Rio musicians chief appeals for fair play

Rio musicians chief appeals for fair play


norman lebrecht

March 07, 2011

Message from the President of the Rio de Janeiro Musicians’ Union at 2ª FIM International Orchestra Conference (IOC)

by Antonio J Augusto on Monday, 07 March 2011 at 17:13

Last year, the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra celebrated 70 years of activities. There were over 100 concerts to an estimated public of 190 000 people, according to the institution itself. Also a significant increase in the budget of the orchestra was reported, with funds coming from public policy sponsored by the federal government.

What could indicate a time of reward to the musicians of the orchestra, which for years received low wages, facing the worst working conditions and sacrificed much of his personal life in favor of this institution had become a worldly unprecedented drama. Only two days after the start of their collective holidays – traditionally in January in Brazil – were surprised by a statement informing that all OSB musicians would be subject to a “performance evaluation” provided with no discretion and without any discussion with the orchestral body or its leaders. Following this statement, the orchestra management announced that the orchestra would have their activities suspended until the month of July, and the concerts of the season in March, April, May and June would be conducted by the Brazilian Youth Symphony. At the same time they announced competitions for posts to be held in London, New York and finally in Rio de Janeiro.

It was thus clarified that the project will lead to mass dismissals, leading to the absurd situation of changing an entire orchestra to meet the demand of a single person, maestro Roberto Minczuk. For some time the orchestra and its conductor have not been speaking the same language, especially after the dismissal of 14 musicians on the eve of Christmas, in 2006, as well as his attempts to dismiss older musicians and those who opposed his leadership .

At the same time, admonitions are sent by the orchestra management warning that the absence to procedure will lead to a severe punishment and even the interruption of the work contract. Despite all this embarrassment, 56 of the 82 musicians who make up the orchestral body, meeting in Assembly decided not to undertake this “performance evaluation”, in protest against disrespect, arrogance and lack of dialogue that are being submitted.

Thus, we ask your support against this violence which the musicians from the most traditional orchestra in Brazil are undergoing, preventing that the most basic human rights – the right to work – is not usurped and that those responsible for this abnormality are properly accountable.


  • Genady Kupperheimer says:

    This post/note by the so named president of the Rio de Janeiro Musicians is very distorted, is not telling the truth and as a musician, member of the OSB (that is not afraid of any evaluation) I will try to describe what is happening from the inside. First, I never heard of him (Mr. Augusto) helping any musician (specially the ones that are unemployed), this association is very weak and do not represent the majority of musicians in the State of Rio de Janeiro, they just want the annuity money, that their main target.
    Back to the subject, described by someone that plays in the orchestra, me (of course I wont say my name, Rio still a very dangerous place and I do not want to die). All OSB musicians will have a fair opportunity to be evaluated and if there is an evaluation those who pass will be very well compensated, I am happy with that.
    This is not a demand of a single person, as Mr. Augusto is describing, this decision was approved by the Foundation that rules the orchestra and the conductor. A very serious foundation, 10 times more serious and powerful than the institution that says it represent musicians. The orchestra foundation did in 5 years what the so called union never did for the musicians in 20 years. OSB was a defunct orchestra before this new leadership took place, it went though a resuscitation process, it was walking dead orchestra, pay was late, no benefits and et cetera and et cetera.
    First, not the whole orchestra will be evaluated, only those that are in the bunch, which is hard to evaluate, I guess. If you take a look at the OSB web page you can see that there is no openings for the whole orchestra.
    Why there is no openings for brass? If you do play good everybody will notice, so those guys seem to be performing very well. It looks like the strings are not doing that well.
    This is nothing strange as compensation and benefits will increase in a very significant way, if their are really professional musicians they will succeed without any difficulty, as I am confident that I will.
    The ones complaining are the ones afraid of losing their jobs, this is not a job for life, you have to prove you deserve it, like anywhere else.
    Many local musicians are in favor of this evaluation as bring new openings for young musicians, they have been waiting for that opportunity for years. Since the new direction took the lead of this orchestra everybody knew that an evaluation will come, it was just a matter of time.
    Interesting that no one is mentioning about rebellious musicians that refuse to follow the rules of the institution. If someone was fired in 2006 that means there was a reason, if there was no reason why they did not take to the court? Strange, no one did that because there was a reason to be fired.
    This new leadership, the foundation, since took the lead, was able to raise our salaries, improve benefits and even conditions of work.
    Asking a professional musician to be evaluated is nothing against the values and regulations.
    Why my fellow colleagues musicians are against evaluations? 2 months is not enough? A good musician, a professional musician must be good in sight reading and be able to play anything. If you are a professional anything classical/orchestral should be part of your repertoire and no big deal to practice and perform.
    Do you know the average salary in Brazil? Is very low, 20 times less of what OSB foundation is proposing. What the OSB is proposing to pay as compensation is an excellent pay that many Brazilians will never have a chance to have it.
    Teachers and professors do not make that much and they are in constant evaluation by their superiors. The same with engineers, technicians, bus drivers and so on.
    Why these members do not want to be evaluated? There is something fishy in the air that some are trying to ignore.
    In the ordinary work industry everybody is evaluated at any time and if you do not meet the criteria you will be replaced as consequence of your incompetence, they will hired someone that will meet the criteria. You normally get a raise if you prove to be competent, if not, you will be fired, that is so simple as 1+1=2, you cannot change that.
    Come on, if you guys are competent (as I am), move on, instead of wasting time with this non sense, go and get ready to be evaluated. I will make sure I will pass this evaluation and get rewarded for that.
    Again, there are many musicians in Brazil that are happy with this evaluation process since is opening doors for new jobs, jobs that the Union never created. Many young musicians want to be the new musicians of the OSB. Many are unemployed due to this mafia, which is hanging with this corrupted union.
    Rio de Janeiro is famous, famous because is full of hoax and scams, when those things do not work and you get serious people in charge, that is what happens.

  • Antonio Augusto says:

    Unlike the writer who hides behind anonymity, I make sure to sign my name and clarify some points raised by this comment shamefully cowardly:
    1. Rio de Janeiro is not a place where people are killed for expressing their ideas. It is a civilized city, located in a democratic and free country. Perhaps the fear revealed come from his own desires, unconscious judgment of someone who is missing with the truth;
    2. The letter is signed by the president of the Union, Deborah Cheyne Prates, but I would sign under every word of it;
    3. The entire orchestra will be subjected to what they are calling “performance evaluation”, although we all know that this is a pretext for a mass dismissal. If the writer was truly a member of the orchestra would know it;
    4. There will not be a clean and transparent chance to demonstrate our ability and potential. All musicians of OSB know that the decisions were made in advance. If was just a performance evaluation, why stop the activities of the orchestra for six months? This is the time that the administration planned to fill the many positions that would be free;
    5. This is not a matter of giving space to young Brazilian musicians. If so would not be the case of undertaking competitions first in Brazil, not in London and New York as advertised?;
    6. This is not a matter of been afraid of evaluations. All musicians of OSB are competent to be in the positions they occupy. But to bring out a discussion about a model of artistic direction and administration that insists treating the musician as a second-class citizen, without hearing their voice, without allowing their participation in the destiny of the orchestra and especially by avoiding its participation in the artistic decisions that speak directly to their practice and idealism;
    7. Being a member of the brass section, I play horn, I appreciate the compliment, but the OSB strings, percussion and woodwind has talented and competent musicians in their sections that in recent seasons have contributed to the irrefutable triumphs achieved by the OSB;
    Antonio Augusto
    Horn player at OSB

  • Luciano de Castro says:

    Genady Kupperheimer
    First, nobody will kill you in Rio for thinking or not thinking!! This is preposterous, unmindful, and the most ridiculous accusation and statement I have ever heard.!! You are simply hiding your identity because you do not have integrity and courage to assume your ideas.
    And you shouldn’t be so sure you are going to pass the test if it does happen. To say that, beforehand, you’re being judged only by your own mirror (“Mirror, mirror on the wall / Who in this land is the best musician of all?) or you are best friends with the conductor and the judges. If you are so certain you are going to pass the audition why don’t you reveal your real identity to the world?
    About the Sindmusi: you should have a look at the extensive list of musicians who are / were affiliated to this great institution and you have to take back the offensive words you used to refer to it. Go to their site and read “Our history section”. You are spitting on your own head and on that of many superb and great musicians that took and take part in defending the profession that you now proudly defenestrate.
    It is obvious that you did not participate in the OSB musicians’ meeting that overwhelmingly voted against this unfair audition. One can easily feel the hatred you have against your colleagues – it’s between the lines!
    The important matter here is that OSB musicians have contracts and they do not envision re-auditions for the same job while Mr. Minczuk has had his own contract renewed for another 6 six years without any input from the musicians themselves. This was decided behind closed doors, between the conductor and administration, most of which are not professional musicians themselves.
    In fact, I deeply doubt that you are a musician at all. You sound more like a desperate sycophant and acolyte of Mr.Minczuk’s and/or that of the FOSB’s.

  • Genady Kupperheimer says:

    Luciano de Castro and Tonho da Trompa:
    Interesting your comments, you are asking me to reveal who I really am but you already started to threaten me saying things about me. Well, one thing must be said, not everyone is against the evaluation and you should RESPECT that at the same way you want to get people’s attention to your cause, which is to confront the foundation and not do your job, which is play your instrument. If in my view the process is fair you should and must, one more time respect me, I did not say in my comments that you were friend of someone or protected by someone else. Your accusations prove how desperate you are with this whole thing.
    I am not a protégé of anyone, this is a serious accusation, but yes, I look myself in the mirror and I see confidence in me, I see a professional musician. I am not thinking that I will fail the evaluation but if this happens, due to you my friend, I am pretty sure I can find another orchestra to play, this is not the last orchestra in Brazil and I do not need you beloved union to help me.
    Yes, I am very afraid of expose myself here my dear colleague, I do not feel safe in the city where I live and your note saying that Rio is a secure and decent city make me sick. More people die in Rio per year than in Gaza, just check the statistics if you are so smart. Better, watch the famous move BOPE and you will see what I am talking about, you probably did and love it.
    Also, could you list here what the so called union was doing for us when our pay was late a few years ago? When everything was screwed? Now we have a union? What they really do besides cashing the annuity? Just refresh my memory and list everything here?
    Do they write your pay check at the end of the month? Better, they want a bite of your check, that’s what they really want. Lose your job and check with the union what they will do for you, NADA.

  • Luciano de Castro says:

    Genady Kupperheimer
    How is it possible for a human being in the real world to threaten a ghost? This is insane. I wonder why most people who have been posting comments in favor of the current OSB conductor and administration write anonymously. Mind you, I am not and have never been an OSB musician nor will my family or I be personally affected by this whole ordeal, one way or the other.