Letter from ROPA President Carla Lehmeier-Tatum

November 4, 2008 at 11:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 30, 2008

Dear Mr. Gerhart,

I am writing on behalf of the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) to urge you to resolve the recent work stoppage of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) in a way that offers the WCO musicians the respect and working conditions they deserve. ROPA is a Players Conference of the American Federation of Musicians. It represents five thousand musicians in seventy-five American orchestras all across the country.

This summer I had the privilege of working with your musicians and attended one of the WCO Concerts on the Square. During my visit, I saw first-hand the quality of the ensemble, the commitment from the community, and the realization of the WCO Board’s vision of establishing one of the finest chamber orchestras in the country.

The WCO musicians share the vision of the WCO Board of Directors. They have done their part and worked with the Music Director to create an ensemble that meets the highest professional artistic level. They deserve to have working conditions that respect that achievement.

Many regional orchestra institutions across the country are unable to offer their musicians enough work to provide a living or compensation levels commensurate with their skills. Thus, the reality of regional musicians’ lives is that they must work for numerous organizations in order to build a full time performing career and earn a modest living. The WCO musicians need the flexibility to do this, too. They cannot earn a reasonable living working solely for the WCO. To survive economically, and to keep performing at the highest level of their art (which will benefit WCO as well), they must be able to accept teaching and other engagements. The current ninety percent attendance requirement simply does not meet the professional standards of the field.

The WCO musicians also need to address fairness at the work place by including just cause protections in their collective bargaining agreement. ROPA recognizes this industry standard as an imperative in a healthy work place as it provides important protections against arbitrary or unfair termination and other forms of inappropriate workplace discipline.

The WCO is a precious resource, and a critical component of the quality of life in Madison. It is imperative that we work together to find solutions that will return these musicians to the stage. We on the ROPA Board believe that it is time for the beautiful sounds of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra to fill the community’s newly restored historical theatre. We call on management to meet its musicians’ legitimate needs.

Sincerely,

Carla Lehmeier-Tatum
President, ROPA

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