A cautionary fable

One fine day, a sailboat (not the M/V Minnow, although their experience was relevant) set sail from port with its trusty crew for a nice sustainable sail across the ocean.

The weather was beautiful. As the crew gained confidence in their ship and the conditions, they raised more sail until their trusty S/V AmericanOrchestra was moving along at hull speed. Aside from the occasional gust and wave, they stayed nicely dry and had a merry old time.

But, unbeknownst to them, the weather folks had screwed up (instead of the latest equipment, they had invested all their money in fancy buildings and bonuses for the top brass) and were making predictions on the basis of barometric readings and week-old pictures from dying Soviet-era weather satellites. So things suddenly went from swimmingly to horrific – massive waves, hurricane-force winds, the radio antenna long gone in a gale-force gust, and a terrified skipper.

The command rang out – “lower all sail!” But there was no way to get the sails below, the hatches all being battened down tight. So the command went out – “all sails overboard!”

The crew huddled below, waiting for their doom in the never-ending, howling wind and the raging seas.

Then the winds died down, the seas calmed, and the sun came out. Having dumped all their sails overboard in their collective panic, they drifted slowly until those of the crew that hadn’t been killed in the resulting mutiny slowly and painfully died of starvation and thirst.

The moral: there’s no point in surviving a crisis by committing slow suicide.

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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