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Equal-pay flute wins raucous applause

July 10, 2018 by norman lebrecht

28 comments.


From WBUR’s Tanglewood report:

After a performance of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, which features recurring flute solos, music director Andris Nelsons asked Elizabeth Rowe to stand. Orchestra members who solo during a symphony are frequently asked to take a bow after the performance, but Sunday afternoon’s rollicking applause for Rowe may have also signaled coded support for her unprecedented legal fight for equal pay.

The boisterous applause for Rowe onstage stands in contrast with the quiet public reaction from her fellow musicians offstage. Comments by members of the orchestra, and by some staff members, all sounded very much like “no comment.” “Good for Liz” is about the only non-generic response given during multiple conversations about the matter.

Read on here.

 


Comments (28)

  1. Caravaggio says:

    Mr. Nelsons is now free to expand on his gesture by taking heed of Slatkin and rectifying the wrong.

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      How much authority does Nelsons have over musician pay? Do you know?

      1. Bruce says:

        I’ve asked for a raise twice: the first time, I met with the executive director and told him it was difficult to make ends meet on the pay I was getting. He basically said the orchestra couldn’t afford to pay me another $600 per year (if we have to take that money out of the advertising budget, and then attendance drops, then the orchestra could go under, and it would be because of you), and refused me on the spot.

        The second time, I sent a letter. It was at the end of a season where I had played a number of big solos and done them well. I didn’t mention needing the money, I just listed the repertoire I’d stood out in and said I felt I’d earned it, and suggested he ask the conductor if he agreed. His response was “I talked to the music director about this, and he said ‘of course.'” Same size raise, same executive director, same budget. Not a peep about the money. (25 years later, the orchestra is still in business.)

        So yes, the conductor can indeed influence whether a musician gets a raise. Orchestras are not all the same, but they are more the same than they are different.

      2. Bruce says:

        I’ve asked for a raise twice: the first time, I met with the executive director and told him it was difficult to make ends meet on the pay I was getting. He basically said the orchestra couldn’t afford to pay me another $600 per year (if we have to take that money out of the advertising budget, and then attendance drops, then the orchestra could go under, and it would be because of you), and refused me on the spot.

        The second time, I sent a letter. It was at the end of a season where I had played a number of big solos and done them well. I didn’t mention needing the money, I just listed the repertoire I’d stood out in and said I felt I’d earned it, and suggested he ask the conductor if he agreed. His response was “I talked to the music director about this, and he said ‘of course.'” Same size raise, same executive director, same budget. Not a peep about the money. (25 years later, the orchestra is still in business.)

        So yes, the conductor can indeed influence whether a musician gets a raise. (Orchestras are not all the same, but they are more the same than they are different. It’s mostly a question of scale.)

        1. Bruce says:

          No idea how I managed to post that twice. Sorry.

        2. Max Grimm says:

          Let me offer your often posted phrase in these cases, Bruce…..’Would you care to repeat that’ 😉

          1. Bruce says:

            😀

            Thanks!

  2. CTCajun says:

    Too many women are drummed out of music careers by the harassing, misogynistic behavior of directors all along the way, aided and abetted by the quiet assent of bystanders, including the musicians they play with. Good for Nelsons, whatever he intended to signal. Might we assume for one minute that he asked her to stand because he thought her performance warranted the recognition? What a concept.

  3. Manny says:

    A perfect example of how she broke ranks and discipline to call attention to herself, resulting in the disruption of a concert. She spoke of playing Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto as proof of her value, yet she is not fighting for equal pay for Jessica Zhou, who has to work seven times harder to play that piece, as many as eight notes at one time, while the flute only plays one. It is one of the most-difficult concerti for harp, but not so, the flute. It reminds me of listening to Julius Baker playing in the New York Philharmonic, constantly calling attention to himself by playing every little bit as if it were a solo. She should be laid off for at least a season as punishment.

    1. Bruce says:

      ^ Applause for a solo bow at the end of a concert is not generally considered disruptive. YMMV though.

    2. John Kelly says:

      Julius Baker was a spectacular player. Taught by William Kincaid who played in exactly the way you describe. Wish we had more players in wind sections instead of Anonymous Winds which is what there’s much too much of in American Orchestras (Woodhams, who is not anonymous but more in the soloistic school is an exception)

      1. Michael Comins says:

        Julie Baker had oboist Harold Gomberg sitting next to him who was anything but a shrinking violet. They made quite a pair, similar to their teachers Kincaid and Tabuteau but even better IMHO.

      2. Tutti Flutie says:

        I agree. I am speechless that anyone would attack Julius Baker, who represents the highest standard of US flute playing. His playing and the recordings he left us with are a reference point. He was the consummate orchestral flutist and leaves a legacy carried on by top flutists in American orchestras today. Yes, his teacher was the great William Kincaid, who played very much in the same style. To attack Baker is to attack the US school of flute playing.

        1. John Kelly says:

          It’s also, in my view, to attack the British and European style of flute playing (think Galway when he was principal, or Pahud or Emily Beynon for example). The “just sit there and play” approach to being a wind principal is certainly not my preference…..I remember a reviewer in Gramophone singling out Baker for his playing in a recording of Daphnis – “covers himself in glory.” Now maybe our original poster doesn’t think players should be doing that, but we all know what he means – it’s like saying we don’t want to watch Ronaldo play because he’s some kind of “tall poppy” in the Portugal side…………

          1. Michael Comins says:

            Indeed – my three favorite flutists of the last 50 years: Baker, Galway and Rampal, all known for fluid technique and beautiful sound.

        2. Charles Brink says:

          a gorgeous sound, indeed, constant vibrato, and before the me too movement…

      3. Charles Brink says:

        like in everything else, people believe the old days were better….stupid.

    3. nimitta says:

      You speak from an apparently comprehensive ignorance of Boston Symphony Orchestra flutist Elizabeth Rowe, Manny. Judging by your churlish comment, I venture to say you’ve never once seen nor heard Ms. Rowe perform live with the BSO. And if you think she disrupted the concert by standing when singled out by Andris Nelsons during the subsequent applause, it would seem you’ve never attended a symphony concert, period.

      I have done so, more times than I know. Not once have I experienced Ms. Rowe “calling attention to herself” or resembling Julius Baker in any way whatsoever. She is in fact an outstanding orchestral musician – a team player and a terrific colleague whom her fellow musicians were happy to applaud. As for Jessica Zhou – and also other female principals in the BSO’s future – Elizabeth Rowe has done them all a great favor.

    4. Tutti Flutie says:

      Where exactly does she mention the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto? Maybe I’m missing it but I don’ t see that anywhere. I know she’s been featured as a soloist a number of times but the Mozart doesn’t come to mind as the most important or interesting concerto she’s done. You’re right, it’s not a big deal for the flute. I’m surprised she would even mention it. Offhand I’d say that her premiere of the Carter concerto or the Ligeti Concerto she did with Mr. Ferillo are far more relevant.

      1. Bruce says:

        I think she mentioned it because she & the harpist were the featured soloists on a tour.

        1. Tutti Flutie says:

          Ah, OK. That makes sense then.

  4. Vaquero357 says:

    But….the first oboe is usually the second highest paid player after the concertmaster, yes? How does her pay compare to the other FLUTISTS in the orchestra?

    (Should be higher because she’s principal, of course….)

  5. mr oakmountain says:

    The point of the article is that her COLLEAGUES applauded her as a subtle show of support, rather than speaking out openly.

  6. Terence says:

    I have no opinion on the merits of this particular case but:

    what chance would a male flautist have if the roles were reversed and the female oboist was getting paid more?

    There must be some examples out there.

  7. Jack says:

    I wonder what ‘raucous’ applause sounds like.

    1. Bruce says:

      I’m thinking widespread whooping and drumming of feet on the stage.

    2. anon says:

      I never knew until I attended a Gustavo Dudamel concert. (And the audience was middle aged white middle classers, mind you.)

      1. Bruce says:

        P.S. The “raucous” applause was from her fellow musicians onstage. Shouts of “bravo” (even “brava” happens occasionally in the US) are not uncommon coming from the audience; that’s what made it unusual. Orchestra musicians usually applaud politely, or mime tapping their bows on their stands.


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