Some of you may be following the plight of the Richardson (Texas) Symphony Orchestra and its musicians. They’re embroiled in a bitter dispute that has led to the RSO being placed on the International Unfair List of the American Federation of Musicians. What this means is that as long as the orchestra is on the unfair list, AFM musicians cannot play with the orchestra, and if they do they are subject to expulsion from the union and fines up to $50,000. The action by the musicians union caused the RSO to file a counter charge with the National Labor Relations Board. It’s a showdown, and when these things happen both sides lose. The musician’s side of the story can be found here. I couldn’t find a document outlining the RSO’s side of the story.
But what introduced me to the conflict was a recording that has now been widely circulated on the Internet, of the music director, Anshel Brusilow ranting at the orchestra and particularly at RSO principal trumpet player Bert Truax. Truax serves as chairperson of the orchestra’s contract negotiating committee—a natural target. As I listened to this, a sickening feeling came over me. OK. Brusilow looses it, but these comments are not a result of one event. They are deep seated.
That caused me to remember the famous Buddy Rich tirades that were captured on tape by one, (or possible several) of the band members. If you are under 40 you may not know that Buddy Rich was one of the all-time great big band drummers, and his band was equally stellar. Buddy was also well known as an occasionally volatile person who could be difficult to work for. If he got angry, he really got angry, and that usually happened on long bus rides or at intermissions of gigs. If you want to experience a Buddy Rich rant just Google “Buddy Rich + rants” or go here, but be forewarned every variation of the f-bomb is freely used.
I guess there are two lessons here. The first is that no matter what the outcome of the RSO management vs. musicians there will be animosity on both sides for a long time to come. Showdowns are destructive. The second lesson, and it’s a difficult one to learn for some people, is that you have to be cool no matter how fired up you get over something. We’re living in a video age and if the Buddy Rich recordings were made today instead of the 1970’s, Rich’s rants would not just be caught on audio. Just ask our politicians.