Just in: San Fran musicians give cash to Chicago strikers

Just in: San Fran musicians give cash to Chicago strikers


norman lebrecht

March 27, 2019

From Melissa Kleinbart, Chair of the Players Committee of the San Francisco Symphony:

‘On behalf of the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, I am so happy that we are able to be here to support our colleagues in the Chicago Symphony during this really difficult time.

‘We are outraged that their Board of Trustees and their management has treated them so poorly as one of the greatest orchestras in this world. They have treated them with a total lack of respect, a lack of vision for investment in the future of this organization.

‘We are here to show our solidarity and to say, ‘Please reconsider your position before you do serious damage to the cultural fabric of this city.’

‘I’ve been so moved by the support of Chicagoans that I have seen on the street and at the concert last evening: the feeling in the hall was amazing. People had rapt attention. There were children there. There wasn’t a sound in the hall except for the music. Just the feeling of the craving for this music was palpable during this concert.

‘This is one of the greatest orchestras in the world. They should be celebrated. They should be treated with utmost respect instead of having one of their most important top benefits trying to be decimated. That is one of the biggest recruitment tools that an orchestra needs to be able to recruit young, excellent players from around the world. This is absolutely outrageous and we hope that this entire community will put as much pressure as possible on the Board of Trustees and the administration to try to talk some sense into them.

‘So, on behalf of my colleagues, I would like to present this check in the amount of fifteen thousand dollars. This is from the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony and it is the least that we can do to try to help our colleagues get through this difficult time.

‘I would also just like to say that we are so grateful in San Francisco that our Board has finally come to realize how important collaboration with the musicians is. They finally respect that we need to keep a defined pension benefit plan and they worked closely with us in searching for our music director designate Esa-Pekka Salonen. If that can be of any example to the Chicago Symphony Board, please take a look at how well things are working for us. We hope that can spread instead of the negativity spreading.’



  • NYMike says:

    Bravi, SFO Musicians!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow, that comes out to a whopping $141.50 for each CSO player! That makes everything better…now the strike can continue!

    • Ben says:

      And it could be less … depending on how this “donation” is made … Since it wasn’t made out to CSA, the money could be taxable income, as the committee isn’t an non-profit organization.

    • Bruce says:

      Right! If you can’t fix everything, better not to do anything. Gestures are meaningless. Letting people know they are not alone in their trouble does nothing to help, if you don’t remove the trouble. A hand on the shoulder of a grieving friend won’t bring their loved one back, so you might as well ignore them until they get over it.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Has Muti given the musicians any financial support or did he just show up for the press opp?

  • anon says:

    The San Francisco Symphony sits blocks away from the Tenderloin and the South of Market areas, filled with homeless people, opioid addicts, run away gay youths selling their bodies, I’m touched that the musicians found it in their hearts to raise $15,000 for their brethrens in Chicago who make a starting salary of $150,000 annually, because that extra $150 per player really makes all the difference between buying arugula or ice berg lettuce.

  • KS says:

    Oh they’ve been treated so badly! How divorced these people are from real struggle.

  • Matt says:

    *Melissa Kleinbart, not Elizabeth.

  • fflambeau says:

    Applause to the SFSO. What a nice gesture and what a strong letter.

    I think that Chicago will not listen, though, and perhaps only Riccardo Muti’s intervention will help the musicians there.

    Now maybe Osmo V. should visit Chicago.

  • Bob says:

    Getting $160,000+ per year and other perks to play music you love is considered getting treated poorly now?

    • anon says:

      I think the poor San Franciscans are confusing their $160K (which doesn’t go very far in the Bay Area) with $160K in Chicago (which goes considerably farther in the Midwest).

      “What honey, you took money away from our retirement to contribute to the retirement of your buddy in Chicago?

      Last time you’re going on tour!

      God help us next time you tour London and you contribute our mortgage to build a new hall.”

  • Stephen Paulson says:

    Thank you for covering this important story, Norman. (By the way, it’s Melissa Kleinbart.)

  • barry guerrero says:

    Ridiculous. Give the money to help feed homeless people in S.F., there are plenty of them. Or, how about to S.F.’s nearly broken public school system? How about arts education for people who don’t come from upper middle class or wealthy homes?

    Note to S.F. Symphony: I will not spend money going to ANY of your concerts. Period.

    • Bill says:

      I’m sure one could list any number of worthy causes which might benefit from another $15,000. I’d like to propose a boycott of your employer because you and your co-workers are not taking up a collection for them.

    • Anony says:

      Even though you are a complete troll I will still inform you that the SF Symphony provides a free curriculum of music education that includes multiple free concerts and instruction to EVERY single student in the SFUSD. But you don’t care to remember this because it doesn’t fit your agenda. You won’t be missed at any concert hall in America. Tool

  • anon says:

    What would a GoFundMe page even say?

    “Destitute musicians on starting salary of $160K up to $500k as head of orchestra, plus full family medical benefits and matching employer retirement contributions, required to travel long distances 2 weeks per year to Europe, Asia and Florida, part time only, requiring to seek second and third job as professor in conservatory and as private teacher, hot outdoor work during summer months away from office in the fields of Ravinia, health risk of hearing loss from over loud (though legendary) brasses right behind you, is in desperate need of financial assistance…”

    • anon says:

      “…is on a prolonged hunger strike because she found out that her classmate (total loser) from Curtis is making more than her in SF, another has better working conditions in LA, yet another has a better pension plan in NY, which is totally unfair and will totally suck at the next class reunion…”

    • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

      Don’t forget the 12 weeks off a year plus extra work (optional).

  • Bruce says:

    It’s interesting how thin the veneer of respect is for an orchestra like the Chicago Symphony. (Or for any orchestra, really) It takes almost nothing to go from “they’re so great” to “they’re a bunch of pampered, whining, replaceable crybabies.”

    • Guest says:

      I’m not sure that is true. Many people here are anonymous. I have always said that on any given night in this country 5-10 other orchestras can be just as good or better than the CSO. No use putting them on a pedestal that may have existed 50 years ago (but even then Cleveland was just as good) but is not there today.

    • Ben says:

      Exactly. “Selfless music making of the utmost caliber” my rear — it’s all about SHOW ME THE MONEY.

    • anon says:

      it’s not mutually exclusive, they are both great AND a bunch of pampered whining crybabies

      Their sense of entitlement just oozes right through…

  • Ben says:

    What irks me is this entitlement attitude.

    May be those CSO players think everybody at Symphony Center are millionaires. They think they deserve more to continue to bring music from the highest sphere to the millionaires.

    The deal is, majority of their audience:

    1) Make way way less money than those musicians

    2) Get only crappy self-contributing 401k

    3) Get no pension benefit

    4) Get crappy vacation/sick leave benefits (which nobody would dare to fully use, or be ready to be next layoff list)

    5) Get only sick leave/vacation days that don’t carry over (It’s not uncommon musicians accumulate months to years of sick leave days! )

    6) Have no employment protection

    7) Endure unhealthy work hours

    So what’s the deal about reaching out to the community? Their acts only alienate the community more. They just look like whole bunch of hopelessly spoiled cry babies in my eyes.

    • Kelly says:

      Ben, you should be more concerned with how American society needs to reinstate respect for working people. As you so thoroughly point out in numbers 1-7, all decency towards the American working class has been abandoned. Wouldn’t it be wise to rally around the musicians who are willing to fight to maintain their piece of the American dream? Your point of view is destructive and plays right into the hands of those who want to enrich themselves on the backs of working people. You seem to believe since most working people in contemporary America are being trashed, then all may as well be brought down. That’s gutter talk

      • Lester says:

        He’s explaining why the musicians don’t have support of most people–why most people simply do not care. I think he’s exactly right. I don’t give a fig about their “problems” because, quite frankly, they are living in a reality totally divorced from the concerns of everyday working-class people. I have to worry about if I’m going to be able to pay my bills next month and I’m supposed to support these rich crybabies?

        • Kelly says:

          Hmmm, a few victims here. Where there’s a victim there’s a volunteer. I see an orchestra that refuses to play the victim role. Bravo to the musicians!

      • barry guerrero says:

        Clearly flunked logic.

  • Tamino says:

    Since American orchestras are pretty much completely financed by private donations, isn’t it absurd to go on a strike in the first place?
    Strike make sense, if you work in an industry that functions for profit, and the capitalists don’t give you a fair share from the profit.
    But if you depend on private donations, what can a strike achieve?
    Shouldn’t you as every single member of the orchestra instead increase your fundraising efforts?
    Please enlighten me.

  • Plush says:

    The CSO deserves the highest orchestra pay in the world. They are the best. Commentary above about 5-10 orchestras in the USA being able to equal them is hogwash. Maintain pension as it is now. Music is sacred and we need to fully support culture and high artistic achievement. The CSOA mouths boilerplate MBA speak with a slash and burn mentality. They are receiving such poor advice from their crisis counselors.

    • Tamino says:

      What’s the point of your hyperbolic comment? Bragging school yard style doesn’t help anyone.

      “Music is sacred and we need to fully support culture and high artistic achievement.”

      Music is maybe sacred, but orchestras are not. They are living organisms, depending on a surrounding eco-system.

      And in that context the definition of “we” is crucial for giving sense to your statement.
      Obviously “full support of culture and high artistic achievement” is a value that was NEVER shared by the people of the US as a majority. In the US it was always a small elite, that supported the ‘high artistic achievement’.

      The strike doesn’t make sense to anyone outside of that small bubble that is the US orchestral world. Orchestras are non-profit organisations by definition. If they want more money, they have to raise more donations. Not go on strike, as if someone was depriving them of their fair share of the overall profit. Orchestras always create deficits. Always. Never make profit. Where is the money for the pensions supposed to come from, other than from benevolent donors?

  • Rob says:

    How come everything boils down to money? Something inherently wrong keeping inflation down comes at the expense of a baby’s life in Africa or the livelihood of a fiddler. Just make everything free and then we can all be happy.