June 17, 2019

LOCKOUT...or Here we are....

...and here we are, in Baltimore.     Today, which included the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's final performance of "West Side Story" with the movie, the Baltimore Symphony Musicians went to Facebook and posted photos of musicians clearing out their lockers

Additionally, the upper management and Board of Directors of the Baltimore Symphony issued a press statement:  "The Board of Directors of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra approved a lockout of the organization's musicians, Local 40-543, if an agreement between the musicians and management was not reached by the end of the regular subscription season.   With no agreement reached, the lockout will go into effect on Monday, June 17, 2019."

LOCKOUT.    In case you're curious, here's the definition: "A lockout is a temporary work stoppage or denial of employment initiated by the management of a company during a labor dispute.  That is different from a strike in which employees refuse to work.  It is usually implemented by simply refusing to admit employees onto company premise and may include change locks and hiring security guards for the premises.   Other implementations include  a fine for showing up or a simple refusal of clocking in on the time clock.   It is therefore referred to as the antithesis of strike."

Taking this to "everyman terms":    the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are allowed to file for unemployment benefits through the state of Maryland.   Had they made a decision to strike, they would not be able to file for unemployment benefits.

That fact, however, is not what this is about.

Regarding the Baltimore lockout: In recent days, friends and colleagues have asked "How does this affect you?" Here are my answers.

First, I am a freelance musician living in the city of Baltimore, and my work includes both performing and teaching in Baltimore, Washington DC, and Philadelphia (and, when I'm lucky, New York City). This is a region overflowing with extremely hard-working and well-equipped musicians, which already means that one has to be incredibly diligent not only in the maintenance of one's playing ability but equally so in building and maintaining relationships throughout the field. Should this lockout continue past September, a shift in the workload of regional freelance musicians will undoubtedly take place.

Second, and this is important: over the past ten years the city of Baltimore has suffered the loss of two performing organizations (the Baltimore Opera and Concert Artists of Baltimore) and, as with any disruption, the destinies of those affected by those losses is still unfolding just as they are for those who were victims of the 2003 Florida Philharmonic bankruptcy.

Third: not only have I been both fascinated and captivated by "large changes" for my entire life (with memories of post-Vietnam War "boat people", the Mariel boatlif and the Polish "Solidarity Movement" being a part of childhood while the Movement for Black Lives, and the still-unfolding post-Hurricane Katrina diaspora are "real-time"), but my first visceral memory of a work-stoppage stems from 1998 when, after having spent a summer with the National Repertory Orchestra, I went back to Houston (in May 1998, I completed the Master of Music at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music) to begin my life as a post-graduate freelancer. During that time, the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony were locked out by their management, and I met a violist affected by that lockout while playing services with the Symphony of Southeast Texas (its home being Beaumont, Texas - which is a FOUR HOUR DRIVE east of San Antonio and at that time rehearsed at night).

Fourth: In addition to both playing and teaching the violin, I am a published writer whose work has appeared in Strings Magazine, the San Jose Chamber Orchestra's "Other Notes" column, Nigel Kennedy Online, and still fairly regularly at online industry magazine Violinist.com (and that sharing of my credentials is not about my self-esteem).

While "diaspora" may seem to be a peculiar word choice when speaking about orchestral work conflicts, it does seem appropriate considering the decisions that members of orchestras make during turbulent and uncertain times.

Stay tuned...and if you don't get it or choose to turn a blind eye to it, "I can't help you"....

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