Thursday, December 25, 2014

Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians Say No Strike - For Now

Philadelphia Orchestra concerts continue. That's the important thing to remember in the coming days and weeks as discussion intensifies surrounding the orchestra's financial troubles and labor strife. The orchestra board is scheduled to vote on bankruptcy Saturday. But - despite a TV report suggesting that bankruptcy might trigger a six-month strike - the musicians say they will honor a no-strike stipulation in their contract.

Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians Say No Strike - For Now

With the Philadelphia Orchestra board slated to vote Saturday on a Chapter 11 filing, an orchestra member hands out fliers opposing bankruptcy to the audience before a concert Thursday night at Verizon Hall.
With the Philadelphia Orchestra board slated to vote Saturday on a Chapter 11 filing, an orchestra member hands out fliers opposing bankruptcy to the audience before a concert Thursday night at Verizon Hall. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia Orchestra concerts continue. That's the important thing to remember in the coming days and weeks as discussion intensifies surrounding the orchestra's financial troubles and labor strife. The orchestra board is scheduled to vote on bankruptcy Saturday. But - despite a TV report suggesting that bankruptcy might trigger a six-month strike - the musicians say they will honor a no-strike stipulation in their contract.

A strike could happen, but only down the road, and only after a long series of ifs:

If the Philadelphia Orchestra Association board votes for bankruptcy; if the Association actually files for bankruptcy; if the bankruptcy judge sets aside the current contract; if players can't live with a contract put in place; and if the orchestra musicians have enough votes to go on strike.

Both sides are painfully aware of The Cautionary Tale of the Modern Orchestra Age, otherwise known as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Damage from a six-month strike there is just beginning to be assessed, but we know it's not going to be pretty. Detroit may have finally slipped from the orchestral top tier.

There's no way of mapping out the future of Philadelphia's story. We're in uncharted waters; no major U.S. orchestra has ever filed for bankruptcy. A lot depends on the generosity of the William Penn, Lenfest and Neubauer foundation, as well as the good wishes of thousands of others whose largess is expressed without using the word millions. Just as much depends on questions and answers currently unknowable. Is management bluffing about bankruptcy? Can Mayor Nutter assist? What is management's moral obligation to provide a reasonable retirement to musicians? To what extent will a solution contain a fair degree of shared sacrifice among the board, management and musicians?

Right now, we can only invoke a lot of ifs and question marks. But there's a lot of great music to be heard in the meantime.

More on the story here.

Music - the goal, the prize, the thing this painful period is all about - is here.

Peter Dobrin Inquirer Classical Music Critic
About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

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