Sinking orchestra’s chair quits amid disturbing rumbles

Sinking orchestra’s chair quits amid disturbing rumbles


norman lebrecht

January 05, 2018

Our pals at Texas Classical Review have the exclusive: Alice Viroslav quit last night as chair of the troubled San Antonio Symphony, which will give its last scheduled concert this weekend. Read here.

There is no clear plan for the Symphony’s future after the collapse of a rescue bid by a local consortium.

Who are the consortium. Minnesota writer Emily E. Hogstad has been digging 18 years into their back story.  What she reveals is not for the faint-hearted. It’s to do with an attorney called J. Bruce Bugg and it’s a gripping read.


  • Robert Holmén says:

    These are the sort of people the GOP has just handed a huge tax cut to.

    • Cubs Fan says:

      Just can’t resist attacking the GOP whenever possible, can we? What’s your point? This money grubbing lawyer was filling his pockets long before recent tax cuts were passed. I hope the SASO can survive, but it sure looks grim.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        The point?

        Malevolent doings like this are enabled by the anti-regulation, pro-financial-scam, charity-for-the-rich priorities of the GOP that they have pursued for decades. This tax cut is one more piece of that.

        Only the GOP would have passed a tax cut like this to benefit the least productive, least deserving among us, who make money by absorbing other people’s money and not from actually earning it.

        You say this guy was doing greedy stuff before this tax cut? Someone made that possible and now they are giving him a bonus. Empowering people like this is bad for everyone else, the GOP knows it, and yet keeps doing it.

        This sort of story is a direct outcome of the GOP agenda.

        That is the point.

        It’s really not necessary to spell it out… we all know what’s going on… but you asked.

        • Marc Parella says:

          @ROBERT HOLMÉN: I was a business owner in the performing arts industry for several years. The IRS was all over me. It took 4 years of constant wrangling with the IRS along with hiring a tax lawyer and a CPA to deal with it. It is still not resolved.

          I am sick of the liberals cramming down the throats every one of their agendas in their epic quest to even the playing field by use of force of coercion through Federal law. The taxes killed my business and much of my desire to even go back into business. I don’t care about the rich — I care about the decent people in this country who want to devote their lives and careers in developing and nurturing our communities.

          But that hasn’t been the case as the liberals killed the arts. They failed in marketing the arts to younger people. The NEA was their Utopian solution. Now I am not against public support for the arts groups — but not the Federal government. It can’t even tie its own shoes.

        • Cubs Fan says:

          So the least deserving, least productive are the rich? You don’t know what you’re talking about. Every rich person I know works their butts off. They put in long hours, rarely take vacations, know how to save, and make sacrifices many wannabe rich won’t do. The least deserving, least productive are the moochers in society who expect the government to take money from hard-working people and give it them. And our liberal government obliges giving them subsidies for housing, food, phones, health care, education. The handouts are so generous that many of this “surplus population” sees no reason to work or contribute – and I assure you they don’t support the local symphony. They also don’t vote for the GOP. This new tax law isn’t charity for the rich – it’s an attempt to get the gov’t out of our pockets. Ok, so the rich will benefit more than the middle class. So what? Getting a tax cut of even 1% means a lot more money for someone making $100,000,000 than it does for someone making $100,000. That’s just the way the math works. And if you want to talk about financial scams, the Democrats are the experts on lining their pockets and the pockets of their friends. As in the Clinton family…

          People in the arts are so hypocritical. Almost all of the musicians and artists I know are liberal, they hate Trump, despise the GOP – and yet whenever they need money who do they go to? They hit up business owners and residents who have the money and who are generally conservative. Some famous billionaire liberals, owners of huge high tech corporations notoriously don’t support classical music.

          • OHSOLIBERAL says:

            If anyone is interested, I have a Canadian passport for sale.

          • MacroV says:

            Not immediately germane to the San Antonio situation, but…

            You must know a very limited circle of people. Yes, there are a lot of doctors, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs who range from affluent to wealthy and work extremely hard. But a lot of wealthy people (including our President, the Koch Brothers, the Rockefellers, etc.) started out very rich through inheritances from their wealthy parents. Jared and Ivanka are very rich, thanks primarily to their parents. Even Bill Gates, brilliant and hardworking that he is, came from a very upper-class professional family (his father was probably the most prominent lawyer in Seattle in his day), which surely benefited him considerably.

            Meanwhile, there are millions of extremely hard-working people, waiting tables, digging ditches, building houses, etc.. Huge number of Americans on food stamps are what are called the “working poor,” i.e. they work hard but aren’t paid much, and don’t have the connections to wealth and influence.

            I’ve found in my life, actually, that the more I’ve been paid, the less I’ve actually had to work; get paid enough, and other people are doing your work for you (your time is too expensive) while you basically sign forms, do meetings, and take credit for the work of others.

  • Suzanne says:

    Absolutely horrific. Kudos to Emily H. for doing this research – I recall her reporting on the Minnesota Orchestra’s strike was also excellent.

    • Vaquero357 says:

      Except… wasn’t a strike. The players did not go on strike; they wanted to negotiate and continue working under the provisions of the old contract. Management locked them out.

      It seems like a technicality, but a lockout means management were the aggressors.

    • Bruce says:

      To build on Vaquero’s response: they are both forms of labor dispute/ work stoppages, but the difference is crucial.

      A strike is where labor (the orchestra in this case) says “we’re not coming back to work until you meet our demands.”

      A lockout is where the management says “we’re not letting you come back to work until you meet our demands.”

      Not the same thing. Not trying to pile on here, but just adding this in the interest of education.

  • David Assemany says:

    Excellent work by Emily Hogstad at Song of the Lark as usual. Thank for pointing it out Mr. Lebrecht.

  • Steve P says:

    Wish Ms. Hogstad had given more information about why the symphony pension was in debt instead of a hit piece against a slime ball scumbag lawyer.

    • Sarah says:

      Whataboutism in full swing. The pension plan is not the problem here.

    • Bill says:

      You obviously didn’t read the article. If you had bothered to before posting, you would have read that the article states that the pension plan has no debt.

  • Jack Fishman says:

    Steve P., there are multiple misleading articles in the San Antonio press. If you read carefully, it is clear that the symphony has zero pension debt. They are up to date on all annual AFM multi-employer pension contributions. The issue that was raised in the press was an $8.9 million penalty IF the organization withdrew from the pension. The withdrawal option was never discussed in negotiations, according to the union. Reading between the lines, the new symphony organization was attempting to reduce the costs of the orchestra, and when they could not accomplish it with negotiations, they withdrew from the plan to take over from the existing board. This left the existing board unable to continue operations.

    • Steve P says:

      Thank you for the clarification.

    • DrummerMan says:

      Mr. Fishman: I mean no disrespect to you — I know your background but I’ve never met you — but I’m just curious why you failed to mention that you were the executive director of the SA Symphony for 4+ years.

      Like I said….just curious.

      • Jack Fishman says:

        Mr. Dummerman,
        My comments were about current events and newspaper reporting. My past employment was not relevant to the post, therefore my job history wasn’t relevant. I wasn’t commenting as someone with any inside information — just as someone who has been following the published public reports and noticing the reporting and commenting hasn’t been always clear.

    • Vaquero357 says:

      Just to underline what Jack said, the $8.9 million is a sort of bogeyman. IF a successor organization took over the orchestra and continued paying into the pension plan, there’d be no $8.9 million penalty. If that penalty was the deal-breaker for the new organization, it probably means their plan involved cutting the budget by switching to non-union musicians.