I attended both Thursday and Friday night's performances of the ISO and it was bittersweet - for myself and for every other patron with whom I spoke. It's not lost on this city how unfairly our musicians were treated in this whole mess. The question that keeps coming up from everyone is "why." Especially when, while sitting in the audience and seeing these musicians perform, one absolutely realizes that many of the best of brightest of these players will be gone soon because of shortsightedness and abject stupidity on the part of John Thornburgh and the faction of the board of directors that drove this action. I find it ironic that in the symphony program, Thornburgh's picture and the names of every board member are listed on the same page as the symphony's mission statement: The mission of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is to advance the enjoyment and appreciation of symphonic music through performances at the highest artistic level and innovative programs that challenge, educate, enrich, and entertain. Just about every aspect of this mission was betrayed by the board. I also find it ironic that it is listed opposite the corporate sponsors page. Why aren't these people - who provide such a service to this city - putting pressure on the board to assure "performances at the highest artistic level." There are only around 1,500 musicians in the COUNTRY who do what our musicians can do. You want unsustainable? It's expecting a musician who is already among the lowest paid in the country to stay here and take a 32% cut in an already low salary when they can get up to 3 times their salary elsewhere. Many of them can. Many of them will. But at least we know who to blame. As for the why...word is there has been massive misappropriation and mismanagement of the endowment by the board. Couple this with poor marketing, poor in-house management and no current full-time qualified people in management positions, and all I can say is "for shame" that our musicians have been made to bear the brunt of the board's ineptitude. And many of my fellow patrons feel the same way.
It was a mugging. The musicians are bearing 110% of the brunt and management is the cause of 125% of the problem. Musicians WILL leave. When the talent level has reached that of a community orchestra, Urbanski WILL leave. We won't be able to replace any of them. No one qualified will want to come in from a management standpoint. And Thornburgh and Groth will have - either through stupidity, hubris, defensiveness, ineptitude or a combination of all – reduced this once world-class orchestra to, effectively, The Indianoplace Municipal Orchestra. Enjoy it while you can folks.
Thornburg, are you listening? Groth, are you listening? Click below for an excerpt from the musicians of the ISO and their recent packed concert at the Palladium. And be sure to stick around for the applause. http://youtu.be/3d3O677ke98
The problem is mismanagement, a LACK of management and a myopic board that can't see the handwriting on the wall. They need to cut a 1 year deal, fix the real problem here - it's not costs, it's the inability of bad management to raise money to meet a very REASONABLE budget (Detroit cut their costs and their musicians STILL make $10,000 a year more than an ISO musician). Short term deal. Musicians play. New management is sought out. A smarter board is seated by the society and donors. A long term deal is hammered out while the musicians do their jobs, new management ostensibly does its job, and serious effort is put into a new fundraising initiative. There is enough in the current endowment to run this orchestra at present levels for 6 years. There is simply no logical reason to pursue what is potentially a suicidal course of action by an inept management team and a board of directors that thinks it's running a for-profit widget factory. Get it done. And get Ballard off his fat a$$ and back here working on a solution for a $386 million/year arts business here in Indy instead of going on an Australian junket that's only exceeded by Indy's Super Bowl boondoggle in short-sighted stupidity.
Best article yet on this situation. The subsequent lockout of the musicians is not entirely unexpected in the scheme of things. But the musicians tried to preserve concerts for their patrons and sponsors with a number of proposed - and fair - short-term extensions that were summarily rejected by so-called management( even though it was probably NOT in musicians best interests to offer a 2-month deal). If I'm the musicians I do two things right now...I file a vote of no-confidence for the bookkeeper, interns and admin staff that is serving as interim "management" of the ISO - that's right, the ISO has no CEO, no marketing director and no development (fundraising) director. Second, I tell the ISO board that under no circumstances will there be negotiation of any deal longer than one year...that's right, I'd flat out to refuse to negotiate any long-term deal with the ISO until they get their own ship in order. Why should the musicians take a long-term hit in salary - and make a long term investment in the ISO, and the symphony take a BIG time hit artistically - when no one knows who's running the railroad? Especially since it is poor management, poor marketing and lack of an integrated, smart development effort that is the actual CAUSE of this problem. Contrary to what the board has to contend to make their idiotic position even remotely credible (and then only to people as myopic as they are), it's not a cost issue that the symphony is fighting. It's management's inability to raise the funds needed to maintain the orchestra at what are absolutely reasonable costs when you compare the ISO to any other major orchestra in the country. The musicians have already given over $7 million in concessions since 2003 and haven't effectively had a pay increase since that time. So it's not that the musicians are over-compensated, they're UNDERFUNDED by poor management, embarrassingly bad marketing and an inability for development to connect given how bad the management and the marketing is. No long term deal without a long-term vision by the board regarding management. "Bring us a one year deal we''ll look at it. Anything longer than that, don't waste all our time." That should be the stance of the symphony musicians moving forward. In the meantime, the society and the major sponsors need to look at the small draconian faction of the ISO board that is driving this whole thing and take an honest assessment of whether or not they're truly acting in the interest of the ISO and in alignment with the symphony's artistic mission. Personally, I feel a board shakeup is in order - especially since not all the members of the ISO board are ON board with this action.
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