Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How You Can Help Right Now

Dear ASOC Members and Friends:

When the Chief Operating Officer of our parent institution, Virginia Hepner, says -- publicly, on the air --that: "It's up to anyone to decide what's world class and what an orchestra should be." it is apparent to me that she has never heard us, never read a review, never bought a CD, or talked to another living soul about the ASO and ASOC.  

I'm appealing to chorus members -- especially new members -- to get involved with what is going on, and do what you can do to help inform your family, your friends, your professional colleagues about the crisis facing our orchestra and, by extension, the chorus. I don't care what anyone in management is saying,

ASOC Supports ATL Symphony Musicians

ASOC’s history as, arguably, one of the finest symphony choruses on the planet is the story of a partnership. Over the years, we singers have committed our talents, hearts, and a sizable chunk of our existence to this organization. And if we believe what we are constantly told -- that we are an important member of this ‘family’ -- we can no longer be

Friday, September 19, 2014

Right now, I am grieving . . .

Jonathan Rick Smith gave me permission to post this here. A heart-felt expression of an ASO Chorus singer whose symphony is locked out.

To my Facebook friends:

Some of you are family, some are very close friends, some are colleagues, and many are acquaintances. A few are friends only because someone suggested the friendship. Most of you I have met at least a few times. I joined Facebook in September of 2007, way back when status updates were mostly one-line blurbs like one of my first: “Jonathan Rick Smith…believes you can’t pop popcorn with cellphones.”

In these seven years I have tried to respect my friendship with you all by refraining from constantly giving you “traffic reports” on how I happen to be feeling at the moment or how someone has done me wrong. I try very hard to be a positive influence on those with whom I come in contact, especially to those I consider to be my friends.

But this time I’m going to share my feelings. And yes, it will probably be long and, to some of you I’m sure, boring. But that’s why Facebook handily includes the “Read More” link after several lines, so that people’s timelines aren’t clogged with long rants and soliloquies.

So if you’ve clicked “Read More” then you probably are actually interested in what I have to say. Or maybe you’re just curious at this point.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saving the ASO by Burning A Bridge

The last time we sang for Mr. Runnicles here was very recently, the Brahms 'Schicksalslied', in May 2014.  I gave him a Music is On-Going t-shirt that I'd been saving for him since 2012, for which gift -- much appreciated by him --  I got into trouble.  I was told I was on the 'wrong side' ... That I need to 'move  on'.

Mr. Runnicles pretty much sealed his future as persona non grata with the current ASO and WAC boards.  I recognize that he has risked his reputation in order to speak out against the great wrong being done to an orchestra with which he is so intimately connected.  A passionate, generous and articulate man, he was compelled to defend his art ... but my heart says he did it for us.

Thank you, Mr. Runnicles ...


News: WAC Engineered the ASO Deficit

The ASO Lock-Out: A Crisis of Trust

Letter from Jon Gunnemann (#153) ... in response to the 2012 Lockout.

Ms. Virginia Hepner
President and Chief Executive Officer
Woodruff Arts Center

Dear Ms. Hepner:

I write to you as a long-time supporter of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Woodruff Arts Center, at several levels:  My wife and I have been members of the High Museum of Art for more than two decades; we make a modest annual gift to the Alliance Theater and attend plays every year; we have been Subscribers to the ASO for three decades and Patrons for almost two decades; and I have sung with the ASO Chorus for more than twenty years. 

Like many in the Chorus—and certainly like many Subscribers and Patrons—we have been deeply distressed by the WAC’s lockout of the ASO musicians.  As the lockout continues, our distress is turning into anger and a profound distrust of the WAC Board and the ASO administrative leadership.  I am keenly aware that there is always more than one side to a story in situations of conflict; I do not pretend to know all of the details of the negotiations between the WAC and the ASO musicians; like most reasonable people I am aware that no institution can survive if it is running annual deficits of five million dollars; and like anyone who reads the newspapers I know that symphony orchestras across the country—indeed, all of our important cultural institutions—are threatened by decreasing financial support.  Finding ways to cut costs is a painful process, and those of us who support the arts and music in Atlanta are beneficiaries of the work you and the WAC board have done on our behalf. But you are also trustees of the funds you receive from us, both through subscription tickets and annual contributions, and the lockout is, for us, a violation of the trust we have placed in you.  It is not in keeping with our understanding of what the ASO is, and not in keeping with our understanding of how we can best work together to weather difficult times. 

A lockout transforms an already difficult process of negotiation into something different:  It is an act of coercion, essentially ending negotiations and placing the immediate pain of cost-cutting on one group, the ASO musicians.  Lockouts are coercive, virtually punitive, because the workers (in this case, professional musicians of the highest caliber) have their livelihoods at stake, but no one the Symphony board or on the WAC board have their livelihoods at stake.  Because livelihood is at stake, some states in the U.S. have laws requiring businesses to pay health and other benefits during a lockout, recognizing the vulnerability of those who depend on their jobs for fundamental human needs.  Georgia clearly does not have such a law; and apparently the WAC has not had the humanity to pay at least for essential benefits for the musicians.  (Note:  I have heard conflicting accounts of the health care coverage provided for the ASO Musicians during the lockout.  It is important in situations like this to be certain about any factual claims.  If I misstated the facts on this issue in my previous e-mail, I regret doing so.  It would not, however, affect the substance of my argument.)

Social Psychology: Why ASO Management Fails. Why ASOC Members Stay Together,

I'd like to preface this by saying that these are, in essence, little more than assorted musings about connections that I see between my area of professional study (social psychology) and the current ASO lockout situation. To be clear, I'm speaking as a newly minted ASOC member who just happens to have some background in many things psychological - not as any sort of formal expert . As this frustrating situation unfolds, these are things that come to mind.

1. Interpersonal relationships - particularly long-term ones - necessitate trust. It's a cornerstone of successful partnerships, be they platonic, romantic, or business-related. Take away that trust, and you end up with suspicion, and often-times irreparable schisms in the relationship (whether it is between individuals or at the group level). Trust, once violated, is very hard to re-establish. Employing tactics that violate trust (e.g., locking out musicians instead of continuing to negotiate) in hopes of short-term gain can do great, lasting damage to inter-group relations moving forward.