10/19/09 – SOON Press Release


Save Our Orchestra Now

POB 376

Ashland, NH 03217

CONTACT: Gene Bishop (603) 536-2291


Management Letter Tells Musicians to Stay Away From SOON.

Plymouth, NH: October 19, 2009:
“How can you play a wind instrument with a gag in your mouth?” asked Gene Bishop, Chairman of Save Our Orchestra Now (SOON), when he saw the cover letter sent to musicians with their employment agreements. The letter, (below) seems to contain a thinly veiled threat of dismissal if orchestra members support or associate with SOON, a local citizens group organized to protect the long-term integrity of the NH Music Festival.

“This is a stunning and wildly unprofessional communication.  It calls into question the ability of management on several levels” said Bishop.  “SOON is a citizens’ organization made up of more than 250 NH Music Festival audience members and longtime supporters.  Our goal is to protect the Festival, plain and simple.”

“In his letter to the orchestra, the President made statements about SOON that are incorrect, and we believe need to be addressed. Specifically, the letter claims that SOON is intent on harming the Festival.  In fact, SOON was organized to SAVE the Festival, as the name implies.”

Art Albert, a SOON Executive Committee member said, “The steps we are taking are designed to convince management that if they continue to alienate the audience, undermine the morale of the orchestra and remain fixated on the real estate of the Festival, rather than the quality of the performance, it will wreck this 57 year-old NH tradition.”

“At the end of the day, the management’s heavy-handed threats to the orchestra are based on a false assumption.  SOON’s mission is not to harm the Festival.  The management’s unrelenting hostility to the dialogue we are offering suggests that perhaps we are onto something, and it’s time for the Festival’s administration to make needed adjustments.”

Albert added, “It’s a little grandiose for them to think that criticism of the President and the Festival Director is an attack on the Festival.”

Bishop concluded, “For the good of the Festival, management should withdraw the cover letter and apologize to the orchestra for raising such a childish threat. In addition, we believe that given the management’s poor relations with the musicians and concern about retaliation, that some type of outside supervision should be brought into the process to protect the rights of the musicians and the Festival patrons.”

Dear Festival Musicians,


After careful deliberation by the Board and Management of the New Hampshire Music Festival, we have decided to proceed with the process outlined in the Personnel Policy that was distributed to you two weeks ago with some modification.

The Personnel Policy and the process outlined in the Letter of Interest evolved initially from a set of suggestions that your Orchestra Committee made in our first joint session last summer.  We have been in constant dialogue with your representative from the end of the Season until just two weeks ago.  We have carefully considered each of the suggested changes made during those discussions and have incorporated those changes where we felt we were able.

We are disturbed by the cover email that accompanied the vote taken by the musicians for several reasons:

First, the concept that the number of musicians to be hired in 2010 was dependent on funding was an integral part of our discussions throughout the summer.  It was not a new concept added at the last minute.  Indeed, our financial capability to dramatically increase the number of incumbent musicians from 30 to 45 was a direct result of funding through a special gift.  The notion that employment would be guaranteed regardless of funds raised to pay for those positions was never part of the discussions and would be financially reckless.

Second, we never represented that there was a decrease in donations as was explicitly stated in that email.  It is not true.  We informed your representative that a few of our donors expressed their concern regarding the actions being taken by the organization known as SOON.  We became uneasy that, if musicians continued to support SOON’s efforts to undermine the Festival’s development efforts, we could fall short in raising the money that would be necessary to fund the positions we outlined in the Personnel Policy.  Indeed, in our last set of discussions before the vote by musicians, we asked specifically how some musicians could support a group that was committed to undermine our fund raising efforts and, at the same time, demand from the Festival a guarantee for positions that could only be funded by the community.  We specifically asked for an end to musician support for a group that was dedicated to adversely impact the Festival’s fund raising efforts and asked that musicians support the Festival in its effort to raise the funds for the Orchestra in 2010.

Third, the email asking for a vote by musicians specifically referenced SOON, and the support SOON had among musicians; and it went further to state that the results of the musicians’ vote would be shared with SOON.   We must assume that you are aware that SOON stands for several objectives:  (1)  persuade donors to withhold their donations to the Festival; (2)  prevent the Festival from proceeding with the new approach to music making; (3)  remove the Festival’s Director and President; and (4)  call for the resignation of Board members who support the change.  This group also opposes the Festival’s efforts to build a new Concert Hall.  This group has publicized statements that are untrue about the Festival, its management and its Board; those statements are intended to harm the Festival.

We have been very clear that our new model is built on the concept of collaboration in music making and a generosity for nurturing one another and students.  This is a core value for the Festival going forward and is essential to our success.  The actions of some incumbent musicians are clearly inconsistent with that value.  We are aware that some incumbent musicians continue to work to support SOON and the objectives it stands for and continue to publicly criticize the new direction the Festival has chosen to take.

As we proceed to implement the Personnel Policy, we reserve the right to fairly evaluate whether those musicians seeking employment in the summer 2010 season can be expected to support the festival and the new direction it is taking based on all the circumstances.

Attached to this letter are the Letter of Interest and Personnel Policy which is the product of a good faith effort to find a common ground with your Orchestra Committee.  Please follow the instructions contained in the Letter of Interest.

David H. Graham