CSO Management Losing Public Respect

Most of you may know the distressing news by now; the CSO board and management has canceled the lucrative summer Picnic with the Pops series, citing lack of funds.

It should be known that the Summer Pops pays for itself in revenue. So why cancel it? Whatever the twisted intent, it has little to do with "saving the Symphony".

The move may be an attempt to corner the musicians into signing an insulting contract which sends the Columbus Symphony back to the dark ages.

My guess is that the public already senses the perfidious deception behind Buzz Trafford's public pontificating that the board's hands are tied and the musicians just refuse to cooperate. This drastic and defeatist move will further weaken public respect for the current Symphony Board of Trustees.

I had lunch today with a few reporters from the Dispatch who listened intently to my point of view. I emphasized that the musicians are VERY interested in negotiating, but not in being told what they MUST accept without question or DIE.

Among other things, these reporters have been informed that the musicians initiated "good faith" bargaining steps by offering to take some pay cuts, but were rebuffed; they have been told that we called for a mutually chosen mediator, an unbiased third party professional to monitor the negotiations, to which the answer came back from management, "NO!".

We'll see if the Dispatch squeaks any balanced truth in tomorrow's paper.

I told them that if they Symphony dies, it won't be the musicians fault. These gentlemen were baffled by our unanimous rejection of management's insulting demands. Our solidarity truly perplexed them.

I believe the musicians' consciences are clear. We are rational people. We've been reasonable. We've been patient. We've been polite and considerate. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, we have communicated our intent to compromise and our desire for professional mediation.

But we are not dealing with reasonable people, or being given fair and balanced coverage. So, what do we do now?

I will not presume to speak further for my colleagues. But I think many of them would agree with the following thoughts:

For years now, the Columbus Symphony has existed as two very different organizations.

One has been the actual orchestra itself, which has developed into a world class musical organization with an outstanding conductor and players. The Symphony Chorus has risen with the orchestra. Through education and outreach, thousands of lives have been enriched. Concert reviews have been rave, and audiences love them.

The other less visible part of the Columbus Symphony has been its Board of Directors and executive management. Unlike the orchestra, the board and management have been a dismal failure, unable to reach their own stated goals and mismanaging the administration and budget, resulting in losses.

Each time this has happened, rather than doing some soul searching about its own shortcomings and ongoing inability to maintain this pristine jewel in the crown of Columbus’ fine culture, the board and management have instead sought to dump their failures onto the backs of the musicians themselves. In the last contract go-around, management had a 15% loss, and the orchestra accepted 15% pay cuts with promises that management would do better this time. That hasn't happened. Yet, the Columbus Museum raised an $80 million endowment and Nationwide Arena was built without tax funding. Columbus can accomplish great things with the right leadership.

This year seems to be no different, only management has gone public trying to brand the musicians as offenders that "don't understand the reality of the situation." Instead of self-selecting and leaving so that others may succeed where they have failed, they have entrenched themselves in a senseless campaign to crush the orchestra. The only reality here is that Buzz Trafford and the board and management don't know how to run an orchestra, and instead are trying to point the blame somewhere else.

When a baseball team is losing, who gets fired - the players or the manager?

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3 comments for “CSO Management Losing Public Respect

  1. May 9, 2008 at

    Thank you, John and Valerie. It’s real supporters like you we live for!

  2. May 8, 2008 at

    Cancellation of the profit-generating Summer Pops is an assault upon the city’s quality of life, a senseless, blatantly manipulative act. Those responsible should be held accountable for this vicious, almost criminal behavior.

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