Symphony cancels first two weeks of new season

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Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on Saturday canceled the first two weeks of its new season, saying even a temporary extension of musicians’ just-expired contract would intensify the organization’s financial woes.

“The gap between what the musicians’ union is proposing and what is essential to economically sustain the ISO’s future is just too great,” the symphony said in a prepared statement.

Shows scheduled for Sept. 14-15 and Sept. 21-23 were canceled, and officials said more performances could get the ax if an agreement is not reached soon.

Musicians’ previous contract expired Sept. 2. Representatives of the union and the financially strapped not-for-profit are at odds over a proposal to trim musicians' 52-week contracts to 38 weeks and cut salaries by 40 percent.  ISO also wants to reduce the size of the orchestra from 87 positions to 69.

ISO had said it would cancel performances if a deal was not struck by Friday, but union officials proposed a two-month extension of the previous contract—along with a 17-percent salary concession—to keep the season intact.

Symphony leaders said an extension “would only exacerbate the ISO’s already difficult financial challenges.”

Musicians were “stunned and saddened” by the organization’s harsh stance, chief union negotiator Richard Graef said in a prepared statement.

“While we have continued to negotiate in good faith and felt we were making some progress,” he said, ISO’s “unwavering commitment to cancel these concerts is simply baffling.”



  • Shame
    I guess you could say this year's season is starting off on a sour note.
  • Kudos To The IBJ
    The Indianapolis Star is focusing solely on the pitch being spun up by the ISO and is removing reader comments that are critical of the board and the reckless idiocy they've undertaken. The IBJ and NUVO are the only ones reporting both sides of the story and allowing access to the musician's side of the story and their website www.isomusicians.com Kudos, IBJ
  • Accountability
    I'm trying to understand this accountability thing as it applies to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Let me see if I have this right: The musicians' jobs are to make music and perform at the highest level which achieves national recognition with critical praise. Evaluation: Success!! ISO management types are supposed to perform at their highest level by making the business side of the symphony successful. Evaluation: Failure!! Remedy: Punish the musicians by reducing pay, cutting back benefits, and knocking the orchestra's musical reputation down several notches. That'll teach them a thing or two!
  • Gap?
    The ISO board keeps talking about this sustainability "gap." The only gap I see is in their logic. If the musicians have submitted a plan that draws $6 million a year from an $80-plus million dollar endowment, and even assuming only half of that is available for operations costs, that still leaves a sustainable 6-year operating budget model. And that's assuming that the next ISO management team, its marketing and its fundraising efforts are as bad as they've been the last 5-plus years. Makes no sense. The ISO board and the so-called interim "management" are basically trying to shed light where there is no darkness.
  • a couple of questions
    1) Now that the symphony board has made it clear that donations go to the protection and preservation of the fat endowment fund and NOT of the actual symphony, will donors be more or less generous with their support? 2) Will the symphony board offer some sort of public rationale for their bizarre choice to jettison two months of the concert season over $30,000? Or do they mistakenly think their quite poorly written press statement is sufficient? (the release suffers from more than mere lapses in logic. At one point, it refers to "last week's ditch effort." What on earth is a "ditch effort"? If the board cannot even successfully compose a press release without mangling common phrases like "last ditch effort" it is difficult to entertain much confidence in their abilities to run an orchestra)
  • Hiram Makes A Great Point
    Maestro Urbanski made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Hollywood Bowl last Tuesday. To paraphrase from his review in the LA Times: "ISO management needs to put every available resource behind this band...to not do so would be crazy." If what is going on right now is the board acting in good faith and in support of the symphony's mission statement which puts artistic integrity above all else, then the board needs to go. One year extension, new management in place, board shakeup, negotiate a long-term deal. If you're listening Lilly and Marsh and Exact Target and Christel DeHaan, that's the ONLY real solution. Cutting costs on an already underfunded orchestra is not an answer. But maybe real management is.
  • Long-term Deal Makes No Sense With No ISO Management
    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 - remember, 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 - and make a long term investment - in this orchestra when they don't even know who is running it. Especially since it is poor management, poor marketing and lack of an integrated, smart development effort that is the actual CAUSE of this problem. Remember, contrary to what the board has to contend to make their 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 overpaid, they've 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 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 board 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.
  • Management: ARE YOU READING?
    ISO Management: for all of the supportive comments you claim to have received for "making the tough decisions", have you taken note of the 5,000+ signatures who petitioned against the very measures you took? How many hundreds of emails voicing concern or protest have you received over the last several days? Did you read any of it? Please read these comments now. What you are doing is not what the city wants, so STOP.
  • the odd position indeed
    Management/board is cutting off their nose to spite their face and appear to be acting in bad faith. Most puzzling is that they don't seem to recognize it. Busting a union -- of musicians for gosh sakes! --must be so important that they are willing to live in infamy. Is there a secret plan to import other musicians? Hopefully NO musicians would be a party to that as it diminishes every stakeholder as well as the community's reputation. This is such arrogance, and in the name of what? Probably they are unable to even articulate it. My education in the not-for-profit world taught me that a Board is to act as stewards of the community's interest in the mission of the organization. I see none of this here.
  • Hiram-Exactly
    How much money will they lose on ticket sales? Would be interesting to see how many tickets have been sold thus far and total their value. Probably exceeds the whopping $30,000 they will lose. This make a lot of sense? They could have sold even MORE tickets if they would market the hot new conductor who has been garnering so much national attention.
  • Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
    It is interesting to note that the musicians' two month extension offer would have cost the ISO only about $30,000 more than what they had proposed for those sixty days. To "save" that money, the ISO now sacrifices the ticket revenue from at least two weeks worth of lost concerts (and potentially many more), the opportunity to capitalize on the wave of favorable attention new musical director Urbanski is earning on the national stage, the goodwill of their audience and downtown businesses lose the monies that thousands of orchestra patrons spend before and after concerts.
  • $30,000
    The "gap" is only $30,000 for these two concerts. See website: www.isomusicians.com Musicians' press release below. Despite musicians’ efforts to save two concerts, Symphony Society rejects last ditch proposal and cancels concerts Two month contract extension would have paid musicians less, kept music on the stage (Indianapolis, Ind.) The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Musicians (ISO Musicians) announced today the Symphony Society rejected the ISO musicians’ last ditch offer for a two month contract extension to keep the music on the stage while negotiations continue. The two month contract extension that the Society refused would have allowed the ISO’s Classical season opener on September 14th and 15th with Krzysztof Urbanski and the Pops season opener on September 21-23 with Jack Everly and Time for Three to proceed. “We are stunned and saddened that the Society refused our offer and cancelled these concerts, which ultimately punishes the people of Indiana by depriving them of a world class musical experience,” said Richard Graef, chairman of the ISO musicians negotiating committee. “While we have continued to negotiate in good faith, and felt we were making some progress, the Society’s unwavering commitment to cancel these concerts is simply baffling.” On Sept. 7, 2012 at 5:51 p.m., the ISO musicians made its most recent proposal for a short-term contract that would allow the musicians and the Society to “play and talk.” This offer would have paid the musicians a weekly rate of $1250, which is 16.7 percent lower than their current weekly rate. The last offer from the Society was a weekly salary of $1215. Had the Society approved this extension, it would have cost them less than $30,000 in salaries, overscale, and taxes. The musicians also have provided 15 dates between September and November 8, 2012 to the Society so both parties can continue negotiations. “Throughout this entire negotiating process, we have made it very clear to the Society that we want to be a part of the solution to their financial problems,” said Graef. “That’s why, using financial data the Society provided to us, we worked with a financial analyst to craft a sustainable financial model that puts the Society in a positive position both financially and artistically.” The negotiations between the Society and the Musicians have received national attention in the last twelve days. “The Musicians of the ISO are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received both from our local community, and from around country,” said Graef. Earlier this week, Maestro Urbanski conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, which served as his West Coast debut. In his review of the concert, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed referenced the contract negotiations between the Society and the musicians, and noted that Urbanksi’s opening concerts were threatened. Swed wrote, “Urbanski has already caught the attention of the music world, especially in Europe. He is on the radar of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic. The Indianapolis Symphony would be crazy to blow the opportunity Urbanski presents. If it does, someone else will snap him up in a second. I would if I ran an orchestra.” The full article can be viewed here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la- et-cm-hollywood-bowl-review-20120906,0,5763582.story “As musicians, we want nothing more than to be on the stage with Maestro Urbankski, Jack Everly and Time for Three, playing great music,” said Graef. “To the people of Indiana, we are sorry the Society cancelled these concerts.”
  • Following the Leader
    Seems like management wants to show Mitch Daniels that it can follow his lead. Does management really believe the musicians can live, and continue to perform at half pay? Our city deserves better and has and will continue to support a great organization.
  • rediculous
    "The gap between the ISO board is proposing and what is essential to creating the kind of quality music necessary to sustain the ISO’s future is just too great".

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