Thoughts on the ISO Lockout

There is much good press being spread throughout the Indianapolis media. Both sides have set their ideas and claims adrift. To my surprise and to my pleasure I have found much interest in the proceedings and much sadness in the stalemate that appears to being setting in. I also find that the public opinion I have seen reflects strong siding with the ISO musicians. Today, conducting business in my local bank, I was inundated with questions about the lockout from bank officials who were concerned about their city and its cultural outlook.  One person had recently moved to Indy from NYC and had tickets for the first two concerts and another was a regular patron. Another recent conversation was with a high-ranking official in Lilly who had also recently moved and now called Indianapolis home. I have received calls from friends and relatives from other cities wondering how the orchestra could find itself in such a direful position in such a short time. This is still a big part of the puzzle to me. At this point I am not looking for a nemesis of sorts but some rational accountability that can help right a worthy ship.

A truth is that there are orchestras that are succeeding and some that are thriving. Why can’t the board swallow some pride and thoroughly investigate what makes other cities and their symphonies work. Rarely do symphonies compete with each other. Knowledge can be shared. The brotherhood of classical musicians is a deep one and rarely have I met someone who wanted ire or destruction. We all have much to gain and also to loose. To remain ignorant in such matters is no virtue.

Part of why we do what we do is the thought that classical music enhances ones existence. Not in a narrow elitist way which is the easy criticism but in a way that for many persons, transcends the notes and takes a listener and performer alike to a different place, a place worthy of travel. This experience is really unlike any other, if it were not so, the music of the last 400 years would have been lost like most of popular music that has a short life. (and fyi I do like pop, also).

As we age we all seem to get concerned about the “next” generation and what the current generation is willing to hand to the next. My wife and I have been fortunate to have interesting lives in that we teach at a wonderful university,  (Butler University) and have had successful performing lives in Indy, Philadelphia and NYC.  I mention this not to draw attention to us but to give ourselves a tad of “street cred” to the reader. For many of us this is a cultural issue as well as a survival issue.  When I see the thousands of young kids who come to the Symphony’s Discovery Concerts I am hopeful that a young persons life might be transformed in some way. The looks of wonder and amazement that go back to the performers are moving and at least are a part of an education that is worthwhile. What we hand to our children is our legacy. As a parent, teacher and performer I have seen what the art of music can do for people. I see it almost every day I am at Butler and I see it when I perform and when I attend concerts.

I feel I could go on for quite awhile giving my reasons why I believe the Indianapolis community and the ISO board of directors should financially support our orchestra and reach an honorable settlement with these musicians, respectively. But I want to end more on a personal note. Lisa and I know almost every one in the symphony. These are very hard working, dedicated professionals who have earned their positions in national auditions. It is damn hard work, grueling and at times injury –prone. Equipment is not of the Nike running shoe variety, but costs rather in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars category just to be competitive for audition.  Most of the players started their training between 5 and 10 years old and spent their lives pursuing art and the hope of a respectable wage. At times it seems more likely that someone could become a professional athlete than win an audition for the ISO. For these reasons alone the board should find ways to reward the musicians for their dedication to art rather than the cuts which are severe by anyone’s standards.

One more thing…. The tactic of cutting off health benefits is a low blow and it shows no honor. Is it necessary to bring the spouses and children of the musicians to their knees just to show your position is serious? This type of tactic is not easily forgotten and puts a bad taste in the public’s eye. Certainly not even a marketing firm can spin that.


About davisbrooksviolin

My name is Davis Brooks and I am a violinist living in Indianapolis IN. I am Prof. of Violin Emeritus at Butler University, associate concertmaster of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, a freelancer and record in the regional commercial studios. I have a particular interest in new music and this semester I am happily working with composition students at the University of Alabama. Roll Tide.
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