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Friday, November 27, 2009

A Great Thanksgiving Day Present for Shreveport

This great news about the Shreveport Symphony was extracted from The Times [Shreveport]. It arrived just in time for Thanksgiving Day, and not a moment too soon.

November 25, 2009

Shreveport Symphony series offers hope of a permanent return of live orchestral music

On the eve of Thanksgiving, let's embrace the encouraging news that orchestral music again will be ours in 2010.

After a year when the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra fell silent over a contract dispute, let's give thanks for fresh beginnings, the apparent dissipation of acrimony and distrust at the negotiation table. Add to that a $70,000 challenge grant from the Community Foundation, and music lovers can now look forward to three concerts as negotiations continue on long-term solutions. The first concert is Jan. 30 and the last in May.

Challenges remain to achieving a full resolution of disputes, but the notes are encouraging.

"There was a sense that maybe people weren't just being bull-headed," said musician representative Rick Rowell about the recent talks, "that there were honest positions to deal with and I think we realized everyone is passionate and wants it to work."

Monday's announcement by Rowell, Symphony Board President Dick Bremer and Paula Hickman, executive director of the Community Foundation of Shreveport-Bossier, is the initial fruit of work that began around Labor Day when Bremer, as new president, sought to resume talks.

The agreement at this time presumably will help the board and musicians raise funds as potential donors survey the landscape for worthwhile causes before the tax year closes. Many donors have wrestled with the dilemma of wanting to support this long-standing cultural asset but concerned about the economic model that appeared to be losing financial ground each year. Much of the contract dispute was related to the previous board's decision to switch 24 full-time core musicians to a per-service pay structure, though part-time musicians would have received a pay increase. In this three-concert season, the musicians have agree to per-service payments while negotiations continue.

In search of organizational and funding solutions, both sides have agreed to bring in a consultant on symphony management. Here's hoping his recommendations can offer credible strategies that can be supported by both managers and musicians — and reassure donors.

Live orchestral music is not only food for the soul but sets this community apart from other cities our size — and larger. After six decades of performances, the Shreveport Symphony has become deeply grooved into our community's soundtrack. Monday's announcement offers hope it won't go silent again.

-taken from Shreveport Symphony series...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Non-profit group allows musicians to keep performing.

Recently it was noted in The Times (Shreveport) that a group calling itself CODA [Concert Organizers for Diversity in the Arts of Northwest Louisiana] is trying to keep symphonic music alive in Shreveport. The term "diversity in the arts" implies that along with popular music, we need to support orchestras that cover a broad range of music, from serious classical compositions to lighter fare, such as movie soundtracks, orchestral arrangements of popular music (known as Pops) and musicals. There is a good reason why the orchestra as a performance group has survived over many centuries.

Here is the article in full describing the role of CODA (Sept. 5, 2009, The Times, Entertainment Section):

New group to support Shreveport Symphony
Board, musicians resume talks

By Donecia Pea • • September 5, 2009

A newly formed nonprofit organization is reaching out to assist Shreveport Symphony musicians with a fundraiser concert.

Concert Organizers for Diversity in the Arts of Northwest Louisiana will present its opening concert at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at First Baptist Church of Shreveport.

The concert will feature most of the symphony's 23 core musicians.

"Maybe two musicians won't be participating and that's only because their schedules won't allow it," CODA President Dorothy Rivette said.

Featured performers include the I-49 Brass Quintet, which includes Rick Rowell, Mike Scarlato, Tom Hundemer, Mike Davidson and Mark Thompson. Flutist Sally Horak will combine classical and jazz elements in a piece by Claude Bolling for classic flute and jazz piano trio.

The final selection will be the traditional Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven, performed by a full orchestra and conducted by Kermit Poling.

Rivette said the group is not designed to replace the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, which has been embroiled in a negotiation battle between symphony musicians and the board members for two years.

Rather, she said, CODA was formed to support the musicians and give them a way to continue to perform.

"CODA intends to keep the seasoned and educated musicians performing and living in the community so that when the day arrives, whatever orchestra our city ends up with will be one of high quality rather than one that sounds like a community orchestra," Rivette said.

Rivette said she foresees CODA working hand in hand with the symphony, similar to the Symphony Guild, but with its fundraisers solely being concerts.

"If an agreement is able to be reached, CODA would like to offer its assistance to the symphony in possibly continuing to help organize some concerts of the variety that the symphony has given up on in recent years, such as a chamber series, children's concerts, etc.," Rivette said. "Our organization is not made up of people who have money to donate, but of people who can provide a service in order to keep music alive."
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Rivette reached out to symphony board president Richard Bremer asking for his support of CODA.

"She did send me an e-mail and explain what they're doing. Basically, if it's helpful to musicians, that's fine," Bremer said.

Bremer further noted that the board members and musicians, along with their union representative, have resumed talks and plan to meet again shortly after Labor Day.

"The musicians and the board continue to use our best efforts to hopefully overcome the impasse and be successful," Bremer said.

However, Bremer would not comment further on the status of negotiations or the future of the symphony.

"It's too early to comment. I'm just going to leave it there," he said.

Symphony musician spokesman Rick Rowell could not be reached for comment.

Rivette was a former board member of the short-lived Red River Chamber Orchestra, formed last September by community volunteers Kevin Hill along with Bill Causey and Bob Maynard to assist the musicians. However, the group never attained its 501(c)3 status.

Rivette eventually left that group and formed CODA in December, receiving 501(c)3 status in June.

Rivette said they haven't determined how many additional concerts they will present after the inaugural concert.

"We are taking things one day at a time right now. We'll just see how this one goes and see what we want to plan after that. A lot of it depends on what happens with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra," Rivette said. "If they begin producing large symphony concerts again, there won't be a need for us to do it and maybe we'll do some chamber or children's concerts."

For further information about the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, which has an uncertain future, but might still rise out of the ashes, visit Shreveport Symphony Orchestra.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Orchestra Musicians Regroup

This article appeared recently in The [Shreveport] Times Opinion section.

Editorial: Saturday concert reminds us what we're missing

September 24, 2009

Shreveport musicians who have spent too little time on stage will gather Saturday to remind us what we've been missing.

The Diversity in Music concert will range from Beethoven to jazz, from full orchestra to ensembles. The performers will include many players who made the Shreveport Symphony an oasis of musical excellence in our regional soundscape. For six decades, the Shreveport Symphony has not only been — note for note — one of the better orchestras around, but one of the last in a community of our size.

But orchestras cost money. The expense isn't much in comparison to health care or even what we pay to dine out during the year, but it's enough that a contract dispute has silenced the Shreveport Symphony for more than a year. The dispute involves the musicians' pay structure, particularly how it affects the symphony's core musicians who are contracted to perform for an entire season.

But there is a glimmer of hope.

Last week The Times editorial staff, in an effort to update our readers on this musical impasse, e-mailed a set of questions to both the Symphony Board and representatives of the musicians to determine the status of negotiations. Our hope was that time and a rotation in leadership might have allowed a fresh start.

What came back was a very short, not too revealing two-sentence response:

"Symphony representatives have met with the musicians and their union representatives and have scheduled another meeting to try and resolve our differences. Both groups prefer not to say anything more at this time since the matters being discussed are sensitive and our combined efforts are focused on reaching an agreement."

The importance to us wasn't the comment but the attribution. The sentence was a joint response by the board and the musicians, no insignificant detail.

The two groups have had at least one long session of talks in the past month. Without providing any specifics, new Symphony Board President Dick Bremer leaves us with a feeling of cautious optimism.

Meanwhile, Saturday's 7 p.m. concert at First Baptist Church in Shreveport will provide some musical balm around what would traditionally be the opening of another symphony season. It's the inaugural event of Concert Organizers for Diversity in the Arts of Northwest Louisiana, or CODA, a group formed to support the musicians and provide them an opportunity to perform. Dorothy Rivette and other organizers are to be commended for stepping into the breach and working to uphold this end of our community's culture.

Without hearing a note, we applaud this concert and hope that off stage any past dissonance soon may resolve into sweet harmony.