orchestra about $2 million a year to finance.
The new musicians’ contract makes a deal with the banks more likely, but such an agreement is likely to wipe out a large chunk of the rest of the endowment. That means the orchestra will have little margin for error as it tries to climb out of its financial hole. Rebuilding the endowment is the third step in restructuring DSO’s model.
Time to polish off my flute or my drumsticks ...


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
of course it somehow seems right after the end of the strike that they found percussion people to fill in.

But now it seems the ConcertMaster is headed to Dallas.


Detroit Symphony Orchestra concertmaster to leave for position with Dallas Symphony
3:27 PM, May. 25, 2011 | 22 Comments

Violinist Emmanuelle Boisvert performs with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Kirk in the Hills on Sept. 11, 2010. / ROMAIN BLANQUART/Detroit Free Press


The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is losing its highest-ranking musician, a significant artistic blow as the orchestra seeks to heal the wounds left by the epic six-month musicians’ strike that ended in April.

Concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert, 47, first violinist of the DSO for 23 years and known for the refined elegance of her playing and her strong leadership of the DSO strings, has accepted the associate concertmaster position with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra beginning in September.

A handful of other DSO musicians have announced plans to leave the orchestra in the wake of the strike, including two principals in the percussion section and acting principal flute. But Boisvert — the first woman concertmaster of a major American orchestra when she joined the DSO in 1988 and the orchestra’s most recognizable star — is the highest-profile loss.

Boisvert, whose base pay was nearly $200,000 in 2008-09 according to DSO tax forms, is moving to a Dallas orchestra that would generally be regarded as a peer to Detroit, but Boisvert is taking several steps down in rank, from the No. 1 violin position to No. 4. The new contract in Detroit institutes pay cuts of about 23%.

Boisvert, who was in rehearsal at Orchestra Hall this afternoon, informed DSO officials of her decision this morning. In a statement, she did not directly address the orchestra’s troubles but her words of praise for the Dallas Symphony paralleled the oft-stated concerns of the Detroit musicians during the strike.

“This winter I performed with the Dallas Symphony on several occasions and marveled at their organization’s commitment to classical music, the intrinsic respect offered to musicians by the administration and esteemed Music Director, Jaap van Zweden, and the emphasis they place on communication and teamwork at all levels,” she said.

“I had planned to stay in Detroit for my entire career, but Dallas presented me with an opportunity I simply couldn’t refuse. Making the decision to leave Detroit has been heart wrenching.”

Speaking for Detroit Symphony management, board chairman Stanley Frankel said, “We thank Emmanuelle Boisvert for her many years of dedicated service and artistic excellence and wish her much happiness and success in her future endeavors with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

“Retaining and attracting top talent remains a priority for the DSO at every level and under the leadership of our music director Leonard Slatkin, the DSO will continue to achieve tremendous artistic success while building a sustainable and viable business model going forward.”

Boisvert’s last performances as concertmaster at Orchestra Hall in Detroit will be Thursday and Friday.


Old King Log
Staff member
"“Retaining and attracting top talent remains a priority for the DSO at every level and under the leadership of our music director Leonard Slatkin, the DSO will continue to achieve tremendous artistic success while building a sustainable and viable business model going forward.”"

Yeah, right, sure. They probably jumped with joy at the thought of losing a $200,000 slot from their payroll. And, trusting my buddy Lenny with the leadership of anything is a big mistake.

But, they will have to learn the hard harder hardest way...


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member

DSO 2011 Spring Season Shatters Sales and Fundraising Expectations
Friday, June 24th, 2011
by Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Reaching audience of 40,456

Raising more than $3M in gifts and pledges

First American orchestra to broadcast a series of live concerts via HD webcasts

DETROIT, (June 24, 2011) – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) announced today that it reached an audience of 40,456, achieving its spring revenue goal of $456,000, during its abbreviated 2011 Spring Season and raised $3,018,000 in gifts and pledges during the 8-week season that began April 9 and concluded June 5. The DSO reached an audience three times larger than expected and processed twenty times the number of tickets traditionally processed for the two-month time period between April and June. Annual Fund giving from individuals was also up 100% over the same period last year.

Total attendance for all Orchestra Hall performances achieved a solid 83% capacity with half of the evening performances selling out leading patrons to purchase “standing room only” seats for several of the performances. In pursuit of “meaning more to more people,” the DSO performed for an audience of more than 1,000 in three neighborhood venues that included Southfield, Beverly Hills and Dearborn. Patron Minded Pricing of $20 for all DSO concerts in Orchestra Hall welcomed new audiences; between one-third and one-half of Spring Season audiences across all venues were brand new to the DSO.

Following in its footsteps as the first orchestra in the world to broadcast radio concerts, the DSO became the first American orchestra to broadcast concerts, live, through a series of HD webcasts called Live From Orchestra Hall, delivering the DSO to a world-wide viewing audience. More than 7,000 viewers across the world tuned in to the webcasts, expanding the DSO’s Spring Season audience reach by an additional 17%. One third of these viewers were from outside the state of Michigan, representing a dozen different countries. Live From Orchestra Hall was generously underwritten by Phillip Wm. Fisher and produced in collaboration with Detroit Public Television.

The DSO’s 2010 – 2011 Annual Fund campaign has also earned notable achievements. Through June 5, the DSO raised $8,479,000 in gifts and pledges, with $3 million of that committed in April and May alone. Fundraising is ahead of last year’s campaign by $500,000 with the year-on-year number of donors up 1,000 or 27%. The annual Classical Roots gala in March raised over $118,000 and personal giving from the Board of Directors is closing in on $2 million – up 88% over last year at this time. Several board members have increased and even doubled their contributions, resulting in additional revenues exceeding $200,000.

Launched this spring, the new Governing Members program has attracted over 20 new members who join 85 legacy donors at the $2,500 and up level. Inspired by the DSO’s movement to address the deeper engagement of its leadership-giving patrons, the majority of these donors graduated to the $2,500 level from the $400 and up range of giving. Seven of these donors had either not made a gift in recent years or had never given a previous gift to the DSO’s Annual Fund. As the Spring Season concluded, Governing Member giving exceeded $1 million.

Finally, the DSO’s broadest base of community donors (giving $1 to $2,499) has grown by one-third over last year at this time with gifts coming from nearly 4,000 households. This is 12.5% ahead of last year.

“I have found that people are inspired by the DSO’s Spring Season results,” said Anne Parsons, DSO President and CEO. “These sales and fundraising achievements send the message that the Orchestra’s work is appreciated and that our community is ready to support us as we move forward. We are committed to meeting some challenging goals in the years to come, and so we are delighted to be able to celebrate some early success as we prepare for next season.”

The DSO’s summer season will conclude with appearances at Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford on June 30-July 3 and at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House on July 8-9. The DSO annual fund will wrap up on August 31, 2011. The $11 million DSO Annual Fund will wrap up on August 31, 2011. A continued community response of new and increased gifts will ensure a successful campaign, placing the institution on more secure footing for the much anticipated 2011 – 2012 season.


Old King Log
Staff member
That's the "bounce", but what about the long haul?

This sort of thing has happened in the past (in four times failed San Diego, for example), and is reflective of the 'feel good, we've got it done' euphoria that occurs when a "recovery" from a financial disaster has occurred. I'm happy for them that they have accomplished this, but the true measure of success will be during the subsequent years, when the gloss is off of the "victory" and the first obstacles are encountered.

Call me back in three years...