8/30/09 – Bernard Di Gregorio

Printed August 30, 2009

Untruths from NHMF administration

Editor, The Citizen:

This open letter email is in response to an article written by Erin Plummer in the Laconia Citizen dated August 18, 2009, regarding the New Hampshire Music Festival, “Festival hails musician accord; critics adopt wait-and-see stance.”

As a musician with the festival orchestra I feel I need to point out a few inaccuracies by David Graham, Festival president, printed in your article.

“Once the communication issues had an opportunity to adjust themselves, the dialogues were terrific, the discussions were terrific,” Graham said. “We were there on 95 percent of everything. It came down to the complement of players that worked out in the final talk on Friday, which was approved by the orchestra on Saturday.”

This is not true. It was never approved by the orchestra. The orchestra was never given the chance to voice its opinion due to the workings of the mediators. In fact, most of the orchestra walked out of the meeting one by one when it became clear it was a “done deal.” The majority of the committee was against this “agreement” especially when it realized at the final dialogue with management that the musicians’ own mediator had a different understanding of some very crucial aspects of this agreement. The orchestra was never in complete accord with the “agreement” before, during, nor after that Saturday meeting.

“The accord, reached last Friday, identifies the musicians of the current Festival Orchestra who will be invited back for 2010. Graham said all the incumbent musicians have been invited back for next year’s season.”

“Invited” is a very clever word to use in this manner. We may all be “invited” to come back next year but there simply are not enough spots for all of our incumbents to fill. The agreement is such: 20 incumbents receive 6-week contracts 25 incumbents receive up to 4-week contracts, 20 of management non-incumbents added, 5 -10 students added. With an orchestra size of 60 musicians, 20 non-incumbents + 5 students leaves only 35 slots at any given time for our incumbent roster. Where are the other 25 of our roster? Replaced by non-incumbents or used as on “sub list” idea.

“There are 59 incumbent musicians eligible to return and who have been invited back, while around 45 musicians will perform in the orchestra per week. Graham said the number of musicians who take part in each concert depends on the instruments needed for each show and the personal schedules of each musician.”

This must simply be a mathematical error. If this were true, with management’s add-ons, 20 non-incumbents and 5 – 10 students, the orchestra size would be 70 musicians, not 55 to 60 as management has stated. Nothing in the “agreement” for the 2010 season is guaranteed to be in place for future seasons. This means that out of the 2009 “incumbent” roster 45 may have contracts for the 2010 season. The 14 remaining names on the roster may be used if a replacement is needed for one of the 45, but after next season they are simply eliminated. We have been told there are no gaurantees for beyond the 2010 season. That also includes the incumbents.

It seems that David Graham and Henry Fogel have missed an opportunity by ignoring the public and its passion not only for classical music, orchestral and chamber (concerts every Tuesday evening of the festival are given by festival musicians playing for free ) but also for this orchestra. A community so supportive of this particular group of musicians that it has formed an organization call S.O.O.N., Save Our Orchestra Now!

Management started an onslaught of negativity that went far beyond the stage and into the audience itself. Of course management is happy with any sort of agreement now, but,unfortunately the musicians were not even given the chance by their own mediator to express they were not. Graham and Fogel could have capitalized on this community’s love of this festival but instead have chosen to rely on a high-powered New York lawyer, at what I’m sure is a significant pricetag, to work his dealings and try to save face for this administration.

“If music were the food of love, play on,” says both Orsino in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and the New Hampshire Music Festival audience. The only ones that seem to have missed it are Graham and Fogel.

Bernard Di Gregorio
Festival Musician since 1988
Charleston, W.V.