October 2, 2009
For Immediate Release
Ella Gray 206-963-0733
Joe Higgins 781-963-4412 h, 617-281-6136 c
In decisive vote, NHMF musicians reject proposed Personnel Policy
The 2009 season of the New Hampshire Music Festival was marked by discord over management’s vision for the future of the Festival. Days before the opening of this year’s festival, the Musicians, who travel from as far away as France, San Francisco and Seattle, were informed by Festival President David Graham, and Festival Director, Henry Fogel that they would be required to reapply for their positions if they wish to be re-engaged for the 2010 orchestra season. Veteran performers were being asked to submit an audition portfolio consisting of a CD or DVD of a solo performance of music from three periods of music history as well as optional performances of jazz, improvisation, or alternative styles, and three written essays regarding their approach to music making and mentoring. This reapplication process is unheard-of in the professional music industry.
The musicians, many of whom are members of prestigious orchestras during the year and have played in the 57 year old festival for decades, began wearing purple ribbons during performances as a sign of their opposition to management’s plans. As the summer progressed and word of the dispute became widely known, entire audiences began wearing purple ribbons in solidarity with the musicians on stage. Pressure from the community forced negotiations between management and the orchestra.
The Orchestra Committee invited NHMF management to an open dialogue about the future of the NHMF. The OC, joined by a negotiator, hammered out an agreement on a new personnel policy but when the final document was released last week, the musicians overwhelmingly rejected it.
While the agreement removed the original re-application procedure that was so objectionable to the musicians, it provided no protection for the future of longstanding members of the NHMF orchestra.
Other areas of contention include:
- More than 30% of the current roster of musicians would be effectively dismissed following the 2009 season.
- Due to the lack of an appeals process, and with no cap on the number of dismissals management could make following the 2010 season, there would be no job security for remaining musicians.
- There was no assurance that future openings (in the 2011 season) would be filled from the remainder of the current roster
- Nothing in the agreement document is guaranteed to be in place for the 2011 after the 2010 season, including the number of contracts (45) being offered to the incumbent musicians for 2010.
- Replacing professional musicians with students would not improve the quality of the orchestra.
On Saturday, Sept. 19, the Management of the NHMF again, without discussion with the OC, added language to the “agreed upon” policy.
“The Festival’s offer for employment will be dependent on funding. In the event insufficient funding is raised……the complement of musicians will be reduced proportionately among Incumbent and non-Incumbent musicians.” And, “Both the Festival and Incumbent Musicians have agreed to support the efforts to meet these funding requirements.”
Also included with this information was a scheduling model differing from the three models discussed during talks with Management. The weekly workload could be increased by nearly 100% with only a 25% increase in weekly pay, resulting in a wage decrease of 35%.
These items represent significant changes from the agreement made on August 14th, 2009.
An anonymous online poll of the musicians was completed at midnight September 29th, 2009.
- 62 out of 69 members voted in the poll.
- 59 voted against the proposed personnel policy.
- 3 voted in favor of the proposed personnel policy.
Despite the current atmosphere, musicians of the NHMF Orchestra remain optimistic that the role this orchestra has had with the community of Plymouth, NH will continue. As Ron Patterson, our esteemed concertmaster, has put it “The NHMF Orchestra has given some of the best performances of my 45 year career as concertmaster in Europe and the US. The contact between the musicians and the audience is at the highest level I have ever experienced.” The outpouring of support from our audience is evidence that the people of the Plymouth and the Lakes Region want this orchestra to return year after year. We plan to use all the resources at our disposal to ensure that our orchestra remain the resident orchestra of the New Hampshire Music Festival. The musicians’ hope is that a new process and dialogue will ensure the continuation of this New England treasure, the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra.