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Long Beach Symphony may cancel 2010-11 season over union dispute

January 13, 2010 |  5:23 am


The Long Beach Symphony says its 2010-11 season could end up on the chopping block as a result of an unresolved dispute with a union that represents musicians.

The orchestra said Tuesday that its board members have voted to ax the future season unless the two sides can reach an agreement by Jan. 22. On the discussion table are requests to make changes to the musicians' current one-year contract as well as new terms for a contract for future seasons.

Roger Goulette, the orchestra's president, said in a statement that the organization "will run out of cash and exhaust our secured line of credit by the end of January." He added that that the union -- the Local 353 of the American Federation of Musicians -- needs to come to the table and "be part of the solution if we are to have a next season.”  

A representative of the AFM did not immediately respond to an interview request.

Among the orchestra's requests is a more flexible contract that would help bring costs under control. The orchestra said that it has received monetary pledges that are contingent on the creation of an affordable business plan for the years ahead.

Long Beach Symphony is a relatively small orchestra with an annual operating budget of $2.7 million and an endowment of $1.6 million, according to Robert C. Jones, interim executive director. Last fiscal year, the organization ran a deficit of $397,000.

The orchestra employs about 87 musicians and has an administrative staff of 10, Jones said.  Each year, it produces six classics concerts, four pops events and two holiday celebration concerts.

In October, the orchestra inaugurated its 75th season with a celebration and performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

This is not the first time the Long Beach Symphony has faced a crisis of this magnitude. Twenty-five years ago, the orchestra closed its doors as a result of economic hardship, according to Jones. The organization re-started in a reduced capacity about a year later.

To help resolve the current labor crisis, the orchestra said it is considering facilitation or mediation by a  third party. 

"We have enormous respect for our musicians," Jones said in a phone interview. "We just can't put as many of them on stage as frequently."

-- David Ng

Photo: the Long Beach Symphony. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times

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Comments () | Archives (11)

Having started an arts organization in LB that was successful for 15 years, the missing piece in this controversy is raising ticket prices or not discounting subscriptions as much. If the marketing department is only providing freebies and discounts to get butts in seats then why should the musicians or the staff have to make up that difference from their paychecks? I would say there needs to be more to the conversation than simply concessions but a bold future for a great symphony, many of whom I've had the pleasure of conducting myself. If you need help remember the Doc makes house calls.

No, as it runs at a deficit, it needs to fulfill the needs of the people of Long Beach,as the tab is being taken up by us. I used to go often when young, as the top two clarinet chairs are my neighbors, it needs to serve the community, and as many of us have cut hours and limited funds, only the few rich here can afford rasing prices. It isnt going to raise much more monies, thsoe rich flks already are donors.

It would be sad to see it go, but if it cant justify its existence by arousing enough interest to sell tickets, then RIP. There are obviously too many orchestras in LA, and the country. Fewer and fewer people are interested, besides which it isn't OUR music. Its europes. If these musicians want to contnue to get paychecks, its going to have to deal wiht teh situation, everyone is being cut, get over yourselvs. This is why unions get a bad name. They are necessary evils, just like overpaid executives. Both get paid too much when looked at in the context, an overused art word, of the countires economic state.

Deal with it, or join the millions of others on un employment. Which drains the public coffers even more. Do the deal. As with the incompetent Long Beach Museum of Art, the money simply isnt there. Time to deal with reality. As arts funding in schools is practically non-existent, getting kids into seats is the least you can do.

art collegia delenda est

Hey Donald Frazell-Why don't you stick with the art comments and please keep your ignorant and narrow musings about music to yourself.

'Europe's music'? I've read this rant from you before. How about we keep all the 'foreign' art influences out of our museums?

oooooh, touched a nerve! "Classical"(European baroque, classical, romantic and atonal musics) are impervious to outside influences becasue of its very makeup. NO rhythm. Modern art and music(jazz)incorporated cultural influences rom around the world, those that were reflective of humanity, nature, and god. Each artist a filter of lifes experiences, style being but the personal language. The content, Purpose, being what drives the creation of each language.

I have no issue with European orchestral musics, but it is but one of many "Musics". The arrogance of this community listing theirs as MUSIC, and all others rather inferior is simply absurd. I love much of this music, and glad Chopin will be big in the year to come. The three Bs great musics, with others as well, but as Wynton Marsalis said, it is but some more music, not something above all others.

But it is not OUR, American, music. Europe should back it as it is the foundation of their culture. For us, it is but one influence among many. And if it cannot support itself, there is no reason public funds should be spent when such funds are in such short supply, and much greater needs at hand. Until we stop being selfish babies and realize that taxes must be raised, that we must pay off our grossly overextended national credit card, that we must live within a budget, that much of that money went to the very rich who love said musics, so be it. It is not Necssary.

If the monies were there, that we actually created more wealth than consumed, living off of China's investments in us, that this depression I forecasted two years ago exactly with my article Imperial Clothing, and the coming stagflation and long term unemployment ended, then fine. til then, suck it up. Others are hurting far worse. Except Wall Street, and those who live off its excesses and imbalances. Most of whom are patrons of bad contemporary art and "classical" musics. Go to them, the rest of us ahve families and schools and medical expenses and housing to deal with. You know, reality, not fantasy.

But if you can pull it off and get the monies privately, then you have proven a need. Til then, lets get to work and build things with a solid foundation this time. The Neverland of Wendys and Peter Pans is over. The gilded age of meism and excess gone.

art collegia delenda est

Nothing like Donald Frazell to kick people when they are down. First Jeanne-Claude Christo after she passed away, then Kenneth Noland, and now Long Beach Symphony (glad to see you get a jab in at Long Beach Museum of Art too, but this is only the short list). I am not sure why Culture Monster keeps posting your rants.

Donald Frazell-
You have conflated 'Wall Street', 'bad contemporary art' and 'European classical musics' (?). There's room for all music in our culture. But shall we allow the capitalist marketplace with it's bulls and bears to determine the rise and fall of institutions our culture has found indispensible? Not that that there's anything wrong with that.

Is this 'musics' really without rhythm, not reflective of nature, humanity and (yikes) godless? Other music is superior in this regard? Sounds elitist to me.

By the way, why is is that here in Culture Monster, 'classical' music and opera are prominent in 'Arts and Culture' yet barely present in 'Music'? Marketing decision? Capitalism at work?

Life and death baby, happens everyday, not just in the myopic and inbred art world. Subjects it long ago forgo in the pursuit of sales and dreams of Neverland. Deal with real issues of mankind, and just maybe you will last past your age of trendiness. Truth lasts, and always will out. If not destroyed in the meantime. Good Euro musics last, and it would be nice if te LB Symphony did too, but if it isnt serving a real need, then RIP.

And lose the LBMA what a waste of space and view, nice for a morning cupt of coffee, but thats about it. meaningless drivel for hyper sensitive wimps. go running along the bluffs, inhale the lovely port air, and then come in to see thier stuff, losses its rather dull luster quickly. MoLAA is excellent and does quite well, never got caught up in the the gilded age, built to last. Noland was simply a designer of framed wallpaper, Fine if that what you want,. Sol Lewitt took it outside the frame but still just meaningless design, and rather boring.

Oh yes, he is dead too. Didnt hear you crying when real local artists like Simon Rodia, Richard Diebenkorn, Carlos Almaraz and Rober Graham died. We all do, didnt you know? How about locals Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon and Billy Higgins died either. I didnt kick em when those fools were down, they were already out. As Hemingway said, a such and such alive is a such and such dead.

art collegia delenda est

Wow, some are self absorbed, arent they? Just because I say it is some more music, and not above all else, I am being elitist?

If you noticed, this is LA, and this blog is UNDER the Entertainment head. in almost all other papers, the NY Times et al, Euro musics are under Music, but here is primarily pop because the is our main product, visual and auditory pop.

Again, I have no problem with Euro musics, but they ARE Euro. Just as Western art was jsut taht through the Impressionists. With Modernism you got "outsiders", they only true artists anyway, from Latin America primarily like Rivera and Tamayo, but also many minor ones from Asia. Africa was more of an influence, no great artists of that background til Romare Bearden, but were good ones like White and Alston.

And you are off topic, the LB symphony simply cant get enough attention or monies to exist like it was, adapt or die. Simple as that. The musicians must compromise, or its over, there is no money, stop with YOUR elitist values. We are in a depression folks. the majority have been cut back, take a number.

art collegia delenda est

It is doubtful that every city in the country will be able to support a full-time professional orchestra anytime soon. But i do hope that the troubles of the Long Beach Symphony are of a temporary nature only.
In music, rhythm means the real-time relationship between musical sounds, including the length of each sound and spaces, if any, between them. Therefore virtually every musical piece, regardless of genre, does have rhythm. The only exception i can think of is probably John Cage's 4'33", because it consists of nothing but silence. Saying that any type of music has "no rhythm" is factually incorrect. Some music may not have the kind of rhythm that a particular person understands, or can relate to, or likes (the same as with melody or harmony), but rhythm is still there. Strictly speaking, rhythm is the most omnipresent part of music. For example, so-called Gregorian chant has no harmony (except the implied kind), and some atonal music, such as most works by Anton Webern, has no recognizable melody. But rhythm is always there, whether listeners are aware of it or not.
Saying that classical music is "impervious" to outside influences is wildly inaccurate. In fact, classical music has been very much open to all kinds of influences from all over the world for a long time, especially during the last hundred years. The roots of classical music are indeed in Europe, but it has been absorbing and successfully integrating musical contributions from all Americas for over a century and from most of Asia for several decades now. It is quite likely that during this century many other regions of the world, including Africa, will also become active contributors to the further development of classical music.

sigh, we have had this dance before. European music is literally retarded rhythmically, it developed solely through the lyre and pipes, with extremely limited to no drums for millenia. Which is why strings and horns and woodwinds dominate, the use of tympani and percussion instruments is laughable in Euro musics.

The bowing and gradual wind usage leads to a strictly melodic and harmonically structured music, where there is time used, notes placed in space, not pulsed rhythmically.
Harmony is very developed, probably more than any other music til jazz, which draws much from it. Melodically many musics are as well developed. And the rhythmic conceptions of Africa and India light years beyond the ability of Europeans to understand, let alone play. Which is the key.

Rhythm is the pulse of life, through syncopation and polyrhythms of African music, the cyclic nature of Indian, with even Japanese more rhythmic as well as Indonesian, Europe’s was never developed at all. It was ignored andconsidered crude, and common. Because it was amongst the popular musics, and still handicapped in the horrible pop musics of the continent, and simplistic if charming lullabies of England.

Modern Jazz, which IS modern music, incorporated all these into its very core, the rhythmic concept entwined integrally with harmonic structure and melodic development. They are one. All musics were studied and as its base was already so open with European, African and Latin American influences, it could bring in those of Islam and India as well. John Coltrane named is son Ravi far before the Beatless ever heard of Shankar, and used his music instead of learning it and incorporating it into their work, it was just a mileau creating intro, not an adapted and integrated part of the limited lullabies of their group.

So called “modern” Euros have never been able to incorporate rhythm into their works. It is all time signature, complex ,varied, but still no swing, no pulse, no life. All academic and intellectual, instead of the highly developed instinct of creative art. Separate from life, unable to stand up in the real world, only interesting and clever in academic circles. Philip Glass monotonous drones are terrible, no rhythm at all. Which finds a groove, and mutates, evolves, grows organically, his all cluncky and thought out by a single limited mind, rather than in a group improvisation like Coltrane’s great quartet.

It has been a century basically since the world of Euros musics died in WWI. It was quite relevant and alive then, but since then, the world has changed, and become one. Or is supposed to. Contempt culture has splintered it for market share, not working to a commonality of man, a myth creating force that reveals the world we live in, and is inside of us. Key word, Us. Art is about the whole, not the individual. Too much is put into composers, who are so limited, instead of collaborations between equals, as Miles Davis had through 1969. Even with Shorter’s complex and intellectual structures, all put their own stamp on the music, and layered it as no single composer can do. The improvisation creates more, and connects it to the listening audience. Not lecturing them, but presenting in the moment all are living in, together.

The Euro conception of rhythm is extremely limited, and not that of African and India or the Americas. It is not our music, it is that of the Academy, an European creation, and separated from the common man, who is often far more able and talented than those who limit themselves to singular studies, as life is always from the street, and so is art. Not the fake street artistes of Academies who play at being workers, artists are workers. Always have been.

Art collegia delenda est

The comments about classical music being made here by DF are at the very least a century behind. When it comes to the last one hundred years of classical music, he is uninformed (which is not so unusual), but also seems to be incapable of realizing that his largely baseless opinion is in no way a true fact, which is a more serious problem. Not liking something is a matter of taste, but declaring it dead is grossly irresponsible.
Here is the brief description of the situation as i see it. Classical music is not only very much alive these days - it has become more diverse in many ways, including the range of its rhythmical complexity, and it continues to develop in many different and interesting directions.
Minimalist music, such as works by Philip Glass, is not called "minimalist" by accident, but precisely because it has very little of anything in it (except maybe the number of notes per each musical idea). There are many people who like it, while others do not. Fortunately for most of us, it is only one type of many that are embraced by that flexible designation known as "classical music" which in fact is more varied than it has ever been before. Forming one's opinion about contemporary classical music based primarily on what one hears in minimalist pieces is approximately the same as trying to illustrate the state of modern jazz by presenting nothing but Kenny G's recordings. Wouldn't make much sense, would it?
Determining rhythmic quality in music by its use of percussion instruments reveals a severely limited understanding of rhythm. Many classical composers like to keep their rhythmical ideas integrated with other aspects of their music, so that its rhythm affects listeners in far more subtle ways than simply beating them over the head with it. On the other hand, there is plentiful usage of percussion in classical music after 1900, including, for example, many pieces by such Western-Hemisphere-based composers as Alberto Ginastera, Silvestre Revueltas, and of course our local and still active William Kraft.
Becoming intimately familiar with most of their music, in addition to that of last century's many greats, starting with Bartok, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Messiaen, Britten, Lutoslawski, and continuing with too many others to mention here, then getting acquainted with music by such living composers as Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, Hans Werner Henze, Harrison Birtwistle, Christopher Rouse, Thomas Ades (to name just a few whose names are at the tip of my tongue at the moment) - all of this is absolutely essential before starting to form one's own opinion about classical music of the recent decades and making any sort of conclusions. You may be one of those people who do not like much of it, but at least your statements will be based on something. Without such knowledge, your pronouncements remain nothing but ignorant misrepresentations.
The notion that classical music is geographically limited is hopelessly outdated too. A few years ago, i had the honor and the pleasure of representing USA in a series of concerts by the so-called World Philharmonic. That orchestra brought together musicians from over 80 countries, including of course most of Latin America, many parts of Asia (including Middle East) and several African countries as well. [For example, our concertmaster was a young man from Egypt named Mohamed Sharara.] This kind of orchestra would certainly not be possible at any time before the second half of the last century. But now it is indeed possible, because during the last few decades, classical music has become a truly global phenomenon. We, the classical musicians from all over the world, had no problems finding common musical language and understanding one another on those terms. It was both inspiring and inspirational. It seemed clear and was in fact confirmed by our colleagues from countries that were never before traditionally associated with classical music, that the popularity of such music in their regions of the world has been rising steadily for several decades now. This means that they will certainly be influenced by classical music but also that classical music will inevitably be influenced by them.
We can talk about technical aspects of different types of music forever, but the bottom line is that the reason classical music is alive and expanding in many ways is that it is capable of reflecting and expressing human emotions, feelings, desires, thoughts, in a way that no other kind of music can. It has never been for everybody and it will never be - just like no other form of art is for everybody either - but for millions of people around the world it is a cultural necessity and will remain so for a long time.
Returning to the original subject of the article that triggered this exchange, i can only express my relief that the Long Beach Symphony has reached an agreement with the musicians and and my hope that those people of Long Beach who are interested in classical music will be able to attend and enjoy live performances of good quality in their own community for many more years.


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