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*UPDATE 4/25/12* The LO Management signed a one year bridge contract with the musicians today.

*UPDATE* The Louisville Orchestra has announced it will start hiring new musicians this month!

The Louisville Orchestra and its musicians have been at an impasse about a new contract for almost a year now, with no performances since last spring (Keep Louisville Symphonic, an organization made up of Louisville Orchestra musicians to promote and produce full-size symphony orchestra performances, however, has filled in that void, playing concerts since last spring.) Throughout this ordeal management has mentioned the possibility of hiring non-union replacement musicians.

Following through on that threat, the Louisville Orchestra has started advertising for new musicians.

The orchestra has taken its recruiting to craigslist, Google, and Facebook. While I have not seen the craiglist listing or Google ad, I was surprised to find their Facebook ad appearing on the right hand side of my news feed (top). 

This worries me. What type of applicants are they expecting to get from advertising auditions in these places? What I also don’t understand is how the Louisville Orchestra is supposed to be in such financial duress but is able to pay for musician advertisements on Google and Facebook. It is impossible to tell how much they actually spend because on Facebook you can say how much you are willing to pay per click and what your maximum daily budget is, but either way it seems like a foolish way to spend money. It seems more like a way to intimidate its existing musicians.

I also wonder if the Louisville Orchestra knows that Louisville Orchestra Musician Association supporters are disgusted by this act and actually encourage people to click on the ad just to deplete the orchestra's ad budget.

Normally professional orchestras send out calls for auditions through universities, credible audition listing sites such as myauditions.com, and on the orchestra's website. From there, based on their reputation, experience and resume, applicants are either

  • invited to play in person for an audition committee
  • or required to make audition tapes

The whole advertising campaign is a joke:

  • the Louisville Orchestra chose the least credible places to advertise auditions
  • the Merry Widow is proof that it is going to be near impossible to find any decent candidates who are even willing to audition (The Kentucky Opera hired a non-union orchestra to play in the pit for the February performance of The Merry Widow when the musicians of the Louisville Orchestra turned down the Kentucky Opera's offer to play. I was told by the lady contracting musicians that it was very difficult to find anyone willing to play for fear of being blacklisted and some thought it was morally wrong. You can find commentary all over the Internet regarding the Kentucky Opera's Merry Widow.)
  • it's wasting money on an endeavor that will probably never happen

Anyone who auditions takes some great professional risks in doing so. First, if you audition, existing Louisville Orchestra musicians likely will shun you. Second, if you are in the union you will be fined. Third, consider yourself likely blacklisted from future professional orchestra gigs. Also plan on removing any commentary sections on any gig listing like Gig Salad because you are sure to get negative feedback.  Also, the application requires references from someone in the music industry. Good luck finding anyone to do that.

For those of you not familiar with the dispute between the orchestra and its musicians, here's the background:

Throughout the past year there have been many related disputes between the orchestra and its musicians. One of the major ones is that the musicians say they never announced they were on strike, but rather that orchestra management locked them out. Management, however, has argued that the musicians have been on strike since June 26, 2011.  In January 2012 the Division of Unemployment Insurance, Commonwealth of Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, denied the musicians’ appeal and upheld Louisville Orchestra, Inc.’s position that the musicians of the orchestra have been on strike since June 26, 2011. 

There was also the issue of the halted children's music program in JCPS schools. This past Friday the musicians agreed to binding arbitration working toward a new contract under the conditions that the orchestra’s board of directors signs a one-year agreement guaranteeing they’d work under the terms of their previous contract, which expired May 31, 2011 for the 2012-2013 season.  The most recent press release can be read on the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association’s Facebook page. The media release posted April 3, 2012 states the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association will hold a press conference Thurs., April 5 at noon at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets, right by the Kentucky Center for the Arts.  The Louisville Orchestra’s Board rejected the musicians’ latest binding arbitration proposal.

Please note: Anna Blanton is an employee of the Kentucky Center and was a performer in The Merry Widow pit orchestra in February. Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of her employer(s).

Photos: Anna Blanton (Facebook screen captures)


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About Anna Blanton

Anna Blanton holds a Bachelors of Arts in Music (violin) and a Minor in Marketing from the University of Louisville. Anna currently plays with the Paducah Symphony, folk rock band- Field of Kings, and fuzz/folk rock band- Jack Holiday and the Westerners. From 9-5 she is the Development Information Manager at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. She is also a Production Assistant for the Beatles festival, Abbey Road on the River.

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