Learning from the Past

As we all celebrate the end of the 15-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra and welcome their return to performances next month, I’d like to remind the orchestral community that another orchestra suffered a 14-month lockout back in the early 90s, and has learned a lot by that experience.

My own Hartford Symphony was locked out for 14 months because the Board didn’t want to continue to support the newly-formed Core orchestra they’d created in the previous contract. The musicians insisted that they must continue with the new “full-time” positions, especially as several musicians had moved to Hartford after winning auditions. Things got ugly, and we were locked out. The entire experience was dreadful for everyone (but less so than for our Minnesota colleagues because it was not a full-time salary for any musician).

We went through many attempts to settle the dispute, but ultimately Ron Compton, CEO of the Aetna Insurance Company, who’s daughter played cello in the Charleston Symphony (so he was familiar with the orchestral musician’s world), put forth a compromise solution that pretty much everyone hated. (Thus a good compromise.) This solution ended up with the musicians having 10 voting seats on the board. This has evolved into the Orchestra Committee and ROPA Representative being automatic members of the Executive Committee of the Board, and the Orchestra Committee appoints the additional four. A rather unusual situation, I’d wager.

I wrote a history of our dispute for Harmony magazine, and Paul Judy came to Hartford to conduct a round-table of the major participants in our settlement, over 20 years ago. I believe many of the elements of our settlement might be of interest to other orchestras. Twenty years later we don’t do things exactly as back then, but relations between management and musicians remain very solid and I can’t imagine our going through something similar.

Hartford Symphony’s Story

I wish the very best to our Minnesota colleagues as they return to work after so very many months, and hope that they can forge a new relationship with their new board leadership.

Ann Drinan

About the author

Ann Drinan
Ann Drinan

Ann Drinan, Senior Editor, has been a member of the Hartford Symphony viola section for over 30 years. She is a former Chair of the Orchestra Committee, former member of the HSO Board, and has served on many HSO committees. She is also the Executive Director of CONCORA (CT Choral Artists), a professional chorus based in Hartford and New Britain, founded by Artistic Director Richard Coffey. Ann was a member of the Advisory Board of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI), and was the HSO ROPA delegate for 14 years, serving as both Vice President and President of ROPA. In addition to playing the viola and running CONCORA, Ann is a professional writer and editor, and has worked as a consultant and technical writer for software companies in a wide variety of industries for over 3 decades. (She worked for the Yale Computer Science Department in the late 70s, and thus has been on the Internet, then called the DARPAnet, since 1977!) She is married to Algis Kaupas, a sound recordist, and lives a block from Long Island Sound in Branford CT. Together they create websites for musicians: shortbeachwebdesign.com.

Ann holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in International Relations from Yale University.

Read Ann Drinan's blog here. web.esm.rochester.edu/poly/author/ann-drinan

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