February 2011

. . . What You Think


Posted February 28, 2011

Comments from the Community


The Board’s deceptive negotiating maneuvers finally have come to the surface. These despicable individuals wanted to go to rid of the DSO musicians all along in order to cover up their own financial mismanagement over the past decade. Their “management” style mirrors very closely their Wall Street friends´ moves: pocket as much money as you can and stiff the community, the little tax payers, the union members with the bill when something goes wrong. Yes, we, the teachers, the musicians, the city workers, the firemen, the police(wo)men, we have to tighten our belts while we finance and maintain at the same time the “chosen” people´s lavish live styles through huge bailouts. The Board and their ideological ilk painlessly subscribe to the rhetoric of excellence as long as it is a challenge for others. The very concept of excellence, however, does not apply to them. The idea of an amateur orchestra representing the City of Detroit is an insult in itself and merely betrays the Board´s disdain and contempt towards the city and the citizens of Detroit. They must reason, I imagine, that the city does not deserve better. Sure, they will be able to fly to Chicago or New York City to enjoy world-class musical events while we are supposed to be content with the crumbs left behind for the poor people. Shame on them!

Hubert Rast

Dear Mr. Frankel and Ms. Parsons,

I am so angry the way our Detroit Symphony musicians have been treated. They have bargained in good faith and the Board and Management have not. The “take it or else ” threat is not bargaining in good faith. The $250 Health deductible is now at a whopping $3000. In addition, life insurance policies were cancelled abruptly. Instrumental insurance was also cancelled abruptly. Why were the musicians not given the opportunity to purchase continued coverage? The musicians themselves came up with enough money to have the instrumental insurance restored and this was not accepted by the Board and Management. Why? It certainly appears the Board and Managementnever never had any intention of trying to solve this strike.Not only have they dictated what the musicians will do, there has truly been no room for dialogue. Once again, the “do it or else” threat looms. The whole thing speaks of being inhumane and lacks dignity. One does not treat people like this, let alone great talented artisits! It is no wonder that the Board and Management did not accept solutions from the musicians as you had a whopper of a “hidden agenda” all along. The new “young people” who you think you will hire will never replace our gifted artists who are members of a world class symphony. Are you a keeper of the money or a keeper of the Legacy (great music played by exceptional talents)? You have trashed this. Even General Motors has not gone this far! What kinds of concessions has the administration made both monetarily and with their insurance? As a ticket holder, I am so upset over these actions that I do not intend to go to future concerts unless our Detroit Symphony musicians are retained. Not only that, many of my friends will also boycott your newly formed symphony unless the current professional musicians are re-instated.

Andra W. Barr

Perhaps the time has come for the Musicians of the DSO to reform themselves as another entity and management: perhaps the Detroit Philharmonic Orchestra or the Detroit Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. The current bond between the Musicians and the entity called the “Detroit Symphony Orchestra” (the Board) has been broken unilaterally by the Board and its administrative agent, Ann Parsons. I suspect those people aren’t really concerned either about the orchestra or the music — just money.

Charles W. Rileigh

I responded a few weeks ago to a comment column in the Detroit News. They did not publish it, and of course, by this time, much has changed. However, it read:

She (Sue Taylor of Grosse Pointe) states that she is a fan of the DSO. In other words, a “fan” sits on the sidelines and watches the home team deteriorate? I would suggest that she become a real fan by doing some fund-raising for her team rather than wasting time expressing what seems to be jealousy over professionals who have been making a decent salary and now are being threatened by losing it, and more. I also suggest that she educate herself on what it takes to become a member of a top rated symphony orchestra. The facts are not that difficult to find. With “fans” like these, the DSO can happily do without them.

Like many others in our profession, I am appalled at the situation in which the DSO finds itself, and all thanks to one of your retirees, Walter Maddox, I have been kept apprised of what has been offered by your “management”, politicians, etc. since the beginning of your attempts to negotiate.

In the Buffalo Philharmonic, we have experienced our share of misery with managements. But in my 29 years as a musician in the orchestra, I can say that we NEVER exhibited the courage that the DSO is showing today.

Because of that, the few of us that did stand tough but were disappointed by our own colleagues’ reluctance to risk in order to keep standards high, can take inspiration from you now.

My personal wishes for the very best for every one of you.


Marilynn Kregal, Principal 2nd Violin,ret., Buffalo Philharmonic Orch.

Another sad day in Detroit’s history. You get what you pay for. You will not get top not musicians without a contract and replacing the current members.

Carol Agray

I am really appalled! I guess they think your audience is not smart enough to know the difference. Wrong!

Lois Ashleyma

I am so disappointed in our country and in Michigan. At a time when we should be pulling together to help each other out and make our country stronger, it seems that those in power want to take this moment as an opportunity to gain more power for themselves as they destroy the laborer. I support our Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Detroit and the state of Michigan need a good orchestra. We have lost so much already. And, we need professional musicians – not someone who is willing to come and fill in because he/she could not get a job elsewhere. The DSO has been seen as one of the top in our country. Why would the management not want to continue to foster that reputation and status? Why would the board and management not want the best musicians possible?

The governor and mayor tried to help out in this situation, but management refused to negotiate. I don’t think the board and management ever intended on finding a solution. To them, the only solution is to take power. I can tell you that I will not support a DSO that rises on the destruction of our fine musicians that we already have who have given themselves and their talent to entertain, to educate, and promote good will.

Shame on the Board and on the Management.

Sarah Boelter

To the DSO Board and Management:

Are you really that clueless so that you can’t tell the difference between the professional and amateur pickup orchestras? If you are, that’s because you didn’t have the opportunities and educations that you should have. But don’t assume your audiences are clueless. That is offensive and insulting!! And please! Give your community and educate the next generation with the highest standard you can. Don’t be like dishonest jewelers trying to sell people the cheap CZ as precious diamond!

Feng Hew

In response to the DSO Board’s attempt to replace our world class symphony with musicians without union and their attempt to establish a new symphony model we say: we have been patrons of the DSO and have contributed to fundraisers for 25 years, we will NOT in any way support the new symphony model, and we will encourage our friends and family to take the same stand.

Anthony and Vinceene Jenni Prestininzi

How appalling and sad it is to see that an entire section of this great American orchestra is leaving because the DSO Board of Directors and its management cannot come up with any creative and innovative ways of saving this orchestra. Instead of finding solutions and benchmarking successful orchestras around the country, here is a board with tunnel vision that can only find unsuccessful orchestras with which to compare itself. Symphony Boards should be orchestras’ champions and advocates, not adversaries!

I often hear how learning to play a musical instrument develops the brain and encourages our young people to learn and become well-educated, contributing citizens to our society. Where are the role models if not in our professional orchestras across this great land? Our country deserves better than this!

Judy Pease Wilson, Louisville, KY

Posted February 23, 2011

More Letters to the Detroit News


Dear Sires.

Time to get down to it and negotiate. If you have no Union then you will not get me or my friends to go to any more of your shows.

Elmer Kostal

How very disappointing to hear that contract talks between the Musicians’ Union and the Detroit Symphony have failed to produce an agreement. Movement from only one side throughout recent weeks and months hasn’t produced reciprocal good faith from the Management and as a result, a great city may be without it’s great orchestra for an even longer time.

Hints about assembling an orchestra of “Replacement Players” should provide no comfort to audiences. No pick up group will approach the quality of the Detroit Symphony musicians who not only are supremely talented individually but also play with the precision of a seasoned ensemble. That would be true even if professional players were available – which, of course, they are not, since accomplished musicians are members of the same Union as the folks who have been trying to reach an agreement.

Best wishes to the Musicians of the Detroit Symphony in the continuing struggle to reach an acceptable agreement, even after agreeing to some deep and painful sacrifices already.

That they have maintained such dignity and respect for the process, even in the face of the expressed wishes of some to abandon them altogether, is truly inspiring.

Tom Reel

It is inconceivable that the DSO board should allow a great cultural institution with a long history to be destroyed and replaced by a completely new group of musicians who have not reached the artistic pinnacle attained by its present members. Please reconsider this terrible decision.


David Zesmer

I am genuinely disgusted by what the Board is attempting to do. Do they honestly think they will find great musicians willing to work for nothing? They are requiring anyone who agrees to those terms to sign away their autonomy. How could such a thing happen in this country? I guess the Board doesn’t care in the least about the cultural contribution the musicians of the DSO makes to the community, only the money they can make.

Sangdi Chen

Board Members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra:

The latest action taken by the management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra does further damage to the institution and to the very community it should be most concerned about. Rather than continue to negotiate, management has chosen to decimate a treasured institution and now seeks to replace world-class symphony orchestra musicians with a low cost, inferior alternative. The highly skilled professional musicians of the Detroit Symphony have a stake in the future of their community and the future of this orchestra. I urge the management of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to consider the true needs of both their community and the institution entrusted to them. Return to negotiations. Both sides must continue to work to reach an agreement. There is too much at stake to walk away.

Gary Matts, President, Chicago Federation of Musicians

I am saddened and amazed at the lack of appreciation and respect the DSO board has for our treasure, the DSO orchestra. If a new orchestra is formed, I will attend the excellent free U of M concerts in Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor instead.

Dan Lorts, 25-year season ticket holder

The Board’s and management’s misunderstanding of the DSO and its audience is insulting to subscribers, and cruel to the musicians. Do they really think that DSO subscribers and donors will continue the same level of support for an amateur pickup orchestra that they have given to the proud world-class ensemble that has been built up in Detroit over so many decades? FIRE THE BOARD. Get a board who is reasonable and lives on the same planet as the rest of us.


Ellen Powell

When I was a kid living in Detroit the orchestra had ceased to exist. It was resurrected after the war (that World War II) and my first teacher Sammy Epstein, was a member. I had the extreme good fortune to grow up with the orchestra, whose concerts I regularly attended, and to have a series of superb musicians as teachers in those years. It is

unthinkable that so important a cultural resource would be abandoned and Detroit would sink to the level of some small town with an amateur orchestra. I have played over the years in two such semi-professional, non-union orchestras (in Toledo, Ohio, and in Oak Park, Illinois) and can tell you they are not in the same league as the DSO. It is precisely in these hard times that we need music to sustain us as a nation, a city, a society. Doing it on the cheap is the wrong thing to do.

David Jordan

To Whom It May Concern:

This is ridiculous! My husband and I are both professional music educators with children highly involoved in music, and we are outraged at the unprofessional demeanor of the DSO management! We have been supporters of the DSO for several years, and unless the DSO management and musicians reach an agreement, we will not be attending DSO functions of any kind. It is truly an outrage to think that the tremendous quality of the DSO would be ravaged by the idea of an assembled group of musicians to take their place! I believe my daughter put it well by saying; “But Mom, why would they dissolve the DSO when they just were nominated for a grammy?”

Excellence must be maintained with the DSO intact!!

Julie and Keith Kohring

As William Congreve wrote in “The Mourning Bride” in 1697, “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast.” In these days of economic uncertainty and turmoil, we need our DSO to soothe our souls and provide a respite from myriad savageries we encounter daily. Too bad management is willing to write off these talented performers. They cannot be replaced by amateurs. This Detroit diamond will become nothing more than paste.

Joyce Tye, Sterling Heights, MI

These people have no shame.

Richard G Bear

Two things come to mind when reading this:

1) The quality of the musicians in a major orchestra like the DSO is extraordinary. I doubt anyone who isn’t a high-level professional musician can fully appreciate how rare it is for people to have their abilities and dedication to their craft. The process of selecting such musicians is not only grueling for the candidates, it is very serious business for an audition committee (which is made entirely of orchestra members). Orchestra management is simply not qualified to make those types of decisions. They can replace the orchestra, but the result will be so hopelessly inferior that they shouldn’t even call it the Detroit Symphony anymore. No other symphony musicians in the country will take the ensemble seriously as colleagues, and loyal discerning listeners will not tolerate such a decline in quality.

2) In conjunction with the above, what gives Paul Hogle or the DSO administration the right to determine what the career of the symphony musician should look like? Performing musicians have very specific training, and maintaining the level of artistry that the DSO demands requires a degree of focus that Hogle obviously does not comprehend. Being a performing artist at that high a level is not all fun and games, and it is nothing like any other profession. It is incredibly demanding. The more that focus is split, the more performance quality declines. Performance quality is more or less the only consideration in the mind of the musician. Decline in quality, for any reason whatsoever, will never be acceptable. Yet that is precisely what the orchestra members are being asked to accept. The Detroit Symphony management is attempting to unilaterally remake the face of the performing arts in this country. The arrogance that underlies such presumption is hard to fathom. What musician will want to audition for an orchestra that makes all that extensive musical training only one-third of the job? “Detroit Symphony Orchestra” won’t even look good on a resume anymore.

I hope the community in Detroit will put pressure on management to reopen talks with the musicians, and to actually negotiate rather than demand.

Joel Stucki

I’ve been very impressed by how the public image of the MDSO has been shaped and expressed through your website. As a musician in the San Francisco Symphony for 28 years, I can only imagine how difficult things are in meetings of the full orchestra.

Clearly this is a time of full-frontal assault on culture in our country.

As a Michigander, and an alum of the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra, I am horrified to accept that a great institution like the Detroit Symphony is being run by a management so ignorant and inept.

Many of us have been watching from the sidelines, so frustrated in our hopes to be helpful, and to show our solidarity. In my heart I do believe that the AFM is strong enough to withstand any ludicrous attempt at creating a new orchestra of scabs.

My heart goes out to all the families of musicians affected by this crisis.

Steven Dibner, Associate Principal Bassoonist, San Francisco Symphony

This is totally rubbish. It’s shameful that the management is trying to act in such a sneaky, under-handed way. I can’t imagine any reputable musician would play for such an orchestra; whatever group they cobble together won’t last.

Paula Muldoon


I have sat by all year and not commented on the various emails I’ve received from the DSO musicians but this latest pronouncement from the board and managment is the most ridiculous yet in all the long emails we’ve received this year from Detroit.

As a long-time member of an orchestra that had much more than its share of financial difficulties (New Orleans Symphony and its successor, the Louisiana Philharmonic) I have been aware of the financial difficulties facing orchestras for more years than I care to remember. While the orchestra in New Orleans was never the orchestra that Detroit is, it was a different climate when I joined in 1975. We even have shared a music director in Leonard Slatkin, who was our music director for a very brief period (1977-1980).

I left the orchestra in 2004 and have been on the faculty first of the Cincinnati Conservatory and am now on the faculty of Northwestern University and I can tell you that I will not ever sanction any of my students, past,current or future, or any colleagues, to audition for an orchestra that may be created from the charred remains of the players of the Detroit Symphony.

I don’t pretend to know all the details of the current situation in Detroit and may not even agree with all the points being made, but who DO they think they will get to play in an orchestra after what they are doing to the current one? If it was the last chance on earth to play in a symphony orchestra, I wouldn’t sanction agreeing to play under such circumstances.

My colleagues and dear friends in Detroit know they have the support of so many orchestras throughout the U.S. I just hope that everyone takes a stand and refuses to allow such a circumstance to see the light of day.

Steve Cohen, former principal clarinet, New Orleans Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic; principal clarinet, Brevard Music Center, clarinet professor, Northwestern University School of Music; former clarinet professor, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

To the editor,

As lifelong Detroiters, we understand hard work and a committment to excellence. We understand and value the years of experience and community connection the professional musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have brought to our schools and to our community. Professional muscians who have a lifetime of experience, advanced university degrees, whose talent has been nurtured by their collegues, and who have maintained the highest level of commitment to their work deserve a fair and equitable contract.

Our children, Hannah and Katie, have benefited from their talents through private teachers and musical events. We have donated to the DSO and now to the MDSO, and have brought our daughters to multiple children’s concerts, Greenfield Village concerts, to fundraisers, and events. Their legacy includes the DSO because they (and their friends and teachers at school) value the musicians. Each musician is a performer; each musician is a star in his or her own right. When producer Berry Gordy chose Diana Ross to lead The Supremes, he knew there was no substitute for real talent.

Please understand, we know these are difficult financial times. At times like this, we need real artistry. We need the Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to receive a fair and equitable contract. We will not attend concerts with “replacement” instrumentalists, nor will we cross a picket line to attend any other event at Orchestra Hall.


Amy and Jeff Voigt

What is it with “Big Business” today? Does it really want to eliminate the “Middle Class ? The DSO is acting like all of the big business’ and states which are seeking to take away the right to bargain from the workers! It is a shame! The DSO is making a mistake and will find out soon. Just as the people in Wisconsin are protesting, the same will happen in Detroit. You will see the audience disappear. Scab musicians will be playing to themselves. DSO, please do the right thing !!

Larry Bates

I see the solution, I think it is time to REPLACE the Board with persons of integrity and with a work ethic that represents the people of Detroit and Michigan…

‘Music melts all the seperate parts of our bodies together.’

Anais Nin

The musical community of Michigan has fallen apart with the lack of our Orchestra, let’s work to put it back together.

Linda Lapinski

To Board and management of the DSO:

The news coming from the Detroit Symphony has been most disturbing. The so called “reinvention” or “restructuring” the DSO has the potential to set back musicians lives 80 or so years.

I’m certain that Boards of orchestras all over the country are not so secretly thrilled at the draconian conditions that the DSO management is trying to impose on the musicians. They have always hated our union and unions in general. Labor unions all across the country are under siege and the Musicians Union is no exception. Without our union, we musicians would still be subject to the whims of egotistical conductors and managers. It is true that our system of tenure (to which it is rumored the DSO leaders want to abolish) is not perfect. But tenure allows players to have job security and actually play better. Yes, that’s right, I said play better! 99% of all musicians put huge pressures on themselves to perform at the highest level, conductors who would be dictators could stifle artistry, for the fear of making a mistake and getting fired as a result does not produce the finest music making. Proof of this is evidenced by the fact that orchestras in general are playing on a higher level than ever. Board’s and managements hate our system because they have to work that much harder to make ends meet. They never think that it can be done. Yet we have survived, in some cases for over 100 years, with this same system. It is hard. And scary, at times. I flat out reject that “the model doesn’t work” because it has. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to adapt and change with the times. But to dismantle the whole system because of hard times doesn’t make any sense. Our union and we in it have fought so hard and long for working conditions that can give a musician a good wage, benefits and pension. To read what is occurring in the negotiations between the DSO management and musicians is more than disheartening. It’s an embarrassing assault on what is right.

Doesn’t the DSO Board have any pride in the DSO? Are you, the management of the DSO, so incompetent that you need to try to impose rules that make no sense, fiscally or artistically?


Rob Kesselman, Double Bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra

It’s sad that Management hasn’t been able to do what they are intended to do, manage. At an outrageous salary of a said $425,000 a year, Parsons has been unable to lead effectively. A great CEO unites, not divides and has the ability to manage effectively though the ups and downs and plan ahead to weather economic trouble and shaky economies. Regardless of any individual needs, it’s Management’s requirement to manage and it’s not happening in Detroit and things are out of hand as a result. The fact that the CEO and MD are at full salary is absurd. They’re bleeding the endowment. The board needs to get smart. The DSO musicians are the product, not Management. You can find a thousand different CEOs at that salary with paid housing and perks. You can’t replace the caliber of musicians so easily with the ensemble experience DSO musicians have playing together. There may be plenty of talented players with smaller jobs waiting for other positions to open and audition, but who would want to go to a place where Management isn’t able to manage sufficiently? They need to pull it together, and quick. Several key DSO players have already won jobs with other orchestras: Cleveland & Dallas and they’re leaving DSO as a result. It’s a shame!

Shannon Wood, Principal Timpani, Grand Rapids Symphony

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors,

I have watched and listened to developments in the strike for several months now and am absolutely stunned by the disingenuous nature of this board of directors. From the beginning of this crisis it has been apparent to me that you have been more concerned with managing your P.R. then reaching a settlement with the musicians.

What your motives have been is now becoming apparent. Do you really expect a listener base, accustomed to hearing a world class orchestra, happy to settle for a regional one? Unless you truly believe it possible to dupe most listeners with this ploy, I can only assume that you don’t know the difference yourselves.

Most classical music lovers are a discerning group and will find this attempt to “dumb down” our orchestra to be a shameful exhibition by a group of incompetent individuals. This is a very sad state affairs and I blame the board who wishes to treat fine artists with contempt and disrespect.

Peter Tolias

We are appalled with the underhanded way and hidden agendas with which the DSO Management and the Board are negotiating with the DSO musicians.

The DSO Mgt is paid well to raise the added funds needed, which obviously is not done.

Please negotiate in good faith to save this world class orchestra.

Peter and Eve Drossos

“Change tune or be replaced”, huh? Well, it works both ways. Which means that rather than support The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which of course in turn means supporting it’s management practices, I for one (after being a Symphony supporter my entire life, since the Poole days) will be giving my support to some of the other local orchestras when I have a need to hear live symphonic music.

I can hear it now…”Ok then, there are LOTS of other musicians out there that would love to play with the DSO”…wouldn’t it be funny if, when the word got about about DSO management practices, prospective new hires passed on job offers? “No thanks, I heard about THAT gig…” It will probably be kind of funny also as word gets out in the music industry about this. NOBODY writes anything good about the DSO management. Word is going to get around.

Obviously the management doesn’t understand the Arts, and worse yet, the have NO understanding of the musician’s “community”.

Word is going to get around.

As a musician myself, I can speak from experience. Once word gets out that the people running a gig treat their musicians badly (to put it in civilized terms) nobody will ever want to work the gig…unless they pay good money…

…and we know thats not going to happen


Roberto Warren

I am so deeply shocked by this revelation that I can hardly find the words to express my dismay. What a contrast to the well-known former manager of the Chicago Symphony who once said, ‘Our older experienced musicians are our TREASURE.”

What can this mean to our young students, those who are just graduating from our conservatories, full of hope and knowing the history of orchestras in the United States: the many years of fighting for better conditions and salaries commensurate with the years of study and work, searching for fine instruments (which are very expensive, and hard to find), now all tossed to the winds. The collective unconscious of an orchestra such as the Detroit Symphony is really irreplaceable: don’t the members of the board know this?

Do they understand the years of training and experience that are the sum of an orchestra?

The many hours of collaboration that result in memorable concerts (and rehearsals, since live music is always different every time it is performed!)… thrown away…

Please, members of this board of directors, do not do this: imagine the Vienna Philharmonic being treated in this way…this is the killing of a cultural icon..and if this happens in our country, the rest of the music world will conclude that the United States does not care about its professional artists or what they produce. A nation is not remembered for its wars, but for its art.

Orin O’Brien, member of New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra

Interesting idea. Who, pray tell, is going to audition these new musicians?

Erick Harris

Could it be that the DSO management has been in touch with the Wisconsin governor as well as listening to other enemies of labor?

It is obvious that after many years of not so secretly working to undo the musician’s bargaining rights, the musicians of the DSO are bearing the brunt of this devious behavior now becoming apparent to symphonic musicians across the entire country. Operating with what appeared to be genuine concerns for economic reforms, these people and their consultants have had a longstanding deeper agenda. It appears to be Pay back time for us who have tried to maintain a sense of commonality and concern for our brothers and sisters while willing to negotiate sometimes necessary cuts to preserve our institution.

As a former member of the Detroit Symphony I mourn your pain as we together more fully recognize the deeper issues that confront us.


Chris Brown

Dear Friends and colleagues,

I wish you well, and hope for the best. Musicians all over the country are conflicted with the reality of dwindling support, dwindling jobs. It is my wish, however, that in this time of austerity we will seek to find solidarity within our Unions, which can only help us present a united front of standards and ethics. If there are starving musicians in the Detroit area that think they would work in this arena if the Union is ousted, know that this respite for your economic issues is only temporary, and not a working solution to problems felt by all.

May we find a way to enter the new reality of our profession with dignity and resources to do what we do best: make music!


Aron Rider

There seems to be a disease rampant in this country made that much more rampant because the means for disease communication have become so incredibly sophisticated.

I don’t know what that disease is called but its effect seems to be the glorification of the mediocre.

I have been a professional musician since 1968 and am and have been a member of the NY Philharmonic for fifty years now. When i started out in 68, Detroit was then and had been a major player in the symphonic world for some time. I’ve seen Musicians go from the status of indentured servants to respected members if not leaders of society.

We now, with the destruction of the Detroit Symphony can see that the mediocre is once more being glorified and will come out triumphant. Items like the Detroit Symphony which should be standard bearers of a city’s pride will , by dissolution, become the emblem of its shame

Newton Mansfield

I believe that the Board of Directors of the DSO are behaving irresponsibly. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is one of the truly great cultural institutions of the world.

I never thought I would live to see the day that this would happen to a major orchestra of the DSO’s level of artistic achievement. Without the DSO, Detroit will be diminished and depleted culturally.

The board and orchestra members must now work together to climb out of this financial morass and raise the money needed to get the talented and proud members of this great orchestra back onstage performing.


Glenn Dicterow, Concertmaster, NY Philharmonic

Posted February 22, 2011

Letters to The Detroit News


Well here it is–stage one (just as Bruce Coppock proposed in his Dec. 9th speech to the DSO’s annual meeting)–the new model for symphony orchestras (or as I see it: The Non Union Symphony Orchestra). Does management actually think they will be able to hire a new orchestra membership? The DSO is already on the American Federation of Musicians International Unfair List–who do they think they will get to replace their current roster of top notch musicians: students fresh out of conservatory and/or area freelance musicians currently playing in regional orchestras? They would all likely be fined by the AFM for performing with an orchestra on the AFM Unfair List. Remember, when Sarah Chang was slated to solo with the orchestra, she steered clear of the newly brewing strike (and soloists and conductors are usually not union affiliated).

And what about Leonard Slatkin? Paul Hogle says “We can’t afford not to keep him”. How is management planning on pulling that one off when they have the wolves at the door for the note on the Max?

I hope those who have been following the events of the last five months are connecting the dots. What’s happening to our home-town orchestra is no different than what’s going on in Wisconsin and many other states: Management (or the political party in power) blaming economic calamity on the unions and robbing them of the right to collective bargaining. If Management subscribed to Bruce Coppock’s plan way back in December, 2010, do you actually think they were coming to the bargaining table with the intention of compromise?

Helen Near, Member, Detroit Federation of Musicians, Local 5

I am very upset to hear that the DSO Board and management are willing to destroy one of America’s great jewels: the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I am a composer and this summer I had the honor of having my music performed by this wonderful orchestra. Although I have had my music performed by many orchestras around the world, this turned out to be one of the greatest highlights of my life. The musicianship and the depth of the orchestra’s sound and clarity are astonishing. Their sight reading abilities are world class. My score was 95 minutes in duration. Both in rehearsal and performance, the DSO demonstrated tremendous concentration and focus. Their passionate music making breathed exciting life into every phrase, every mood, every melody that I had written. And if that wasn’t enough, the members of the orchestra were very warm and gracious.

It breaks my heart to think that the DSO Board and management believe they create an amateur orchestra that will fill the shoes of this brilliant professional Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Even in times of greatest hardships, people hold on to those things that are dearest to them to remind themselves of the beauty and the nobility of the human spirit. And in embracing tightly those special things, the seeds of hope, encouragement, and creativity are nourished. And from those seeds the dawn of a new day springs forth.

The professional Detroit Symphony Orchestra should be one of those precious things that the DSO Board and management embrace in the challenging times of today. They should cherish the Orchestra and realize the treasure they will pass on to the city of Detroit generations from now by working endlessly in pursuit of an acceptable contract for this professional Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

My heart goes out to the members of this very fine musical organization at this time. My wish is that the DSO Board and management will search their hearts and realize the profound significance of keeping the professional Detroit Symphony Orchestra making music.

And, to you dear orchestra members, once again, thank you for your monumental performance of my score SPARROWS in August of 2010. I pray you hear good news soon.


Jeffrey Silverman

In the early part of the 20th century, the Detroit Tigers, in a labour dispute, replaced all players with pick-up players for one game, resulting in the Tigers losing by a record score that still stands as the worst defeat in major league history. It appears that the DSO management and board of directors want to repeat that scenario.

With replacement players in the DSO, I would not buy a ticket even if a gun was held to my head. It appears to me that the DSO management cares nothing at all about music or the arts and I feel that the entire board of directors is incompetent and should resign in disgrace over the way they have been treating the musicians, while at the same time offer its deepest apology to the faithful public, subscribers, and donors who have supported a world class orchestra.

George E. Lloyd

Because my work dried up in the Detroit area, I spend a lot of time commuting to other major cities. Even so, I look forward to the day that the City of Detroit returns to the level which my grandparents cherished. Whenever I venture into a new city, I usually visit that city’s website to find out what is offered. Most cities try to boast cultural institutions, in some form, to attract new business and travelers. Most cannot compete with what Detroit has to offer and this provides me hope of better times ahead for my city. With curiosity, I visited the Detroit City website and sure enough …

“Motown. The Motor City. The D.

You want culture?

We’ve got it! Detroit has a rich cultural scene, including such world-respected institutions as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Opera House, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Fisher and Fox theatres.”

All I can say is shame on DSO management. And shame on the businesses, which take advantage of the great City of Detroit, for letting it get to this point. We all need to thank our musicians for what they are providing for us.

Rick Severson, Troy, MI

So this wasn’t about reaching an agreement with Detroit Symphony Musicians. It was about getting all new cheaper (for the moment) musicians. Shame on management.

Bryson Powers, Eagan, MN

What’s the role of the board?

In my opinion the DSO board should be spending their time raising the necessary funding to support the Orchestra and its players through fund-raising efforts and corporate sponsorship … rather than continually asking the musicians to make concessions.

DSO board members that intend to replace professional musicians with “non-union” players do not belong on the board. The Orchestra deserves to have a collective voice in bargaining and also deserves the benefits of a union (competitive instrument insurance, health insurance group rates, etc) …

Yes, we know that economic times are tough in the city, but a competent board that raises awareness of financial hardships and seeks out pathways to donors and sponsors, will better serve the arts. A board that tries to redefine the arts by replacing the Orchestra members is a non-functioning board in my opinion.

Its truly unfortunate to see hardworking professional musicians dedicate their lives to art – and for the DSO, truly a tradition of excellence…to see them picketing and struggling for survival.

M. Palms

Could it be that the DSO management has been in touch with the Wisconsin governor or have they been listening to merely the local enemies of labor?

It is obvious that after many years of not so secretly working to undo the musician’s bargaining rights, the musicians of the DSO are bearing the front of this devious behavior now becoming apparent to symphonic musicians across the entire country. Operating with what appeared to be genuine concerns for economic reforms, these people and their consultants have had a longstanding deeper agenda. Pay back time for us who have tried to maintain a sense of commonality and concern for our brothers and sisters while willing to negotiate sometimes necessary cuts to preserve our institution.

As a former member of the Detroit Symphony I mourn your pain as WE together more fully recognize the deeper issues.


Chris Brown

The Detroit Musicians are highly skilled, dedicated and professional on every level. To insult them like this is disgusting! Would you bring in Intern Doctors to a hospital and expect to have the best medical care? The paying public wants to hear great music not amateur. The musicians have spent equal and even more hours to become great players than athletes and doctors have and yet athletes and doctors are treated with more respect than our musicians and it is WRONG! A Society without great music making is lacking indeed.

Geri Rotella, Local 47

My daughter is an aspiring professional musician who has had much respect for the Detroit Symphony. I know the work it takes to become a good enough player to be hired by a world-class orchestra from observing her and her friends. We certainly will lose that level of skill in Detroit with the decisions the board is making. Please reconsider and save our orchestra.

Jeanne Mason

It’s management that needs to go, not the musicians. Good executives can find ways to raise money, sell tickets, find sponsors, etc. in any economic environment! The musician’s salaries are not out of line for world class players!

David Zavolta

Our DSO has been a first class orchestra for many years. Our season tickets provided the very best night out. To sit in Orchestra Hall in our favorite seats, and hear great music performed at the highest level was just the best place to be.

DSO musicians are the finest of professionals. Our musicians would stand up to the musicians in any orchestra in the world.

I am saddened about the season being cancelled. Something very good is missing in the lives of all of us who regularly attend the DSO concerts. I am saddened, too that there is talk of replacing these fine musicians who have given us such wonderful music with less skilled performers who will work for a smaller salary.

In the best of all possible worlds there would be plenty of money to pay the wonderful DSO musicians the salaries they deserve. They have offered to take big cuts in their salaries but their offer was not accepted.

I hope the management will find a way to retain the DSO musicians at a salary which is fair and with work rules that are appropriate for such highly skilled professionals.

Detroit without the symphony is a completely different city. We all grieve at the burned out houses that plague so many neighborhoods. The cultural jewels in Detroit are what keep the city from shambles – the Art Institute, Michigan Opera Theatre, Detroit Symphony Orchestra – the cultural institutions need to be protected and treasured.

Carolyn Thibideau

My heart is breaking. The people of the City of Detroit, music lovers, concert attendees, citizens of the entire metropolitan Detroit area are losing one of the City’s last jewels. Union breakers? YES! Interested in great music performed by a great orchestra? NO. That is unacceptable.

I am sad and embarrassed by the actions of the Board of Directors and management. The musicians and public put their trust in these people and were deceived and betrayed by these very people. Disgraceful at best, unthinkable at worst.

We will over come!!

Brenda Freedland Pangborn

The Board’s deceptive negotiating maneuvers finally have come to the surface. These despicable individuals wanted to go to rid of the DSO musicians all along in order to cover up their own financial mismanagement over the past decade. Their “management” style mirrors very closely their Wall Street friends´ moves: pocket as much as you money as you can and stiff the community, the little tax payers, the union members with the bill when something goes wrong. Yes, we, the teachers, the musicians, the city workers, the firemen, the police(wo)men, we have to tighten our belts while we finance and maintain at the same time the “chosen” people´s lavish live styles through huge bailouts. The Board and their ideological ilk painlessly subscribe to the rhetoric of excellence as long as it is challenge for others. The very concept of excellence, however, does not apply to them. The idea of an amateur orchestra representing the City of Detroit is an insult in itself and merely betrays the Board´s disdain and contempt towards the city and the citizens of Detroit. They must reason, I imagine, that the city does not deserve better. Sure, they will be able to fly to Chicago or New York City while we are supposed to be content with the crumbs left behind for the poor people. Shame on you!

Hubert Rast

Dear Editor:

I stand with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians. Their union exists to 
protect their rights as workers, and thus to allow them to do the job for which
they are so highly qualified.


Roslyn Raney

Dear Sir or Ma’am

After seeing the news over the weekend and now seeing this I am convinced that this board must step down or be forced somehow to resign Detroit is a proud city and a city that seems to have to fight for everything we get respect being one of them and this board does not get this so they must be made to see. In the meantime may I suggest that a exploratory committee be set up to incorporate the existing musicians and look for a new home IN DETROIT! The symphony must go on!


Mike Steenburg

The philistinism and cruelty of your Board simply takes one’s breath away. It is very difficult to encourage my students to pursue a professional career in music when I see this savaging of a great orchestra. But I will persist, and you must, too. In the end, we will win.

Damian Bursill-Hall, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

I can hardly believe what I just read! It appears that Wisconsin is not the only place engaged in union busting!

I studied flute for years under Ervin Monroe and took masterclasses with Erv and Jeff Zook. It was that experience that let me know that you can not just have anyone playing in the DSO. The musicians of the DSO are truly “World Class”. I pray that there is some other resolution to this impasse other than what I just read.

Hang in there, folks!

Darin L. Paul, Former Assistant Principal Flute, Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra

Members of the Board of Directors, Detroit Symphony Orchestra


Is moving … from a world class symphony orchestra, a group of highly trained, highly skilled musicians to an orchestra of amateurs who love their instruments but who don’t have the skills, the emotions, and the time to invest in fine performance… in the direction of a community level group, going to satisfy the patrons of the arts in Detroit?

Yes, these are very difficult financial times. But elite institutions such as symphonies and opera houses have survived and will continue to flourish. Didn’t Isaac Stern spearhead the rescue of marvelous Carnegie Hall? Where is the Savior on the Board of Directors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra? Has everyone abdicated? No one cares to present great symphonic music in the great city of Detroit?

This is about more than employment for 100+ musicians in Detroit. This is about quality of life for all residents of Detroit, about a quality education for the children, about a quality of art, spirituality, and morality for all people in the Detroit area.

Members of the Board of Directors, please set an example for all cities that Detroit values art and the stability in society that art brings.

Bernard Chevalier, long time member, retired, San Francisco Symphony

The Detroit Symphony board is inhumane and their behavior is shameful.

Any musician that would even CONSIDER working for them would be inviting abuse, and those musicians will be blacklisted from every professional musical organization in the country. I hope someone can reach the young, desperate musicians that might not realize that!

Musicians around the country are anxiously watching this and we are all sick…

DSO management missed their calling. They should go work on Wall Street or for a Fortune 500 company. Who willingly becomes an artistic manager/board member without any respect for the Arts and Artists??? Shameful!


Karen Banos, Violinist, Philadelphia, PA


We will refuse to renew our subscription to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts if the DSO management follows through with this plan. I will not support such indecent and outright immoral decisions, nor will I recommend my college students to attend concerts in the future seasons. This is more than appalling – it’s disgusting and nauseating.

Linette Popoff-Parks, Professor & Chair, Music Department, Madonna University


It is no surprise that the DSO ‘management’ has a new model for the DSO. A look at the League of American Orchestras provides the blueprint: “Welcome to the League, dedicated to helping orchestras meet the challenges of the 21st century.” How do they meet these challenges? By a race to the bottom. Musical skills and experience count minimally; it’s about money and the musicians are expected to take any orders and make any sacrifices to improve the bottom line. One cannot operate an orchestra at a loss, but the DSO losses were mainly generated not by inept musicians but by inept financial planning and the current situation was promoted by management nastiness and bait & switch tactics that antagonized the musicians, the audience and (I suspect) those who tried to mediate.

David Kessel


Education and outreach are vital to an orchestra’s activities. That is widely accepted. Forcing all musicians, or all scientists or all doctors, or all auto technicians, or what have you, into a teaching role is a really bad idea. Our educational system is not tooled for that, and shouldn’t be. There are individuals who have a gift and a desire to work in an educational setting. I say that should be nurtured. There are individuals who have a gift and a desire to perform, and I say that should be nurtured. There ARE individuals who desire both, and have a talent at both, but they aren’t crawling out of the woodwork. They are rare. I know. I’ve taught them. They, too, should be nurtured and educated.

Those views are irrelevant to the situation at hand in Detroit.

There is no doubt in my mind that it is possible to conjure up “an orchestra” in Detroit. Heck, I could do it in a few days. Just make some phone calls to some music schools and offer a minimal contract with a small season. You’ll find that their current grad students or undergrads will be happy to have extra money to help pay the enormous tuition bills and save for the very, very expensive instruments (more about that later) miss some classes and drive all night to get there, play the concert and go back to school. Their professors won’t be happy about it.

There’s one hitch. Some of those students might have professors who will advise them against career suicide because these youngsters will probably never work in a union orchestra again.

Problem solving 101: What to do? How will management deal with that problem? Time will tell. Maybe they will find that students who don’t intend to make their careers in the U.S. will take the job before they win their first jobs in European or Asian orchestras. There are lots of good jobs there. However, with Facebook lately, those orchestras are watching what’s going on here, too. They might not be so welcoming to musicians who have been part of a union-busting operation either.

Pamela Frame, Cellist, Former Associate Professor, Eastman School of Music, Pro Musicis Artist, NEA Solo Recitalist’s grant


If I were in the business as an Orchestra Consultant, I would be cautioning any orchestra against taking such a radical direction. I would be encouraging management to look at options such as raising additional funds to endow a NEW position. Not to eliminate current positions. Outreach development – someone who works to develop curriculum with Michigan’s certified music education professionals for small groups who wish to perform in schools (and the full orchestra’s outreach & educational programs) who wish to perform in schools. The small groups who wish to perform these additional duties would simply be paid for the services above their salaries. There are models for this. Young Audiences, Inc. is one. I imagine that another model might be started in conjunction with unions. If this is management’s current intent, I don’t think it’s been made clear. It’s a nice alternative to union busting.

*About those expensive instruments. Did you know that string players often have to take out mortgages on their instruments which are larger than most people’s home mortgages? Did you know that most musicians now have to have a Master’s degree or a Doctorate in order to survive in this business? That’s about 9 years of higher education. 9 years x $40,000 = $360,000. During those years the student is NOT earning a living so add on the base salary of any field you can get with a bachelor’s degree. $20,000? 5 years x @20,000 = $100,000. $360,000 + $100,000 = $460,000. Before that, there were weekly lessons from the average age of…10? Hmmm. 52 weeks, 9 years x 52 at $30. = $14,040. That’s if you live in a small city. They’re a lot more in a big city. Subtotals: $460,000 + 14,040 = $600,040. Add in your mortgage and down payment for an instrument.

When you think about a musician’s salary, be sure to consider what it costs to become one. And what it takes.

Pamela Frame, Cellist, Former Associate Professor, Eastman School of Music, Pro Musicis Artist, NEA Solo Recitalist’s grant


Although I do not doubt that all sides wish the problem to be resolved, I must say that I will not support an orchestra that has been assembled to replace our beloved DSO musicians. I beg management to soften their position and continue to bargain in good faith. Losing this season is a tragedy. Losing our whole orchestra is unimaginable.

Patricia Steele


To Board and management of the DSO:

The news coming from the Detroit Symphony has been most disturbing. The so called “reinvention” or “restructuring” the DSO has the potential to set back musicians lives 80 or so years.

I’m certain that Boards of orchestras all over the country are not so secretly thrilled at the draconian conditions that the DSO management is trying to impose on the musicians. They have always hated our union and unions in general. Labor unions all across the country are under siege and the Musicians Union is no exception. Without our union, we musicians would still be subject to the whims of egotistical conductors and managers. It is true that our system of tenure (to which it is rumored the DSO leaders want to abolish) is not perfect. But tenure allows players to have job security and actually play better. Yes, that’s right, I said play better! 99% of all musicians put huge pressures on themselves to perform at the highest level, conductors who would be dictators could stifle artistry, for the fear of making a mistake and getting fired as a result does not produce the finest music making. Proof of this is evidenced by the fact that orchestras in general are playing on a higher level than ever. Board’s and managements hate our system because they have to work that much harder to make ends meet. They never think that it can be done. Yet we have survived, in some cases for over 100 years, with this same system. It is hard. And scary, at times. I flat out reject that “the model doesn’t work” because it has. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to adapt and change with the times. But to dismantle the whole system because of hard times doesn’t make any sense. Our union and we in it have fought so hard and long for working conditions that can give a musician a good wage, benefits and pension. To read what is occurring in the negotiations between the DSO management and musicians is more than disheartening. It’s an embarrassing assault on what is right.

Doesn’t the DSO Board have any pride in the DSO? Are you, the management of the DSO, so incompetent that you need to try to impose rules that make no sense, fiscally or artistically?


Rob Kesselman, Double Bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra


This proposed plan to replace the world class Detroit Symphony Orchestra

with an ad-hoc pickup ensemble will be like replacing the New England Patriots with the local high school football team. Also, musicians who agree to participate in this “reformation” will experience a profoundly negative impact on their own professional goals. They will be perceived by many as “scabs” and will be casting themselves in an unfavorable light as candidates for other top tier professional orchestras.

Carolyn Banham


The actions of the DSO Board are not surprising. Just look at who is on the Board of Directors. It consists of society dilletantes and very wealthy individuals who have no interest in unions or working people. Their community outreach is humorous if it wasn’t so sad. What do they know about community beyond the golf clubs and high society in which they live. They want to bring “culture” to the unwashed masses even if they don’t want it.

Bruce Miller

Posted February 10, 2011

Community Voices: Wisdom Speaks / Letters to the DSO Board


MDSO play to a standing-room only crowd at St. Patrick’s Church in Detroit on January 15, 2011. Photo: Hart Hollman.

Dear DSO Board,

I’m a parent of a young musician involved in the CYE program. This is our second year of involvement, and it has been a real joy to see the enthusiasm and passion for music from my daughter that playing in CYE has brought about. Last year was a very exciting year for her – she was exposed to DSO musicians in sectionals, in the halls, and as people she could look up to. This year, the DSO musicians’ absence has been felt profoundly. Orchestra Hall feels like a different place without their presence. The CYE program needs their teaching and example. We need you to have a vision for the future of young people like my daughter and to do what’s right in working with the musicians to bring them back. This world is losing so many beautiful things to budget cutbacks, to the “bottom line”, and it’s so sad for me to see the world get a little darker for my daughter. Please, please, please, do the good and right thing for Detroit and our young people, and bring our musicians back.

Thank you.


Emilie LaRoux


I think there is a greater vision of the DSO and its musicians that most people don’t know about. The way those individuals help their friends, neighbors, charities, schools, and communities in general. I just read that a friend of mine received a printer from a DSO musician cause theirs broke. These same people donate time to shelters and other community causes. I was recently in a car accident and do not have one to currently drive. A DSO musician has essentially loaned me their car until mine is fixed.

The DSO and its musicians have a far greater impact than just making world class music. Economically, socially, culturally, and essential humanity and hope.

James Bostek


Dear DSO Board of Directors,

I am writing you, to urge you to end this strike, sooner rather than later. Let me remind you, that having world-class musicians working in the city benefits more than just the patrons of concerts. As a WSU Music Department Alumni, the fact that I was able to study with DSO musicians, and be regularly exposed to a high-caliber orchestra, is one of the first things I mention when talking about the opportunities available to us at Wayne. This experience is one that I hold very dear, one through which my skills flourished. It was necessary for me to be able to stay here in Detroit, a city I could afford to live in for my undergraduate degree. Having access to the orchestra helped ensure quality in this aspect.

Of course, these musicians are here for now, but if your agenda truly is to water down the quality of the orchestra, as it appears to be, I fear they will have no choice but to move on. So please, think beyond your own agenda, and expand your scope to the schools and businesses in the area. Recessions aren’t forever, and the city of Detroit will make a comeback. This city absolutely needs the DSO!


Heather Hicks


Mr. Frankel,

You have a very tough job indeed. But you also have a huge responsibility to your orchestra and your community. Music is such an integral part of life. It touches our souls on every level. You and your board have a responsibility financially as well. Musicians are some of the most financially responsible people…they live on much less.

One of the finest orchestras that young and old can aspire to. Do not allow that to become extinct. I urge you to find a way to put your orchestra to work and help fuel the economy by keeping these jobs. You must band together and realize that the way to solve this is to work together no matter what. Your product is in the musicians and everything they offer to your community on so many levels. To take that away would create a tsunami effect on your community. DSO musicians are not only performers ..they are teachers, mentors to young people in your community. You should embrace this. Our society is in need of the arts. It may be the one thing that can save our younger generation. You must know that it is the arts that allows young people to express themselves in a positive light. It builds self-esteem and confidence.

There is always a solution to everything: one must be willing to work very hard to find it and never give up hope.

You have a very hard job in front of you … talk with your musicians and do not stop. Take their ideas as well as your’s and create something really positive.

Marcy Trentacosti


Dear esteemed members of the Board of Directors, Detroit Symphony Orchestra,

We Southeast Michigan dwellers owe you hearty thanks for your unpaid labors on behalf of the DSO, and your efforts to end this unfortunate strike.

But I wish right now to address the particular specifics of the DSO librarians. Probably a lot of people think that they are merely guys who pass out the music before a rehearsal or concert; in fact, I used to think so myself, 40 years ago when working on my reference book “Orchestral Music” (now in its 4th edition).

How much I have learned since then! Librarians of a major orchestra are invariably consummate musicians, often near-equals in that respect to the musicians who appear on stage. In addition they have to be bibliographers, parsing the different editions and editors in the fast-changing world of music publishing; musicologists, capable of understanding the complex historical details having to do with the creation of musical works; performance practice specialists, aware of the nuances of informed performance (an area that has only existed for half a century or so and is constantly advancing); catalogers, more specialized than those in research libraries; data-processors, keeping track every day of thousands of individual pieces of music, the lack of any one of which (say, a 1st oboe part) can render a symphony unplayable; researchers, tracking down the exact edition required by a fussy soloist; editors, inserting corrections, cuts, bowings and all the rest that is necessary for music performance at the highest levels; linguists, plumbing the mysteries of scores and parts in many different languages (music is often said to be the international language, but scores, parts, catalogs and other publications nevertheless come in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, etc., and someone has to figure out what they’re saying).

All across the country — indeed, all across the globe, for this is an international situation — orchestral librarians are considered musicians, in the same bargaining unit with the performing members of the orchestra.

Please don’t try to fix the deficit by splitting off the librarians from their natural partners in this great art and great institution that we all love so much.


David Daniels, Prof. Emeritus, Oakland University


Dear Members of the Detroit Symphony Board of Directors,

This letter is to urge your support and understanding of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra librarian positions in the collective bargaining unit.

I have been a music librarian for the Pittsburgh Symphony for 27 years. You may not be aware that every piece of music that goes on the stands is painstakingly marked in detail by hand by librarians. While we balance skilled musical work with administrative and fiscal responsibilities, the heart of the job is expertly marking music by interpreting the often vague and conflicting instructions from conductors and composers and making choices to create the best possible performance. On a daily basis, we use the skills acquired during university or conservatory training as well as our various performing careers.

A librarian’s performance is seldom applauded or viewed by you, the audience member, but when a rehearsal goes quickly and smoothly, we have made an important musical contribution to its success. Conductors and soloists rely on our expert knowledge of music and editions in making decisions about what materials and preparation thereof will best serve their performances.

In Pittsburgh, our fellow orchestra members have always recognized our two full-time librarians as colleagues and AFM bargaining unit members, relying on our musical knowledge and abilities to assist them in playing their best.

I urge you, when making difficult choices for the future of your great orchestra, to recognize the extraordinary capabilities and value of the fine musicians whose performance takes place in your music library. I hope in the future you will take the opportunity to visit their fascinating domain

and see the music that takes place behind the music.

A great orchestra such as yours requires a great library, with the compensation and working conditions to both support your present librarians and to attract the highest quality future librarians.

With all best wishes for the future of the Detroit Symphony,

Joann Ferrell Vosburgh, Principal Librarian, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Jean & Sigo Falk Endowed Chair


To the Members of the Detroit Symphony Board:

As a resident of Toledo, and area musician who performs throughout the Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan region, I have been watching with great interest the communications that have been published regarding the strike. I have read communications received via email from the DSO, as well as those received from the Musicians of the DSO, and have noticed articles circulating in the pulp media that have been shared electronically.

I am saddened by this whole affair for so many reasons but will focus on one word in this letter: QUALITY.

The quality of the Detroit Symphony is exceptional. It is so because of the quality of each individual that makes up the whole of the orchestra. It is so because of the commitment these individuals make to the music they play, their instruments, and each other.

It seems the board has aspirations of diminishing, rather than retaining, the quality of the DSO. Is not the overall purpose of a governing board to do what is best for the ultimate product? I’m afraid that we are seeing the result of the actions of people who are more concerned about everything EXCEPT the quality of this orchestra (i.e. the ultimate product).

Please, reflect upon what the long-term ramifications of your actions are. Do you really want to lower the standards that this orchestra and these musicians have worked so hard to put into place for the last several decades? To what end? Another 50 years from now, will you be pleased with your actions today? Will you be pleased if you succeed in the dismantling of this fine orchestra?

Shouldn’t we, as human beings, work towards developing and retaining quality?

This human being is hoping you’ll make the best decisions FOR QUALITY.

Shannon Ford


Dear DSO Board Members,

I would like to thank the members of the DSO Board for your role in creating the many great experiences I’ve had listening to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I’m sure that you want Fisher Music Hall to come alive again very soon. I work for the Labor Studies Center at Wayne State University and have been following the negotiations between the Musician’s and the DSO management. I am not surprised that recriminations have taken over the bargaining environment.

Management’s hard bargaining tactic of switching to Plan B, when the Musician’s rejected the drastic measures offered in Plan A, I believe, poisoned the bargaining sessions during this difficult time. I firmly believe that this tactic violates the principle of “good faith” bargaining, although my opinion is apparently a minority one under current labor law. It is a tactic that may have been forged in heated industrial environments, but in this situation, I believe it was inappropriate.

This tactic, I believe, was humiliating and punitive for the Musicians. I think the orchestra musicians themselves, as well as patrons following the negotiations, were confused by this tactic. What has followed has been distressing, but not surprising. I am happy to hear that the Musicians and Management will be returning to the table for discussion aided by a mediator. From what I understand the Musicians have shown a willingness to face the challenges of tough economic times, and work toward a difficult compromise. I am hoping that you can use your influence to promote a quick and fair solution to this situation, and welcome music lovers back to Fisher Music Hall very soon. –


Tom Karson


I have in front of me a card asking the board some interesting questions regarding the issues behind the negotiations. As best I can determine from the pubic information available on line and in the media, both parties cannot make the necessary compromises to reach an agreement. Much of what is asked on this card has to do with how matters got to the present state of affairs. But do the answers get the negotiations any closer to resolution?

The better question should be: what can be done to get the musicians working, the revenues resuming and where to go from there. Sure, the funding might have been mismanaged, but that is water over the dam. Sure, donations are down and that may be because of poor finding management, but that too is water over the dam. Even if true, there are other major causes and that is what has to be dealt with. Sure, I would not want to be subject to past mistakes, but, that is all hindsight. The time for recriminations is past.

Regardless of the reasons, a huge debt has to be addressed and that can only be done with revenue coming in. It probably means that most expenses have to be drastically reduced, thus the musician’s income issues. Has the management taken as large a cut in personal income as they are asking from the musicians?

Are the work rule changes as important as the financial cuts? Could they be traded for agreements on more critical issues? Is eliminating the protection against arbitrary dismissal necessary to address the financial issues? Does the fear of possible bad management possible due to changes prevent solving the financial problems? The uncertainties created by the lessening of the status implied by the reductions in compensation are very understandable. But are there any other practical choices?

The simple truth is that both parties need each other to restore and save a wonderful institution. Only mature, responsible compromise can do that . Stop posturing and come to agreement.. Do you want, in hind sight, to be one of those who let this go where it is now headed?

From one who desires to see a prompt, practical resolution and resumption of this wonderful institution. Further delays will cost even more.

David Grover


DSO Administration:

I have been following the strike awaiting resolution as most of your patrons have and was quite dismayed at this email sent from your office. What purpose does management serve in bashing their own musicians? One would think you would be above those tactics and at the very least not go public with statements like “striking DSO players were continuing their agenda of misguided and impulsive communications.” The below message serves no purpose and in no way furthers your cause.

I have worked as an arts administrator for many years and understand firsthand the struggles and hardships that come with running a nonprofit arts program. The last thing you want to do is give the public a bad taste or sully the reputation of the artists that we all try so hard to support. How does that help the DSO in the long run? If the musicians make the administration out to be poor managers, so what? Who comes to hear the administration do their job? No one. On the other hand, if the public decides they don’t like the musicians, which is what your email below would lead you to do, the DSO wouldn’t be able to give away tickets. Let’s face facts, the general public buys a symphony concert ticket to hear the symphony not to support behind the scenes management.

I believe that management is being short sited with emails such as the one below. The musicians are employees and are merely exercising their right to strike and are willing to face the consequences that come with that. This is after all Detroit and the unions have no greater allies than the people of Southeastern Michigan. It is time for the administration of the DSO to take the high road and instead of “union bashing” concentrate on strengthening the organization and perhaps admitting their own mistakes. The Arts in Detroit have taken their share of losses. We shouldn’t lose the DSO over petty bickering between management and the union. Taking the high road starts in your office. Do not send out “less than well thought out” emails such as the one below. It hurts you, it hurts the musicians and it hurts the arts as a whole.

Eileen White, Arts Patron


Just got home from the concert tonight at Kirk in the Hills Church. Marvelous, as is expected, and as usual. Karl Pituch and his horn are a marriage made in Heaven.

Violonist Marian Tanau is doing an extraordinary job producing these community concerts.

You may be onto something: These church/community concerts, with musicians walking the same aisles as the rest of us, thanking us for attending, greeting faithful patrons is a great PR strategy (and they don’t have to hire a NY PR firm to come up with the plan)!

I commend the artists, the conductors, and those providing the interesting venues. Keep up the good work. We’re praying for peace and for the signing of a new contract. Detroit deserves its Symphony Orchestra; the Orchestra deserves our loyalty.

As a former assistant manager of the Detroit Symphony and director of development, I would make myself available as a volunteer to help in any way possible.

Joseph Cadariu


The Future of Classical Music in America

Over the last five months, I have been listening to various arguments from different parties about the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I am a classically trained music lover, parent of an aspiring musician, DSO Civic Youth Ensemble (CYE) parent, DSO supporter and long time patron, and a huge fan of the quality of music delivered by the musicians of the Detroit Symphony. I am also a foreign national married to an American, living in the U.S., with music training in two totally different cultures. I have been contacted by quite a number of different parties with pleas of support.

I am writing now with a plea for UNITED support. I think that perhaps with all of the small conflicts that have occurred in the past five months, we might be beginning to lose perspective of the “bigger” question. Personally, I feel that the issue that is really being put to the test is “What do people see in the future of Classical or Symphonic music in America?” Is it an art form of the past that we are no longer interested in? Was it never really part of American culture and really something more European? Is it only enjoyed by the “upper class”?

I know that different people have varied opinions, but if the answer is truly that “America is no longer interested in Classical music”, it would be pretty sad. Regardless of its roots, looking at Classical music from a foreigner’s perspective, I think that there is something very special about Classical music in America. While Classical music may seem rigid compared to other genres of music, there is still quite a bit of room within the music for individuality. The freedom of expression in the American culture combined with the dynamic that perhaps comes from the richness of the nature and land in this country, adds color, volume and tone that can only be achieved in this country. There have also been great symphonic compositions created in America. Even if Classical is not your favorite genre or your objective genre as a student, there are many aspects of classical training that are invaluable no matter what your discipline in music, never mind that many other genres of music were influenced by Classical music. There are plenty of “Cinderella Stories” in music even though they may not get as much media attention as the sports athletes, and while these musicians do not always become Classical Musicians, many of them are touched by Classical music at some point in their development.

The difficulty with the situation with the Detroit Symphony is that there will be long term effects that may or may not be recoverable after a dramatic change like what is being proposed. For those who have ever pursued any field of study beyond a certain depth, you probably realized that the more we know, the more we become aware of how much more there is to it. We also find out that knowledge of some of the foundations that are rooted in the “classical” training of a discipline are necessary in order to truly appreciate and expand on the newer knowledge. It takes a high level of experience and education to reach that level of appreciation and it can’t be done overnight, nor can we find “masters” that have that kind of experience and training to help “retrain” a generation that did not have exposure to such “masters” quickly and easily. As difficult as this may be at an individual level, imagine the work that would be needed to further expand this to a group of highly skilled musicians playing together producing high quality music.

Furthermore, when you put professionals like those who have been dedicated to performing at a high quality level in the kind of predicament that the DSO Management is proposing to do, you are basically disrespecting the whole profession, discipline, training, etc. You are lowering morale. Who would want to work under management like that? How could you continue to work under such management? If they all get upset and leave, who will train the next generation of musicians? If the management has a history of mistreating their veteran players, why would any potential talented new hire feel secure about his career with such management and be willing to be employed?

This may sound like an extreme analogy, but there are never any winners of wars, and only innocent victims. I don’t care how hard either party tries not to involve the innocent, over time there is just no way it can be avoided. For example, my son is a member of the Civic Youth Orchestra. I have seen statements that they have tried very hard not to affect the young students. First of all, my son studies with a DSO musician, so there is no avoiding that effect. He is given talks by the CYE staff about how everything with CYE is fine, but he gets there and there are papers taped to the glass doors indicating that no member of the DSO including the librarian is permitted to enter the building while the negotiations are not settled. So along with other discomforts, he goes to his first concert wondering if the DSO musician parents of the students of CYE would be permitted to come hear their children play. We purchased tickets for performances that we thought would be highly educational for him. So far, several of them have already been cancelled. He was just getting excited about the prospect of possibly pursuing music as a professional career and looking up to his teacher and deciding what a great thing it would be if he could follow in his footsteps and possibly one day be part of the next generation of DSO musicians. He worked hard for his audition in the Spring because he wanted to join the group that has opportunities to work with DSO musicians during rehearsals. We as parents have been told that there is a new fund earmarked for “Education” that CYE can access, and donate so that the funds would be there to pay for mentoring by the DSO musicians and possibly even a Concerto Competition. However, the musicians aren’t even permitted to enter the building. One by one the students of CYE are being denied opportunities they were originally promised, and now even the students’ and the parents’ security is somewhat at stake during rehearsals because of cuts and lack of activity in the Orchestra Hall area.

The bottom line is that as a community we are all interdependent. No matter which way we dice it and slice it, when all is said and done, we either as a group have what we want or do not. The economy is down, and life is tough for all of us … at least this time, I think it is safe to say that it has affected every sector of society in some way or another, even those in the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Yes, any musical group is part of the entertainment industry which perhaps could be considered not as life critical as some other things … like food, shelter, heat and health care. We could sit here and argue the value of comforting the soul and lifting the spirits of people so that they can overcome this difficult time, but even without those arguments, I think it is safe to say that letting go of a World Class Orchestra is not something we can recover from in a timely manner. It is also probably safe to say that therefore it will have an impact on the future of Classical Music in Michigan. Because of how this will affect morale among a group of fairly tight knit professionals, it is probably also safe to say that it will affect the future of Classical Music in America.

I would like to think that the people in the DSO Management themselves care about Classical and or Symphonic Music in America enough that this would bother them. I am hoping that perhaps somehow with all of the emotions of the conflict and the troubled economy, they lost track of the impact that their proposal or their lack of acceptance of the alternate proposals put forth may have on the music community in general. If it is indeed that they don’t share our concerns, it is time to replace the management staff with people who have a better appreciation for quality music in America. As I stated in the opening of my letter, I communicate with a fairly large number of people spanning multiple interests, and from all of the discussions that I have had, I know that everyone I know that appreciates high quality music both local in Michigan and elsewhere share my concerns. And for all and anyone else who also cares, let us all stand united to protect the future of music in America.

Misako Sterbenz


As a child in the Pontiac Schools circa 1956, I first heard the DSO. The Ford Auditorium was not the acoustic jewel that is now the DSO home, but it lives in my memories as a bright moment. I went on to study violin until graduation from high school, 1964. When I first introduced my wife to the DSO, in the mid-seventies, it was a proud moment for me. We have been subscribers to the yearly musical performances ever since. We know there have been hard times, but this is truly the hardest we have seen. What makes it so difficult is the obvious split between the artists and the management.

Having seen both sides presentations, it is tough to understand how the management can be so dense as to think that permanent changes to the benefits and requirements for musicians will maintain the high standings of the DSO in the world. I say in the world because we do have a world-class orchestra and it appears that DSO administration is taking a decidedly provincial view. How tragic. Such a lack of vision!

Mistakes in management (investments gone awry?) should not require PERMANENT downgrading of our beautiful orchestral jewel. The former governor and the honorable Carl Levin offered what seems to be a viable plan for re-establishing the financial basis for the future without forcing our world class musicians to leave and join other great orchestras.

Please do work together before it is too late.

William and Terry Deacon, Fans of the DSO for 55 years


Children get mad, pout, and walk away. As intelligent, mature adults can’t both sides get back to bargaining and then fund raising? Board members come and go, and thanks to them for their service, but the goal is producing good music. Only the musicians can do that. The Board must facilitate the operation by wise use of the millions of $ collected not only from well-heeled sources but also from ordinary people who love good music. We are still out here and will kick in when our musicians are settled and on stage, uplifting the community’s spirit.

Please get back to the table—don’t throw away another Detroit treasure. We will love you for saving our Orchestra.

Jack Slimko, loooong time supporter of the Arts


To Whom It May Concern:

The email you sent to us regarding the possible upcoming negotiations with the musicians of the DSO was good news, BUT the tone of your email was so negative. If there is hope for negotiations why would management be so negative, even if the musicians angered management. I thought the comments were counterproductive to say the least and that management needs to tone down the rhetoric. Everyone involved needs to be conciliatory and I think management should have been mature enough to send an email that tried to mend wounds, rather than inflame them!

Patricia Mitchell


To the DSO,

I am not sure to whom I should address this email, as it was not signed. My assumption is that it is a mass email sent to those on the DSO donation list and/or season ticket holders. If it is the latter, then it was not necessary to send this to me, since there were no concerts that we missed during the period mentioned in your letter.

I am quite surprised and insulted that you would use my email to send a denigrating, political message from the DSO management. This email address was given to you for the sole purpose of contacting me with regard to my season ticket information, or announcements of concerts, special offers, etc.

If I had requested information regarding your position regarding the strike and your biased interpretation of the striking musicians’ activities, I would have joined an email list that was designed for this purpose. As it is, you have abused and misused the information I provided to you.

Please do not use this email address for such purposes again.


Linette Popoff-Parks, Professor and Chair, Music Department, Madonna University




I sing Alto in Vanguard Voices and had the honor of performing with all of you on January 15. I have many fond memories of the Detroit Symphony and of Orchestra Hall. These include performing onstage at Orchestra Hall as a violist in my youth and, more recently, as a chorus member in the performance of “Liberation.” I was also pleased to introduce my husband to the live orchestral experience hearing Ms. Boisvert play Vivaldi. I also had the pleasure of hearing Robert deMaine perform with the Dearborn Symphony the day I found out I was expecting my second of three children.

Nothing could’ve prepared me for the amazing experience I enjoyed on Saturday. The friendliness and professionalism of all of you with whom I had the pleasure of speaking was unparalleled. After the performance, a violist (note: not showing favoritism here:) ) approached me and said “you sounded great. Thank you for doing this.” I was overwhelmed by the support of the audience, the local establishments, and by the humility of all of you. My husband and I are raising three children with one income in the current economy, and we have nothing but respect for all of you trying to support your families and share your gift and the joy of music with the world.

All the best in your current and future endeavors, and many thanks for the memories.

Rachele M Karteczka


I am very supportive of your cause. You offered to take a wage cut to support the symphony; you shouldn’t have to jeopardize your own families’ economic well being to continue to play beautiful music. My mother, a woman of modest means, donated $20,000 to the symphony. Her mother was a concert pianist, so I believed my mom’s assessment of your music as world class.

I treasure beautiful memories of attending the symphony with my deceased mom. Because of her, my husband and I became a season subscriber for the last fifteen years.

I will not donate my tickets to support management, but I will not request a refund either and jeopardize you, the symphony members. You are one of the national treasures of Detroit; I don’t understand the indifference of prominent individuals to your plight. I hope the strike will soon be resolved favorably for you, and I backed my good wishes with a donation.

Chris Briggs


I am a subscriber to the Chicago Symphony. I was distressed to hear of your situation. I am glad to see the DSO musicians support the position of Senator Levin and your governor. I would hope the DSO directors could find their way to support that position as well.

Donald Judson


Thank you for standing firm for artistic excellence and thank you for willingly accepting deep cuts to your salaries to help make the DSO more financially viable. As Detroit citizens and music lovers bear witness to this historic strike and attend crowded MDSO concerts being played all over metro-Detroit, we wonder…how long will management sit on its hands doing nothing while the musicians’ hands stay busy playing the music Detroit loves? And who really needs who in this drama?

DSO Board take notice. Clearly, the musicians and their fans need each other. Just attend an MDSO concert and see for yourself. Your executive staff, however, what exactly are they doing to earn their keep?

Tactics like stonewalling negotiations and walking away just when the negotiations start to get a little tough are worth how much these days? A million dollar loss so far, a cancelled season? Is a public display of anger directed at the musicians and the resulting loss of public goodwill worth more money to the DSO? When you do the math, who is really earning the money and keeping the music alive in Detroit? If and when the fans return to Orchestra Hall, are they returning to see classically trained musicians perform or a high-strung management team who speaks disparagingly of the very people who make the music and are the DSO?

Thank you MDSO for keeping it going! Your fans are with you! In church pews, high school auditoriums or Orchestra Hall, we’ll be there.

We’re just wondering how long its going to take before the DSO Board figures out what we already know!

Denise Neville


I write as one who is observing this sad situation from afar. And make no mistake about it, the eyes of those who love the arts all over the world are watching Detroit. As one who has enjoyed, respected and learned much from the Detroit Symphony all my life, I have come to think of it not as one of but as THE crowning cultural jewel of that city.

As an outsider, it has been very difficult to see the whole picture. Is there any place in which (1)the reason for the deficit has been clearly addressed (2) the salaries of the management and musicians have been disclosed (3) these salaries have been compared to those of other orchestras of national prominence in major cities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles) and to other cities which have suffered financial struggles while redefining their economy (Cleveland and Pittsburgh come immediately to mind) (4) an examination of ticket prices, number of programs and general outreach to the larger community has been elucidated in clear form?

Sadly, artists are still treated as extras in our society. This is true in all of the arts. They are presumed to do what they do for love of their art rather than for monetary profit. On the other hand, all too often, those who manage the business aspects of the arts (the symphony management, theatrical producers, etc.) would be hard to find who are willing to sacrifice financially for the continuation of the art. How rare it is to see management teams, theatrical producers or public relations and fund raising “specialists” with their feet to the fire. If an arts project isn’t making money, it is almost presumed to be the fault of the art, the artists and the public who didn’t come to see it.

Clearly Detroit is feeling the stress of the economic woes plaguing all societies very acutely. What those of us watching read in the news coming from your city does not sound encouraging at all. Yet, how much more important is the creation of art in such times! The persistence of your members to perform in other venues during this crisis has certainly made the situation look a great deal more like a “lock out” than a strike.

Please know that there are a great many people supporting your struggle and hoping that a fair and equitable resolution to the situation you are enduring will come about.

With all best wishes.

Roger Lakins


I have been a southeastern Michigan resident for most of my life.

One of the great pleasures of my lifetime both as a child and adult has been the special trips to Orchestra Hall to enjoy our wonderful DSO. I have been thinking of what I would say in writing this note and I have spoken to many people who have loved the great experiences past and present in Orchestra Hall, Meadowbrook and Ford Village and have provided me with their inputs. I really don’t understand this disrespect that the DSO Management has for the DSO Musicians. If anything, DSO Management should be grateful to the DSO Musicians and DSO Management should be proud of continuing the legacy of assembling one of the greatest groups of musicians I have had the pleasure seeing perform.

All I can say to DSO Management is to stop being so self consumed. Other organizations have also dealt with the economic situation and have been able to prosper in spite of the economy. We patrons don’t attend the concerts because of you. We attend them because of the dedicated, professionals who lift us up with their performance, support our musical community, teach our children and do many other activities outside the scope of being a DSO musician.

It is becoming more apparent that during this ordeal is the musicians have always held up their part of the deal. Where are you DSO Management in doing your part to be sure the DSO Musicians have a viable healthy organization where we patrons could see our musicians continue to provide us with the grand performances that we are blessed to receive when we come to Orchestra Hall.

Gregory Peterson


I just heard our wonderful symphony play at “Kirk in the Hills” and the only thing misssing from this night is the fact that they were not playing in their home! I get tears typing when I think of what has happened to this wonderful World Class institution.

My hands are still applauding all the musicians and their families that continue to stick it out and “Keep the music Alive” in Detroit.

Diane Roach Smith



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