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Chicago can’t pay for its Beethoven

June 10, 2014 by norman lebrecht

29 comments.


We have received complaints from unpaid performers in the 2013 Chicago Beethoven Festival. Here’s one:

I would like to point your attention to the Chicago Beethoven Festival organized by Mr. George Lepauw. I participated in the organization of the 2013 edition and unfortunately we faced strong problems, both financially and in the way musicians were treated.

Many of the artists playing in the symphonic and the chamber orchestra were not paid or were barely paid (less than 25% of their fees) and are still waiting for their pay checks. This applies also to the ones who had to pay their own travel tickets. Moreover, Merit School (the provider of the location) and the Chicago Children Choir are also waiting for their dues. 

Musicians agreed not to sue Mr. Lepauw as long as he promised he won’t organize another festival until all dues are paid. However, it seems like this promise is being broken as the 2014 edition has just been announced.

beethoven fest

 

We approached Mr Lepauw, a former Chicagoan of the Year, for a response. Here’s his robust account of events: 

The International Beethoven Project’s last Beethoven Festival: LOVE 2013, which ran September 7-15, unfortunately ran a deficit. The Festival experienced a combination of factors which unexpectedly led to the discrepancy between expenditures and income: of note, certain expected donor pledges did not come in; ticket sales for the orchestra concerts (the most expensive of the festival) conducted by Matthias Pintscher were dismal, and several unexpected cost overruns occurred as well. The total cost of the festival was in the four-hundred-thousand dollar range, while the festival brought in approximately three-hundred-thousand dollars through ticket sales, donations, grants, advertising, and sponsorships. Without a reserve or an endowment to reach into under such circumstances due to the fact that we are still a very young organization, we were left with a sizable debt by the end of the event.

 

There has been no attempt to hide the facts from anyone; communication with those to whom IBP has owed fees has been clear and we have openly discussed our abilities to repay them, as liquidity has allowed. It is important to note that the large majority of festival participants have been paid as agreed, while most of those still owed have been partially paid, within our ability to do so. Several festival artists, when made aware of the deficit, generously donated their fees back through passion, faith, belief, in support of the project, although I have certainly never asked anyone to do so.

 

It is also important to note that the entire organization is run by volunteers, most of them working artists, myself included.Not a single administrator takes payment for their work for IBP.

 

The current attention to this situation by the press is no scoop nor any indication of a disagreement on facts: I am 100% in agreement with those who are owed monies as to the amounts owed and as to the commitmentof repayment. In fact, the social media explosion that led the press to pick up on this story over the last few days was not begun by any musician to whom IBP owed a fee, but by musicians who were paid on time back in September, and to whom IBP has been loyal since 2011. They have started a campaign of misinformation and blurring of facts that is counterproductive to the intent of repaying musicians.

 

I have always been, and still am, a musician’s advocate, and am extremely grateful to all the musicians who have been patiently waiting for their dues, and who have been supportive of us throughout this difficult period and have not complained on social media about it. I am also extremely grateful to all the musicians, donors, partners and others who have called me personally to assure me of their personal support in the last few days and urged me to stay the course.

 

In fact, by far most people that have ever been involved in this festival over the last three and a half years have raved about it and feel, as I do, that it is one of the most important new projects on the scene. Audiences are engaged, excited, and growing year by year, in a market that is extremely slow-growth, and most of our success, in spite of all marketing monies expended, has come from word-of-mouth. I along with an incredible roster of caring, amazing volunteers, have dedicated our lives to the success of this project since the start of our inaugural festival’s preparations in June 2011, at great personal expense, and with no other reward than to see a renewal in the arts and better opportunities for artists. A festival that started with fifty-thousand dollars and that raised over three-hundred-thousand dollars barely two years later, even if below projections, is still an incredible story of success.

 

I never thought that starting a festival from scratch and leading it to its ideal version would be easy, but the fact that it is still growing, that it is bringing people together of many different cultures, races, and generations, the fact that it has proven itself to be an unparalleled platform for artistic experimentation, the fact that it asks artists to be their truest selves and not have to fit into a dictated mold, the fact that it promotes art as asocietal imperative and shines a light on Chicago’s creative scene, the fact that it was started by working musicians with a dream for a new approach to the live arts, with only passion to convince participants and donors to engage, the fact that it has consistently produced a top-notch artistic product year by year, is proof of its upward trajectory and hard-won, step-by-step success story.

 

We could have chosen to declare bankruptcy last fall had we not had it in us to fight for our survival, in order to honor our debts and our continued dream. After a difficult period, in which we restructured much of our organization in order to steer clear of the mistakes and events that caused our deficit, we are now stronger than ever, and extremely well-positioned to move ahead with plans for our fourth festival. And why are we planning another festival when we have not completed the last payment from 2013? IBP’s only product is its annual festival, and without a product to promote, we lose our ability to leverage the purpose of our organization with our ability to raise funds. Our loyal and supportive donors, who believe in our mission, want to see us go forward, and are supporting us in our quest. Most loyal donors are giving more than they did last year in order to help us as best they can overcome our current challenges. We have also made significant changes to the economics of our festival compared to last year’s edition: indeed, we have managed to cut our costs by two-thirds through greater collaborative agreements with our presenting partners, and by canceling orchestra concerts from the roster, which were our heaviest burden over the last years, and which, despite their tremendous quality, did not attract much press attention and therefore enough ticket-buyers. We are still committed to a world-class virtuoso orchestra in our festival, but will not present this aspect of our project until we have secured a committed sponsor willing to assume the financial risks of our orchestra. The much-reduced cost of the upcoming festival, along with the increased ticket-revenue we expect (in line with growth percentages of years past, and based on the fact that our box-office has now been open for more than a week, nearly two months ahead of last year’s box-office schedule), and our proven ability to raise well over a quarter-million dollars per season, are all solid indicators of our ability to run a festival and repay our remaining debts over the summer months. We are positioning ourselves to grow and continue our important work, which will, with continued support from artists, donors, civic partners and others, guarantee a festival with well-paid musicians in future years.

 

Lastly, I make my living as a performing and teaching musician. I am a third-generation professional musician, with both my father and grandfather having made careers as orchestra musicians. I grew up being keenly aware (and participant) of the hard work musicians put up for unequal financial returns, and I always wanted to contribute to the movement for a change of society’s valuation of its working artists. It is a long-term process, and a highly imperfect one at that. However, that message is increasingly coming across in Chicago, and with a little more support and time, these goals, shared by many, will be realized in this part of the world.


I once again thank all the musicians for their dedication to their craft and their passion and contribution to this festival, and once again reiterate that all debts are in process of repayment, and will be repaid to the last dollar as promised despite the unfortunate but honest delay. And I continue my work to appeal to sponsors and donors for continued and new support, along with audience participation which can, by purchasing all available tickets, pay for the cost of this entire festival. As always, I make myself entirely available to anyone with questions. I hope this statement, made from the heart and based on hard facts, allows my volunteer team and I the opportunity to return to the immense work at hand of financing, organizing, and promoting the next festival. I would also hope that people who are not aware of the facts refrain from snowballing a situation which has been open and honest from the start with those it concerns directly.

My email is available to anyone who wishes to communicate with me directly, and I put it out here once more: george@internationalbeethovenproject.com.  

— 

George Lepauw
President and Artistic Director
International Beethoven Project & Beethoven Festival

Comments (29)

  1. Adrianne says:

    So sad that, as a musician yourself, you cannot see the obvious light that last year’s participants need to be paid before continuing onto a new festival. If you, as the head promoter, were paid any percentage at all, that is the risk you take and need to give it away. That means having reserves of your own to cover. Why would want other musicians to perform for the love only? We get this all the time. I say shame, no matter what sob story you are telling. The results are that you have joined the ranks of the Other Side, those who pay Passion Fees, i.e., less than contracted. It must stop. We hear of your kind everywhere and I just hope the word gets out that you are indeed not good for your contracting word.

  2. Nicole laury says:

    I am very surprised and disapointed to read this attack in slippedisc.com whose rules are “no diffalation, no personal attack ….” It looks like.
    I was lucky enough to be there during the three firts festivals and I must say it was a great and wonderful experience and adventure. High qualityfor each event, so many and rare different musical aspects in a same place for days and days.
    This festival is really something completely new in its form, it’s a beautiful meating of musicians from everywhere in the world and everywhere in art, classic, jazz, modern, firts time played pieces, si gers, dancers, solists, chamber music etc …. All that with painting exhibitions and many other events. It’s really a LIVING MUSIC event as we very rarely are abble to assist and live.
    This festival has to go on , all spectators I met during these 3 last events were very excited and happy with what they heard, saw and lived. Happy is the word and also enriched . Isn’t the best of what Music can offer ?
    About the money’s difficulties I know nothing but what I saw and can say is that all musicians looked really very happy and proud to be there, to participte to this amazing and adventure and to meet other musicians and people day after day.
    What I felt with this festival is a big pleasure to make music together, friendship , much love and joy they were happy to share, to give, to transmit !
    That is what our world needs. Thank you very much to theses young people who give their faith, their talent, their time and their courage ! I do hope they will find the help they need and merit.
    The show must go on !

    1. Sarah says:

      If it’s “so important” then I assume you are donating as much as you possibly can. You were on the receiving end, pure and simple.

  3. Nicole laury says:

    PLEASE some of you STOP this unrespectful way to do. Music merits better.
    I think in such adventures there are always joys and difficulties. Life is so and artists “know” that better than others … It’s a part of the way to live they choosed, not secure but exciting.
    If some of you are not happy with their experience, just don’t come again and do in another way elsewhere but please, for music’s respect, for your’s and other’s stop blaming, attacking and make war. There’s enough on earth ….
    You can like or not like, approve or not approve, think what you think but in peace, not in war which brings never good.
    Scuse me but it seems to me important , even more as an artist, to do and speak peacefully, you are messengers ….

    1. musician says:

      Nicole, I find your comments both disturbing and offensive as a professional musician, and more specifically as a musician that is currently owed considerable amounts of money by the Beethoven Festival. Yes, I am in music because I love it, but it is how I make my living. Your idea that we should simply ignore the fact that we have not been paid our contracted amount demeans the work that we do and the profession that we hold. We are artists, but we were contracted for work that we performed under conditions that were considerably less than ideal. When told that the festival was unable to pay us several weeks after the festival, though we were upset, we refrained from making any sort of public outcry, and we have publicly kept silent for 9 months. We did so because in spite of its problems, we believe that the Beethoven Festival has a lot to offer, and furthermore, I believe that this lack of payment did come out of honest (though completely foreseeable) mistakes. It was not until a new festival was announced, still without settling previous debt, that any sort of public statement was made by any musician that is still owed money. We all would be well within our rights to take Lepauw and the Beethoven Festival to court, and have been for months, but we have refrained from doing so. Contrary to your comments, we have at least publicly remained patient and easygoing, up to the point when Lepauw announced the dates for a new festival, breaking the promise that he made to myself and many of my as of yet unpaid friends and colleagues. Though I was not one of those that sent in complaints to slippeddisc.com, I support those who do. We owe it to those in our field, those that we work with to make sure that they do not find themselves in the unenviable position of giving up other work, paying out of pocket for travel expenses, and then not getting their contracted amount at the end of the festival, as so many musicians did this last year.

      I am glad that you enjoyed the musical events that you attended. If this sort of treatment continues, these events will cease to exist. We as artists create the product, and we expect to be treated in a professional manner and paid as contracted. It is unfortunate that this is not understood from a music lover such as yourself.

      Finally, I take issue with a number of Lepauw’s points, but specifically, I have seen NO instance of anyone creating a “campaign of misinformation.” Though it is true that there were musicians who had been paid that took to social media to express their disappointment in the Beethoven Festival’s announcement of an upcoming season without paying their friends and colleagues, nothing that they said is remotely untrue or even misleading. They did what many of us were not brave enough to do, for fear either of retaliation from Lepauw or for fear of being labeled a “troublemaker” in our community. I wish to thank these people for their support, and for trying to make sure that other colleagues do not find themselves in the same position that so many of us are in right now.

      1. Alex says:

        Where is the AFM in all of this? Aren’t they supposed to be protecting musicians in such cases?

        Oh, right – they’re too busy fighting absurd battles against their own members.

        1. Lisa Bressler says:

          The musicians of this Beethoven Festival do not have a CBA between Local 10-208 and the management of this organization. One of the members attempted to get the ball rolling on that and was fired.

          1. Alex says:

            Aha! Interesting. I KNEW there had to be something going on there.

            I wonder further if the Chicago Musicians Association is now in trouble with the AFM for allowing this debacle to occur without raising more of a fuss. I will look for the International Beethoven Project to appear on the Unfair List in the next issue of the union paper.

            On a side-note, is it legal in the US to fire someone for initiating a union contract?

            My first impression of Monsieur Lepauw as a wealthy dilettante is now confirmed. Ironically, his father Didier, who is apparently in real estate, could probably make this all go away with the proceeds from the sale of one or two nice houses in the affluent Chicago suburb of Northbrook where he works.

  4. Andrew Patner says:

    1) It’s not *Chicago* that can’t/won’t pay its musicians.

    2) “Adrianne” says all that needs to be said. “Nicole Laury” channels Marie Antoinette. And I am sure that she would never *dream* of being paid for whatever it is that she does professionally. “Not secure but exciting” that way! Oy.

  5. Andrew Patner says:

    What “Musician” said, eloquently and accurately. “Alex,” I do not believe that this is a union matter or contract.

  6. Messenger says:

    First, I would like to echo the sentiments of Madame Laury, Monsieur Lepauw’s aunt, in acknowledging that the Beethoven Festival is indeed an incredible cultural happening. Eclectic programming, great artists and a great city. Seeing this festival disappear because of legal actions, or financial ones, would be a great loss and an incredible waste.

    You cite missed expected donor pledges and dismal ticket sales for the orchestra concerts (the most expensive of the festival) conducted by Matthias Pintscher but could the high ticket costs be blamed for this? It was a very high level orchestra lead by the most versatile and talented musician today, playing one of the most famous piece of music in western civilization (Beethoven 5th), in a known venue downtown…
    I can see how it must have been hard to fill the seats.

    You claim that there has been: no attempt to hide the facts from anyone; communication with those to whom IBP has owed fees has been clear and we have openly discussed our abilities to repay them, as liquidity has allowed.

    Please see below

    On Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 12:50 PM, George Lepauw wrote:
    >
    > Dear Musicians,
    >
    >
    > In the interest of transparency, I wanted to send you an update on where our finances stood.
    >
    > First, it is again with deep apologies to you that I write this update. This past festival ran unexpectedly dry, and I know it has caused much hardship as a result. We have never encountered such a challenging situation before and were caught off-guard by the severity of the situation.
    >
    > Second, I have been working without relent on getting the organization back in the black since the festival ended. I understand that it is difficult for you to see what I have been doing when you don’t see absolute results. But I have been pursuing donors, grants and even trying to secure loans. As you likely know, both grants and loans are complex and take time to apply for and secure. The quickest method of shoring up resources is by getting individual donors to make large donations. However, relatively few people are capable of giving large sums of money quickly, and the few that I am in touch with each have their requirements, and usually, very busy schedules themselves which adds to the complexity of moving fast on these matters.
    >
    > Third, with continued efforts to communicate with these individuals, I have begun to collect new promises of support. I can tell you now that the light is clear at the end of the tunnel.
    >
    > I cannot make an absolute prediction on the date by which I know 100% that we will begin receiving these checks from donors, as this part is not directly under my control. The only thing that is directly under my control is how quickly we can issue checks to you once we have received funds on our end, and that I can guarantee will be an immediate turnaround. I can say however, that two significant donors have pledged to send support our way this month, and I am working to ensure that this indeed happens as they have indicated.
    >
    > Lastly, rumors seem to be flying around that we are booking Beethoven Festival 2014 without regard for previous promises. I can assure you that though there have been some conversations about a possible 2014 festival, we will not proceed unless finances allow and our debt to you is paid. Once we get to the other side of this challenge, we will be a better organization and will make use of lessons learned.
    >
    > Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns at this time. Again, I am fully aware of the hardship this has caused you. Making it right is my number 1 priority and we are within striking distance of a resolution to the matter.
    >
    > Thank you for your patience.
    >
    >
    > Respectfully and with humility,
    >
    > George
    >
    >
    > —
    > George Lepauw
    > President and Artistic Director
    > International Beethoven Project & Beethoven Festival
    >
    > Chicagoan of the Year, Classical Music – Chicago Tribune
    > —
    > http://www.InternationalBeethovenProject.com
    > https://www.facebook.com/BeethovenFestival
    > twitter.com/beethoven_festival
    > —
    > International Beethoven Project
    > PO Box 14149
    > Chicago, IL 60614
    >

    This one came out about 24 hours after the new season was announced…

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: “George Lepauw”
    Date: Jun 4, 2014 1:42 PM
    Subject: Next Round and Festival update
    To:
    Cc:

    Dear Musicians,

    I know you have all waited patiently for a resolution to IBP’s debt to you. It is not in the least forgotten. Our year has been very difficult, but we see light at the end of the tunnel. There has been a near-complete restructuring of the organization, and our intent is to rise out of this bog as a leaner, more efficient, but equally impactful arts organization. I have been knocking on many doors, have been working on grant applications and corporate support, with much promise; these types of attempts do take time to work out. However, our greatest fundraising success still comes from individual donors who believe in our project. It is as a result of these donors – who are not legally required to support us – that we have been able to send out the recent round of checks to you. It is from these donors that we will be able to send the next round of checks this month. I am still waiting on some donor commitments to know just how much I can send this month. Hopefully it will be the remaining balance, but I can’t make that promise at the moment. No matter what, there are funds for checks to be sent this month.

    Because we confidently do see the near-term resolution of this unfortunate situation, because we have spoken to many partners and donors who wish to continue helping this project move forward, because I believe in it and am invested in it more than ever, the choice has been made to move forward and plan our next festival, which will be the fourth, this september. Donors are willing to go an extra mile financially to help us get through this tough time only if we keep this project alive and continue to build the festival, retain its spot in the annual calendar, and use it to attract new support. This decision has been made with much care and thought, and it also must be said that though the announcement for the festival will sound just as grand and ambitious as the previous editions, it will in fact be much leaner financially, and cost us a third what it cost us last year, as a result of some strategic partnerships and other cost-cutting measures. Lastly, we are not planning on an orchestra concert unless we find a sponsor specifically for that purpose. As of now, there is no definite sponsor although there is some interest. I am not willing to move ahead with plans to program an orchestra concert unless a sponsor’s check comes with it upfront. I am sure you feel the same way.

    If you have any questions or comments, as usual, feel free to express them.

    With best regards,

    George

    You tell us that: It is important to note that the large majority of festival participants have been paid as agreed, while most of those still owed have been partially paid, within our ability to do so.

    This, I guess, would come down to fact checking to realize that it isn’t true. Me and many of my colleagues are still “patiently” awaiting payments and, given the responses on this blog alone, it is easy to assume many others are in this situation.

    Could it be that the musicians who are still owed money would rather NOT speak up? Even though most of us are extremely skeptical about the fading hope of getting paid, keeping quiet seems like the best policy. Truth is that there is no money left in the festival or Mr Lepauw’s pockets, so why even try?
    The fact that this upcoming festival is longer in length and more diluted in content, that, short of being able to use bigger venues like in the past, the Festival is alining itself with Performance arts venues, not for their product but for their gratuity, a sad fact and such an underestimation of the amazing Performance Art movement in Chicago.

    The idea that throwing another festival in the same city would refinance the 2013 edition and finance the 2014 events only in donations and ticket sales sounds very Donald Trumpy pre-first bankruptcy to me but then again, I am just an artist who lives for passion and love only.

  7. Another musician says:

    “About the money’s difficulties I know nothing but what I saw and can say is that all musicians looked really very happy and proud to be there, to participte to this amazing and adventure and to meet other musicians and people day after”

    To be sure, while we were playing, we were under the impression our musicianship and hard work were to be fairly compensated.

  8. Alex says:

    “Andrew” – I would find it hard to believe that a high-profile event like this one didn’t go through the AFM local. If a contract has been signed and filed, the union can take legal action against an employer who doesn’t pay. But maybe that isn’t the case in Chicago.

    By the way, this festival is looking more and more to me (an outsider) like a big vanity project for “Monsieur Lepauw”.

    1. Andrew Patner says:

      Alex, I put your name in quotes because I do not know who you are or if your name is Alex. As far as I know, I am the only Andrew Patner out there. I don’t have an answer on what arrangements, if any, were made with the CFM in the contracts for the “International Beethoven Festival.” Once I can determine that perhaps we can find an answer to your question. Thanks.

      1. Andrew Patner says:

        The Chicagoist.com website today/Thursday quotes a 2013 Festival musician as saying:

        “This was not a union gig, and it might be a wake-up call that we have to get the union involved in more of these types of performances.”

        The article continues:

        “The Chicago Federation for Musicians was asked to comment, but did not respond.”

        1. Lisa Bressler says:

          Hi Andrew, see my comment above. A member of the orchestra did try to initiate getting a CBA with the CFM and was fired for his efforts.

          1. Andrew Patner says:

            Thank you, Lisa!

    2. Andrew Patner says:

      Alex, If you look at the June 29 Slipped Disc follow-up post on this site and my comment on that post you will find the full texts of two open letters from the president of the CFM released on that day, one addressed to Mr LePauw, the other to the general community of musicians. Answers a number of questions, if not all of them.

  9. Professional Musician says:

    It is a shame that the antiquated notion that musicians and artists are supposed to “suffer” and “struggle” in order to pursue their art is still alive and well in Chicago and around the world. It is an even greater shame that the worst offenders are often musicians themselves…It is somewhat akin to the outcry about medical doctors going through tortuous internships and residencies, and nobody wanting to change anything, because of the rampant notion that this was what was done in the past, and the general consensus amongst older doctors that “if I suffered through it, so should the younger generation”. No matter that it is only patients who suffer in the end, from dead-tired young residents who cannot stay awake for 24 hour shifts.
    A similar occurrence in the music field happens as well. Young composers and music producers creating music for the ‘big names” – just for the experience and association…everyone has to simply “pay their dues”. Taking advantage of the newcomers, the less-fortunate, simply because that is the way you were once treated doesn’t make sense. It happens in academia, it happens in every field. However, apprenticeships and internships are a vital part of the learning experience…but with established and prestigious internships, there is definitely an expectation of some non-tangible or non-monetary reward from such endeavors by the participants– acceptance to grad schools, better career-advancement, perhaps even a job offer at the end of it.
    However, the musicians in question here are NOT neophytes….apparently they are already well-established professionals who are earning a living performing and teaching. So, if an experienced professional devotes his time and energy to a project with expectation and a contractual agreement of a certain compensation, THEY DESERVE TO GET IT. PERIOD. In all likelihood, those professional musicians sacrificed substantial income from their other endeavors which they put on hold for the sake of the Beethoven Festival. LePauw could have simply asked people to donate their time, but then he might have not been able to attract high-profile, professional musicians. On the other hand, those top-notch musicians probably COULD have afforded to donate their time. It’s the slightly younger professionals or simply less well-known musicians who are real working freelancers, who were depending on that money and are likely the ones who have been stiffed. But when an article appeared last year in the Tribune that quoted LePauw as saying that he invited nearly ALL the top musicians in Chicago to participate- well, that simply is NOT true. And had he in fact done exactly that, he could have SAVED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN ACCOMODATIONS and TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES.
    Chicago seems to have this notion that if a musician is not flying in from Russia, China, Japan, or Paris, or England or Canada…etc…that they aren’t any good.

    This could have been an INCLUSIVE festival to really celebrate ALL the professional CHICAGO-BASED musicians. It could have created a real sense of COMMUNITY and COLLABORATION amongst Chicago musicians and the classical music audience here in Chicago. Instead, the price-tag was huge, the investors/donors are probably pissed-off, and the professional musical constituency of Chicago is now divided and at odds with each other.

    But, nobody loves controversy more than someone who is looking for FAME as opposed to being truly dedicated to their ART. All this NEGATIVE PRESS will likely give George LePauw much undeserved and unearned attention that will still propel him into the limelight of Chicago musical circles. If he can beat this bad rap, he will become the “Hero of Chicago”. And if he cannot beat the bad rap, he will still become a “household name” and have the foundation for future musical success- albeit on his own. Simply because bad news or good news- it doesn’t matter- his name is still in the PRESS. And people pay thousands of dollars to get this kind of PRESS.
    Film stars and celebrities in this country know this is true- because AMERICANS LOVE SCANDAL. And the scandals don’t hurt careers as much as we may think they do- true or not- a publicized controversy or scandal gets their names into the public eye, and that positive or negative publicity is worth every penny that they didn’t pay for it!
    When will people start recognizing real talent, true integrity, and consistent dedication?
    Only time will tell if LePauw is just a “flash in the pan”. But, I would venture to say that if George actually had to EARN that money entirely himself and wait until he EARNED that money, rather than beg and borrow from “donors and investors”, he wouldn’t be where he is right now.
    All that being said, American Classical music culture clearly DEPENDS on the generosity of individual and corporate donors and investors. Unlike Eastern European countries, which sponsor and educate their gifted youth for FREE, young American musicians must FINANCE their own educations, and private lessons, and with that huge cost born by American musicians, shouldn’t we have some moral obligation to support them? Ticket sales almost NEVER support the actual costs of the musicians’ performance fees for a concert- unless your name is Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, or Renee Fleming. Donors ARE required to support classical music concerts and the musicians themselves. Imagine how great an already talented musician could be, if they didn’t have to spend countless hours in a menial day job just to pay their bills? But, by accepting donations, there is an expectation that the money will be managed properly, and that all musicians will be treated fairly and equally.

    Donors should be a little more wary about who they are going to support. Is a young, relatively unproven musician worthy of over 300K in donations?

    In my opinion, George has dug a hole so deep that his best course of action is to align himself with musicians who are willing and able to play for free to help him pay off his debts. Given the state of the economy, and the financial state of most musicians, it will be very difficult to do. But, scaling down the operation and the festival seems like a prudent thing to do- or better yet, postponing the festival and simply holding a PRE-FESTIVAL FUNDRASING concert with the sole goal of paying the musicians from last year.

    Most unfortunately, the public STILL expects to get their recorded music FOR FREE, so soon they will expect concerts to be free as well, as they often do!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/09/business/media/free-music-at-least-while-it-lasts.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

    So people should now ask the question- is this festival really worth it?
    All the power to George LePauw, but fool me once…..

  10. Charith says:

    I think it would be very interesting to see the $400k budget for the 2013 festival.
    With all volunteer staff – and unpaid musicians – where did the $300k raised go to?

  11. Insider Musician says:

    It is sad, indeed, to see that Mr. George Lepauw seems to have become increasingly delusional. Luckily I was not one of those unlucky “Beethoven Festival” performers but have heard the story over and over from dedicated colleagues, who feel deceived and defrauded by Mr. Lepauw.
    First of all, there are not only professional younger musicians who did not-but should- get paid for their service in the orchestra last year, but also highly regarded internationally established musicians who have not been paid from the previous Beethoven Festival in 2012. Some of them simply took the high ground instead of running after Mr. Lepauw for money, but decided not to come back last year.
    Many of the younger musicians, who performed in the belief they would be compensated, refrained from complaining in fear of retribution from Lepauw and his well-connected family in Chicago.
    When looking at his letter from February 4, 2014, one would think Mr. Lepauw would have indeed come down from his high horse, but looking at his recent actions that seems not to be the case.
    The pattern seems consistent over the years: Mr. Lepauw, a mediocre pianist, with not a single national or international prize to his credit, uses musicians of higher caliber, trying to boost his career as a “concert pianist”-and paying them, while using other musicians as ringers-and not paying them, all in the name of “LOVE”!
    How low can it get? George Lepauw should be ashamed for his actions towards his fellow musicians, pay up and apologize!
    I am sure Beethoven would turn in his grave!

  12. Max says:

    I posted a comment in favor of George and supporting him during this well organized and ongoing man bashing campaign. I better understand what all this is about. it is all about destroying the image of a good man going through tough financial difficulties. My comment got censored. i would be fair and non bias to allow others people who have a different opinion of the man to express their point of view without being censored. I know George: he doesn’t deserve this. “failure is an event not a person”. I believe in George because I witnessed his talent. Also George is being attacked recklessly as a person ” a mediocre pianist” as someone stated because he is FRENCH. This is getting too personal, it is fair to criticize the man on his failure to manage his budget efficiently but not at all on his talent or skills as a musician. We are talking about the third generation of musicians with parents shining at the highest level in France. There are a lot of shameless people running free with their nasty comments, spitting on George will never make them shine!

  13. Gilles Aniorte-Tomassian says:

    agreed with Max, here, those personal attacks are ridiculous. All this affair has a bad smell of III rd Reich propaganda

    1. Andrew Patner says:

      Third Reich propaganda? Wow.

  14. Andrew Patner says:

    Brave and eloquent young Chicago violinist Ellen McSweeney discusses and analyzes at NewMusicBox.org the fear that musicians unpaid by the International Beethoven Festival of Chicago have experienced and how some of them broke their nine-month silence when a new Festival was announced for September with 2013 and other bills still unpaid. Brava, Ellen!

    http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/chicago-the-deafening-silence-of-the-beethoven-festival-musicians/#comment-682855

  15. B. Douglas says:

    The number of times Mr Lepauw stated he was a volunteer is nauseating. You might be a volunteer, sir, doing the Festival for the love of art, but you hired musicians and promised to pay them, so please do so. Musicians work because they love the art of music, but they also love food and shelter.

  16. Richard Childress says:

    What a mess. Very unfortunate. I grew up in Chicago and used to sing and direct choirs there; now I live near London UK. The Beethoven must frankly cancel 2014, pay everyone who’s owed, and then either fold or reorganise. If this had happened in London they’d have been immediately eaten alive by social media and the union would have been all over it. It’s very cut-throat here, the cost of living almost three times that of Chicago, and players have little loyalty to anyone.

  17. Cornelius Boots says:

    Ludwig van would burn this to a cinder. This is blatant classism.

    What we have is an epidemic—an infection, an infestation. Because those who slave away their lives in drudgery (and this means some billionaires too) are envious of those of us that have found a spark of aliveness and beauty in this increasingly toxic “world”—the payback for that is the false “optionality” that payment for gigs has taken on. I blame some of that on any of us that have EVER played for free: that’s where it starts.

    Lepauw and the Festival itself seem to be pawns, puppets infected with this falsity: it is beyond their own vision to see what absolutely untenable B.S. they are engaging in here:
    In fact, let’s thank him for drawing this darkness out a bit into the light.

    I left Chicago in 2002 for the sunny West Coast and have never looked back—but sadly, this issue is global.

    My bass clarinet quartet was approached by the Bohemian Club (“gentlemen’s” club of some of the wealthiest on the planet) to perform at their annual retreat: for no monetary compensation except some food and we could hang out with —-who? George !@#$ W. Bush?
    Uh, no thanks.
    I was too baffled to respond directly to the request having no desire to engage their dark magic, but in the spirit of “response” I did write my blog post:

    “There’s No Such Thing as an Unpaid Gig”

    Please respect yourselves and speak clearly about compensation—before, during, after, whatever it takes—and to those of you who do not understand what I am saying here: pay for your next meal out with a smile and some thoughts of love and tell us how it goes.

  18. Ellen says:

    I am just finding out about all of this now and I am livid at the non payment of musicians. I was a visual artist in the first two festivals and was to be in a different role in the third, but withdrew my participation. My person issues with all of the festival was not monetary, but rather, how I was being treated as a person. Based on my interactions with member of the ruling class of the IBP, I am not surprised to hear about recent developments. Now with news of the 2014, Beethoven Festival, which is a huge endeavor, it is very clear that the purpose of the festival is for ego and not the pursuit of the beauty and magic of the Arts. Using Beethoven’s music and ideals in this festival, shows a lack of respect for Beethoven himself. I stand in solidarity with all of you in this fight and am available to help in anyway that is needed!


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