So, my ATL Symphony Musician colleagues had a little concert last Monday night. Not a lavish affair, nobody wore tuxes, there was no valet to park the cars. In fact, it was crowded (standing room only), loud (it was in a rock music venue, after all), drinks were spilled, voices were raised. Not your typical classical music concert – more of a party, really.
A party with some of the most glorious and heartbreaking and joyful music we’ve ever played.
What was the occasion? Why such revelry? Didn’t this concert take place mere hours after ASO and Woodruff Arts Center management announced the cancellation of all services through November 8th? Why weren’t the musicians desperately racing to management, hats in hands, begging them to take us back under their sheltering wings? Surely, the daunting prospect of being without a paycheck or benefits for months on end should have made us cower in fear for our very survival!
Instead, we made music, we laughed, we cheered, we made new friends, we gathered around that which we hold most dear: music.
Our management has very thoughtfully made available to the public a chart titled “What’s On The Table.” Nevermind that it’s extremely biased; nevermind that it’s misleading. What strikes me most about it is what it doesn’t say: it neglects to mention the one thing that the musicians bring to the table, the thing about which management has demonstrated stunning ignorance, the very reason for the symphony’s existence: music.
Great music, in fact. The best music ever created, heard, or imagined. And we can provide it. That’s what we bring to the table. We play great music, and we play it really well. We bat 1.000, we knock it out of the park. WAC/ASO leadership, what do you do well? Lead your organization to greater heights? Win Grammy awards? Fundraise? Dissemble? Shift funds? Order your underlings to delete Facebook posts? Spend bonuses? Work on your tan?
We had a concert last Monday night because we recognize the need in our community for great music. Judging by public interest in the concerts we’re organizing, we’re not the only ones who sense that need.
We’re going to keep presenting concerts, serving our audience, our community, sharing with them our love for great music. We are the new stewards of art in Atlanta, and Atlanta will show you that they do value world-class symphonic music.
So go ahead, “leaders,” try and implement your “contemporary model” of running an orchestra. Try and tell our audience that they’re not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between excellence and whatever it is you’d settle for. Try and sell Atlanta a slick, shallow package of adequate. I, for one, have more faith in my community, and I know you won’t succeed. I know that the Atlanta arts community won’t let you succeed. And after you’re gone, the need for great music will survive, and we’ll be here to provide it.
And years from now, we’ll sit around post-concert, and, feeling nostalgic, sip our Lockout Cocktails, trying to remember the names of the people who tried to grind us to destruction, those that failed. We’ll toast the new era of visionary leadership that this despicable lockout inspired to action, we’ll toast our artistic success, our 40th Grammy, our new concert hall. We’ll toast the music we make together, for our city.