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...