Fort Worth just got even worse

Fort Worth just got even worse


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2017

First responses to the event where the music director was thrown out of Bass Hall for carrying his daughter’s violin and many others were similarly inconvenienced by over-zealous security:



From the Youth Orchestra: ‘As the FWYO Orchestra Manager, this and other bizarre policies made last night’s enormous production of five ensembles and 300 kids a logistical nightmare!’

From Dennis Buber, FWSO bass trombone: ‘A prime example of the lunacy inflicted not only on my FWSO colleagues but concert goers as well, ever since the management of Bass Hall initiated their draconian “security” measures this season. Folks, this isn’t security, this is harassment, pure and simple, and another case of a clueless management drunk on their own power. It is audience members who are inconvenienced as well…no large bags, ladies’ purses are searched for food and drink… Welcome To The Concert. Enjoy The Show.’

From Fort Worth Youth Orchestra director Lee Warren : ‘I cannot even speak my disdain for the security rulings at Bass Hall. We were told children with their instrument cases might “harm the fabric on the chairs in the audience chamber” and “might scratch the marble in the lobby”. Really? I do not think those issues involve any security at all! Our percussionists were told they could not bring in their mallet bags. Meanwhile, the cases going backstage are not searched. Once backstage, you can easily access the audience chamber. So anyone who really wanted to do harm could easily get through simply by going through the stage door. They have no concern about the needs of symphonic music. None.’

And this from a parent, Erika Michelle Keswick: ‘This actually happened to my son last night. It was after his performance and he was waiting to be directed to the seats to watch the final group play. After waiting quite a while he felt anxious and followed a group of kids who “looked like they knew where to go” and ended up outside. He realized his mistake and tried to get back in the door and explained to the security. They refused to let him back inside. And he wasn’t the only kid standing on the street at night with his instrument that wasn’t allowed back in. Thankfully, I had my cell on so he was able to contact me. But my whole family had to leave early and we did not get to watch the higher symphony play because we couldn’t leave him standing on the street. We paid $$ to see him and the entire show, and his seat with his group was to be complimentary, but security said he must have a ticket to get back in, which he did not have since he was performing. It was a hard first Bass Hall night for us all.’


  • Nathan Lutz says:

    I attended a concert a couple months ago and it felt like going through a TSA screening. Not a great way to welcome guests to the hall.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      Indeed, and many may remember the panic when it was discovered that many newly hired TSA security people had criminal records. Most of these soi-disant security yahoos are the security equivalent of those ‘cowboys’ hired by cheap landlords to paint the hallways of apartment buildings — or, God help us, lay cheap carpet inside a person’s suite. And once again, it is the Orchestra’s executive and board that is responsible for this, as for so many idiotic policies. The Presidents/CEOs (formerly ‘managers’, as Rudolf Bing was content to be known) get ludicrous ‘compensation packages’ and plenty of great publicity in cases such as Deborah Borda — merely a parroting of their own publicity — and I have yet to see Borda et al. do anything that is commensurate with their accumulating millions. I very much suspect that the steady growth of incorporation is the key to the problem. We now live in corporate societies — orchestras, private schools and universities, charities, you name it — and the corporations are run by CEOs who have only the mythical ‘transferable skills’ of an MBA. That is what they are hired for, not knowledge of, in this case, music and performance with which managers such as Bing were suffused. Appalling conflicts between orchestra members and boards/executives are now commonplace, and messes such as the one under discussion becoming more so. Commonplace they were NOT when I first became involved in music in the 1950s, nor in the 60s and 70s. But the 80s — then it was the seeds of disaster were sown, and for this very reason.

      • MWnyc says:

        Under Deborah Borda’s management, the Los Angeles Philharmonic became the most financially healthy large orchestra in North America, with large and younger-than-average audiences, no labor-management conflict, a good mix and new and old music, and enough artistic cred that the NY Times recently called it the most important orchestra in America and The New Yorker’s Alex Ross is moved to write, “The L.A. Phil’s 2017–18 season, just announced, is so far ahead of that of any rival, in America or around the world, that the orchestra is mainly competing with itself.”

        That’s rare in CEOs in any industry, let alone the orchestra business. (Look to the Minnesota Orchestra of a few years ago for an example of the damage a bad CEO can cause.) That’s why orchestras are willing to pay a lot for Deborah Borda’s services.

        • Ravi Narasimhan says:

          Agreed. She got the LAP endowment/fundraising into the stratosphere while reschnootering the demographic mix. Orchestras may talk about changing their audience and donor bases but she actually showed how to get younger crowds while building up the finances. Even those of us on the wrong side of both can acknowledge that she has consistently delivered results. Had she done this in the private sector, she’d be richer than Croesus.

          And how did the batguano insanity at the Bass become yet another referendum on Borda?

          • Steven Holloway says:

            In virtue of my mentioning her as an example of overpaid orchestra CEOs. The competence MWNYC cites as justification for her compensation is merely what was routine in earlier times when such as she were called ‘managers’. In short, what she has done well is simply her job, and I dispute that it is so very difficult, let alone requiring a magic touch calling for a massive salary. She is competent, and her star status issues only from comparison with the horde of others who are not — as at Fort Worth.

          • Ravi Narasimhan says:

            Steve Holloway: “In short, what she has done well is simply her job, and I dispute that it is so very difficult, let alone requiring a magic touch calling for a massive salary. ”

            I was around the periphery of the LAP donor pool from the late 1990s to early 2000s. The belief then was the endowment would never get into the big leagues, that the LA moneybags would never pony up, and that Disney Hall might not actually get built. Others before her had tried. Fast forward to now – the endowment quintupled to $250+M, the LA moneybags are giving/getting, and she got the Hall past the finish line. If it were all that easy, it would all have been done before her arrival. It wasn’t and it didn’t. Rudolf Bing’s title doesn’t enter into it nor does the Bass’s recent customer care partnership with United Airlines.

          • Steven Holloway says:

            Ravi: And that reinforces my point that she is competent, i.e., capable of doing the job — neither exceptional and nor, on the other hand, incompetent like her predecessors. I see nothing in that to justify the coffers of moolah. Bing does come into it as an exemplar from the days when ‘managers’ were generally competent and before we had CEOs who generally are not.

          • M2N2K says:

            If you can call her “competent”, then others can call her salary “adequate” or “fair”.

          • Steven Holloway says:

            Obviously they can. So what? They could call it ‘Fred’ come to that. I still think it excessive.

          • M2N2K says:

            This is exactly the point: your thinking that does not make it so. What counts in this case is that the people who determine and pay her salary believe that her financial compensation is fully justified by her accomplishments the extent of which they know extremely well.

          • Steven Holloway says:

            Sigh. And I disagree with them. Are you, perchance, one of those people given to the, ahem, devastating riposte, “That’s just your opinion”? What I wrote is indeed my opinion — it must be — I wrote it. You disagree. Fine. If my thinking made anything so, there would be world peace and I’d have won the lottery by now. Referring to the supposed omniscience of those who approve her salary does not serve you well. Boards of corporations are not exactly in good odour when it comes to determining what goodies will be piled on CEOs and other executives these days. And that comes back to one of my main points — orchestral organizations are just corporations like all others in this time. And that also is my opinion. If you must respond to it, first give your epistemology and logic an overhaul rather than appeal to what you consider higher authority (fallacy of argumentum ad baculum). Many view that higher authority with a jaundiced eye anyway, and for good reason.

          • M2N2K says:

            That was lots of words without a single argument.

          • Steven Holloway says:

            My argument was in my first comment way above. I’m not stating it all over again because you missed it. I state my opinion with arguments, you do the same, we disagree and find no common ground, discussion ends. Here.

          • M2N2K says:

            Actually your side of the discussion never started because you kept repeating the same statement without offering as much as a hint of supporting evidence or logical argumentation.

  • Jon H says:

    It doesn’t matter who’s performing – if people are inconvenienced going to a hall – they might stop going there, for everything. It might be a beautiful building or whatever – but bad experiences like those aren’t easily forgotten. Especially if you’re a child – you’re just asking for more empty halls.

  • Kyle says:

    As a principal player in the Symphony, I was told that Performing Arts Fort Worth doesn’t care at all if this causes patrons to decide not to return. It’s completely unacceptable.

  • Hanover Square says:

    Bass Performance Hall’s byline on their social media accounts is “Connecting audiences to artists in the heart of downtown Fort Worth”. Is that a metaphorical connection? Or should it be changed to “Connecting our flashlight to the inside of your handbag”?

  • Scott Cantrell says:

    My Feb. 24 Dallas Morning News review of the first FW Symphony concert after this obnoxious intrusion began, “Has it really come to this? Patrons arriving for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra concert Friday night were met at doors by uniformed security personnel demanding to examine women’s purses. A sign forbade any bag larger than 12″ by 12″ by 4.” An imposition as offensive as it is ridiculous, it’s from Bass Performance Hall management. If I’d been a woman with a purse, I would have turned around and refused to enter.”

  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    As head of the jury for the Cliburn Competition, which begins next week, this is most disturbing. Although the need for hightned security these days is understandable, the concert hall is simply not the place for overly stringent inconveniences. Adding to that is the simple fact that no one seemed to recognize the long standing music director of the FWSO as someone who automatically should be allowed entry with any guest of his choosing.

    It is of utmost importance to understand that these policies are not a reflection of anything regarding either musicians, board or management of the orchestra. It will be part of my responsibility to make sure that all patrons coming to hear outstanding talent will be treated with the courtesy and respect that comes with great music. The same goes for the Cliburn staff and all those involved with the competition.

    • Michael says:

      Pardon me, maestro, but the policies – whose nature is hostile and whose purpose is harassment – initiated by management and the board very much do reflect on management and the board, and their motives, and their incompetence. They did not magically spring from nowhere.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      Not a reflection of Board or management?? Then who initiated the policy??

      • John Kelly says:

        Most likely the management of the hall as opposed to the Board or management of the orchestra………………….good luck Maestro. I always enjoy your conducting and I am confident you will do a great and fair job in the competition

      • Melinda Massie says:

        The policies were put in place by Performing Arts Fort Worth, the nonprofit that runs Bass Hall. So this particular incident doesn’t have anything to do with Management and the Board of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.


        There is a significant amount of overlap between the Boards of PAFW and FWSO so you’d hope that somewhere in the discussion of the creation of the new policies, someone would have said “Hey. So we’re home to the orchestra and those performers have instruments larger than 12x4x12. Perhaps we can allow a special exception for the instruments of the performers who live here?”

        But alas, that wasn’t the case.

  • Larry says:

    Michael, the policies were initiated by the “management” of Bass Hall, not the FW Symphony. I believe that is what Maestro Slatkin meant to convey. The management of every major organization who rents Bass Hall — Symphony, Cliburn, etc. — needs to get a meeting immediately with the Hall management team, to straighten this mess out.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks for that careful and patient explanation, Larry. I might owe Maestro Slatkin an apology, if he noticed that I exist. I may have incorrectly inferred that current policy stemmed from a labor dispute last year. What exactly is the relationship between the orchestra and Bass Hall? How many board members do they share, for example?

      • MWnyc says:

        The parallel between a performance venue and a residential apartment or an office isn’t exact, of course, but basically, Bass Performance Hall is the landlord and the Fort Worth Symphony is the primary tenant.

        Just as, for example, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. is the landlord and the New York Philharmonic and New York City Ballet are primary tenants of their venues.

        When those primary tenants aren’t using those venues, Bass Performance Hall and Lincoln Center Inc. can either use the venues to present other organizations or rent them out to other organizations.

        I don’t know for certain, but I would presume that the Cliburn Competition pays rent to Bass Performance Hall for the use of the venue and the services of box office and backstage staff, etc.

        I don’t know how many, if any, board members bass Performance Hall and the Fort Worth Symphony have in common, but they are definitely governed separately.

        • Larry says:

          Not quite correct – there are 11 “constituent members” of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. As such, they get first dibs on booking dates in their respective halls. If I remember correctly, they must also contribute a certain amount of money back to LC, Inc. In exchange, the groups take advantage of LC’s advertising and ticketing services, security, etc.

          • MWnyc says:

            Yes, exactly. That’s why I wrote that “the parallel between a performance venue and a residential apartment or an office isn’t exact.” You went into more detail than I thought would make sense at that point in the discussion; thanks for the additional clarifying info.

      • Melinda Massie says:

        Michael, I don’t know the exact number, but there is a noticeable amount of people who serve on both the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Performing Arts Fort Worth boards. It’s a major point of contention the musicians had while they were on strike.

      • Sammy Branch says:

        Performing Arts Fort Worth Inc is in charge of day to day operations of Bass Hall, and they have 4 major tenants. FW Symphony, FW Opera, Texas Ballet Theatre, and The Cliburn.

        • Melinda Massie says:

          Not *exactly* correct. FWSO, FWO, TBT, and The Cliburn aren’t “tenants,” though I can see where one would think that. However, that implies that PAFW is a private entity renting out to whoever they choose. These organizations are the resident companies of Bass Hall. Part of Performing Arts Fort Worth’s mission is that they are expressly the permanent HOME of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Opera, Texas Ballet Theater, and The Cliburn. PAFW’s being home to the major professional performing arts organizations of Fort Worth is a reason they have tax exempt status.

          Reference link:

          • Steven Holloway says:

            Melissa, I think you for all your clarifications. Exemplary comments and very helpful.

          • Steven Holloway says:

            Whoops! My weary brain got your name wrong. Sorry Melinda! Two hours in a dentist’s chair can do that to you.

          • Melinda Massie says:

            You’re welcome, Steven! I’m in unique position as I’ve been a patron of Bass Hall since they opened (even touring it before they opened), perform there with the opera, and am a friend to many of the orchestra musicians. The new policies are short-sighted to the point of vindictive towards musicians, and I can say first hand that the security measures for other organizations isn’t as strict as the ones for the musicians. So I’m happy to help clarify where I can.

            And no worries on the name mix-up…happens all the time.

  • M2N2K says:

    These “policies” are beyond stupid. They are offensively idiotic. Whoever ordered their enforcement should be held responsible.

    • Walt says:

      What? Idiots in Texas?

      • Nelson says:

        Sigh…there’s always one a-hole who has to make such a comment about Texas. Where are you from? I’m sure we can find some way to characterize everyone from your state based on the actions of a few morons.

  • Steven Honigberg says:

    If an immediate threat exists, shut down the hall. If not, it would be wise to let the guard dogs lie. I can’t think of a worse place to be harassed than a concert hall. People go to concerts for a reprieve from life, not to have confrontations from over zealous guards. Whoever is in charge should be discharged, the Trumpian way – immediately. Come to the Kennedy Center (potentially a far more dangerous city than Fort Worth) to see how security folks do their jobs – seamlessly.

  • MWnyc says:

    I’ll be interested to see if Bass Performance Hall security treats people attending the Cliburn Competition this way or if it’s just the Fort Worth Symphony they’re treating badly.

    I hope that the Fort Worth Symphony’s attorneys are studying their lease agreement with Bass Performance Hall to see if it’s being violated.

    • Melinda Massie says:

      Yes, everyone in the front of the house is treated that way. The “security” policies of Bass Hall are for all performances held there no matter who is performing. There are more stringent policies in the back of the house now too, (I perform there) but the policies for the musicians seem to be more strict than for other organizations. (Or at least from comparing my backstage experience with those of my friends in the orchestra.)

      What I find most egregious about the policies is that they’re pretty much only for purses and music cases. Nothing over 12x4x12 is allowed in and no food or drink is allowed in. They say it’s for “security” but it really feels more like a movie theater usher making sure you don’t have contraband snacks. If it was really for security, why are men not getting a pat-down too?

    • Darren Freeman says:

      Of course it will effect the VCC. Why would you think otherwise?

  • Wombatty says:

    I work, as a musician and a stagehand, in most of the major venues in DFW, including the Meyerson, The Winspear, The Wyly, Dallas City Performance Hall, McFarlin Auditorium, Caruth Audiorium, etc. Only Bass Hall has imposed such restrictions on it’s patrons.

  • Peter Freeman says:

    Relax! Terrorist bombers have never heard of Western classical music, and would not recognise a violin from an oudh.

  • Kathy says:

    I fail to see the “safety” value, common sense, and optics in these seemingly arbitrary and poorly thought out policies.
    1. The director was not allowed in?
    2. HIs daughter was performing?
    3. There were five ensembles?
    4. He was securing her instrument & case?
    5. They were to watch the other groups?
    6. It’s a concert hall?
    7. Where orchestral musicians regularly perform?
    8. With publicity about connecting people to music?
    9. A size restriction on purses?
    10. Are they planning on installing overhead bins, flight attendants, and flying away?

    Utterly ridiculous. The management responsible for this debacle should resign immediately or be sacked.

  • Third Lady says:

    We are suffering from this type of security in Madison, Wisconsin at the Overture Center, home of the Madison Symphony and Opera. It’s probably the insurance companies requiring this for liability insurance coverage. Women are scrutinized more than men. Flashlights and wood sticks are used to look through purses and we all have to open our coats and jackets to make sure we are not concealing weapons.

    • Melinda Massie says:

      Ya know, if they checked everyone’s coats and jackets I wouldn’t mind the policy as much because at least they’re searching everyone. But nope. Just searching bags for rouge snacks.

      • Jaybuyer says:

        Are other colours allowed through?

        • Melinda Massie says:

          Purple and certain shades of green. But don’t you dare bring blue snacks in.

          My rogue snacks went rogue! #oops #typoshappen

          • Jaybuyer says:

            Joking apart, it does seem these security checks are heavy handed. I was at Covent Garden on Monday for Don Carlo and it is now taken for granted that torches will be shone into our bags (men’s and women’s) at the entrance. All performed with the utmost politeness. Of course, food – rouge or otherwise – has never been a problem at ROH, as far as I know. With prices now at an eye-watering £270 for the best stalls seats, many people bring their own wine and picnics. This doesn’t seem to bother the Russian oligarchs, who occupy the restaurants and champagne bar. Dress code is also very free and easy. If you sit squashed like sardines in the Amphitheatre, you can wear pretty much what you like. After all, some of us actually go for the music!

          • Melinda Massie says:

            In my experience the checks are only heavy handed when you have obvious violations. I inadvertently took food in to a show I attended the other week but since it was in the bottom of my purse, they didn’t see it from the quick flash of the flashlight. Every time I’ve been there since the new policies began (which is quite often) has been pretty easy, if tedious. However, others have told me of watching people guzzle bottles of water “TSA-style” outside of the hall because it wasn’t allowed. And of course the issues with music cases, which means most musicians just leave instead of connecting with the audience post-show.

            Front of the house and back, musicians have the most strict restrictions. They can’t bring their instruments into the hall. Instruments/cases are only allowed in certain areas. After performances they must be fully packed up and out within 30 minutes and aren’t allowed back in once out. On the other hand, when I performed there we had no restrictions on how quickly we had to vacate. During post-show receptions I took my giant dress bag with me and nobody stopped me. (Though I know one colleague was stopped, but she could leave her things in her dressing room…the musicians can’t.) And when I left something in the dressing room after the hall was closed and locked up, security let me back in. That instance, I asked the security guard if he needed to see my credentials and he said “No. It’s fine.”

            So though certain aspects of the new policies are affecting everyone front and back of the house, it’s noticeably stricter for the musicians. (Which I can’t help but think it petty vindictiveness due to the strike.)

  • Gail says:

    I am very concerned about all those from around the world who will be here for the Van Cliburn Competition. They usually sell all kind of goods, including large tote bags, which people purchase and, of course, carry into the hall. Will they be able to get refunds when they cannot take their purchases in because they are too large??