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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.

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