Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

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John F
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Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:46 am

Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians go on strike
Howard Reich
March 10, 2019



For the first time since 2012, the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra went on strike on Sunday evening. “We have been clear from the beginning that we will not accept a contract that diminishes the well-being of members or imperils the future of the orchestra,” said Stephen Lester, CSO bassist and chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee, in a statement. “As of today, the musicians of the CSO are on strike. Beginning at 8 a.m. Monday morning, March 11, picket lines will stretch across all of the doors of Orchestra Hall through 8 p.m. daily until a contract that is fair to the musicians is reached. It is requested that no orchestra, performer or patron cross the line.”

At issue is orchestra management’s proposal to alter the musicians’ pension from a defined benefit plan to a direct contribution plan, as well as a salary dispute. Negotiations have been under way for more than 11 months.

“The trustees of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) are disappointed that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians – represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians – have given notice they intend to strike after 11 months of thoughtful negotiations,” said CSOA board chair Helen Zell in a statement. “The board is passionate about helping ensure that our world-class city has a world-class orchestra, and our commitment to the art form and the artistic quality of the CSO is as strong as ever.

“As board members we are responsible for the financial well-being of the Association that governs the orchestra, not only in the present, but well into the future so that Chicago has a symphony for future generations. It is for these reasons that we believe we must secure both the musicians’ future and that of the Association’s by updating our pension structure and agreeing on a complete compensation package that is sustainable.”

Over the weekend, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and the Chicago Federation of Musicians exchanged pointed press releases.

On Friday evening, CSOA president Jeff Alexander emailed a detailed outline of management’s contract proposal to all the CSO musicians and to the media, in effect bypassing the musicians’ negotiating committee. “I am writing to you today because it is important for you to understand the offer the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has made to the Chicago Federation of Musicians for your new contract,” said Alexander in the letter. “It is an offer that increases your wages, improves your working conditions, preserves your earned retirement benefit, adds a generous new retirement benefit, and maintains your excellent contract.”

On Saturday afternoon, the musicians’ union responded with its own email message to its membership. “While there are some encouraging aspects to the Association’s proposal, they do not come close to addressing our fundamental concerns,” read the statement. “What remains clear is that the Association is not offering wages that will keep us competitive with other major orchestras. The percentage increase (in salary) they propose is less than virtually all other major orchestras, dropping us further behind relative to those groups, and does not keep pace with inflation. They also propose to eliminate our guaranteed retirement benefit.”

Specifically, management’s proposal, as outlined in Alexander’s letter, calls for:

• Increases in annual base pay during the proposed contract’s three seasons by 1, 2 and 3 percent ($160,606 to $163,818 to $167,094).

• “Retains your current medical, dental and life insurance coverage with no increase in your weekly contributions toward the cost of the premiums, and no reductions in the plans’ features.”

Regarding pension, management proposes shifting from a defined benefit plan to a direct contribution plan. “The challenge with the current defined benefit plan is the funding requirements as proscribed by the IRS have grown dramatically in recent years,” said Alexander’s letter. “In the case of the CSO, for example, two years ago we were required to put $803,000 into the DB pension fund. This year we will be required to put in $3,800,000. Projections indication we will have to contribute $5 to $6 million per year into the DB fund over the next several years, and $36 million into the fund over the next eight years.”

The musicians counter that the direct contribution plan will be detrimental to the players’ financial well-being and to the future of the orchestra. “The core difference between our plan and their proposal is that our plan keeps the guaranteed retirement benefit funded by the Association that has been the hallmark of the Orchestra’s benefit package (and those of other leading orchestras) for over 50 years,” said Cynthia Yeh, CSO percussionist and member of the negotiating committee. “The Board of Trustees’ proposal strips the membership of that guaranteed benefit and shifts the investment risk to the individual member. The board’s communique to orchestra members and the press represents an unrealistic, snake oil, ‘rosy scenario’ sales job of their proposals.”

Added CSO bassist Lester in a statement, “Management’s release to the orchestra and the media also fails to mention the other concessions the Association continues to demand, such as reducing sabbatical weeks, reducing substitute pay, and eliminating the $3,000 annual individual pension supplement. We won’t be fooled.”

Last week, CSO music director Riccardo Muti issued a statement saying, “As music director and a musician of this orchestra, I am with the musicians. “I understand their needs and how they should be treated, and the fact that they are among the best musicians in the world,” he added. “A crisis would damage the image of the institution. The musicians themselves, the public and the entire musical world would be surprised to see the orchestra in trouble. I hope before my return in a few days, everything will be settled, giving the musicians the recognition they deserve. I hope that the board will remember that theirs is not a job but a mission, and that tranquility and serenity will be given for the artists to do their work.”

The orchestra was next scheduled to perform on Thursday, with Muti conducting.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... story.html
John Francis

Rach3
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Rach3 » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:10 am

John F wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:46 am
“In the case of the CSO, for example, two years ago we were required to put $803,000 into the DB pension fund. This year we will be required to put in $3,800,000. Projections indication we will have to contribute $5 to $6 million per year into the DB fund over the next several years, and $36 million into the fund over the next eight years.”

Thanks for this article.


$36M ?! Ouch !!

maestrob
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by maestrob » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:11 am

Defined benefit pensions are a relic from the XXth Century. 401Ks are the wave of the future for large businesses, indeed putting the investment risk into the hands of the individual. Many large corporations have abolished pensions already. Transitioning from a defined benefit pension to a 401K is risky for the individual employee, as not all people are created to be savvy about investing, and many panic and pull out of the stock market and their 401Ks when the market turns south, leaving themselves no income for retirement other than Social Security, which is just not enough to live on.

I'm with the musicians in this case. Defined benefit pensions, while they usually don't increase with inflation, preclude the option of withdrawing your money, thus are guaranteed income for life. Ideally, the Chicago Board should offer a 401K option (It costs them nothing to do so unless they offer matching funds as an incentive to join.) to the musicians while keeping the defined benefit pension in place.

John F
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:16 pm

Riccardo Muti joins CSO strikers in front of Symphony Center
Howard Reich
March 12, 2019


In a passionate and historic appearance, the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — Riccardo Muti — joined his striking colleagues at the picket line in front of Symphony Center on Tuesday morning.The maestro, who last week issued a statement saying “I am with the musicians,” made good on those words by appearing at a press in conference called by the CSO players, who announced their strike on Sunday evening.

Later in the day, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association announced that all CSOA -presented concerts from Thursday through Saturday are canceled.

Before making public comments, Muti greeted his CSO colleagues warmly, with hugs, kisses and handshakes all around. Muti is in town to conduct this week’s CSO concerts, with rehearsals scheduled to have started Tuesday morning. But they were preempted by a strike being fought primarily over the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s proposal to restructure the musicians’ pension and a dispute over salaries. “This is a great event,” said Stephen Lester, CSO bassist and chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee, in warming up the crowd of reporters and onlookers. “We’re extremely happy to have our music director, maestro Muti, here with us. We’d normally be rehearsing right now on the Orchestra Hall stage.”

When Muti approached the phalanx of news organizations’ microphones, orchestra members cheered and applauded robustly. “I am here with my musicians,” said the conductor. “Today we were supposed to have rehearsal.” Referencing the CSO artists, he continued, “We try to get a better situation for their life, their pension, their work.

“Some people, they want to read my position with the musicians as against the board,” added Muti. “This is not true. I would just like them to listen more carefully to the musicians, who represent one of the great orchestras of the world.”

Muti then addressed the importance of the orchestra and the gravity of the situation. “The entire world, the entire musical world, is listening to what they do in Chicago,” he said. “When the Chicago Symphony goes around the world, the musicians not only play, they are ambassadors for the culture of the country. It’s a big responsibility (for) the city of Chicago, (for) the board, to take care of this treasure. The collapse of the Chicago Symphony (would be) such a tragedy that can affect not only the musicians, but the world. The Chicago Symphony represents one of the temples of culture of this nation and of the world.”

Then Muti reiterated that “this, again, is not an attack on the board.” “I came here with my musicians, I am proud of my musicians, I will try to reconcile” the dueling parties, he added. “Conflicts happen in family between a father and son. This is a moment of crisis.”

Muti argued against assertions that the musicians work but a few hours on stage, then relax. He pointed out that the artists prepare assiduously for concerts and bear the pressure of representing a pre-eminent ensemble. The music that they produce “in this building — we don’t entertain people. Music is not entertainment. It’s culture. It’s sacrifice.”

After Muti left the microphones, CSO bassist Lester returned to remind everyone that, regarding the strike, “we didn’t do this in a trivial matter.”

Indeed, the strike already has extracted a particularly high price from CSO piccolo virtuoso Jennifer Gunn, who was scheduled to play the orchestra’s premiere of Ken Benshoof’s Concerto in Three Movements on Thursday evening. “I hope to play it sooner rather than later,” she said from the picket line. “Everything is up in the air.” Muti reassured Gunn, however, that he and the orchestra will return to the piece some time after the strike was settled, she said. So she’s still practicing the Benshoof and the Vivaldi concertos she was scheduled to perform this week in what would have been her most high-profile moment yet with the CSO, to which she was appointed by Daniel Barenboim in 2005.

Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot tweeted on Monday that “I stand in #Solidarity with Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians in their fight for a fair contract. The CSO is an important institution in this city, and the musicians deserve fair wages, benefits, and retirement security.” Anonymously, musicians on the picket line expressed anger and fear over the current impasse with management, and all offered gratitude for the maestro’s support. “I think it’s wonderful he’s here with the musicians,” said CSO concertmaster Robert Chen. “Usually, when there’s a labor issue, the music director is nowhere to be found.”

The session opened with CSO brass players performing a Fanfare by Paul Dukas from his ballet “La Peri,” and “The People’s House,” from John Williams’ film score for “Lincoln.”

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... story.html
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Belle » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:47 pm

maestrob wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:11 am
Defined benefit pensions are a relic from the XXth Century. 401Ks are the wave of the future for large businesses, indeed putting the investment risk into the hands of the individual. Many large corporations have abolished pensions already. Transitioning from a defined benefit pension to a 401K is risky for the individual employee, as not all people are created to be savvy about investing, and many panic and pull out of the stock market and their 401Ks when the market turns south, leaving themselves no income for retirement other than Social Security, which is just not enough to live on.

I'm with the musicians in this case. Defined benefit pensions, while they usually don't increase with inflation, preclude the option of withdrawing your money, thus are guaranteed income for life. Ideally, the Chicago Board should offer a 401K option (It costs them nothing to do so unless they offer matching funds as an incentive to join.) to the musicians while keeping the defined benefit pension in place.
If the country cannot adequately take care financially of a prestigious institution like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra then something is drastically wrong. I regard this as one of the greatest orchestras in the world - and surely this is a flagship cultural institution in the USA. (I read somewhere that the players in the Berliner Philharmoniker can afford a high standard of living, some of them driving expensive sports cars!!)

These top tier musicians are not road or construction workers, waiters or bus drivers - neither are they journalists, nurses or school teachers. Ergo, I'd expect state and/or national governments to special take care of these musicians.

In Australia we have Defined Benefits annuities which public servants and politicians get. It's a hot-button issue here when self-funded retirees like ourselves are about to be punished by the (expected) incoming Labor government to the tune of many many thousands of dollars of income annually (in our case $16,000). Meanwhile, back at Defined Benefits Central; politicians as young as 50 can retire on $280,000 pa - linked to INFLATION/all pay rises they would have achieved in their last position before retirement. My sister and her husband; retired high school teachers - are BOTH on 75% of the current salary of those professions (he was a Deputy Principal) until death and if one of them has re-married the new spouse gets a proportion of it until his/her death!! It's a complete crock when the rest of us - who've provided for our own retirements - are about to be robbed!! These same professionals like teachers, nurses, police etc. will argue they sacrificed wages to pay into superannuation and are entitled to these perversely generous pensions at taxpayer expense, conveniently forgetting that self-funded retirees have had to pay ALONG THE WAY for their own retirements too. Another argument is "oh well, you've got money you can spend on travel etc." and my counter argument is "with a yearly income like you get for NOT working you can well afford to travel each and every year - with a new car thrown in for good measure". At the moment these Defined Benefits schemes are off limits to all but politicians, senior public servants and judges. And now self-funded retirees are expected to subsidize all that!!! And there is absolutely no risk whatsoever to DB recipients in losing their own capital with investing - it's all underwritten smoothly by the taxpayer.

We have compulsory employer contributions of 9% here for superannuation but it's looking like a less attractive deal to young people because the ground rules keep changing annually with superannuation (yeah, thanks potential DB-recipient politicians!) and there's no longer any economic certainty with regard to retirement for them. There are other taxpayer rip-offs with this which I don't feel I can discuss because of one of my sons' current professional situation and another (in the private sector) is getting 13% superannuation from his employer as part of his total income package. But these will all mean belonging to an industry-based superannuation fund which takes care of everything. That's the type of thing your musicians in the CSO should be getting.

Rach3
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Rach3 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:15 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:16 pm
Riccardo Muti joins CSO strikers in front of Symphony Center
Howard Reich
March 12, 2019

Thanks for this, John F.

John F
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:18 pm

Belle wrote:If the country cannot adequately take care financially of a prestigious institution like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra then something is drastically wrong.
In the United States, "the country," in the form of the federal government, does not take care financially of the arts and arts institutions. That is left to state and local governments and private donors, the wealthiest of whom are typically on the institution's board of directors.

Chicago is one of the 10 wealthiest cities in the world, measured by gross domestic product, so there should be enough wealthy donors to keep its arts institutions afloat. There have to be, because the city's deep economic and social problems eat up its tax dollars so that Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs' funding levels have been among the lowest in the country, on both a per capita basis and in terms of total dollars, from 2002 to 2012.

Something is indeed drastically wrong, but I'm afraid it reflects many Americans' philistine attitude toward the arts as reflected in government policies and funding. The last American president who listened to classical music for pleasure or at all was Jimmy Carter (1979-1981).
John Francis

Rach3
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Rach3 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:20 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:18 pm
Chicago is one of the 10 wealthiest cities in the world, measured by gross domestic product, so there should be enough wealthy donors to keep its arts institutions afloat.
The State of Illinois is bankrupt , huge budget and pension plan deficits, almost junk-bond status, looking at instituting for first time a progressive State income tax about doubling the top income tax rate, increasing even further already high property taxes, both exacerbated by Trump's new Federal tax law SALT deduction elimination, also thinking about taxing now non-taxable retirement plan contributions such as to IRA's, 401k's, reducing Medicaid help.Chicago sales tax usually about 10%. Like much of the USA, cost of living , cost of housing, outstrips income increases. State employees, like the Symphony, have a defined benefit pension plan. But, of course, the rich got some tax breaks from Trump, so time will tell. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/reports/ ... -illinois/


Belle
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Belle » Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:37 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:18 pm
Belle wrote:If the country cannot adequately take care financially of a prestigious institution like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra then something is drastically wrong.
In the United States, "the country," in the form of the federal government, does not take care financially of the arts and arts institutions. That is left to state and local governments and private donors, the wealthiest of whom are typically on the institution's board of directors.

Chicago is one of the 10 wealthiest cities in the world, measured by gross domestic product, so there should be enough wealthy donors to keep its arts institutions afloat. There have to be, because the city's deep economic and social problems eat up its tax dollars so that Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs' funding levels have been among the lowest in the country, on both a per capita basis and in terms of total dollars, from 2002 to 2012.

Something is indeed drastically wrong, but I'm afraid it reflects many Americans' philistine attitude toward the arts as reflected in government policies and funding. The last American president who listened to classical music for pleasure or at all was Jimmy Carter (1979-1981).
I meant 'the country' in terms of the taxpayer. I'm more than deeply saddened to hear about the financial situation of the city of Chicago and State of Illinois generally (in a subsequent post by Rach3). Do you really think many Americans have 'philistine' attitudes towards the arts? Perhaps, John, they no longer have the disposable income; and, remember, it's the middle class more generally which enjoys and supports the arts. If that class is hollowed out then we have every reason to suppose their interests and artistic involvements will be negatively affected.

In Australia we have more people visit art galleries than attend sporting events - and this has been statistically proven. However, not terribly many support our symphony orchestras in our capital cities. I don't go to their concerts myself because (a) it's difficult to get there from where I live, and (b) The programs mostly just don't interest me. If I was being completely honest I'd say that live concerts were something I enjoyed in Vienna and elsewhere in Europe and that these days I mostly rely on my CD library and subscription services (eg. Medici) for my musical pleasure. But I would walk over hot coals to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which I first saw in 1988 (Solti) in Adelaide and again in 2011 with Muti at the Musikverein. It was a major life highlight. They were ON FIRE!!

John F
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:25 pm

Belle wrote:Do you really think many Americans have 'philistine' attitudes towards the arts? Perhaps, John, they no longer have the disposable income; and, remember, it's the middle class more generally which enjoys and supports the arts. If that class is hollowed out then we have every reason to suppose their interests and artistic involvements will be negatively affected.
Belle, I know what I'm talking about concerning the state of the arts in the U.S.,whether you like it or not. As for "the taxpayers," that's empty talk; it's not they but the politicians who decide how tax revenues are spent. If you've been following the news lately, you'll see that Trump the philistine-in-chief is proposing to cut federal spending on health care for the poor to pay for his wall between Mexico and the U.S. Forget about spending on the arts.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Belle » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:55 am

I didn't suggest you didn't know what you're talking about and, of course, taxpayers means politicians. I know of no taxpayers who make government decisions separate to politicians. :mrgreen:

I offered my sympathy and a suggestion that the middle classes may not be supporting music as much as they used to because of the decline in wages and living standards of this demographic in recent decades. To rely on philanthropy for the survival of art reminds me of the periods in our history to which Beethoven and many others beforehand belonged. This was seldom satisfactory.

It's quite expensive in Australia to attend concerts and operas - fields of endeavour which are extremely labour-intensive. But I wonder whether it was ever really inexpensive. It seems to me that artistic pursuits like concerts, recitals, opera and ballet will remain the prerogative of the more affluent - at least in the short to medium term. Perhaps the answer is more public broadcasting of these things. But I wonder how any of that is going to help the CSO.

I won't comment on your President except to say that, from his point of view, he's probably thinking he's fulfilling an election promise!!

maestrob
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:45 am

John's right, Belle. The American public used to worship and follow classical music avidly when I was a youngster, if not through attending concerts, then through watching Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts (a phenomenon that could not possibly happen today) on TV, or earlier, listening to live radio and TV broadcasts of Toscanini's NBC Orchestra. Classical music in America has been relegated to public television, rather than the commercial channels (ABC, NBC & CBS). There is the National Endowment for the Arts, but Washington has been threatening to eliminate that for the longest time. The level of taxpayer support for public broadcasting here is down to $1.35/person/year, ridiculously low, and by law cable companies cannot be charged for public content, which means that conscientious viewers make monthly contributions just to keep stations afloat.

The basic problem is the fragmentation of our culture, from European-centered to multi-cultured, so that the glories of European art no longer interest or are even offered to young people in schools. Sadly, we are losing interest as a culture in our own history. Civics hasn't been taught in public schools for a generation; they don't even teach cursive writing any more!

As for defined benefit pensions, they are about to blow up in our faces. Illinois is just one example. State and City pension systems, protected by strong public unions, are deeply in debt and will not be able to meet their obligations in the near future, so there is immense pressure on businesses to eliminate their own private pensions as well (The Federal government does guarantee the solvency of all private pensions up to a point.). The fight in Chicago over the Symphony's pension system is but the tip of the iceberg, I'm afraid. In this country, pensions such as Chicago's are funded not by taxpayers but by wealthy donors, who are feeling pressures of their own as popular resentment builds around income inequality.

To sum up, defined benefit pensions were established in the last century as an incentive to lure workers during the labor shortages in the massive post WWII period of growth in America, and are now giving way to financial pressures now that labor is not in such tight supply. There are now roughly 600,000 Americans who have given up work because they lack skills or are untrainable, or they cannot afford to work because wages are too low (The current federal minimum is at roughly a ridiculous $7.25/hr.). Pressures are mounting to eliminate pensions altogether, and the Chicago Board is feeling them. I doubt that the musicians will lose this battle, but the war on benefits will continue, of that I'm certain.

barney
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by barney » Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:55 pm

Didn't I see above that the CSO rank and file are on $160,000 a year? That's a heck of a lot more than rank and file musicians in Australian orchestras, and should be a living wage.
Arts support in Australia is negligible. Top tickets for Opera Australia are $300, and the company plays 11 months a year because it gets 20% of its funding from government. I interviewed Barrie Kosky a year ago. He was running Berlin's third biggest opera company, with an 80% subsidy from the city council, and could sell tickets from 20 Euros up to 80 (from memory).

But it's hard to argue that a symphony orchestra is a higher priority than health care for the poor. The US health system seems to me ideologically driven in a way that guarantees poor outcomes, because you don't want Australian-style "socialism". I read a few years ago that health in Australia takes 9% of GDP and covers everyone, whereas in the US it is 14% and vast numbers terrified of getting sick. Of course here too the wealthy get more choices, but if you have heart problems, for example, the big public hospitals are much the best, whether you are a billionaire or living on the street.

Belle
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Belle » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:22 pm

This was very very depressing reading, maestrob!! I remember my mother loving early TV broadcasts of those 'Young Peoples' Concerts" here in Australia - in grainy black and white, back in the day!! She loved and admired Bernstein and American culture more generally. I do certainly sense the changes to which you refer, and have done for some time.

I read this post of yours to my husband and we both agreed economic reform should have been undertaken in your country decades ago!! We have been fortunate to have had governments in the past which have done this, but the time has come to do it again now and nobody is touching it. A past Liberal Treasurer who was really successful introduced a "Future Fund" (about 15 years ago) which is a government-owned investment vehicle, to provide for retirement Defined Benefits for a huge swathe of the public service. That fund is thriving and governed by corporate experts. Now, the prospective Labor government is wanting to rob those of us who have provided for our own retirement while, at the same time, advocating for a 'living wage' for those in the workforce on the minimum wage!! What happened to our "minimum"?!!

Your point about retirees being thrown under a bus with regard to investment and making sure their own nest-eggs thrive is a very good one. We see that all the time here; people lose their money to scammers whilst others spend their 'head of water' (capital) on cars, caravans and trips and then turn to welfare. Instead of 'reforming' retirement incomes governments have attempted to get their greedy paws on the huge pool of money which belongs to the retired or soon-to-be retired demographic - whether public or private. There has even been talk of 'tapping into the Future Fund".

Your point about multiculturalism and the decline in western values is a very good one and an extremely sore point here in Australia for many of us. My husband and I very often say "we've lived in the best times; post WW2 baby-boomers, economic prosperity, peace and security". I never cease being thankful for that. We've just simply taken for granted your flagship cultural institutions, like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The problems, as I see it, in the USA boil down to this: can you ask the question "am I better off than my parents or grandparents were"? If the answer is in the negative then there are serious structural issues in the nation. Just one of these might be called "inequality".


Close your borders (there's a strong link between prolific supply and lower wages) - you are not personally responsible for the health and well-being of the rest of the world - and concentrate on economic reform and social stability. The boutique issues of gender, sexuality, identity politics; these are exclusively middle class issues which smack of elitism and they don't provide for CSO pensions OR hospital beds for people. It's all about the educated middle class flexing its muscles. We're seeing that here ON STEROIDS. Nobody cares about the poor anymore.

My late father once observed "it's always all about who gets what".

Belle
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Belle » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:42 pm

barney wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 4:55 pm
Didn't I see above that the CSO rank and file are on $160,000 a year? That's a heck of a lot more than rank and file musicians in Australian orchestras, and should be a living wage.
Arts support in Australia is negligible. Top tickets for Opera Australia are $300, and the company plays 11 months a year because it gets 20% of its funding from government. I interviewed Barrie Kosky a year ago. He was running Berlin's third biggest opera company, with an 80% subsidy from the city council, and could sell tickets from 20 Euros up to 80 (from memory).

But it's hard to argue that a symphony orchestra is a higher priority than health care for the poor. The US health system seems to me ideologically driven in a way that guarantees poor outcomes, because you don't want Australian-style "socialism". I read a few years ago that health in Australia takes 9% of GDP and covers everyone, whereas in the US it is 14% and vast numbers terrified of getting sick. Of course here too the wealthy get more choices, but if you have heart problems, for example, the big public hospitals are much the best, whether you are a billionaire or living on the street.
I hadn't seen your post before I wrote my comments! If you have to have an argument that "a symphony orchestra is a higher priority than health care for the poor" then something has gone seriously wrong.

Our Medicare system, to which you refer, is 'patchy' - to say the least. When I recently had cancer treatment it was post-operate radiotherapy and oncology in the public sector and the care and consistency was second to none. I was hugely impressed with the level of attention and the resources. As you say, when heart attacks and life-threatening events occur the only place is the public health system. Absolutely agree. (Though there are now some private hospitals offering emergency care!) But if you need knee replacements or are admitted for tests because you are in pain FORGET IT. You will join an ever-growing army of people and the endless round of young doctors who swan in and out, all with different opinions - when you are feeling very ill, vulnerable and getting nowhere fast - is unacceptable. We are now paying $555 per month for private health insurance and if the tax concession is removed from that it will be nearer to $750.

I have 'solutions' to some of these problems in Australia so that we can afford our social services, but I'm afraid they would be unpalatable to people who think government should continue to subsidize the 49% of people in our country who receive more in welfare than they pay in tax!! It will all collapse like a house of cards; let's hope I'm dead and buried before that happens.

Rach3
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Rach3 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:40 pm

I don't know whether these numbers are accurate ; what does a desk player at Vienna Phil. make ?

https://www.salaryexpert.com/salary/job ... ria/vienna

https://slippedisc.com/2018/03/what-mus ... rchestras/

Belle
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Belle » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:02 am

Rach3 wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:40 pm
I don't know whether these numbers are accurate ; what does a desk player at Vienna Phil. make ?

https://www.salaryexpert.com/salary/job ... ria/vienna

https://slippedisc.com/2018/03/what-mus ... rchestras/
I have read before that German orchestras pay very well, and presumably so do Austrian, Dutch, French etc. They are flagship cultural institutions and, in the case of Germany and Austria, responsible for high rates of tourism and much of those nations' cultural capital. They are valued and the people attend regularly. Why wouldn't they; the standards are absolutely excellent. During WW2 the BPO musicians were removed from the cities and protected from the depredations of war, ensuring the survival of that orchestra. Unsure about the VPO, since most of the war wasn't fought on their soil.

Asian nations are taking our art music to their hearts, very seriously indeed, and this is a cause of much optimism from me. China is on the economic ascent and will soon be the world's economic leader; they have 20 million children learning (western) musical instruments as we speak. What's not to love about that? What our people throw away with both hands other nations are willing to take with both of theirs.

John F
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Wed Mar 20, 2019 7:26 am

The strike continues. More evidence of American philistinism:

Trump's Budget Plan Cuts Funding For Arts, Humanities And Public Media
Brian Naylor
March 19, 2019

President Trump's proposed budget calls for big cuts in a wide array of domestic programs — among them, agencies that fund the arts, humanities and public media. Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be cut to zero under the proposal, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely, the first time any president has proposed such a measure.

The spending outline is what White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney calls a "hard-power budget," with spending increases for defense and homeland security at the expense of many other programs in the discretionary part of the budget. "Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?" he asked. "The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense and we will, but we can't ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."

CPB received $445 million in federal funding in the last fiscal year; the NEA and NEH got about $148 million each — a tiny portion of the roughly $4 trillion federal budget...

https://www.npr.org/2017/03/16/52040124 ... blic-media
John Francis

Rach3
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Rach3 » Wed Mar 20, 2019 8:42 am

What can Chicago be expected to pay ?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... story.html

However, is management fudging a bit on the pension numbers ?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... story.html

maestrob
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by maestrob » Wed Mar 20, 2019 11:13 am

Rach3 wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 8:42 am
What can Chicago be expected to pay ?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... story.html

However, is management fudging a bit on the pension numbers ?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... story.html
Sounds like nobody's backing down. 7% growth? Assumptions like this have ruined state pension funds around the country. I don't get where those assumptions come from, other than the Board's desire to underfund the pension fund. Yikes!

Incidentally, Philadelphia was forced to cancel their pension plan when they declared bankruptcy. I'm sad to learn that Cleveland has no pension plan, that's news to me and unwelcome. That Los Angeles is now paying more than NY is also news. I guess that's thanks to Dudamel, who has become a rock star.

Putting the financial risk on the musicians' retirement is always the wrong thing to do, IMHO.

barney
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by barney » Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:49 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 7:26 am
The strike continues. More evidence of American philistinism:

Trump's Budget Plan Cuts Funding For Arts, Humanities And Public Media
Brian Naylor
March 19, 2019

President Trump's proposed budget calls for big cuts in a wide array of domestic programs — among them, agencies that fund the arts, humanities and public media. Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be cut to zero under the proposal, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely, the first time any president has proposed such a measure.

The spending outline is what White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney calls a "hard-power budget," with spending increases for defense and homeland security at the expense of many other programs in the discretionary part of the budget. "Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?" he asked. "The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense and we will, but we can't ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."

CPB received $445 million in federal funding in the last fiscal year; the NEA and NEH got about $148 million each — a tiny portion of the roughly $4 trillion federal budget...

https://www.npr.org/2017/03/16/52040124 ... blic-media
This sort of thing strikes me as strange politics. Such massive cuts across so many areas will affect vast numbers of voters, including many of Trump's. Does he think they won't notice, or does he think that a wall is of such all-consuming importance to them as it is to him (for ego reasons), that it justifies gutting so many government programs, including arts?

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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:58 pm

I certainly hope it's bad politgics and that Trump and his supporters pay for it next year in the election. But I wouldn't bet on it.
John Francis

Rach3
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Rach3 » Wed Mar 20, 2019 5:54 pm

barney wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:49 pm
Does he think they won't notice, or does he think that a wall is of such all-consuming importance to them as it is to him (for ego reasons), that it justifies gutting so many government programs, including arts?
Trump's election has revealed a sad truth about America today : 35 % of the Country has become just like Trump. I used to think it was Lincoln's , " You can fool some of the people all of the time " , and/or PT Barnum's, " There's a sucker born every minute " , but the truth is worse.

maestrob
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:49 am

Hi, Barney!

Presidential budgets are just wish lists, and are presented to our Congress with the knowledge that debate will ensue and that the opposition party (in this case Democrats, who control our House of Representatives currently), will make massive changes and pass (hopefully) a heavily revised bill. Republicans have been trying to eliminate Public Broadcasting funding for decades, and it's never been done. Democrats have always protected arts funding, and will continue to do so, because public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts enjoy massive public support AND cost very little, about $1.35/taxpayer/year for public broadcasting.

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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:58 am

maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:49 am
Presidential budgets are just wish lists, and are presented to our Congress with the knowledge that debate will ensue and that the opposition party (in this case Democrats, who control our House of Representatives currently), will make massive changes and pass (hopefully) a heavily revised bill.Quote st very little, about $1.35/taxpayer/year for public broadcasting.
This president may not see it this way. The theme of his administration has been that his word is law. But even if not, the presidential budget isn't merely a wish list, it's a statement of intent and priorities, and this president's intention and priorities are openly hostile to the arts. There are those in Congress, mainly if not all Republicans, who think similarly. Since they control the Senate, they can influence the final budget. And even if money is authorized and appropriated for a purpose, the president is not obligated to spend it.
John Francis

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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Belle » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:29 am

John F wrote:
Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:58 pm
I certainly hope it's bad politgics and that Trump and his supporters pay for it next year in the election. But I wouldn't bet on it.
I wouldn't bet on it either!! And bad politics is always in the eye of the beholder. Mostly they're all bad - but some are badder than others.

We are going through ugly and trying times in the western world and this plays out at a local level everywhere. Like JohnF, when he looks back to the golden days of the recorded legacy and great performances, I look back to our days of (largely) social cohesion and a shared culture. I won't have too many more years on this earth, the way things are shaping up, and I want to spend them on a quality life doing the things I love and looking back over my lifetime as the ideal one - of postwar prosperity, respect, shared values and common goals. In the societies we're forced to endure today the 'cure' is worse than the 'disease'.

Let's all love and support the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and celebrate its existence!!

maestrob
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:54 am

John F wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:58 am
maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:49 am
Presidential budgets are just wish lists, and are presented to our Congress with the knowledge that debate will ensue and that the opposition party (in this case Democrats, who control our House of Representatives currently), will make massive changes and pass (hopefully) a heavily revised bill.Quote st very little, about $1.35/taxpayer/year for public broadcasting.
This president may not see it this way. The theme of his administration has been that his word is law. But even if not, the presidential budget isn't merely a wish list, it's a statement of intent and priorities, and this president's intention and priorities are openly hostile to the arts. There are those in Congress, mainly if not all Republicans, who think similarly. Since they control the Senate, they can influence the final budget. And even if money is authorized and appropriated for a purpose, the president is not obligated to spend it.
Well, we'll see.

As for the Nelson recording of Les Troyens and HIP performances, I find both highly entertaining. I'm truly sorry you don't: I think you are missing out on some very fine music-making. It's possible for me to enjoy past performances and still relish the occasional new recording that knocks me off my feet, and Nelson's Troyens did that for me. You say Nelsons is undistinguished as a conductor (for that I read "not famous"), but even not famous people can turn in an outstanding performance on occasion. Granted, the voices are not heroique, but taken on it's own terms (and I do speak French, btw) I find it an excellent set. It is also true that famous performers can have an off night, many examples of which we have discussed in these pages (Domingo conducting Wagner comes to mind.).

You are the center of your universe, and thus are entitled to form and express your own opinions. From where I sit, you are proselytizing the point of view that the past was and is better than the present. I don't agree, for many reasons. I too have lived with music all my life, and I remember many "dud" performances I've heard live and on the radio in the past (I'm more careful with my record purchases.), as well as many great ones. My experience with current music-making on recordings is that there are many excellent musicians out there, on the podium and singing, but they lack the mystique that surrounded artists of the past, simply because we as a society view them as mere humans that are brilliantly accomplished, rather than worshiped as were Toscanini and, say Tito Schipa.

You have bought into that mystique, and so have I. The difference between us is that I think I have the discernment to spot current artists and performers that are great at the same level as Toscanini (Nezet-Seguin), Richter (Giltburg), or Horne (DiDonato). I'm sorry you don't agree, but that's what makes our discussions so interesting. Sure there are artists in the past that were one of a kind, but great artists exist in every generation, and I intend to keep my ears open for that greatness.

I have learned a lot from you John, please keep posting your examples. I am not one who rejects older recordings due to sonic quality. The other night we listened to George Thill's complete Werther from 1931 (is that the first complete opera recording?) and enjoyed it immensely. I also listen to Cortot's Chopin from the 1930's on a regular basis, even though I find I like Magaloff better: each performer has his own insights to offer.

John F
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by John F » Thu Mar 21, 2019 12:36 pm

maestrob wrote:You say Nelsons is undistinguished as a conductor (for that I read "not famous"), but even not famous people can turn in an outstanding performance on occasion.
What I actually said is that Nelson (not Nelsons) is "a competent but unimportant conductor." If you're going to quote me, please get it right. The few of his performances I've heard (revivals of "Jenufa" in 1974 and "Giulio Cesare" in 1999) testify to his competence without setting the world on fire; as to his importance or lack of it, the shape of his career (I mentioned the "highlights" such as they are) testifies to that.

Obviously you and I have very different criteria in our choices of recordings. I'm not sure what yours are, but for me, if I already own one or more satisfactory recordings of a piece, I'll duplicate the repertoire only when I expect the second, third, or (in the case of "Les Troyens") sixth version to offer something special. The Nelson Berlioz opera recordings in the new box, not just "Les Troyens," do not on the face of it deserve space on my shelves. And I see that you've decided not to acquire that box yourself. So what are we actually disagreeing about? :)

If you really put Yannick Nezet-Saguin on the same level as Toscanini and Giltburg on a par with Sviatoslav Richter, then I'm amazed that we agree about anything at all. :) :) But of course we do.
maestrob wrote:From where I sit, you are proselytizing the point of view that the past was and is better than the present.
Definitely.
John Francis

Heck148
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Heck148 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:40 pm

This is a source of aggravation to me!!
I'm was planning on going to Chicago next week - to hear 2 concerts - the Also Sprach Zarathustra, Bluebeard's castle concert 4/2; then the 4/4 program with Shostakovich Sym #2, Borodin #2...
The April 2nd concert is already cancelled...no word yet on 4/4, but I'd have to say it looks doubtful...if both are cancelled, I'll cancel my trip - if the 4/4 is on, then I'll probably go...crap, what a mess!! :evil: :x

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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by Lance » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:55 am

Indeed, well put: a mess. Such a shame. Does anybody win here?

Here's a late report:
https://www.sfcv.org/music-news/chicago ... ook-is-dim
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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maestrob
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Re: Chicago Symphony Orchestra on strike

Post by maestrob » Wed Apr 03, 2019 9:40 am

Thanks, Lance for that update. This is tragic. Pensions are disappearing around the country, as various managements force 401Ks on people who are not made to manage their own money (How so many people I know who withdrew their savings from the market during the last crisis and now have to work in retirement!). Without our pensions, we would have very slim pickings indeed in our golden years!

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