ISO calls off more performances over labor battle

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra announced Sunday night that it has called off shows scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday due to its ongoing labor dispute with ISO musicians.
This will be the third weekend of the new season that the ISO has canceled. The orchestra’s management and the musicians’ union have been at odds over new contracts seeking millions of dollars in concessions. The previous agreement, signed in 2009, expired Sept. 2.

ISO managers also cut the opening weekend’s classical Beethoven and Dvorak series on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, as well as the Time for Three and the ISO pops shows Sept. 21-23.

The ISO said it needed to call off the concerts now in order to have adequate time to notify subscribers and single-ticket purchasers.

Patrons who already purchased tickets for next weekend's performances of Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony  have three options: They can exchange tickets for another concert, receive credit toward tickets in the future or they can donate the value of the tickets to the ISO.

Management and American Federation of Musicians Local 3 representatives are continuing to work on a deal, but the two sides have agreed to no longer publicly discuss negotiation details.

ISO management wants to reduce musician pay as much as 40 percent and cut back the group's schedule to 38 weeks. The previous contract called for musicians to perform 45.5 weeks per year for 52 weeks of pay.

ISO executives say the cuts are necessary to keep the group operating in the future because the ISO's endowment has decreased by one-third since the recession.
Musicians say such drastic cutbacks will ruin the organization.

“While we feel we are making progress in negotiations, we are disappointed that [management] has cancelled this week’s concerts because it deprives the people of Indiana of a world-class musical experience," the musician's union said in a prepared statement Sunday night. "As musicians, we want nothing more than to be on the stage playing the music we have spent years training to play."

Since being locked out Sept. 8, performers have been giving daily performances from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside of Hilbert Circle Theatre on Monument Circle. The musicians also held a sold-out benefit concert Saturday night for the ISO's Metropolitan Youth Orchestra for 850 people.


    The ISO board and their interim short-term management team need to suck it up, realize they're "hurting the game" more than they're helping it and move swiftly to accept the musician's short-term offer of 17% cuts (which is actually in addition to the cuts they've already taken since 2003). They need to get the players on the stage with a short-term deal that acknowledges that a long-term deal cut at this time is impossible given that the musicians aren't even negotiating with a management team they'll be working with in 6 months let alone 5 years. The musicians have offered the board an honorable place to retreat too and set the stage for a "we're all winners" announcement that would be readily accepted by the community, sponsors, patrons and supporters. Then, the board can set its attentions on fixing the real problem here - the management void at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Unless there is some other agenda at play, this is the only solution that makes sense. If Roger Goodell can do it when faced with the obvious, I have to believe the ISO board and its interim management can too. The numbers don't add up. Everyone knows it. You're only hurting the orchestra and its patrons at this point. Get a deal done.
  • A real tragedy
    I grew up in the Indianapolis area, but after college moved west and ultimately to San Francisco in 1984. I am an ardent supporter of SFSO, and I can honestly say that my life long passion for classical music is due to my experience listening to the ISO as a child. In fact, my first experience with the ISO was at the age of 6, and Byron Janis was the guest artist. That was it - I was hooked for life. Any time I return to Indianapolis during symphony season I try to attend a performance. I am very impressed with the excellent level of musicianship at the ISO and proud that this orchestra represents my birth city. Plus, the Hilbert Circle Theater is a stunning venue, a real jewel. I am also envious of the ridiculously affordable ticket prices compared to what I pay in San Francisco. There was an article in the New Yorker a few years ago about 3 regional orchestras - ISO was the stand out. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2007/06/25/070625crmu_music_ross I am so saddened, and angry, by these developments and truly hope that impassioned music lovers and solidarity among the musicians will help them stand firm against the ignorant assault of the clearly inept board. No executive leadership or fund raising team??? And the mayor's office?? What an insult to a great institution. Indianapolis has many things to be proud of these days, but if this orchestra is eviscerated or lost altogether, it will be a huge step backward for the city.
  • LOA an AHA moment
    I've been looking for a logical reason why - against ALL reason - the board and mismanagement team of the ISO are pressing this issue. This seems to make sense...LOA members have been colluding on this at levels higher than we've been previously made aware of. That's the only thing that makes sense given that the ISO/Board numbers don't add up to a crisis, that even if their numbers added up to a crisis it's not a crisis requiring terminal cuts at the heart of the orchestra and that their level of intransigence is mind-boggling given that they're trying to impose draconian cuts upon the musicians when they don't even have their own house in order (no CEO, no marketing director for the last half-decade, no fundraising director - just writing this makes me shake my head in abject disgust). Yet the ISO mismanagement and the small faction of the board that is driving this (without the knowledge or consent of the majority of board members) is expecting to extract terminal cuts and a long-term deal from musicians who are ALREADY among the lowest paid of any major orchestra in the country. Two major orchestras - Atlanta and Chicago - are just settling their work stoppages and what they're getting their compensation cut to is greater than what ISO musicians currently get. Also, the ISO is essentially already working under cuts imposed back to the 2003 contract...they've not effectively had a raise since that time and have returned more than $7,000,000 in compensation concession to the ISO since 2003. So we come back around again to what possible rationale can there be for the destructive and insulting actions being taken by the interim management of the ISO and the board faction whose actions clearly contravene the mission statement they're supposed to be stewards of? And if it is something as simple as a colluded initiative among LOA members, I'm even more disgusted than I was before. This would also explain why Mayor Ballard is off on an Australian junket instead of working here at home on the protection of an arts industry that brings almost $400 million to Indianapolis each and ever year (more, incidentally, than his money-losing Super Bowl boondoggle returned). Man, on so many levels, I wish we were a real city like Pittsburgh.
  • To any supporter of the ISO
    I would suggest that you take a look at the letter written by (local) music lover Susan Raccoli at isomusicians.com Besides making some extremely knowledgeable and pertinent points she asks a series of questions which should get people thinking. Many of us have been asking about these same issues, and getting NO response. It's time for some answers, and they can ONLY come from the board of the ISO. Is anyone listening?
  • Three Letters: LOA
    What's happening with the ISO is part of a plan by an organization called the League of American Orchestras to break the musicians' unions and impose huge cuts, or, in some cases, to change the orchestra from salaried, full-time organizations to per-service, part-time organizations. In essence, they don't want to fundraise anymore and wish to impose a "business-world" model onto the non-profit arts organization known as the symphony orchestra. What's happening in Indianapolis is currently playing out in Atlanta and St. Paul (where the management and Board of that revered chamber orchestra have suggested cutting the number of players for costcutting measures; huh??), will take place very soon in Minneapolis (where the Board Chair is already telling the public the musicians need to take 28% in cuts), and has already happened in Detroit, Louisville, Denver, and Fort Worth. The website for the League of American Orchestras claims, "dedicated to helping orchestras meet the challenges of the 21st Century." What it doesn't say is that the way to "achieve" this is by bullying the musicians into taking huge cuts or face closure (hmm; seems like a long way between those two chasms, but that is the tactic that is being used, as ugly as it is).
  • Quorum
    That's what's so strange about this whole thing. The board has so many well-meaning stewards, but they've got a "quorum" of only 4 people driving this whole thing - and often without the knowledge of the rest of the board. A quorum is designed so that an inordinately small number of people can't make decisions for the majority of the organization, but that's exactly what's happening here. A small faction of the board is driving this lunacy and most of the board has been kept in the dark and given no voice in the matter.
  • ISO Board
    I went to the ISO web site and it lists 56 people on the Board of Directors. Is this correct? I don't sit on large boards; would someone please explain to me how an organizations with that many directors ever gets any decisions made.
    • Ditto
      How is the problem/solution here clear to so many but totally lost on the ISO board, the Mayor's office and the ISO society and sponsors? The problem here is clearly 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). Here it is, short and sweet: 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 back here working on a solution for a $386 million/year arts industry here in Indy instead of going on an Australian junket that's only exceeded by Indy's Super Bowl boondoggle in short-sighted stupidity. The man is an embarrassment. But then, he's a Republican't.
    • The ISO Board Doesn't Have A Leg To Stand On.
      Their numbers smell funny (and are easily debunked by anyone with even a little business acumen and an abacus). Their rationale makes no sense. Their demands are unreasonable at best. Their experience in this arena would be lacking if it wasn't for the fact that it's so much more inadequate than merely "lacking." Their management team is non-existent (literally - there is no CEO, no marketing director and no fundraising director). Yet they're insulting the world-class musicians of what is already the lowest-compensated major orchestra in America with demands that clearly reflect the board and management's own shortcomings. And with "shortcomings," I am being kind. The outpouring of support from the people of Indianapolis has been amazing. The lack of support from Mayor Fat-A$$ and our mini-governor have not been surprising, though disappointing none the less. But then, we're only talking about a $400 million industry they're NOT supporting. That we can fix come election day. Until then, it's 6,000 petitioners, 6,000 IBJ poll respondents, 1,000 supporters at Second Church and $8,000 raised by Maestro Leppard and the musicians of the ISO against 5 myopic and unqualified board members and 1 unqualified and clearly overmatched interim CEO. I like our musicians chances...but they need to stick together and refuse any offer longer than one year that includes musician cuts, significant pay cuts and significant cuts to the classical season. Give in to these idiots now, and there will be no getting it back. Foreward!
    • It just does not meet the smell test
      The demands of the board just do not meet the smell test. What is happening? There is public support and yet the board is demanding that our "world class" symophony be delegated to a second, no, make that a third rate symphony. Personally, I have never understood how Carmel, a bedroom community, could take the arts community away from the central community. It did and they are floundering now. Does Indianapolis not have a qualified urban planner? Does Indianapolis not have a government that is looking out for Indianapolis? For the last ??? years? Where is the support for the symphony from the people who have for years supported the symphony with their money? Did this problem sneak up on everyone? There was a comment last week from someone who is a subscriber and has the symphony in their will and they did not know of these problems before they became public. I have season subscription and now I have to make a decision. Do I ask for a full refund, which will not help anyone, let alone me when I do not get to enjoy the symphony, or do I get another concert? How do I support the musicians without supporting the management, who I do not support? How do I enjoy a concert now that I know what lack of managment exists? "There is something going on here and you don't know what it is do you Mr. Jones." (thank you Bob Dylan).
    • The numbers tell the whole story
      More than 6,000 people have signed a petition in support of the Indianapolis Symphony musicians in their labor dispute with the ISO's inept mismanagement team. There's no CEO, no marketing director, no fundraising director, yet the ISO board and management are demanding draconian spending cuts even though the ISO is already the lowest paid full time orchestra in the country. The numbers proffered by the board just don't add up to a crisis - the $84 million in the endowment provides 6 years of operating funds at current draw levels (and that's assuming that management, marketing and fundraising efforts for those 6 years will continue to be as bad as they've been the last 5 years or so). The numbers that DO add up? 6,000 signatures of support on the musicians petition available at isomusicians.com. More than 6,000 positive respondents to an IBJ survey asking about the importance of the ISO. More than 1,000 people in attendance at Second Church on Saturday night for an ISO musicians fundraising concert. With this kind of support, numbers that do not make sense, Mayor "fat a$$" bovinely sitting on the sidelines, the IndyStar parroting the corporate party line (and removing comments critical to the ISO board), it's time the rest of us lend our voices so that the ones facing the music are the inept mismanagement team of the ISO and a rogue faction of the board that is driving this whole action without support from the rest of the board of directors. This symphony is just too important to this city for it to be entrusted to myopic bean counters who don't know the difference between a Widget factory and a major symphony orchestra.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ