What do they put in the coffee out there?

More weird news out of Seattle:

It’s been just six months since Seattle Symphony Orchestra announced it would have a quartet of rotating violinists in the concertmaster chair, but it is redefining the position after discovering the arrangement violates terms of the musicians’ collective bargaining agreement.…by terms of the musicians’ contract, if Larionoff is concertmaster, she can’t also be the orchestra’s second chair.

"According to the contract, there is one person for each job, and no one can be both associate concertmaster and concertmaster," explains Schwarz. "This was brought to our attention by the musicians, who wanted the letter of the contract adhered to, and they are absolutely correct."

Timpanist Michael Crusoe, chairman of Seattle Symphony and Opera Players’ Organization, notes: "The main focus of the talks was the fact that our contract doesn’t allow part-time positions. But that was what we had when four concertmasters were hired. The orchestra contract calls for one concertmaster."

Also at issue in the talks, Crusoe said, is that all musicians have benefits, including health insurance, life insurance and pensions. Those would have to be paid to all four concertmasters.

And they just discovered this? I don’t think so.

Most orchestra contracts have grievance arbitration clauses, and most
such clauses provide a deadline after the date of discovery of a
potential contract violation to file a grievance. The union doesn’t
get to wake up one morning, five months after a potential contract violation
has been broadcast to the entire known universe, and discover there’s a
problem. Timeline issues kill grievances in their tracks, and for good reason in most cases.

More likely is that talks have been going on internally for a while and
have gone public because of someone’s frustration with their pace – in
this case, most likely the musicians’ frustration, as management and
Schwarz already have what they want.

And what will happen next?

Schwarz gets to decide, but he has not tipped his hat – publicly, at least. He will not say whether he has offered Larionoff the concertmaster position, or whether she prefers (given the choice) to remain associate concertmaster, a job that has tenure. The concertmaster job does not. If Larionoff remains associate concertmaster, Schwarz says, the orchestra can reopen the concertmaster search, and it can have guest concertmasters, including the three other violinists who share the concertmaster job with Larionoff. If she is offered the concertmaster spot and accepts, then the orchestra will hold auditions to fill the associate spot.

"I know what I want to do," says Schwarz, "but I can’t talk yet.

"Guests, concertmasters – for me the title is not relevant. At this point, all our concertmasters are loving this arrangement, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s going splendidly."

Which is why the musicians are so happy about it? Someone isn’t “loving this arrangement.”


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