Movement in Detroit: PS

It’s understandable why the musicians might be wary in light of DSO management’s public statements regarding their new “offer”:

DSO officials said it would up the orchestra budget to $36 million, $2 million more in player pay and benefits than its late November offer.

But the offer is contingent on musicians accepting work rule changes that include the players engaging in more community and educational activities, whether tutoring or sending chamber ensembles out to churches or hospitals. It’s also contingent upon the DSO getting the funds.

DSO development director Paul Hogle said new funding may be available from unnamed groups interested in community and educational outreach. But those funders won’t commit unless they know the players are on board, he said.

“The Granholm/Levin framework envisioned $36 million and enhanced community and educational activities,” Hogle said. “The players agreed to that. So now the big ‘if’ is whether their offer was real.”

Not exactly. The musicians’ offer did not appear to be contingent on anything (although obviously the details, none of which I know, matter here). Management’s offer appears contingent on outside funding.

The real question is “how contingent?” Have the funders promised the funding if the musicians agree? If not, then it’s not really an offer. But it’s possible to understand how the funders might be a little wary of making binding commitments to either side in a labor dispute that’s turned this nasty.

I know that, in this situation, if I were on the negotiating committee I’d want to know just how certain it is that the funders will commit if “they know the players are on board.” If the DSO is anything like my orchestra, they’ve made concessions a few times over the years in exchange for commitments of additional funding that didn’t actually happen.

In fairness, in our case at least, no one viewed those commitments as legally binding. But the concessions most certainly were binding, and musicians will remember the promises and reassurances regarding the money that would flow in as a regard of their sacrifice far longer than they will the conditions and fine print surrounding those reassurances.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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