US orchestra cancels players’ health care

US orchestra cancels players’ health care


norman lebrecht

June 22, 2020

We hear that musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra have been furloughed for the second time round.

This time they have been left without employer-provided health insurance. The ISO is the only orchestra among the 50 US largest to cancel health insurance while furloughing its musicians, says the players’ committee.


  • CA says:

    I wonder what the musicians’ union will have to say…..

    • Doug says:

      As though it even matters at this point?

      • CA says:

        It could matter. It may be illegal under the existing CBA absent a force majeure clause.

        • DL says:

          Even if the parties ignorantly entered into a CBA with no force majeure, you’re still asking for blood from a turnip.

          • RM says:

            Really? Maybe you’re right.
            Are you familiar with the CBA there? Or with the intricacies of the orchestra’s finances?

            I know that the President of the Kennedy Center, Deborah Rutter tried the same thing with the National Symphony and had to reverse her decision based on the orchestra’s existing CBA.

  • Player says:

    Very sorry to hear that!

  • Ken says:

    Sorry, if there’s celli sitting on the right, they can go to hell. (And I really do mean “sorry.” But enough is enough.)

    • Ainslie says:


    • indycello says:

      As one of the cellists sitting on the right of that stage, I can say there are considerable pros and cons to every placement, especially in that particular hall. Normally, my preferred placement of choice is next to the first violins, but the far right placement and the mid-right placement actually works better in this hall. But to each their own, I guess!

  • Ken says:

    Sorry. I know there are other things to worry about. I do realize that.

  • Stan says:

    What is so hard for people who don’t live in the U.S. to understand, is how any worker would accept being put in such a terrible situation, as if being furloughed and not working was not bad enough. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has no qualms of taking away health care from their musicians, something that usually affects that musician’s entire family, putting them all at risk and under more stress and duress.

    Time after time, day after day, the U.S. “model” shows itself to be not only brutal, lacking any notion of solidarity, heartless, inhuman and corrupt, but actually very stupid, as it only reacts on short-term thinking and is actually willing to destroy institutions, people’s lives and careers that took years to build up. It knocks them all down and then thinks that everything can be rebuilt when things are better. What naive thinking! It will cost more to rebuild than the savings that they believe they are making by depriving their employees of healthcare. Their country is falling apart at the seams and they just add to the ever-growing disaster that they created and worsen themselves.

    When my family and I see the hardships that people in the U.S. must endure, the violence, the racism, the corrupt and immoral leadership, the total lack of a general safety net for all, we are so grateful to have been born elsewhere and be part of societies that, although flawed and with our own problems, never reach the depths of despair that we see coming from there and continually getting worse. I sincerely hope that our friends and colleagues in the U.S. will find a way out of the misery that they seem to be perpetually in.

    • JJC says:

      Next time you watch that TV, turn your brain on as well.

    • CA says:

      You are so correct. I live in USA but have lived in UK and am a citizen of both. The USA model is broken and has been since inception. Heck, we even determine prices for healthcare based on one’s postal code/zip code!!!!!

    • Doug says:

      It’s simply another case of “they ran out of other people’s money.”

    • JD says:

      Do tell us where you live so that we can have a model to follow.

      • Bone says:

        Probably lives in an apartment or townhome; forced into near-communal living; taxes out the wazoo; and socialized medicine limiting access to quality healthcare.
        Just guessing, though. I’m fortunate to not live or deal with any of the above-mentioned conditions.
        As for this article, that is shameful behavior by the board of directors to allow this to happen.

        • Bill says:

          It’s a common misconception in the US that our allegedly non-socialized healthcare is superior. In general, it is more expensive by far, and delivers merely ordinary results, if that. It is true that if cost is no object, there are some world-class providers here who will happily do a full-thickness wallet biopsy for you. Unfortunately, for most, cost is an important consideration, even if you are insured (many of those top-drawer institutions are out of network care for many insurance plans).

          You may be fortunate to avoid your laundry list of complaints, but most US musicians are not in your shoes, and certainly not the furloughed ISO members. For all but a thin slice, it’s a precarious existence even without a pandemic threatening the business model of their employers.

        • Billy B says:

          As opposed to living in an apartment or townhome or forced into near communal living and spending whatever meager savings you got from Trumps tax cut for the wealthy on the down payment on your medical bills even though you have health insurance?

          Riddle me this: If socialized medicine is as bad as you describe, how is it that not one country that has that system has opted to replace it with the US model?

      • DAVID says:

        The model can easily be found; it’s already been working for decades now in an overwhelming majority of countries in the civilized world. I’m including a link for your own reference which you might find very informative:

    • Musician says:

      Stan, thank you for your comment. You’ve already received one negative response, so I want to make it clear that I wholeheartedly agree with you. I’m a U.S. citizen and resident. I’ve travelled extensively and lived overseas, as well.

      I’d like to ask about two fifths of the country the following:

      What happened to us? How have our expectations of government shifted so dramatically in only a few decades?

      What happened to our rejection of authoritarian rule? How have so many of our citizens come to embrace leaders who have no regard for human decency?

      What happened to our identity as a diverse nation of innovators and independent thinkers? What happened to our spirit? Our pride in our values?

      It would seem that greed and fear have taken over our society. The greedy use the fear of the ignorant to stay in power. If we want a government for all the people–not just the greedy or fearful–, we’re rushing headlong in the opposite direction of where we need to go.

      Our most powerful elected officials (and their families) enrich themselves at taxpayer expense. They are the opposite of public servants. Their crimes are numerous and overt. Accountability is absent and their corruption grows ever more blatant.

      I know many people are trying, but no one seems to be able to stop it. Perhaps things are getting lost in a mountain of paperwork or ending up on the desk of a corrupt judge.

      My heart breaks for my country and the multitudes of people suffering like the musicians in Indianapolis. I hate to imagine how much worse it can get.

      So many unnecessary deaths. So many livelihoods lost. How can millions of people find a new means of survival when our country is crumbling?

      What happened to us? How did nearly half of my fellow citizens forget all the things we learned in kindergarten–things like respect, fairness, and kindness?

      • The View from America says:

        Until the leading lights of both major political parties (and their voters) begin rejecting dynastic politics, expect more of the same.

        • RM says:

          Although, objectively one would have to say that the ills that you comment on are much, much more a product of the huge shift to the right amongst conservatives/libertarians over the last 40 years (Reaganism, Thatcherism, Randism, NEO-liberalism in Europe (the opposite of liberalism in the US), Milton Friedmanism (economic supply-side economics), etc, which has led to massive disparities in wealth, income, and equal opportunity.

      • NYMike says:


  • Larry W says:

    The Indianapolis management just won the race to the bottom.

  • Plush says:

    One would think they would try to avoid being labeled as Philistines.

    • V.Lind says:

      Badge of honour in Trumpistan.

    • Bill says:

      Probably more interested in avoiding being forced to file for bankruptcy. If the organization survives, they can eventually get the musicians back on the payroll. If they are liquidated, the jobs are gone.

      Having not examined their finances, I offer no position on whether this move was necessary at this time.

      • Tony says:

        Probably just a callous, unnecessarily cruel decision by board members eager to break the will of the musicians ahead of their next negotiation. The mostly incredibly well off board members can most certainly afford to keep their musicians on health insurance during a dangerous pandemic.

        Having not examined their finances, I offer no position on whether this move was necessary at this time.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Once upon a time, Indiana and Indianapolis were very productive, wealthy places. It was by far the Music Instrument Capital of the US: Conn, Olds, Buescher, Blessing, Ludwig…at one time there were 60 instrument makers in Elkhart as well as a large industrial and farming base. The Indianapolis Symphony was a great institution with conductors like Fabian Sevitsky, Izler Solomon and Raymond Leppard. But the NAFTA treaty and the lure of cheap labor in Mexico created a disaster – only three instrument makers are left, along with other industries. So Indianapolis lost a lot of tax money and a lot of taxpayers in the process. The orchestra was never able to build a huge endowment like Boston and others. They used to make records, not a lot, but that has dried up. This situation, while deplorable and frustrating, was predictable. It all came down to economics and the challenges presented by the Coronovirus. Add to that the simple truth that the public by and large couldn’t care less about having a great orchestra and this is the result. Indiana still has some great music schools; but why? My family roots are from Bavaria and they settled in southern Indiana giving thr town the family name. I played under Solomon several times and made a lot of friends in the orchestra. It will be very tragic if they close up permanently.