Another US orchestra heads for showdown

Another US orchestra heads for showdown


norman lebrecht

September 05, 2016

Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony have rejected a new contract, which would have imposed a wage cut of between two and 7.5 percent wage cut. They are now heading for a strike ballot.

Bad times in Fort Worth. Read here.


fort worth Symphony protest 005


  • Nick says:

    Useless, clueless boards and useless, ineffective management once again – I expect.

    • mbhaz says:

      Maybe. But it could be the board facing the fiscal reality of our times: smaller audiences, less interest in classical music (although FW does their share of pops concerts), rising costs for musicians (healthcare is killing many businesses) – it all adds up to not enough money. There are many wealthy people in Texas, and in the DFW area much of it winds up in Dallas at the symphony, opera, and elsewhere. FW is frankly looked down upon by a lot of people. It’s too bad this is happening, but this winnowing will continue and orchestral musicians had better wake up and realize that the demand for their “product” just isn’t what it used to be. So it’s either accept the new realities and take a salary cut or close the doors.

      • Ed Stephan says:

        Incorrect, and the same tired old tune, perpetuated by people without a clue. Ticket sales at orchestras in many cities across the country are up. Some are even breaking their own records. FW might be “looked down upon” by some people in Dallas, or even elsewhere, but certainly not by the nearly 3 million people who make up the Fort Worth Region portion of the DFW metro area. There is certainly more competition for dollars than ever before, but there are also A LOT more people, and a lot more ways available to reach those people. The FWSO leadership has done an awful job of demonstrating creativity, passion and enthusiasm for their own product. And who will pay for that???

      • Cecilia says:

        MBHAZ – the truth is that ticket sales at the FWSO last year went up 14% last year, subscriptions went up 7% and the orchestra’s Concerts In The Garden summer series set all time records by bringing in over an extra million dollars. This is pretty clear proof that the popularity of the FWSO is greater than ever and that the people of Fort Worth love their symphony. Contrast this with the facts that the economy of Fort Worth has grown 35% since 2010 and the FWSO is looking for its 6th Development director in 5 years and it becomes obvious that the real problem at the FWSO is not the musicians, but incompetent management.

        Here’s a little background, in case you don’t know. The musicians already sacrificed to help the orchestra through difficult times. In 2010, they accepted a 13.5% pay cut. Management said they were going to raise more money and increase the donor base. They did neither. In fact, they haven’t even launched an endowment campaign since 2000! That’s just fiscally irresponsible management. Meanwhile, managements in cities with smaller economies than Fort Worth are setting fund raising records. Detroit – $40 million for their endowment. Grand Rapids – $40 million for their endowment, Buffalo – $23 million for their endowment. Kansas City just gave their musicians 19.7% raises and launched a $55 million endowment campaign. How are all these other symphony orchestras growing and raising money? Answer – they have competent management. In fact, Amy Adkins, the CEO of the FWSO, keeps saying that there is no more money in Fort Worth. But just last week the Fort Worth Opera announced that they raised over $1 million dollars in less than 4 months and doubled their donor base. How much more proof does the Board of the FWSO need to realize that they have CEO who driving the orchestra over a cliff? Bravo, to the FWSO musicians for standing up and putting their careers and honor on the line to save their cities orchestra.

      • Brian Brown says:

        I always chuckle at the false dichotomy fallacy in these discussions. Surely there are plenty of positive, productive options besides “take a salary cut or close the doors”. Certainly the people of Fort Worth, and by that I mean citizens, board members, audience members, and musicians alike, are much more innovative and creative than that. In fact, the Fort Worth Opera, which exists in the same city, using the same concert hall, and employing the same musicians, have decided to embark upon a much more adventurous strategy, exceeding their summer fundraising goal and managing to raise about $558,000 (You can read more about that here: “ So yes, there are certainly much better options than “take cuts or close the doors”. We don’t think think that way in Fort Worth.

  • Andrea Wallenberger says:

    It’s always about the Board. In opera, too.

    • Alvaro says:

      Yeah, cannot possibly be that ppl simply dont care abt the artform….

      Its been a while since I perused this blog, its refreshing to see that the self serving attitude, insularity, and dementia is alive and well…

  • Larry says:

    Ms. Adkins has been doing fund raising in Fort Worth since 2000 including 9 years as Director of Development for the Symphony, before being promoted to CEO 5 years ago. I’m not saying that she is “right” or “wrong” but she, obviously, knows a heck of a lot about the community.

    • Ed Stephan says:

      Does knowing a heck of a lot about the community mean that she would be good at fundraising? And shall we also assume that having the experience she has has given her adequate knowledge of the community? And when was the last time a development director was promoted to CEO?..without a national search? Perhaps you’re making some of the same assumptions that the FWSO board is making, while allowing an underperforming CEO to continue. Amy is a nice person. But if I were in a position of power on the board, I’d first find a leader out of a national search pool with a proven record of leadership, orchestral knowledge and passion before seeking concessions (yet again) from the people who make up the heart and sound of the Fort Worth Symphony ORCHESTRA.

      • Nick says:

        I know neither the orchestra, Ms. Adkins or Fort Worth. But when a Board and management make promises and then sit back and do nothing about what surely then become obligations, changes have to be made. Having raised funds for an orchestra and managed an orchestra, I know how draining it can be when you are with the same orchestra for a long time (and 16 years is indeed a long time). You easily become stale. It becomes far easier to accept the status quo than constantly raising yet more cash and become more innovative in so many different ways. We all know these are difficult times – hence the need to be more creative and more determined. Knowing the community doesn’t help much if you have lost your enthusiasm. There is obviously something wrong at the Symphony and, as in many cases, it seems clear the Board and management are the ones to blame.

      • Sarah says:

        I also understand that during Adkin’s tenure as CEO, FWSO has been through five heads of fundraising. Adkins started in August 2011, and these five people left the FWSO between fall of 2011 and Spring of 2016 – that’s not even five full years. (This can all be verified by looking at past staff rosters via the internet archive wayback machine.) What does that say about the CEO and her fundraising success?

        • Sarah says:

          Here is more data from during Adkins’ tenure: The overall staff turnover rate is 26.7% The turnover among upper management (VPs – 5 departments: finance, operations, artistic administration, development, marketing) is 48%.

          Source: Internet Archive Wayback Machine, which archives web pages –

  • Alvaro says:

    I can literally count the months since FW symphony was called an example on how to manage an orchestra, and lauded their fiscal responsibility, etc.

    And you thought Trump flipped flopped….

  • Larry says:

    She must know something about fund raising if she lasted 9 years as development director of the Symphony. Her boss, Ann Koonsman, was a very smart, talented CEO. I doubt she would have kept Adkins on if she wasn’t doing a good job. In my 32 years in arts management, I have heard of a number of times when a development director (or marketing director) was promoted to CEO. It happens more than you think and there have been COUNTLESS executive directors hired without national searches. Like I said, I don’t know if Ms. Adkins should stay or leave but there are other problems going here.

    • Amy says:

      Inside promotions don’t look bad until there’s gross incompetence. That’s the situation here, your “32 years” notwithstanding.