Troubling Rhetoric from CSO board chair

Mr. Robert "Buzz" Trafford and Mr. Tony Beadle were the guests for the first half hour of Fred Anderle's 11 AM Open Line radio show on Thursday, May 22. The link to hear the archive of that is here.

It is terribly disheartening that both gentlemen skirted responsibility for current CSO issues. But especially disappointing was Buzz Trafford, who rather than using valuable on-air time to generate greater support for his own chosen ward, the Columbus Symphony, instead seemed eager to deflect public awareness away from troubling evidence regarding the financial behavior of Symphony management.

Mr. Buzz Trafford seemed eager to get the "facts" (something that actually exists; reality; truth) lined up for the discussion to continue. In fact he seemed almost desperate to have his version of the facts be factual, rather than computations and legally reported versions of them.

As Fred introduced Buzz, he quoted Mr. Trafford's claim that the cuts being asked from musicians are more like 25%, rather than 40%.

I just Googled "how to calculate percentage". It's easy. To find the percentage salary cut we are being asked to take, you divide the given amount ($33,000) by the total amount ($55,000) and multiply by 100. I opened my little computer calculator and I get 40%. I have no idea how Buzz Trafford calculated it. Nonetheless, claiming as true a false statistic speaks volumes of his scruples.

Buzz later states the musicians will have 3 months fewer work obligations to the Symphony with his proposed contract. Perhaps he needs to send the musicians a list of employers which allow someone to work random hours and weeks at the convenience of the Symphony's irregular and ever changing schedule. And perhaps he needs to research the time obligations for a musician to master his/her instrument and maintain that high level.

He later disputes the musicians use of numbers taken from the CSO's own IRS reports. Buzz claims the number $11.1 million is "dead wrong" and it "confuses the discussion and it's important that we not distract from the real facts with facts that confuse and delay the time when we can talk about what we really need to talk about". In other words he doesn't want the public to be confused by the real number, $11.1 million.

He wants to stick to the number $9.5 million as the total budget, and refuses to admit the real amount, $11.1 million, including the "in kind" donations, which are simply services donated to the symphony without any cash exchange. Why doesn't he want the public to know the truth? It could be that the musicians expenses would appear as they truly are, which is minimal in the bloated CSO budget.

One reader, Barbara Racey* wrote to me with the following comment: "I have written many successful grants, to GCAC, OAC, Columbus Foundation and many other funding groups, and inkind contributions are always included in the budget. It is one of the categories listed on the budget form of the request, and it is expected that the requesting organization will solicit and receive this kind of contribution. It indicates support beyond giving "just money." In my experience, inkind goes hand in hand with passion."

He later says the salary of $33,000 being offered the musicians is "not right". He gives some vague answer for why he thinks it should be $35,000; because the musicians can find other work, which may or may not be available, but that doesn't matter, because it's possible. Whether $33K or $35K, it's still an unlivable wage for a highly trained expert in the top 5% of a field. Again, the tactic is disputation by deflection from the real subject.

Buzz announces the salary of the musicians of the Jacksonville Symphony in Florida as $28,000. Unfortunately, he failed to mention that that number is a drastic and temporary one year concession, and will be quickly restored to $38,036, with the average pay being $43,660. Details are important in telling the truth.

Tony Beadle mocks his own support base by saying "passion takes more than wearing a pink rubber band on your wrist and cadging a comp ticket from a musician and showing up at the last concerts". Would he similarly mock the "pink ribbons" of supporters of breast cancer research? Also, is he really color blind, failing to notice the blatant "orange" color of all Symphony Strong materials, or is the color "pink" used to imply the "gayness" of so many "wimpy" (read: insignificant) symphony supporters?

Mr. Beadle later refers to the work of heading an arts institution in Columbus as being like "life in Afghanistan; you have to learn to survive it and do it and have the joy of it nonetheless". Ah, with passionate leadership like that, who needs money and respect from donors?!

While discussing the cancellation of the Summer season, Tony Beadle says he needs "working capital" to "negotiate with artists and get vendors in line". Buzz says there was a "complete lack of funds available to launch Picnic..." Truth is, that capital would have been there if next Season's tickets had been sold, and it is a standard operating procedure to use it in the current season's expenses.

Beadle and Buzz then claim the risk of rain as another reason to cancel the summer season. What both men failed to mention is that the CSO carries rain insurance to cover any financial loss from a rained out show. Yes, the truth is a sticky subject, isn't it?

In answering a listener's question about CAPA's 68% increased rent charges to the Symphony, Buzz says, "there is no truth whatsoever, none whatsoever, to the assertion that was made with respect to the CAPA rent." In fact, he went on for quite awhile trying to discredit the source, "misinformed and dead wrong", "his numbers were both false and misleading" and saying "both CAPA and the Symphony are extremely disappointed that the musicians would sponsor that kind of misinformation" and "it's important to have a community debate, but the debate should center on the facts" and "the report that was trumpeted at the press conference is a disservice to the community, a disservice to the media and a disservice to the Symphony".

He was so busy trumpeting his repetitive counter-accusatory phrases he forgot to answer the question. Anderle repeated it. Trafford then stated some vague numbers, which, unfortunately, don't agree with the IRS reports given by the Symphony. Those numbers are publicly available, since they come from the CSO's own IRS reports, under the heading of "occupancy". Whether "occupancy" entails more than "rent" is inconsequential, since the money was spent, and the cost went up 68%.

The pattern of rhetorical manipulation I observed throughout this interview is this: the more painfully truthful the facts which undermine Buzz's point of view, the more emphatically he disputed their truth with repeated phrases of emphatic accusations of the other side's falseness, which are then followed by some false statement on his part. First create a rhetorical smokescreen; then slip the lie through.

Ah, rhetoric, the lawyer's craft, used to make white into black and guilty into innocent! No wonder the media is confused, as I'm sure you are by now.

(*quote from Barbara Racey, Former Executive Director of Cantari Singers, Services provided inkind; Founding member and grant writer, Chamber Music Society of Dublin, Services provided inkind)

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3 comments for “Troubling Rhetoric from CSO board chair

  1. May 25, 2008 at

    Ironic that the archived radio broadcast of Buzz and Beadle at the linked web site is just below an archived story about Afghanistan.


    Thanks again David for your reports.

  2. Robert
    May 25, 2008 at

    Thank you, thank you for a clarified and a distilled version of the WOSU interview. I wish these points could have been brought up immediately during the broadcast, but nevertheless they are excellent talking points, and I hope we can continue to make these disingenous leaders “face the music”.
    They are showing some true colors now, (“life in Afganistan”?!!!!!) and the more the general public notice their absolute lies, falsehoods and deceptive practices, the more likelihood we have to oust them and find leaders that have true PASSION for our art.

  3. Katherine Mero
    May 25, 2008 at

    Once again, you inject some clarity into the situation. Is there anyway for symphony supporters, musicians, anyone really, to get out this troubling news to the rest of the community? It leads me to believe that something else may be going on, or Buzz Trafford is just getting desperate in his obvious desire to shut the symphony down. With the Dispatch hesitating to publish anything in support of the symphony, one gets easily frustrated with the lack of options available of spreading news around. Any suggestions? I’m also livid about their comments and insults to people like Dan LaMacchia and to Symphony Strong…waving a pink bracelet? I’m sure if any supporters and survivors of breast cancer had heard that, Beadle would be getting a flood of angry people after him for that insult. Followed by those at Symphony Strong.

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