Detroit inches closer to edge of cliff

This is not the end, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of hope either:

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have rejected management’s latest contract offer, setting up a showdown that could lead to the cancellation of the rest of the 2010-11 season by the end of the week.

With nearly 50% of the season already lost due to the 19-week musicians’ strike, management has said the conflict has reached a critical juncture. Musicians said that management’s latest offer represented progress, but the two sides remained at odds how to spend $2 million earmarked for community outreach work, and how much of that money would be guaranteed — as opposed to optional for extra work.

Earlier this week, the secretary of the DSO’s executive committee, Glenda Price, said that if a deal wasn’t in place by the end of the week the season would “probably” be canceled.

While management has not characterized the current contract proposal as a final offer, it had asked the musicians for a formal response by Friday. Cellist Haden McKay, a member of the musicians’ negotiating team, confirmed today that the players had rejected the offer — but said that the musicians had made an informal counterproposal and were still interested in finding common ground.

What I hear through the grapevine leads me to believe that DSO management still doesn’t understand the first principle of concessionary bargaining, which is: prioritize. I’m inclined to suspect they don’t get the second principle either, which is: negotiation is about trading.

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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