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Bits and Pieces

The Atlanta Symphony standoff comes to a head

September 23, 2012 7:59pm (EDT)

In case you haven’t heard, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is going through a rough patch. The orchestra is on lockout. (Or that’s what the musicians call it. ASO management calls it a work stoppage. Journalists seem to be going with "lockout.")

By way of background, the players’ multiyear contract expired August 25, 2012. With a snowballing deficit, management had asked them to accept cuts in salaries, benefits and more. The two sides had different interpretations of the budget and proposed different ways to solve the problem. While they hadn’t reached an agreement by the deadline, the gap seemed to be narrowing and negotiations were ongoing.

Then the end of the month came. The players found their paychecks and health insurance suspended and their access to the building cut off.

The 2012–2013 season is scheduled to begin October 4 with a concert featuring violinist Midori as soloist. A few weeks later, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are slated to perform in New York’s Carnegie Hall. That’s all up in the air now.

Last week the musicians’ union made another offer to ASO management. For its part, management said a deal must be reached by early this week for the October concerts to go on. As of Monday night the two sides were at least talking. Here's the latest from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

So in a nutshell, that’s where things stand. (It’s much more complicated than this, of course. Please read more at the links below and forgive any salient omissions.)

Many people are watching. Commentators analyze Georgia’s rock-bottom per-capita arts funding, compare the Atlanta situation with the state of other orchestras, lament the “commodification” of musicians and so on. As the host of GPB’s Atlanta Symphony broadcasts and simply as a fan, I watch too, with emotion. Everyone wants the music to continue. Musicians, managers, announcers, listeners, we're all here because of the music. In a spiritual sense we are all employed by—we all serve—Beethoven & Co. It sounds very lofty, doesn’t it? And yet, money is money. So we watch and wait. We wonder if the music will return to the Woodruff, and when, and under what kind of cloud.

If there’s a breakthrough, I’ll add an update.
(Update 9/27/12)

(Note: Through February 2013 you can hear encore broadcasts of the Atlanta Symphony’s last season on The ASO on GPB, Thursday nights at 9 and Sunday nights at 10 on GPB Radio and gpb.org/radio. I dearly hope to bring you the new season starting in March.)

STATEMENTS

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Management
Information in question-and-answer format from the official ASO website
August 9 letter from the ASO and Woodruff presidents to stakeholders
August 10 letter from the chairman of the ASO Board to the ASOPA (musicians’ union)
September 4 statement from ASO president Stanley Romanstein in response to the ASOPA’s September 4 press release (see below)
Video statement from ASO president Stanley Romanstein, posted September 5

ASOPA, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association
News page, including:
September 4 press release about the negotiations and lockout. “Atlanta Symphony Musicians Offer 4 Million...”
September 5 press release in response to Stanley Romanstein’s September 4 statement, above. “CEO Romanstein’s Claims Disproved by ASO’s Own Numbers”
Musicians elicit community feedback. “How to Show Your Support”
Facebook page of the ATL Symphony Musicians
Letter of support from the Major League Baseball Players Association

COVERAGE

ArtsATL
Recent articles, including:
August 17 “Will ASO Musicians be ‘locked out’? As deadline looms, union offers to take 11 percent pay cut”
”Contract Looming, ASO Musicians Union Offers Wage Proposal”
August 26 “ASO’s contract with musicians expires, but talks to avert a lockout go on”
August 29 “Still no contract between ASO musicians; orchestra’s financial woes aren’t unique”
September 4 “ASO musicians say Woodruff Arts Center nixed potential labor deal with orchestra”
September 19 “Locked-out ASO musicians schedule concerts; no new talks as season opener nears (update)”
September 20 “As planned season opening nears, talks resume between ASO and locked-out musicians”
September 22 Review of September 20 benefit concert at North Atlanta High School

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 14 “ASO must slow tempo of annual debt”
August 26 “ASO deadline passes; with no deal in place season opening in jeopardy”
September 4 “ASO, musicians in a stalemate”
September 20 “ASO, musicians jockey for advantage as season hangs in doubt”
September 25 “ASO, musicians back at the table”

NPR
NPR Music blog post by Tom Huizenga. “Why the Atlanta Symphony Matters: Five Recordings for the Lockout”
NPR story by Kathy Lohr. “Atlanta Symphony Locked Out”

WABE
Recent coverage by our colleagues at Public Broadcasting Atlanta, including:
September 5 “Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Woodruff Arts Center Board Mum on Resuming Talks”
September 7 “Atlanta Symphony Orchestra CEO Hopeful on Reaching Agreement with Musicians”
September 10 “Atlanta Symphony Flutist, ‘We’ve Given a Lot’”
September 11 “ASO Labor Dispute is Part of Nationwide Orchestra Funding Crisis”

WSB-TV
September 20 “Musicians hope to end lockout”

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