The CEO of the Louisville Orchestra says the audience is likely turning away as the labor impasse continues. The management and musicians have been at odds for more than a year over how big the orchestra should be. It’s not a new fight, and CEO Robert Birman says it’s one the community is getting tired of.
“Each time that we confront this labor impasse and the infighting, there is a percentage of the audience that turns their backs because it becomes excruciatingly painful and tiresome to the community,” he says.
Three months of concerts have been canceled, and a performance scheduled for December will likely be called off this week.
“In a perverse way, the good news is that there’s only one concert scheduled in December. So that December concert will likely have to be canceled now that there’s still no labor agreement,” says Birman.
Birman says the board has to determine how much more time to devote to negotiations with the players before pursuing other options. That could include finding replacement musicians, though that would be difficult, since the American Federation of Musicians is promising to penalize any members who play without a contract in place. Further, many student musicians have orchestra members as teachers, and may be reluctant to begin their careers by crossing both their instructors and the AFM. Birman says Chapter 7 is not being considered.
“I think this is it,” musicians’ committee chair Kim Tichenor told WFPL late Monday after the management rejected the player’s counter offer.
In other cities, musicians and their supporters have started new orchestras, but Tichenor—who has performed in the musicians’ separate ensemble Keep Louisville Symphonic—says that’s not an option the players have discussed.
“We’ll have to see. We’ve been focusing so much on making an agreement with the Louisville Orchestra, that we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” she says.
Birman says the only financially stable model for the orchestra is a 50-member ensemble that plays for 30 weeks. The players have asked to have 57 to 60 players for up to 33 weeks.