I am so very sad that the musicians and management of the San Francisco Symphony have not been able to settle their differences, as of today, March 18, and come to an agreement. Now cancelled is their prestigious East Coast tour, including performances at Carnegie Hall and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center. This is a disaster, not just financially, but for the symphony’s reputation.
How much does this really mean to me, personally? I chide myself over this urge to obsess about it, to grieve. But by cancelling a tour across the country, it is no longer a local issue, a personal concern. The world is watching the SFS exposing this ugly, contentious side, destroying the illusion of a cohesive organization. I’m not just sad, I’m ashamed. I’ve nattered on here at my blog about the wonderful SFS, my sanctuary from the real world, that has never disappointed me. Does this make a sucker out of me, that I’m so enthusiastically supporting such an institution?
Most of my classical music friends are musicians, and surely support the striking musicians. Will I be endangering their good will if I step out on a limb here and say enough already, that the musicians need to stop being so obstinate? This is not the Minnesota Orchestra here, or the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, with their ugly, unfair labor disputes and unsteady finances. The San Francisco Symphony has one of the strongest, healthiest endowments in the classical music world. Its musicians are among the top three best paid in the country. Their argument: they want their pay to keep pace with the other top two orchestras in the country, Chicago and Los Angeles. Management is proposing a pay freeze this year, and a paltry increase next year. The musicians and their union are not biting. Nor is management capitulating.
I’m certainly not qualified to argue cogently for either side in this labor dispute. I can only read articles, listen to others’ opinions. I’m trying to continue to see it from both sides. But it’s getting harder to feel sympathy for either side with each passing day.
In the end, as I said, what I feel is tremendous sorrow. Classical music is the beautiful, untouchable thing in my life. The dispute is ugly and damaging, and both sides are getting damaged, and it’s the paying audience members who are being hurt, not to mention the San Francisco Symphony’s fine reputation. Not just here on the West Coast, now, but the East Coast. Further damage, locally, is the fact that the SFS’s subscription season renewal is in full swing. I don’t know about the other subscribers, but I’m not sure I want to go flinging money at them right now, not when the two sides are squabbling like overtired siblings.
Please solve your dispute, San Francisco Symphony and musicians. All of you are losing so, so much, with each passing day.