Orchestra locks out all of its players except strings

Orchestra locks out all of its players except strings


norman lebrecht

October 20, 2019

The Las Colinas Symphony – playing in Arlington, Las Colinas and Garland, Texas – has suspended all of irs musicians apart from the strings.

Its season has just opened with ‘eight fabulous concerts in store, with internationally renowned guest artists’.

No mention of the missing 22 players.

Read here.

The conductor, who appears to be party to these tactics, is the veteran Robert Carter Austin.



  • Bill says:

    Divide and conquer. This is clearly an effort to pit the orchestra members against each other.

    I would hope the string players will stay in solidarity with the other players and will not play. Otherwise, it’s just everyone for themselves, and that never ends well.

  • David P Assemany says:

    I agree with Bill. The string players should definitely not take the stage while their colleagues are locked out.

  • Unfortunate says:

    The orchestra’s website lists the concert repertoire, which seems to be strings-only for the entire season.

  • Bruce says:

    This is egregious. I hope the musicians and the union can do a thorough job of making this known to the audience base and the general public. Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham’s advice comes to mind: “use the word ‘allegedly’ a lot.” Management’s not playing nice, and labor shouldn’t worry about keeping their white gloves spotless while exposing the muck.

    • Moishezmom says:

      A problem is that Texas is a right to work (for less) state. Who knows how many of those string players are not even members of the AFM. It’s unconscionable that they are on stage performing while their colleagues are locked out.

  • I suspect it was this or shut down entirely.

    I have always been surprised that this part time orchestra could operate with the Dallas Symphony right next door.

    Las Colinas and Garland are suburbs immediately adjacent to Dallas. Arlington is immediately adjacent to Fort Worth, which also has a substantial orchestra.

    It is great that this orchestra exists and performs but I don’t know how they do it.

    • Amy Adams says:

      Apparently they manage because Robert Carter Austin is a business heir, and infuses it with his own cash.
      I cannot imagine any conductor being that out of touch with the players’ interests as to be responsible for locking them out of their season…this is a very bizarre story.

  • Larry says:

    This has always been a strange situation: the same musicians and conductor play the same program in different cities, using different names. They have separate staffs and separate boards of directors. To make things even crazier, the “Las Colinas” Symphony doesn’t even perform in Las Colinas. They perform in the city of Irving, Texas and there already is a (separate) Irving Symphony. Yikes.

  • Kevin says:

    I hope audiences will vote with their feet and stay away. Otherwise, if management gets away with it, it’s the thin end of the wedge. Strings-only get a bit tedious, even for one concert. But no tonal or textural variety, and a restricted repertoire, for a whole season? The customers need to send a clear message.

  • Amy Adams says:

    This is an uncommon setup – there is one roster of players, one conductor, and one administrative staff (education director, finance manager, librarian.) There is one collective bargaining agreement covering the musicians.

    But there are three different venues in three different communities, three different boards of directors and three different 501(c)3 organizations, distinctly named:
    “Las Colinas Symphony,” “Garland Symphony” and “Symphony Arlington.” They play the same repertoire in each venue, so that it’s like a mini-tour.

    What a dreadful and spiteful thing, to lock out part of an orchestra and expect the others to honor their contracts under that duress. Really disgusting move…and I’m stunned to hear that the music director, Robert Carter Austin, is apparently behind this, with the support of the three Texas community boards.

    A quick glance at publicly available financial records shows that none of the three orchestras is hurting in terms of revenue or assets…Why is this happening?

  • Rich Patina says:

    Well, just to be a contrarian, let me remind that there is a wonderful repertoire for string orchestra and that many of the compositions are rarely, if ever, performed because, presumably, management and the board and some donors are uncomfortable at having to pay wind, brass & percussion players that are sitting backstage.

    If the goal here is to encourage the success of a professional string orchestra, I say have at it.

    • Alison Read says:

      We have a per service contract, so we are not paid to sit backstage when while our friends in the string sections are performing without us. They are not performing the repertoire they expected to be playing when they signed their contracts this summer.

  • Karl says:

    Maybe the strings should take the stage – and just play air violins.

  • Alison Read says:

    Our string players are doing what Management is failing to do – honor their commitments to the group. All of the musicians of this group are suffering because of the actions Management has taken. We stand in solidarity with them, just as they do with us. We are grateful to their professionalism and beautiful playing this weekend.
    – Alison Read
    Principal Harp
    Players Committee
    Locked-out Musician