Just in: Atlanta musicians concede numbers game, minutes before deadline

Just in: Atlanta musicians concede numbers game, minutes before deadline


norman lebrecht

October 27, 2014

It appears the musicians have accepted proposals for a smaller orchestra – 77 now, possibly rising in future. WAC version here. WAC had set a 4pm deadline before cancelling the next tranche of the concert season.

We await word from the musicians’ side but, if confirmed, the concession should effectively end the lockout.

atlanta musicians

UPDATE: Here is the precise wording of the musicians’ proposal:

1)      ASO Musicians have proposed to have a guaranteed minimum complement of 77 Musicians for Year 1.

2)      During Years 1 – 2 of this agreement, “Best efforts to increase the complement of Musicians to 81 Musicians by the end of Year 2” was proposed.

3)      For Year 3: “A minimum of 84 Musicians by the end of the contract year” was proposed.

4)      For Year 4: “A minimum of 88 Musicians by the end of the contract year with best efforts to restore complement to 90 Musicians” was proposed.




  • Brian says:

    So THIS is WAC’s “sustainable model”? They had two years to right the ship (or at least balance the ballast) and only came up with more concessions from the players. But, as a local Atlanta newsperson stated, there’s been a “deafening silence” from the community. There was no “Twin City type” of uproar. Sad to say, but Atlanta is getting what they deserve.

  • Greg says:

    The orchestra caved yet again. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Not sure this orchestra ever was as ‘world class’ as the players would have us believe, but there seems to be little chance of obtaining or sustaining that status under this latest round of concessions. Does anyone truly feel WAC has the orchestra’s (or music’s) best interests at heart? I expect lots of ASO musicians will be auditioning elsewhere.

    • Amy says:

      Greg, setting aside the “world-class” label momentarily (though a band with 27 Grammys on the shelf is more than entitled to toot their own horn)…
      I suspect that this counter-offer will serve to put the ball back where it belongs: in the WAC’s court. Virginia Hepner, Doug Hertz and the entire WAC board of trustees has some kind of convoluted agenda: pay off debts using the orchestra disproportionately, and weaken the union as a bonus.

      • Greg says:

        When I look at those 27 Grammys, I see a bunch that were earned on the coattails of the ASO Chorus, a bunch that were earned on the coattails of Telarc’s technical and engineering prowess, and a couple of others that were no doubt led by the Academy’s typical PC agenda of promoting trendy composers du jour. I doubt the ASO (in purely instrumental terms) has ever recorded the definitive rendition of anything. That’s not to say they aren’t a competent band, but ‘world class’? Another example of Atlantan hyperbole and overstated significance.

  • William Safford says:

    From an article:

    “ASOPA proposes starting this delayed season with its count of 77 remaining musicians (after defections, retirements and deaths), with an uncontracted expectation of “best efforts” by management to build the “complement” to 81 by the end of 2015-16.
    Management would then be contracturally obligated to build to a minimum of 84 by the end of the 2016-17 season and a minimum of 88 by the end of 2017-18, “with best efforts to restore complement to 90 musicians,” according to the ASOPA proposal.
    The last offer from leadership of the ASO and its parent nonprofit the Woodruff (WAC), after three days of federally mediated talks last week, guaranteed the 76 jobs over the four years, with no further downsizing.”


    We will see what the WAC does with this.

    Personally, I would consider anything “uncontracted” as not likely to happen.

  • William Ford says:

    From atlantamusiccritic.com:
    The most recent word about the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) lockout is that the musician’s union has made this proposal to the ASO’s parent organization, the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC), regarding the orchestra’s full time complement of musicians:

    Year 1: A Minimum of 77 Musicians
    Year 1 – 2: Best efforts to increase complement of Musicians to 81 Musicians by the end of Year 2.
    Year 3: A minimum of 85 Musicians by the end of the contract year.
    Year 4: A minimum of 89 Musicians by the end of the contract year.

    Atlanta Music Critic has great sympathy for the musicians of the ASO for having to live without WAC-provided income and health care benefits. That is a terrible position to be in. So yes, AMC wants the lockout to end for the benefit of the musicians, and secondarily, for the benefit of concert goers.

    But agreeing to reduce the full-time complement of musicians to 77, and suggesting “best efforts” to increase the number in subsequent years, is potentially fraught with danger. The most apparent is that the WAC has agreed to similar “best efforts” in the past (e.g., in 2012 saying it would make “best efforts” to increase donor revenue) that simply haven’t panned out, possibly because WAC management lacks the skills, will, or competence to follow through on such “best efforts.” A second possible danger is that the ASO will still please patrons (and given Atlanta audiences, that will surely be the case) such that donors and subscribers will wonder what the hub-bub about full-time complement was all about. To the community, the ASO will still sound fine, and likely it will for the time being. AMC has no doubt that contract players will be highly skilled and will perform admirably, but the details that characterize outstanding orchestral performance will begin to fray. Ensemble, shared performing styles, rapport with conductors are some of the benchmarks of great symphonic playing that may begin to be negatively affected. But those are characteristics that most listeners generally do not notice nor do they attend to. Again, the ASO will sound fine to the patrons and the 20 or so contract players (depending on the work) will still receive the same obligatory standing ovation. Unfortunately this might mean that there will be little incentive on the part of WAC-management to increase the number of players in subsequent years, or in future contract negotiations. Finally, if WAC succeeds in cutting the orchestra’s full time-complement, it will serve as a model for other orchestral management across the country. This won’t be a problem for community-based orchestras- this is how they operate anyway. But the precedent might be quite appealing to those in regional or national orchestras. AMC realizes hat the ASO musicians are likely not concerned about such a precedent when their livelihoods and health care are at risk, but it will be a precedent nonetheless. Maybe, in fact, WAC management want the ASO to become a community orchestra. That is their choice to make and they may well be successful in achieving that goal. Maybe ASO patrons don’t care, and AMC suspects that is the case. Maybe Atlanta cannot do better than say, Omaha, which has a very good community orchestra (and a $100 million dollar concert hall about 8 years old). Nevermind that the Omaha metro area has about a tenth of the population of the metro Atlanta area.

    In sum, AMC does not fault the players union for offering their proposal in response to the position of WAC management and in consideration of the competencies of that management. AMC believes that, in fact, “The Real Housewives” is what Atlanta wants rather that Albee or Sartre. It will be up to each individual musician and conductor to decide whether they can adjust to playing in what might devolve into a community orchestra ( as opposed to a regional or national orchestra). But the fact of the matter is that most people do not want to uproot when they have a family and community roots. They have, in reality, no real choice but to stay.

    Not a pretty picture that is not of the musician’s making.