Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians are doing what they do best: playing concerts. They're performing Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Brahms Symphony No. 2 tomorrow evening. Further concerts are planned.
While the musicians do what they've always done – bring music to the Detroit community – their "management" sit in their bunker paying themselves large sums of money, issuing press statements attacking the musicians, attempting, and failing, to organise a strike-breaking concert. Sarah Chang wisely withdrew from a performance planned for 11 October.
Is there a lesson here? Is DSO "management" a luxury which DSO musicians, and the wider classical music world, can no longer afford?
The London Symphony Orchestra, my local orchestra and, arguably, the most extrovert of the great London orchestras, is an independent, self-governing organisation. It was the first British orchestra to play in the States (due to sail on the Titanic, the booking was changed at the last moment). It sacked Elgar twice.
All LSO players are shareholders in London Symphony Orchestra Limited. Nine of the Board of Directors and Orchestra Committee of the Board are playing members.
Why shouldn't DSO musicians employ their own management? Why waste time with hostile bureaucrats?
Music's too important. The cultural life of Detroit is too important. DSO musicians are too important.
The LSO model is there, ready and waiting, to be investigated by DSO musicians and their union lawyers, accountants and strategic planners.
People need classical music in hard times. During WW2 in London the public emerged from the air-raid shelters and flocked to the free concerts at the National Gallery. During the Great Depression in the States, the Federal Art Project put thousands of artists to work.
Now is the time to expand classical music in Detroit and, perhaps, for the players to take control of their future. They have a lot on their hands at present – good luck to them – but this may be one more thing worth considering.
Starved of entertainment, crowds flocked to the Gallery for the lunchtime concerts. These performances were an opportunity to hear the foremost musicians of the day. Many were given by Myra Hess herself. Favourites in her repertoire were Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann. The aim was to make classical music accessible to all. The entrance price was set low at one shilling.
The concerts were a huge success. Even in the darkest days of the Blitz, they were nearly always full. An adjoining canteen serving delicious tea, coffee and sandwiches, concocted by a cohort of formidable ladies, added to their popularity. Source