An unusual source for replacement workers

It’s not surprising, in the wake of the Louisville Orchestra management’s cancellation of most orchestral activities scheduled for September and October, that the Kentucky Opera, which uses the Louisville Orchestra, would be looking for musicians to replace LO musicians. Their choice of partner, on the other hand, is straight from the Twilight Zone:

The opera’s general director, David Roth, said opera administration is talking with the local branch of the musicians union, American Federation of Musicians Local 11-637, so that it can contract its members to perform the music for performances of “Carmen” on Sept. 23 and 25.

“We must have a live orchestra and live performances at all levels, and that includes an orchestra in the pit,” Roth said.

Roth said that the opera hopes to have musicians contracted by Sept. 1 so that they can begin rehearsals by Sept. 13.

For nearly three decades, the Louisville Orchestra has played the instrumental music for the Kentucky Opera.

Even in the context of the very strange history of the Louisville Orchestra musicians and their local union (some of which was covered thoroughly by ICSOM’s Senza Sordino in its January 1998 issue), it’s mind-bending to contemplate a scenario of union musicians crossing a Louisville Orchestra picket line to play for an entity which is a joint employer, with the LO board and management, of the LO musicians – and crossing that picket line with the blessing of the Louisville local.

Just what do they put in the water down there?

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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  • A local contractor, a member of the union AND the orchestra, is attempting to put together a “contract” orchestra. This is entirely an individual initiative – the players themselves were taken aback. Presumably the LO musicians are being asked before any other union players. While the local union is not exactly giving it’s blessing it apparently believes that it can not intervene since the Opera has a contract with LOI management, not the players of the LO themselves and thus can’t be picketed as would be the case were the LOI management put on concerts under the moniker of the Louisville orchestra. It remains to be seen how the LO musicians respond and I would not like to be in their shoes. The situation is simply terrible for all involved.

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