Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Cleveland Orchestra in Crisis - Part 3

The dispute between the Cleveland Orchestra’s management and players has been tentatively settled. But bad feelings remain and will likely continue for some time.

Media coverage tended to favor management, especially in the beginning. The Plain Dealer’s coverage of this matter was piss poor. I have nothing against Zachary Lewis, but his reporting of the orchestra has so far been a retread of the Musical Arts Associations press releases – and when it comes to his criticism, he writes with kid gloves. It’s not the kind of writing we had from Donald Rosenberg, whose removal from covering the orchestra under pressure from the MAA resulted in a publicized lawsuit.

The players were likely caught off-guard by several statements -- some of which were inflammatory, misleading, and downright false -- from manager Gary Hanson. Chief among these was Hanson’s contention that orchestra players had only a 20 hour workweek. Apparently, Hanson doesn’t realize that players actually have to practice their instruments, and thinks that a rehearsal represents the first time the musicians have actually seen the score (Hanson has obviously never bothered to learn that musicians frequently borrow their music parts in advance so they can be ready at rehearsal). Hanson also mislead the press and public into believing that the players had made no previous sacrifices – when in fact they were the first to accept pay freezes and benefit cuts, dating back over five years.

Of course, Hanson and the MAA have a well oiled public relations machine. It took some time for the player’s to get their PR legs, but eventually they responded to Hanson’s points effectively by creating their own blog. I can understand why it took the players time to access the media. Has there ever been a case of on orchestra’s management issuing a PR broadside against their own players of the kind than Hanson and his posse did? Not in my memory.

Sadly, several commentators at Cleveland.com bought into Hanson’s statements. Then again, many of the commentators were disposed to be antipathetic to the orchestra players anyway, because: they’re anti-union (Cleveland, like every other major orchestra in the US is unionized); they’re jealous of the pay/prestige related to being in one of the world’s greatest orchestras; they have little use for the arts; they’re bitter people with little to do but gripe and complain.

In any case, it appears that the strike is over. Let’s make music!

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