Facebook audition jury named and shamed

Facebook audition jury named and shamed


norman lebrecht

March 06, 2011

The five foreign musicians who are being flown into Rio to re-audition members of the Brazil Symphony Orchestra for their jobs – provoking widespread Facebook protests – have been named in an open letter that appeals to them to stay away.

The judges are

Ms. Rebecca Young, viola, New York Philharmonic

Ms. Isabelle Faust, violin, soloist

Mr. Blair Bollinger, trombone, Philadelphia Orchestra

Mr. Michael Faust, flute, Cologne Radio Orchestra

Mr. Ignacio Garcia, horn, Staatskapelle Berlin

The letter follows:

The (above-listed) musicians pay maximal attention.

You are being cheated by the management of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. The audition you will participate as jury members in Brazil is not a fair one. It is part of a repulsive plan of a sick management in order to promote a blood bath among orchestral musicians here in Brazil.

The audition is not for new members. You are coming to Brazil to listen exclusively to musicians that will have to re-audition to their own orchestra in order to, may be, keep their jobs. Many of these colleagues belong to this orchestra since more than 30 years and are being humiliated by this audition.

Please don’t participate on such a violence. This management, we know, are fooling you into believing that they want to make a better orchestra and to “modernize” orchestral life in Brazil.

This is not true. They are destroying everything the musicians conquered in decades of hard work and negociation. They are trying to impose a new work agreement, that will make slaves out of the musicians.

They are using you to make all this. This is by far the worst risk orchestral musicians are facing in Brazil in all times.

It is not modern, it has nothing to do with quality or with the guarantee of an orchestral future in Brazil. These people are bad managers and even worst artistic directors. They are trying to initiate an orchestral dictatorship here and cents of musicians of all Brazilian orchestras are mobilized in order to support the colleagues of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra against the violences they are suffering.

Please don’t be unfair with these people. The stories the managem
ent are telling you are lies

Refuse to take part on something that will be part of the history as one of the most repulsive violences musicians faced in all times.

Eduardo Monteiro


  • Rob Weir says:

    I am ashamed, as a working orchestral musician in the United States, that colleagues of mine from two major orchestras would have anything at all to do with this despicable action being brought upon the musicians of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. I would like to believe that they are simply naive and have been misled by the “management” of that orchestra into believing that their participation would be helpful. Perhaps it is too late? This is mercenary at best and deplorable. I wonder if either and all who are aiding and abetting this action have stopped for one moment to think that they are recalling, by their actions, a day when their own jobs could have been put up for grabs in this wonton manner. Think ahead, for god’s sake! Or better yet, look to the past for a reference point and ask yourselves if you think yourselves above this kind of treatment. I hope you do!
    Rob Weir
    San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    Friend of the Fair Treatment of Musician’s Worldwide

  • Ole Bohn says:

    Dear panel members! I am sure you have been misinformed about the situation for the members of the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira. These musicians have been forced by their management to reaudition for their jobs, with only one motiv, to dismiss them. The administration claims they want to build a better orchestra in this way. Except for Ms Faust who I know as a wonderful soloist, you all are orchestra musicians. You know that firing musicians is not the way to build an orchestra. It would never happen in your orchestra. Furthermore in the US and in Europe we have strong unions, so this would never happen. This is unfortunately not the case in Brazil.
    Many people around the world in various orchestras are apalled of what is happening to the members of the OSB. They are highly surprised that you with your integrity are willing to participate in firing musicians from their jobs. We all are hoping that you have been deceived by the management of the OSB. Now, since you know how the situation is, I am sure you will withdraw from your participation .
    The international music community is closely following what is happening in Rio. I certainly hope that your names not will come up in this atrocious event.
    Best regards,
    Ole Bohn
    concertmaster Notwegian National Opera
    professor Sydney Concervatory of Music

  • Alan Cassar says:

    One must not jump the gun: did the judges know what the real intentions of these auditions were? Certain managements can be very deceiving.
    Alan Cassar
    Composer/Teacher (France/UK)

  • Eduardo Monteiro says:

    @Ole, You are very right as always.
    @Rob, I think you are feeling what Brazilian musicians feel about what the participation of these musicians mean to the colleagues whose jobs are under fire. The OSB musicians aren’t idiots. They don’t need that these people come to Rio de Janeiro in order to tell them how “the future of a symphony orchestra” should look like.

  • Neil says:

    Aww, poor musicians. In normal life your work performance is formally assessed at least once a year. There’s a legally binding process for dealing with people not up to the job.
    I work freelance and get fired on the spot with no compensation if I do something wrong. Musicians enter into their professional freely and its hardly a secret that its a tough world with far too many applicants for too few positions.
    Brazil is fighting waste, terrible poverty, crime and corruption. Its reassuring that orchestral musicians are not immune from this process. Sorry to be harsh, but welcome to the real world!

  • Jim Wilt says:

    Let’s give our colleagues the benefit of the doubt. I simply cannot believe they would have agreed to this had they known the truth behind why they were hired as “consultants”. Hopefully someone has contacted them directly to explain the situation – only an absolute asshole would “honor” such a commitment after having been told the truth.
    What the administration of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra is attempting is disgusting and shameful – they have absolutely no business running an orchestra. Anyone who knowingly cooperates with these people should do so in the knowledge that their colleagues will never, and I mean never, look at them the same way again. Integrity cannot be bought, and it is damned near impossible to get back once you’ve thrown it away. Do the right thing, folks.
    Jim Wilt
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Colburn School

  • ignatius wapenaar says:

    You have my full support. Similar things have sadly happened here. Stay strong!
    Ignatius Wapenaar
    National Symphony Orchestra of South Africa

  • Ervin Nagy says:

    I am also ashamed being a musician, but not only because of this issue. What about all other dirty businesses in music life? All those Universities, Conservatories worldwide,playing democracy with advertising jobs, making interviews when the decision has been made already. In some countries they do not even bother with auditions. At least they are honest..
    Years ago I was witnessing a conversation of a few music students at a famous summer course. They were talking about where and with whom to study. I found out, that they came to the course to study with certain teacher, because they wanted to build a contact with them hoping to be a formal students of the well known professor. And why? They did not talk about any musical qualities, but about their influance on music life-and hopefully on their own life later.
    These 20 years old musicians have learned already the lesson. Very soon they will organize auditions.

  • Eduardo Monteiro says:

    @Neil, I see you don’t understand what’s going on. The fight againt poverty and so on doesn’t justify that a private orchestra takes millions of Reais (and millions of dollars) from the Government with the mission to present concerts to the public and instead will invest this very money (all their money now comes from subventions and government grants. 100 per cent, no less)and instead will invest it on firing musicians the management itself said played a marvelous season. I don’t understand how you can compare these musicians to the criminals Brazil is fighting against? Is your own country not fighting crime or poverty? Are you creating a new form of socialism?

  • Luciano de Castro says:

    Brazil is fighting waste, terrible poverty, crime and corruption??? This is it??
    Have you ever been in Brazil, Mr. Neil??
    Seems that you have an acute distorted view of what this country really is. And it seems that you do not have a clue about the professional orchestral classical music workship relations and laws here nor anywhere.

  • David snyder says:

    @ Neil, wait until you get fired when some boss decides they can get someone to do your work for less pay, or you’re too old, or a boss’s relative wants your job. Or are you a boss, or self employed, or are you a corporate hit man?

  • Neil says:

    The references to crime and poverty were inappropriate in the context. Things are changing. The public sector in Brazil is a huge drag on the economy (the wage and pension bill is scary). Why shouldn’t public funded orchestras be subject to some kind of value for money audit?
    The reason they musicians are all being asked to reapply for their jobs is probably that some are not up to the required standard. If the orchestra is full of wonderful players then there should be no problem. Bringing in outside musicians to judge players seems a very fair but calculated ploy to rid the orchestra of players who are below par and let new blood have a chance.
    In the UK telling employees that they will have to reapply for their jobs is a normal and legal thing to do when companies want to downsize an organisation or replace dead wood. Employees are formally warned that the company has plans to change the workforce and is entering into a “consultation period”. It happened to me once, and I got 4 months pay and a new job earning more. Great!
    Its tough being a musician and jobs for life are a fantasy in today’s rapidly changing world. Just look at the succession of financial crises engulfing the world from Ireland to Greece, and from California to Egypt. My suggestion to musicians would be have a second career option just in case you don’t make the grade.

  • Sergio Nilsen Barza says:

    The “real world” cited by mr Neil is also a mean world where you can use your position to reformulate your group with people you can manage, and will own you everything for life. It happened a lot of times in this country It will be right if you pay them with your money (like Andre Rieu), but when a group is subsidized, the things must be totally transparent. Another point, must be easy for a musician make concerts or find works in a city with ten or eleven orchestras, it’s a little bit difficult to find a job in places with one or two groups per state (not per city). The Brazil’s Northeast region has only one profissional for state, and there are states that has no orchestras or only a chamber or string orchestra.
    Sergio Nilsen Barza
    Professor and Conductor,
    Conservatorio Pernambucno de Musica

  • Jim Wilt says:

    Neil, orchestral auditions are unlike any other job interview out there. You could be the best player on the planet, with years of brilliant service to an organization, and if you happen to be “off” for that random 5 minutes behind a screen, it’s game over. We understand that when auditioning for a new orchestra, but there is not a musician on the planet that would be willing to move their lives to a new city (or country) if they knew they had to re-audition every year, and that nothing they played during the course of the season had any bearing on whether or not they could keep their job. You see, musicians carry zero equity into a blind audition.
    I can assure you that if the Philadelphia Orchestra or New York Phil had to re-audition for their jobs each year (if held to the same standards of a blind, open audition) less than half would win their chairs back. Does it mean they don’t belong in those orchestras? Hell no. What it means is that auditions are a very different animal than actually playing the job. An imperfect means to find musicians, but they are the fairest thing we have.
    If I were a member of that orchestra and had to re-audition for my job, my focus would turn away from preparing for concerts and instead focus on preparing for the audition. How do you think that would impact the quality of the concerts? Do you think that orchestra will be able to attract and retain musicians outside of those already based in that city? Instead of having access to an international talent pool, you have severely limited your options to people that only have to drive across town to audition.
    Is the management willing to put their jobs on the line, too? Can I pick a random moment where one of them failed to win over a big donor, or fire the music director for dropping a beat in a concert? Remember, they don’t get to counter their “audition” with all the wonderful things they did during the year. There’s just that one, random sampling.
    Orchestras are much more than just a collection of musicians that won an audition slammed together. They are built over time, and they develop traditions and standards that are passed on to each new member. They also involve trust and partnership. You simply cannot build a great orchestra under the conditions that are being proposed in Brazil right now. That the music director himself is suggesting this demonstrates a deep ignorance as to what makes a great orchestra. He should probably find another profession, the sooner the better.
    Jim Wilt
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Colburn School

  • MusikAnT says:

    I have to agree with Neil here. Musicians unions are so out of touch with the real world and part of the problem as to why classical music has been estranged from its potential audience.
    I love classical music; am a musician myself. So it was profoundly disappointing for me as a low income student (my family belonged to the class of the working poor) that I could never afford tickets and that student tickets were difficult or impossible to obtain. Later on as a young adult who had to forgo school in order to work for a living, obtaining tickets proved even more difficult. What to do? Shall I drop a minimum of $40 to hear Salonen do a tepid run-through of the Symphonie Fantastique or do I pocket the money and content myself with the cheaper (and far more satisfying) recordings by the likes of Szenkar, Monteux, Meyrowtz, Munch, Paray, et al? Clearly I needed to eat, so the LAPO was out of the question.
    What I also find insulting are these orchestra’s “community outreach” programs. I actually saw the LAPO and the LA Chamber Orchestra at the inner city schools I attended. Even as a teen, I found the notion of these people trying to “connect” with us “urban kids” faintly insulting. Here they were, these musicians that wouldn’t get out of bed for nothing less than their cushy six-figure salaries plus benefits and perks most people can only dream of, attempting to be relevant to children whose parents were mostly undocumented and barely scraped by. Instead of these silly “outreach” programs, why don’t the musicians and management take the pay cuts they so richly deserve and pass the savings down to the audience?
    Classical music needs to wake up and face the economic reality of today. Some people really want to hear great music–but can’t afford to. So bring down those ticket prices. That’s a sure way to win more friends. As it stands now, it’s hard to believe that once upon a time, the notion of “worker’s orchestras” were a popular way to attract a lower class audience. Horenstein, Webern, Mahler, Karajan, et al all conducted such orchestras. Klemperer made history when he headed the Kroll Opera–a working class institution.
    One of my most prized possessions are old Columbia recording logs from the 1930s and 1940s. One particular log is worthy of being mentioned here. The Cleveland Orchestra under Artur Rodzinski played the following works in a single recording session: La Mer, Ein Heldenleben, Daphnis et Chloe Suite No.2, and Finlandia. Each one is a gem of precision and glow with an emotional intensity altogether missing from orchestras these days–and they were all recorded in one day! (I have the original 78s as well as CD transfers from Dante/Lys.) Can you imagine such a thing today with all the strictures and bureaucracy of today’s musical unions? They’ve become complacent; priced themselves out of existence. When was the last time you saw a CD from Los Angeles? Or New York? Or Cleveland, for that matter? We need another Rodzinski these days to make these musicians earn their living like anyone else; put a little fire under them. It’s no coincidence that the greatest orchestral recordings were made in an era where musicians really had to work. Can you imagine a Beecham, Furtwangler, Szell, or Mengelberg being able to succeed with today’s unions? No fits or sarcasm from Mahler and Toscanini lest the union disapproves. It’s terrible.
    In any event, the hyperbole used in this press release already awakens my distrust and makes me question what is really happening. (Blood baths? Slavery? Violence? Please!) It certainly would be nice to get the other side of the story here.

  • Luciano de Castro says:

    MusikAnT, I can not agree with some or most of your rantings. The other side of the story is that all the conductors you mentioned were highly paid. Most earned at least 100 times more than any orchestra musician you’ve mentioned. This semester, Mr. Minczuk will receive an estimated amount of roughly US$ 325.000,00, if you consider last year’s earnings, for five concerts with the OSB Youth orchestra. This is totally unethical, since these young musicians will be playing half the season for a stipend of R$1000 per month, i.e, about US$ 580,00 while he puts into practice his plan to dismiss about 50% of the professional orchestra. As Mr. Minczuk himself declared in a famous 2010 article for a Brazilian magazine (Veja), he used to earn R$ 100,000.00 a month (i.e. about US$58,820.00) while the musicians in the tutti section, R$ 6,000.00 (i.e. about US 3,530.00). He hasn’t revealed the amount of his monthly earnings in his new six-year contract, but one can only speculate that it would not be less than last year’s salary. Mind you, he may hold other positions while the musicians are expected to work exclusively for OSB for the new R$9,000.00 monthly wages (US$ 5,290.00) the OSB Foundation is now offering, after this unfair re-audition. So that you may have a rough idea of the cost of living in Rio de Janeiro, the rent for a two-bedroom apartment in a middle-class neighborhood now runs at about R$ 3,000.00 a month + taxes and utilities.
    I agree with you, though, that the world has changed but I have a different interpretation. The people of the world no longer suppport the Mubaraks, Pinochets, military dictatorships, and fight against them and any kind of “I am the truth, follow me…” person. The internet has changed the world mainly because now the people can bypass the, near to death, great midia that used to go with only one side: the side that the sponsors wanted. Yep, time has changed, indeed.
    Maybe you could not pay for the concerts you dreamed of going because 70% of the tickets were redirected to pay the conductors’ and orchestra administrators’ good life and mega-salaries.
    Musicians are no ants, yo! Nor the classical concert lovers’ public!

  • Mikulik Krutoj says:

    This is disgusting, to read what some “musicians” are posting here, specially again those ones that have no idea of is going on in the OSB. I really encourage my colleagues that were invited to be part of the jury to maintain their commitment and be part of the evaluation.
    Half of you here have no clue of the situation in the OSB, before you start to post things you should get informed, there is a bunch of guys that are not really interested in get things improved. There is absolutely no reason to discourage the observers/jury, nobody had been cheated and the process is fully transparent, Mr. Monteiro should be ashamed of his post. Not the whole orchestra is against the evaluation, everybody knew about this process, the administration and the foundation was talking to the musicians about the process.
    Do not try to say that in the US things are different, if you do not have a connection, or godfather you will never get a job in a orchestra or even a chance to be auditioned, even if you are really good. We have any Americans, excellent musicians that had to go abroad to be able to fulfil their carrier, once the old-timers are controlling the music market, people like some of you here at this forum.
    There is nothing wrong in being evaluated, that happens all the time in Russia, Germany, Finland and so on, even in the US, where many of you live and know exactly what I am talking about. At the Moscow Virtuosi evaluation is part of their daily routine, if you cannot keep the level, you are out. That is the reason they are called Moscow Virtuosi, they are one of the best in the world, no matter what you Americans have to say.

  • Miroslaw Giorgiev says:

    Mr. Monteiro,
    keep your eyes here, do not snick at the Tchaikovsky Festival, you think a cleanup is going to happen there? You are lucky you are not in Russia, you are in Rio, or should not say that, Rio is worst than Russia, definitely needs a cleanup. May be we should help….

  • MusikAnT says:

    @Lucho de Castro
    My, but you Brazilians are certainly unduly fond of hyperbole! Allow me to address a few of your points.
    >Most earned at least 100 times more than any orchestra musician you’ve mentioned.
    Really? Are you telling me that Otto Klemperer was a multi-millionaire at his death? If I remember correctly, the most he collected for his Philharmonia performances at the end of his life was something around $1000 USD (I gathered this information from ‘The Maestro Myth’, I believe) per concert. Even then, this was after living an itinerant existence for decades. Or how about Horenstein? He barely scraped by; never was awarded the big record contract he so richly deserved. Ditto Rodzinski, Szell, and Monteux. To say nothing of men like Eugen Szenkar and Selmar Meyrowits: conductors practically unknown outside the cities they worked in.
    Now Karajan certainly did make a killing. But he also enriched the pockets and bank accounts of the BPO rank-and-file in the process. Not for nothing did they choose him over Karl Bohm, Sergiu Celibidache, Joseph Keilberth, et al. The BPO knew Karajan would bring a big record contract. During Karajan’s tenure, BPO salaries swelled. Or will you try to convince me that these musicians barely eked out their existences?
    >As Mr. Minczuk himself declared in a famous 2010 article for a Brazilian magazine (Veja), he used to earn R$ 100,000.00 a month (i.e. about US$58,820.00) while the musicians in the tutti section, R$ 6,000.00 (i.e. about US 3,530.00).
    Feel free to provide a link to this article for me. I can speak, read, and write in Portuguese. Would love to be able to read Mr. Minczuk’s comments undiluted.
    >The people of the world no longer suppport the Mubaraks, Pinochets, military dictatorships, and fight against them and any kind of “I am the truth, follow me…” person. The internet has changed the world mainly because now the people can bypass the, near to death, great midia that used to go with only one side: the side that the sponsors wanted. Yep, time has changed, indeed.
    Huh? What are you trying to say? I don’t follow you here. What does this have to do with anything? Are you trying to tell me the reason we have no great conductors today is because dictatorships are no longer tolerated? If this is the case, then why did men like Bruno Walter (a gentle dictator, but a dictator nonetheless), Serge Koussevitzky, Fritz Reiner, Frederick Stock, George Szell, and–oh, yes!–Arturo Toscanini thrive in democratic America? What about free-wheeling conductors like Carl Schuricht and Hans Knappertsbusch succeeding in the discipline obsessed German speaking world?
    >Maybe you could not pay for the concerts you dreamed of going because 70% of the tickets were redirected to pay the conductors’ and orchestra administrators’ good life and mega-salaries.
    You clearly failed to read my post. Allow me to quote from myself.
    >>[W]hy don’t the musicians and management take the pay cuts they so richly deserve and pass the savings down to the audience?
    Musicians and management must share the burden. Small wonder that halls sit empty when your average ticket price at one of the Big 10 symphony orchestras in the US costs the equivalent of feeding two people for a week. I’m happy that I can afford concerts now (though I often am able to go in free). Again: musicians and management need to take a pay cut and pass down those savings to audiences.
    >Musicians are no ants, yo! Nor the classical concert lovers’ public!
    I only have two words for you: lurk more.

  • Alex Radziewski says:

    cFollowing the discussion here and here: http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2011/03/facebook_protest_prompts_orche.html it seems this situation has more than one sides.
    The management announce an audition for each member of this orchestra. A successfull audition gives you permission to keep your job which you had before – till the next audition. Did I understand this correct?
    As a professional musician in one of the better situated German symphony orchestras, I totally agree with the fellows from all over the world, that such a politics will heavily damage the quality of an orchestra and will not improve it.
    That’s one side of the medal
    On the other side I have some questions. Maybe I will get answers here.
    There was mentioned, that a tutti musician in the BSO earns around USS 3500,- per month. It’s before or after tax and what would be the rest for living?
    So you need 30% of your income to rent a two-room appartment. That’s the same situation like in New York, Munich, London or Tel-Aviv. My city Hamburg is not so expensive but not so far away. So, that’s not the special problem in Rio.
    I wonder how much earns a high-school teacher or a professor in Brazil? Just asking to have an orientation, because that’s the orientation in Germany. Teachers are well paid here and orchestra musicians too and both are mainly subsidied. That’s the difference to the States and f.e. England.
    Regarding the official Web-Site, there are around 50 performances from March to December.
    That’s not so much comparing with comparable full time professional orchestra here.
    I don’t know much about the classical orchestra scene in Brazil and of course I can’t exspect the same level than in Europe and especially in Germany. Brazil has different musical jewels. I am sure, Brazilians have a lot to smile when Germans try to participate into Samba or something similar. So I will be very mistrustful when suddenly a foggy international level is requested, when there was no comparable international level of working conditions was established before.
    Hope to get more information.
    Alex Radziewski
    Hamburg Symphony Orchestra