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 CONDUCTOR LANG-LESSING: SYMPHONY SHOWS WILL GO ON DESPITE MANAGEMENT
ISSUES  
[https://portside.org/2018-01-07/conductor-lang-lessing-symphony-shows-will-go-despite-management-issues]


 

 Nicholas Frank 
 January 5, 2018
Rivard Report
[https://therivardreport.com/conductor-lang-lessing-symphony-shows-will-go-on-despite-management-issues/]


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 _ The union reiterated that “the musicians are ready, willing and
able to continue presenting concerts.” _ 

 Nicholas Frank/Rivard Report, Musicians’ Society of San Antonio
union negotiator Craig Sorgi holds a press conference in front of the
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 21 to announce stalled
negotiations with symphony management. 

 

Sebastian Lang-Lessing, the San Antonio Symphony’s music director,
said Friday that an upcoming series of Tricentennial concerts set to
begin next week will happen. “They will take place,” he said, even
as uncertainty clouds negotiations about a new labor contract for the
orchestra’s musicians.

The current contract expires at midnight on Dec. 31. Talks have
stalled between the musicians and Symphony management, which itself is
unsettled amid a withdrawal by a new board that had been set to take
over operations.

Lang-Lessing’s planned Tricentennial Festival
includes _Tricentennial Celebration_concerts scheduled for Jan. 5-6
featuring soprano Ana María Martínez. A Dream Week program featuring
Beethoven’s _Eroica_ symphony is scheduled for Jan. 12-14, and a
program centered around Elgar’s _Enigma Variations_ is set for Feb
2-3.

Lang-Lessing’s optimism, as the conductor characterized his
assurance, comes with a challenge. “We need to pack the house in
these concerts,” he told the _Rivard Report _in a FaceTime
conversation from his Berlin home Friday afternoon. “Quite frankly,
there starts the next responsibility.”

Lang-Lessing challenged the San Antonio community to “show some
commitment” to its symphony orchestra, first by buying tickets to
its concerts, then by realizing the seriousness of the current
situation.

“What’s at stake at the moment is the sheer existence of the
Symphony,” he said. “What’s happening right now – that the
organization is in danger – is very disturbing.

Negotiations have hit a roadblock in part because current Symphony
management has failed to schedule negotiation sessions beyond what
musicians’ union leaders described as walkout by management
representatives Dec. 18.

Who is actually in charge of the Symphony is also in question, due to
the collapse of a transition agreement between past management by the
Symphony Society of San Antonio, and a new nonprofit organization,
Symphonic Music of San Antonio (SMSA).

Instead of taking over as planned, the SMSA pulled out of a transition
agreement on Dec. 21. In withdrawing, Thomas A. Stephenson, SMSA
president and CEO, cited a potential Symphony Society pension fund
withdrawal liability as a “deal breaker.”

Craig Sorgi, a Symphony violinist and Musicians of the San Antonio
Symphony [https://www.mosas.org/]labor union negotiating chair, called
the SMSA’s reason a “false excuse,” and has said that the
withdrawal liability would not be incurred if current pension fund
contributions were to continue.

As expiration of the musicians’ current labor contract looms, the
Symphony Society has scheduled a board meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 2.
The group’s board chair, Alice Viroslav, confirmed the meeting
Friday in an email to the _Rivard Report_.

Asked Friday whether the musicians are prepared to work without a
formal contract extension or negotiated agreement, Symphony violinist
Craig Sorgi replied via text message, “For now all we can do is plan
to return to work on the [Jan. 3] as scheduled. We are still working
and honoring our contract until further notice.”

The union issued a press release Friday addressed to Viroslav,
demanding that the Symphony Society “return to the business of
contract negotiations post haste,” and asking for clarification on
her further involvement with negotiations, and the role of Stephenson,
with whom the union had been negotiating since early September.

That press statement was quickly followed by another, addressed to
Symphony Society board members. Citing no response to requests for
bargaining sessions, the letter points out that despite management
uncertainty, the Symphony Society “continues to be the employer of
record for the musicians and it is the duty of [Symphony Society]
leadership to return to the table.”

In the second Friday press statement, the union reiterated that “the
musicians are ready, willing and able to continue presenting
concerts.”

Although he said he does not wish to interfere in negotiations,
Lang-Lessing said, “of course I support the musicians, we’re in
the same boat.” At the same time, he said, “Everybody who put
money into the Symphony did so with the best intent to make it work. I
strongly believe that.”

Lang-Lessing said his philosophy is that the Symphony is owned by the
community as a whole, and that the responsibility to take ownership
belongs collectively to the business leaders, elected officials,
foundations, corporations, and individual citizens of San Antonio.

The conductor’s call to elected officials is in part being answered
by several, including Congressional, County and City officials,
including City Councilman John Courage (D9) and Mayor Ron Nirenberg,
who have scheduled meetings with union leaders, Sorgi said.

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