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Who’s Kidding Whom?

 … a close look at some of DSO management’s statements and spin during the strike.

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Originally posted February 24, 2011

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

DSO’s Executive Vice-President Paul Hogle said:

The DSO is prepared to move forward with a newly assembled group of players that would include only those members of the current orchestra who agree to unilaterally presented terms …  any restructured ensemble would be professional and open to young musicians as well as veterans.- DSO: CHANGE TUNE OR BE REPLACED – Detroit News, February 21, 2011

Later the same day Paul Hogle said:

… [that the paraphrasing of his words] “left the musical world with the impression that there is a plan to replace the current members of the DSO with new players. In fact, the DSO has no such plan.”… Asked again Monday if the concept of replacing the current musicians, under any circumstances, was beyond the pale of consideration, Hogle, said, “I’ll decline to comment on that, since I don’t have an answer because that has not been discussed.” DSO OFFICIAL: NO PLANS TO REPLACE  STRIKING PLAYERS, Detroit News, February 21, 2011

But the same day, DSO’s CEO Anne Parsons said to a different reporter:

… that the possibility of hiring replacements had come up during discussions with donors and community leaders during the strike and was likely to arise in the future as DSO leaders explored ways of operating its business without a resident ensemble. – DSO HAS NO PLANS TO REPLACE MUSICIANS, Detroit Free Press, February 21, 2011

Do you think it’s possible for people who can’t get their story straight to bargain in good faith?

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted January 18, 2011

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

DSO managers had Wayne State students leaflet MDSO’s Rodgers and Hammerstein concert on Saturday, January 15, 2011.

Question #1 ? How long will those representing the current members of the DSO jeopardize an entire concert season instead of accepting a total average per player compensation of $133,000 annually?

Management’s Real Offer $74,100 for current members $64,600 for new members

Answer: Management’s Shell Game. Read answer here

Question #2 ? How long will those representing DSO players continue to spread misinformation, including about DSO fundraising performance when it has been widely reported that the DSO is one of the best fundraisers among orchestras in the country?

Answer: History of Development. Read answer here

Question #3 ? How long will those representing the DSO players continue to ignore the causes of the DSO’s current financial situation, which are rooted in the widely recognized economic downturn that has crippled metro Detroit’s economy and the State of Michigan?

Answer: Hey, What about our Strategic Plan? Read answer here

Who’s Kidding Whom?

Scan of leaflet passed out by DSO Management and Wayne State students.

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Originally posted January 14, 2011

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

DSO’s managers announced:

“At the January Executive Committee meeting, the Board will evaluate the merit of suspending the remainder of the 2010-11 season, as well as indefinitely deferring the announcement of the 2011-2012 season, until a settlement can be achieved.”  – PRESS STATEMENT FROM DSO MANAGEMENT, January 7, 2011

Then DSO’s Executive Vice President Paul Hogle said:

“It was not a threat to cancel the season.” – STRIKING MUSICIANS PUSH BACK A PERCEIVED DSO THREAT, Detroit Free Press, January 12, 2011

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted January 9, 2011

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the DSO said:

“Nobody loves the…musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra more than we do…We are confident  that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will come together again as a family.”— A REVISIT TO THE OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMUNITIES OF METRO DETROIT FROM THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE DSO BOARD – Dec. 9, 2010.

Wow! The DSO Executive Committee loves us and  is confident that we can all be one happy family again.

Of course, we guess that right now they don’t see us as family. Not as long as we refuse to accept a  33% pay cut. Not as long as we refuse to accept our benefits being eviscerated. Not as long as we refuse to accept our role as musicians being denigrated. Not as long as we refuse to accept the world class symphony orchestra we all love being turned into a second class orchestra.

And if they don’t see us as family right now, then it was perfectly understandable that they would find funds to sic a top 650-lawyer international firm after us, the 84 musicians of the DSO,  to try to intimidate us into closing our website. (Funds they somehow can’t find to help close their deficit.)

And if they don’t see us as family right now, then it was perfectly understandable that  they would refuse to accept our check so we could continue our DSO group life insurance coverage, including coverage for family members facing life-threatening operations and medical conditions.

But then, it was our family members, not theirs.

Tell us again how much you love the musicians of the DSO.

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally Posted January 2, 2011

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

Top 5 DSO Management Quotes of 2010

Quote #1

… leave if you like. There are plenty of other good players in lesser-paid orchestras or straight out of college who would love to join the DSO, even with the 40% pay cut.

… said by DSO CEO Anne Parsons to the Guardian after proclaiming her love of the musicians of the orchestra and after reassuring the public for several months that the DSO would be able to retain the exceptional artistic quality the orchestra is known for.

Quote #2

“… I have found leaders in the DSO orchestra, board, and staff who are tremendously gifted at quietly transforming–eventually–the DSO into a reinvented model for our industry. If we get it right, that new model can be THE destination many conservatory superstars … ”

… said DSO Executive Vice President Paul Hogle during the ongoing, highly publicized Detroit Symphony strike, expressing his hope that management gets “right” its experiment to transform the orchestra, so the once acclaimed DSO will still be able to attract conservatory superstars even if it will no longer be able attract and retain the absolute finest, experienced professional orchestra musicians.

Quote #3

“Nobody loves the traditions, the character, the music, and the musicians – especially the music and the musicians – of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra more than we do … the Board of Directors, unanimously support Anne Parsons and her management team’s leadership in these negotiations and in building the organization for the future.  We are joined at the hip … ”

… said the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Executive Committee of  the Board of Directors as it continues to back management’s attempt to derail the DSO’s tradition, redefine its character, downsize its symphonic offerings and show disdain for the DSO musicians, telling them they can be easily replaced.

Quote #4

“The DSO recognizes and does not wish to interfere with its musicians’ right to publicize their grievances…”

… said DSO’s management in late October after sending threatening letters from their lawyers to the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra ordering them to shut down their website and post a public apology to the DSO corporation.

Quote #5

“The terms of management’s implemented proposal engaged orchestra members in individual or group settings for performance and education activities all within their 20 hour work week.”

… said DSO’s management in a press release.  By failing to mention numerous weekly, behind-the-scenes practice and prep hours required to maintain excellent performances, management purposefully attempted to mislead the public into believing that the musicians of the orchestra were lazy, overpaid, part-time employees.

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted December 27, 2010

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DSO’s Executive Vice President Paul Hogle said:

“Things are dire here … We cannot simply be the Chicago symphony but a little bit smaller. We can’t. We will not exist. This is about survival.” – GUARDIAN, Nov. 19. 2010

The truth:

Dire, Mr. Hogle?   One can imagine that in an institution in such condition, every penny would be watched.  The DSO’s remaining endowment contains money given by generous individuals to present fine classical music to the Detroit public.  Yet , even while the orchestra is silent, hundreds of thousands of dollars of this money continues to be paid out monthly to the support staff who have no concerts to support and in conducting fees to a Music Director who has no concerts to conduct.
We heard recently, Mr. Hogle, that you reassured your staff that the remaining endowment would pay them and you for more than two years, even if the musicians did not return.  Do you think that is what the donors had in mind when they made their gifts to the DSO?

Leonard Slatkin said:

“The indication [from DSO’s board members] was that when a settlement was reached, purse strings might open once again.” - LEONARDSLATKIN.COM, Dec 2010

Really?

On December 16, by rejecting the Granholm/Levin proposal, the DSO’s board ensured a longer strike and put the DSO’s entire season and very existence at risk. Yet , those same board members reveal to Leonard Slatkin  that money is being held on the sidelines.  So, to be clear: There is money, but it will not be released to end the strike and save the season.  There is money , but it will be withheld until the musicians of the DSO have surrendered abjectly, even if the whole institution may go down in the meantime.

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted December 22, 2010

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

Free press reporter Mark Stryker wrote:

“Losses mount in DSO strike  - Financial impact could linger long after a settlement.” – DETROIT FREE PRESS, Dec. 19, 2010

And the Free Press also published the same day:

“Rating DSO’s fund-raising levels” – DETROIT FREE PRESS, Dec. 19, 2010

Why these stories at that time?

Probably DSO’s management felt they  had to change the topic of conversation very quickly.  Wasn’t that week’s big topic of conversation Governor Jennifer Granholm and Senator Carl Levin’s December 16th recommendation for ending the months-long DSO strike?  The ink on their statement was hardly dry — not to mention the comments also made by leading business and community leaders in Detroit.  Don’t you think DSO’s management was  being just a bit obvious in their rush to change the conversation?  

Didn’t management want to change the conversation quickly because  the recommendation not only came from two respected senior political leaders, but it was seconded by such other leaders as New Detroit CEO Shirley Stancato and Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting — leaders who have managed to see their organizations flourish in exactly the same economic climate under which DSO management has brought the Detroit Symphony to a bitter, demoralized standstill?

Or maybe they were  trying to change the conversation because they knew the entire community was looking at a reasonable proposal put forward after careful consideration by outside parties of great stature, with the DSO’s musicians embracing the recommendation while their board rejected it.

It also could be that they were trying to change the conversation because of the musicians’ immediate willingness to sacrifice a further $3 million beyond the $9 million in cuts they had already offered, which put the lie to management’s four-week-long campaign of distortions and leaks designed to portray the musicians as unwilling to compromise.

Did management really believe the public would buy its efforts to sweep Governor Granholm and Senator Levin’s proposal off the table?

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted December 13, 2010

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra said:

“Nobody loves the traditions, the character, the music, and the musicians – especially the music and the musicians – of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra more than we do.” – OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY OF METRO DETROIT FROM THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD, Dec. 9, 2010

The truth:

Our mothers told us, “Actions speak louder than words. Look at what people do, don’t listen to what they say. Actions count. Words are cheap.”

The Executive Committee also said:

“Our foremost objective is to bring an end to this strike – a strike that no one wanted.”

The truth:

Wouldn’t negotiating in good faith be the best way to accomplish this?   The action of imposing a draconian contract guaranteed that a strike would happen.  Remember what our mothers told us.

And they said:

“Despite the DSO being among the very top fundraisers among all American orchestras …”

The truth:

Hasn’t the DSO’s donor base been eroded by mismanagement to such an extent (25,000 to 5,000) in the last dozen years that only heroic giving by the most wealthy board members is keeping the DSO afloat?  And that now the most wealthy board members have had enough of heroic giving?  Is that really a fundraising strategy to brag about?  

And they also said:

“We continue to negotiate with our banks and reach out to our supporters as we dip precariously deeper into our endowment…”

The truth:

For an institution whose position is “dire”, the DSO is spending a great deal of money while its musicians are on strike.  
Is the DSO’s endowment really the Board’s to spend freely?  They speak as if they own it.  How do you think the DSO’s donors feel about the Board and Management spending down the endowment when there is no orchestra on stage?  

And they said:

“There can be no artistic excellence without financial viability.”

The truth:

Everybody knows that dumbing down the product leads to a downward spiral so the opposite of the Board’s statement is actually true: There will be no viability without artistic excellence.

They said:

“The Officers and Executive Committee of the DSO, on behalf of the Board of Directors, unanimously support Anne Parsons and her management team’s leadership in these negotiations and in building the organization for the future.  We are joined at the hip in these efforts…”

And, if this is true:

The Board has been listening to what Anne Parsons has been saying rather than paying attention to what she has been doing.

Remember what our mothers told us.

Finally, they said:

“We …  are excited about the future and confident that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will come together again as a family to bring great music to Detroit and to the world.  We hope that an agreement can be reached quickly and that we can return to listening to the music and the musicians we all love as soon as possible.”

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted December 7, 2010

wkw #12
Who’s kidding whom?

DSO’s Management Asks the Question:

“I have read that lower orchestra salaries will mean the DSO will lose the talent it has and will not be able to recruit new talent. Is this true?”

…And DSO’s Management Answers:

“Recruiters report that salary is not the #1 factor in attracting top talent.  Corporate culture, institutional stability, esprit de corps of the colleagues, lifestyle/quality of life issues, and the talent of the top leader (i.e. music director) all outrank pay. When pay is a consideration, it is always a factor of a region’s cost of living.  Among other major American cities (New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C.) southeastern Michigan’s standard of living is nearly half.” – Most Frequently Asked Q&A Sheet Posted on DSO’s Website, Nov. 19, 2010.

But DSO’s Management Fails To Mention:

A five minute conversation with anyone who has the job of recruiting top professionals to Detroit–medical doctors, law professors, upper-level managers–will reveal the opposite.  Recruiters know that, far from being able to offer half of the salary in other major cities, they need to offer a “Detroit premium” to attract people to the city.  We know the city and love it here, but Detroit’s negative image is a major hurdle to overcome in bringing in top talent in many fields.
Interestingly, the Music Director, the President, and the senior management team do not believe in paying themselves less because they live in an inexpensive city. The management’s road map for 2011-2013 includes the statements “address issue of competitiveness in salaries” and “achieve competitive salary structure” for “Music Director, President, senior management team”.  No such goal is stated for the musicians of the orchestra.

It is true that the compensation package is not the sole reason for candidates to audition for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  The other major reason has always been the artistic quality and reputation of the orchestra.  As that quality drops through management’s lack of commitment and vision, the best musicians will be tempted to leave and the best new ones will not choose to come here. As for the appeal of the DSO’s “corporate culture” or “esprit de corps“, we would invite anyone who has followed the course of the DSO over the past few months to judge the current management’s success in those areas. The “corporate culture” and “esprit de corps” achieved to this point, far from fostering stability among the employees, have resulted in record turnover both on and off stage and a demoralized atmosphere.

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted December 1, 2010

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Who’s kidding whom?

DSO’s Management said:

“The terms of management’s implemented proposal engaged orchestra members in individual or group settings for performance and education activities all within their 20 hour work week.”  - DSO PRESS RELEASE, Nov. 24.

What the DSO’s management didn’t say is that:

The nationally accepted industry standard of 20 hours represents only the actual time spent on stage at Orchestra Hall in rehearsals and concerts and doesn’t include the personal preparation and practice hours, which add an additional 15 or more hours a week, necessary for each musician to maintain top performances. Everyone knows that producing world-class performances takes meticulous preparation and individual practice.

The managements of the symphonies of Boston and Philadelphia recognize this reality and tell the IRS their musicians work 4o hours per week.

In April 2009, the DSO’s management told the IRS that DSO musicians worked 35 hours per week, but in April 2010 they said musicians only worked 20 hours per week.  Why would that be? Especially since the musicians’ work load was the same both years.

Could it be that the DSO’s management was already setting the stage for a smear campaign against its musicians even before negotiations began, similar to those tactics used by the CEO of the Cleveland Orchestra in his negotiations last January?  
Earlier this year, Gary Hanson, CEO of the Cleveland Orchestra apologized to the Cleveland Orchestra musicians for casting aspersions on their professionalism. Do you think Anne Parsons and Paul Hogle will apologize to the musicians of the Detroit Symphony for doing the same?

We’ve heard the DSO’s management say over and over that it loves its musicians and so wouldn’t ever want to paint them as lazy, good for nothing complainers getting paid a lot to work part time.  Right?

Who’s Kidding Whom?

P.S.  At least we now know who is generating those nasty blog comments chastising the DSO musicians for only working 20 hours a week.

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Originally posted November 28, 2010

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

Detroit Symphony Orchestra COO Pat Walker told the DSO Board of Directors’  Executive Committee:

“[We] anticipate that 2-3 musicians will retire this year [2010], [ but ] as the contract changes, many more will retire.” – MINUTES OF THE DSO BOARD OF DIRECTORS’ EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE,  Nov. 25, 20o9

Later, DSO  management  stated that:

“… a tenure rate stable at 82%  [with] attrition rates limited to 2 per year (non- retirement, voluntary departures) will ensure a destination orchestra.” – DSO’s DASHBOARD, Jan. 2010.

DSO’s management has deemed that 18% or about 15 musicians leaving the orchestra each year, either for other orchestras, to retire, or having been fired– is an “acceptable” turnover rate. Acceptable?  This is a huge turnover, even for a stepping stone orchestra.  The truth? For a destination orchestra, it’s 1% or less!

Still later,  to a question concerning top musicians leaving the DSO, DSO CEO Anne Parsons replied:

“…leave if you like. There are plenty of other good players in lesser-paid orchestras or straight out of college who would love to join the DSO, even with the 40% pay cut.” -” Top Players Fall Silent as Detroit Symphony Orchestra Fights for Survival,” – The Guardian,  Nov. 2o, 2010

And DSO EVP Paul Hogle said:

“[People are] quietly transforming–eventually–the DSO into a reinvented model for our industry. If we get it right, that new model can be THE destination many conservatory superstars (not to mention stars from other national and international ensembles) intentionally seek out because the performing quality will be top flight and the working conditions will be dynamic and entrepreneurial… ” – DSO Facebook Entry, Sept. 19, 2010

Bemused by this statement about working conditions, the Musicians of the Detroit Symphony said:

“We believe this is a strike that management wanted to force on us as a means of getting rid of musicians tired of the culture of bitterness and hostility that now exists between management and musicians, forcing a number of our musicians to move on to other orchestras or just retire. Musicians that management would replace with others much less experienced and  much lower paid.” – Interview with Paul W. Smith, WJR 760, Oct. 4, 2010

Ms. Parsons answered:

“… We love this orchestra.  When I say we, I am talking about the entire institution.  We want this orchestra to come back to work.  We want to move on together.  We are not at all encouraging anyone to move.  We want people to come back to work.”

Who’s Kidding Whom?

RELATED LINK
“Top players fall silent as Detroit Symphony Orchestra fights for survival” at www.guardian.co.uk.com

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Originally posted November 16, 2010

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

President and CEO of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Anne Parsons said:

“We didn’t believe we could do more than the 30% cuts that we took on the administrative side.  So we have done this – we have taken ourselves down 30% on wages, on number of people working and we’ve managed to figure out a way to still produce everything… ” - INTERVIEW WITH PAUL W. SIMTH, WJR 760, Oct 4, 2010.

 

Detroit Symphony CEO Anne Parsons’s Compensation

(1)

Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Compensation (salary)

317,682

354,701

352,054

356,000

299,679

(3)

Benefits/deferred

13,991

16,764

18,334

22,704

21,600

(3)

Expense account

43,766

57,796

62,168

54,950

93,262

(2)

(3)

Total compensation

$375,439

$429,261

$432,556

$433,654

$414,541

(3)

Percentage change

-

14.3%

0.8%

0.3%

(4.4%)

(3)

(1) Data source:  Detroit Symphony 990s filed with the IRS for fiscal years beginning Sept. 1 and ending Aug. 31.
(2) Housing ($36K), Pension ($50K additional payment in lieu of pension contribution), Social Club Dues ($6K)
(3) Data unavailable – DSO’s 990 for 2010 has not yet been filed with the IRS

Ms. Parsons’s total compensation between 2005 and 2009 rose by 10% and included a new $50,000  payment in lieu of a pension contribution in 2009 while her staff’s pensions were frozen.

Do you think Ms. Parsons has taken a 30% cut in her compensation?

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Originally posted November 14, 2010

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

Detroit Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Anne Parsons said:

[The]Ford Foundation sent an expert who had reviewed, I don’t know how many non-profit organizations in his career with the Ford Foundation… he had a track record of extraordinary precision and deep understanding – DSO PRESS CONFERENCE, October 6, 2010

But, two years previously, DSO COO Pat Walker had said of the same expert’s largely negative report:

… In the [Ford Foundation] report, Mr. [X] uses language that is intended to provoke. His report is inflammatory.  The report is the viewpoint of one outside analyst who does not know us, does not know orchestras, and does not speak for this community, this board, this management, or this orchestra.  He has never reviewed the books of an orchestra before this… one can and should certainly dispute parts of the report and one can dispute many of his conclusions.  He is an outsider who does not understand this business or this art form… It is our belief that the common vision that we formulated together in the strategic planning process is still our vision for this organization’s future.  Mr. [X] is an accountant.  He doesn’t care about such things.  But the Board and management of this organization, who devote our time, energy and talents to this orchestra, very much care about that vision– EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE WITH MUSICIANS, September 25, 2008

Which is it? Is he or isn’t he an expert?  Or have you now made him an expert because it is convenient for you to have him be one now?

At that same news conference, Anne Parsons said:

“I went to the McKinsey Company with our strategic plan in one hand and the Ford Foundation in the other and I said, “What do we do?”  Of course, as we are having this conversation, the fall of 2008 is unfolding in front of us. There is economic disaster in this country and internationally. They said, “If you changed quickly and decisively we would be OK.”  They said, “You must keep your strategic plan in the one hand while you keep the Ford Foundation report in the other.  You must find balance, but you must take decisive action.  You must change in order to be successful.’”

You say you went to McKinsey and Co., our facilitators for strategic planning, and had a conversation with them in the fall of 2008. Why didn’t you report it to the full committee when we had all pledged to be honest and open?  Strange, because this is the first we have heard of it?  It’s hard to keep up with all your back-room dealings.

Anne Parsons went on to also say:

“One such donor [Hudson-Weber Foundation] hired their own consultants from Boston [TDC] who worked with us for several years to take the strategic plan and the report from the Ford Foundation and help us navigate a series of steps and pathways that might find us in a better financial place as well as pursue our goals in the strategic plan.  The orchestra was very much involved in this conversation.”

Really? What we were told at those three meetings with TDC in May/June 2009 was that we were shaping a grant proposal—not pursuing our goals in the strategic plan.  After a couple of difficult discussions involving tactics and metrics for our artistic goals, you said that maybe this wasn’t the job of the strategic planning committee after all.  Then you, along with TDC, moved to your corner office to continue the work.  So much for our heavy involvement.

She also said:

“We asked [the orchestra] to change, at the time when change was happening all around us, and we asked that it be consensual.”

You asked that it be consensual?  Meaning that you asked us to consent to the imposition of your agenda?   Didn’t you really mean that you asked us to capitulate?  We certainly know that you didn’t ask for our input in order to arrive at a consensus.

She said, too:

In the summer of 2009 after many conversation had taken place, the leadership of the orchestra musicians came to an executive committee meeting of our board and they talked between them about the issues of the artistic excellence on the one hand and financial stability on the other.

You make it sound like this was a round table discussion.  The musicians made a 45-minute presentation informing the board, in detail, how the proposed cuts would decimate the artistic quality of the orchestra.  Several board members then asked questions and a number of other board members forwarded email messages the following week. That’s it.

As for those “many” conversations – at no time did you discuss your agenda with us the several times we did meet.

She also said:

“We brought in our own restructuring consultant.   Alix Partners came into the building, yet another set of professionals at the highest level who understood non-profits, were sympathetic with our issues and wanted to help create a vision for change.”

Of course Alix Partners was sympathetic with your issues.  You were paying them to be sympathetic.  If you wanted to ensure that Alix’s message was taken seriously you should have at least created the perception of their complete independence.  But when you hire a consultant – chances are, they will produce whatever you are looking for.   And if they don’t?  Well, then we would have never heard about Alix Partners, would we?

What Alix Partners told us–that you repeatedly fail to mention– is that the $33 million over three years they allotted to cover orchestra expenses in a “vision for change” is the number you gave them, saying that was where we had been negotiating before Alix came on board.  You didn’t bother to tell Alix that this number hadn’t been negotiated – it had been imposed by you.  Alix also incorporated tens upon tens of thousands of dollars in weekly wages you planned to pay to conductors and soloists, along with many other of your numbers.  It is not surprising that Alix’s budget for the DSO ended up mirroring your own budget in many ways.

In the end, it seems like Alix Partners has simply been used as a tool to legitimize your own agenda for a “vision for change.

Who’s Kidding Whom?

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Posted November 9, 2010

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) announced that:

“…the encouraging developments and sentiments expressed by DSO management and community leaders at informal discussions last week…” DSO NEWS RELEASE – November 8, 2010

We are confused.  What encouraging developments?  Could the DSO be more specific so that we, the musicians who were actually at the table can understand what these encouraging developments are?  Also, we didn’t hear any “encouraging sentiments?”  Did we miss something? Could you remind us what those were?

A statement by Anne Parsons, DSO President and CEO, was also quoted saying:

“We know this is a very difficult time for our community.  While we continue to believe our current dialog is productive, the Players are not yet in agreement with the changes required to put the DSO back into a viable position.  We hope we can continue to meet and create alignment on a way forward that meets our shared interest in a sustainable, successful future for the DSO.” DSO NEWS RELEASE – November 8, 2010

For those of you out there, who are not, as yet, familiar with Ms. Parson’s doublespeak, let us interpret her statement for you:

“While we continue to try to convince them, the Players are not yet ready to capitulate to our demands for a 33% cut in wages, additional cuts in pension and benefits simultaneous with our agenda to create a more malleable orchestra. Don’t they understand our desire for an easily affordable smaller institution, and my aspiration to be the first manager of a major American orchestra to implement the League of American Orchestras’ agenda to transform such orchestras into community based ensembles?”  

Who’s kidding whom?

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Posted October 26, 2010

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Who’s Kidding Whom?

DSO Chief Operating Officer Pat Walker said:

“…patrons and the media have expressed their own confusion regarding how the players have invoked the ‘DSO’ trademark and brand…”—Message to DSO Board and Staff, Oct. 22, 2010.

The truth:

Considering the months of news articles, TV coverage, radio shows, editorials, blogs, etc., it strains credulity that anyone would still confuse the musicians of the DSO with the management of the DSO.  Nor have the tens of thousands of people—including patrons and media—who visit our website regularly ever expressed any confusion to us. Especially since the content points out DSO management mistakes, negligence, and chaos.  (However, WE are confused that anyone would be confused.)

A DSO management “Statement to the Public” issued that same afternoon said:

“The DSO recognizes and does not wish to interfere with its musicians’ right to publicize their grievances…Our sole concern is with the misleading use of the DSO name and mark…that actions taken by striking musicians somehow support the DSO, when they are in fact adverse.”

The truth:

The DSO management does not wish to interfere with its musicians’ right to publicize their grievances? Really? Then why send a letter to the musicians from your lawyer demanding that they “remove the misleading website …  and post a retraction … with language approved in advance by the DSO.”  And that, “failing your immediate and unequivocal written agreement,” to do so,  “the DSO will take such steps as are necessary to ameliorate this ongoing public deception…”

Misleading? Not when every webpage is headed with big, bold gold lettering impossible to miss that each page and its content are from The Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Adverse to the DSO? Absolutely not, since we are fighting to save the DSO’s tradition of world-class excellence.

Adverse to the DSO’s management? Probably, since it is trying to drive out its most experienced musicians, de-professionalize its members, and turn it into a second-class orchestra.

Who’s Kidding Whom?

Links to legal correspondence between The Musicians’ lawyers and DSO Management’s lawyers.
September 17, 2010 – Letter to The Musicians of the Detroit Symphony from DSO’s law firm Proskauer
October 11, 2010 – Letter to musician’s lawyer Leonard Leibowitz  from DSO’s law firm Proskauer
October 13, 2010 – Letter to Proskauer from  Local 5 AFM’s  lawyer Jeffrey Thennish
October 20, 2010 – Letter to Jeffrey Thennish from Proskauer
October 22, 2010 – Letter to Proskauer from Jeffrey Thennish

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Originally posted October 21, 2010

wkw #5
Who’s Kidding Whom?

DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons said:

“This is a very local situation, the challenges are distinctive to the DSO…and our solutions will be unique to us.” –Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 17, 2010

But DSO Executive Vice President Paul W. Hogle had earlier said:

“…I have found leaders in the DSO orchestra, board, and staff who are tremendously gifted at quietly transforming—eventually—the DSO into a reinvented model for our industry…”—DSO Facebook entry, Sept. 19, 2010.

The truth is, it’s a group of outsiders who have been planning this for a long time. Ms. Parsons is merely carrying the water for the League of American Orchestras. This group, made up primarily of management representatives of orchestras from around the country, has decided to implement the ideas of its model on the back of Michigan’s economic meltdown. It hopes that it will take hold so it can impose that model on other orchestras across America.

How? If you want to impose change, find (or create) a crisis. Example: To create an impasse, management refuses to negotiate. This enables it to say, “Terrible! We’re at an impasse!” This enables it to slash wages 33%, drastically cut the musicians’ health insurance, stop contributing to their pension plan, and roll back working conditions. If it holds, then this becomes the model for negotiating with other orchestras.

A local situation? A solution unique to us? Come on, Ms. Parsons.

Who’s kidding whom?

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Originally posted October 16, 2010

wkw #4
Who’s Kidding Whom?

Both Anne Parsons and Paul Hogle have told you:

…that the administrative costs have been reduced by 33% over the last couple of years.  They have said this in order to demonstrate that they have led the way, by having already done what they are now asking the musicians to do. 

They are saying they accomplished this by:

Cutting staff salaries [5-10%]
Freezing the DSO’s staff pension plan
Eliminating pension matches
Reducing medical insurance options
Terminating 28 of the DSO staff of around 80

What they didn’t tell you:

… that the musicians are being asked to take a 33% cut just in their salaries.

… that when you add in:

Freezing the DSO’s musician pension plan
Withdrawing from the American Federation of Musicians’ pension plan
Reducing medical insurance
The loss of 11 positions in the orchestra

… Musicians are being asked to take a 42% hit.

What ever happened to comparing apples to apples?

Who’s kidding whom?

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Originally posted October 12, 2010

wkw #3
Who’s Kidding Whom?

What Anne Parsons said:

Asked by Paul W. Smith during his October 4 morning show on WJR, “Has there been an ongoing bitterness and hostility between the management and the musicians for some time now that we just haven’t been aware of,” she responded, “When I heard you read that statement, all I could think of was WOW! I actually have a very hard time believing–and I’m sad to believe that they believe that statement.”

What she didn’t say:

 …that as the strategic planning effort began September 2005, we discussed with the lead facilitator from McKinsey & Co. that the atmosphere within the DSO was deteriorating. There was a lack of trust, decision-making was neither timely nor effective, good ideas were not followed up, collaboration and communication were talked about but not practiced and that kept the DSO from being all that it could be.

  • January 2006 – The negative culture inside the DSO was documented in a McKinsey & Co. internal survey carried out on behalf of the DSO’s strategic planning committee.  (This report remains confidential.)
  • August 2007 – A contentious contract was struck in August 2007 after which the feeling of hostility at the DSO was profound. During the autumn, Anne Parsons invited numerous musicians to her office to discuss the tension. The International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM website) report of the 2007 DSO negotiating process accurately reflects the tone and details of the negotiations.
  • November 2007 – Strategic planning resumed after a one-year hiatus. In the first meeting back, discussions regarding the atmosphere inside the DSO included the lack of trust and respect, and that the musicians felt they were on the receiving end of patronizing behavior. That session, led by two facilitators from McKinsey & Co., discussed ground rules so that the strategic planning process could move forward allowing trust and mutual respect to begin to develop. This meeting, and all subsequent strategic planning meetings were recorded and the transcriptions became the approved minutes.  In attendance at this meeting were 3 board members 4 senior managers led by Anne Parsons and 4 musicians.
  • November 2008 – Spotlight on the Orchestra written by Ann Drinan senior editor of Polyphonic.org describes, among other things, the relationship between the musicians and management.  Anne Parsons was a contributor to the article.  
  • January 2010 – A strategic plan had been successfully drafted by the end of 2008 with all parties buying in.  However, trust hit an all time low at the DSO when it became obvious that a “new plan” had been drafted behind the scenes with no musician input.  

How is it possible that Anne Parsons could now be surprised at the musicians’ statement regarding the long-term bitterness and hostility at the DSO?

Who’s kidding whom?

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Originally posted October 9, 2010

wkw #2
Who’s Kidding Whom?

What Anne Parsons said:

“…work-rule changes were first put on the table during the 2007 contract negotiations but could not be discussed during strategic planning because the ground rules were that those sessions were not to be a proxy for collective bargaining.”–TRUST ISSUES AT THE ROOT OF DSO STRIKE TO BEGIN TODAY (Detroit Free Press, Oct. 4, 2010)

What she didn’t say:

The agreed upon ground rules for the strategic planning process, formulated in Nov./Dec. 2007 with the help of facilitators McKinsey & Co., obligated everyone to be open and honest. All agreed that there were to be no sacred cows during the planning process and everything would be on the table for discussion.

In June 2008, when the strategic plan’s contents were in place and we were moving toward rollout, an agreement was reached that the plan was “not to supercede the collective bargaining process.”

Simply put, that agreement meant that neither management nor the musicians could refer to the concensus embodied in the plan to box in the other side at negotiations. For example, musicians could not point to the goal of the DSO as a top ten orchestra (which the strategic planning committee did agree on) and say to management, “But you agreed to pay us a top ten salary.” By the same token, if major work-rule changes had been agreed upon–and the subject was never raised by any participants during the strategic planning process—management would not have had the right to say to the musicians during negotiations, “But you agreed to rewrite your job descriptions.”

So, Ms. Parsons, why didn’t you place on the table your “new model for the DSO” for discussion during the six months of intensive biweekly strategic planning meetings? Why did you withhold your “new model for the DSO” when the ground rules–agreed upon by all–compelled us to be open and honest, and stated that everything was to be on the table? Why didn’t you mention it during the six months when we completed the plan and before the agreement you refer to was reached?

Who’s kidding whom?

NOTE: All strategic planning meetings were recorded and the resulting transcripts served as the approved minutes of the meetings.

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Originally posted October 7, 2010

wkw #1
Who’s Kidding Whom?

What Paul Hogle, Executive Vice-President of the DSO, told you.

“… I have found leaders in the dso orchestra, board, and staff who are tremendously gifted at quietly transforming–eventually–the DSO into a reinvented model for our industry. If we get it right, that new model can be THE destination many conservatory superstars (not to mention stars from other national and international ensembles) intentionally seek out because the performing quality will be top flight and the working conditions will be dynamic and entrepreneurial… ” – DSO Facebook entry, September 19, 2010

What Paul Hogle didn’t tell you.

How does the reinvented orchestra model, which you say the DSO is “quietly” being transformed into, relate to the DSO’s strategic plan?  During 2008, the musicians, board, staff, and music director and, with the help of McKinsey & Co., agreed upon a strategic plan for the organization.  It was designed to unite the DSO family and formalize the vision, mission and goals for at least the next five years, so we could begin to address the numerous problems facing the organization.  The cornerstone of the strategic plan was “excellence” throughout the corporation supported by an improved platform of organizational effectiveness.  The strength of the plan lay in the fact that it was a collaborative effort with all parties buying in.  We all felt we got it right.

Whatever happened to that strategic plan all of us collaborated on, Mr. Hogle? Has it been scrapped? If so, why?  You know, if it has been scrapped, it would have been nice to notify ALL the parties who worked so long and so hard on developing it.
And about this new model, exactly what is it, in details?  Is it even something that Michigan and Detroit would want to buy “if you get it right…?” And what happens if you don’t get it right?  The past few years don’t really inspire much confidence in management’s competence.  How many decades will it take to regain what we have now: a world-class, internationally acclaimed orchestra?

Who’s kidding whom?

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RELATED LINKS
Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Strategic Plan Executive Summary from July 2008. Read on GoogleDocs (pdf, 92K). For the updated November 2008 Strategic Plan,  please contact the DSO Management (3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, Phone: 313-576-5100, Fax: 313-576-5101).
Hey …What About Our Strategic Plan? by Shelley Heron.

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