What Really Matters Re: Indianapolis Symphony, Part 1

Wow. My previous blog post was pretty damn self serving. After I hit the ‘Publish’ button, I got to spending time on Facebook (who doesn’t right?!), and I got to doin’ some thinking with the ol’ gray matter that sits between my ears.

What are my problems compared to the rest of the worlds issues? What about problems right here in my very own adopted city of Indianapolis?

The musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony

Yeah, right here, many wonderful people I call friends are now not working because the ISO management has locked out the musicians because they couldn’t come to terms for a new contract.

Now, let’s just put things in perspective here. How can the musicians negotiate with the offers the management put on the table? Here is what was offered from the management:

– reduction of salary of up to 45%
– reduction of full-time members (87 down to 69)
– reduction of season (52 weeks down to 38 weeks)

Locked Out ISO Musicians

Now, let’s put even more of a perspective on this. You have committed your life to being the absolute BEST at what you do. It doesn’t matter if you are a musician, a widget maker, an accountant, or a lawyer, you give 100% ALL of the time. Image now, that you were approached by your management and were asked to take a 45% pay cut, and go from full time to part time employment. What would you say? What would you do?

These musicians perform at such a high level it is hard to even begin to comprehend, much less explain, but I’ll try.

Performing at or near 100% of perfection all of the time is stressful and very difficult to achieve  One only comes to this level of playing, or this level of ANYTHING, through years and years of dedication, commitment, hard work, passion, and unwavering focus. Imagine that a professional basketball player was required, as part of their job, to make 100% of all free-throws. (They are FREE aren’t they?!!) The basketball players would have to be at home every day there wasn’t a game, practicing their free throws. If they miss…what would happen? What if one player is making 100% of his/her shots for years, but one day misses a shot, then an another, and another, and misses big. That player, then might get benched for a game or two. Maybe that player wouldn’t start every game because his/her free-throw percentage is down to 95-98%. But they are shooting 95-98%, you gasp! That’s amazing! Yes, 98% is amazing if we are talking about basketball, but not when it comes to symphony musicians.

The intensity of playing at 100% each and every day does not come easy. These highly skilled musicians must continue to hone their skills at home. They practice their instruments each day, long hours ‘shedding’ their parts, so that all 87 of them can come together and play at 100% to create something absolutely amazing and beautiful!!

Let’s continue with the team of basketball players that make 100% of their free-throws. This team, with highly skilled players, all making 100% of their free-throws, starts losing games. The management (coach, assistant coach, and owner etc) are all making terrible calls, hiring the wrong people, not doing their jobs, and calling plays that shouldn’t be called. So one day at a team meeting, the owner comes in and lays a new contract on the table saying, “We’ll guys, we’re losing games and losing money, you’re going to have to go to part-time playing with a reduced salary.” What would happen?

Now, this might be somewhat simplistic of an analogy, but those imagined ball players have little to do with the fan attendance, money making, or marketing. They play their game to the best of their ability, that is their job.

And so to is the job of the ISO Musician to make music and perfect their craft to the best of their ability, and let me tell you, their ability is as high as it gets.

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