Letter from Beverly Williams


15 January 2011

Dear DSO Board & Ms. Parsons:

This is the letter I sent via e-mail to Ms. Parsons prior to the 9 December 2010 meeting:

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Dear Ms. Parsons:

You may recognize me as your “volunteer” usher, Usher Supervisor & part time Front of House Manager over the last 15 years.

As a long time “minor donor” & new subscriber, I have concerns regarding the status of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra & its financial management.

My concerns are:

1.  The DSO is a world class orchestra:

Maintaining that orchestra is DSO management’s main business

The DSO is not a training ground for young orchestra members but a destination for professionals

The Civic Ensembles, Interlochen & small-city orchestras are where young musicians hone their technical skills as well as their ensemble presence

I would love to see the musicians of the Civic Ensembles (and my great-nephew from New York State) here at Orchestra Hall as DSO members in 10 + years

2.  Proper financial management:

Improper financial decisions were made in the past including not understanding the impending economic down turn (especially in real estate) of which my personal financial manager warned me several years ago

Board members are business professionals…they did not see this economic turn down?

At several employee meetings in the spring of 2009 (when I was working as part-time Front of House Manager), you indicated a CFO would be added…what happened to that position?

3.  Working with Minor Donors:

Use the WRCJ model: many donors, small contributions, greater community buy-in equals more money

Development does not “court” minor donors (i.e. calling them every 6 months to discuss donations)

4.  Stop waste:

Use of paid telemarketers to inform subscribers their concert is cancelled (& not contacting “minor donors” regularly)

Take advantage of your volunteer base (other non-profits in the music business do!):  Use Volunteer Council & Volunteer Ushers (most of whom have professional backgrounds & WANT to volunteer) to replace paid telemarketers

5.  Referencing #1: Maintaining the orchestra is DSO management’s main business: not renting to hip-hop parties, weddings, etc.

6.   Ms. Parsons; LEAD!  If you want musicians to take a 31% cut in pay (since there is already a free housing endowment), do so yourself; or, do as Lee Iacocca did for Chrysler: take $1 pay for one year then request concessions from all your employees

Lastly, I wish total refund of my subscription costs.  If you restore the DSO to its former status & resume concerts at beautiful Orchestra Hall, I will gladly re-subscribe.

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Since that meeting, in which Bruce Coppock (paid DSO consultant) presented his socialist view of the DSO in 2019 with the MAX being used for political events, the Pincus Education Center the site of the community music school (with branches state-wide), the DSO performing at all political & sporting events and the musicians with increased job duties, I am more frightened with what you are trying to do to the Orchestra.

Part of those extra duties for the musicians is teaching, playing in chamber groups, presenting new music & doing community out reach.  What do you think the musicians are doing now?  It’s just not under the thumb of the DSO.  Do you envision the musicians as indentured servants to the DSO, doing what they do now with the DSO label on them?

And the fact that you tried to stop anyone from presenting any opposition to your railroading of the agenda at the December 9th was disgusting. Thank goodness Cecelia Benner spoke up & voiced what a number of us feel.

My original concerns (outlined in the above letter) remain.  Regarding proper financial management, I reiterate: maintaining the world class orchestra is DSO management’s main business.  The musicians (not ”players”) & you are all professionals. YOU ARE NOT A FAMILY…you are running a business; start acting like you are.  The mismanagement of the finances in the past calls into question your ability to continue to be responsible for the future of the orchestra.

I hope you will resolve the issues at hand by not further denigrating the musicians & the proud history of the DSO.

Beverly J. Williams

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Comments: 6

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  • Suzanne Sutherla..

    As a member of pharmaceutical industry, I am very aware of the danger in subscribing to recommendations from consultants who neither understand nor care about the business they try to change. All input from consultants must be carefully weighed and should be outright rejected if the plan is inconsistent with the mission. In this case, the input should be rejected. It will be practically impossible to restore a lesser organization to the great orchestra that Detroit has been, once it has been decimated by instituting such harmful changes as are currently being discussed.
    Detroit has few gems, but the DSO has been one of them. Please don’t turn out the brightest light in the city!

     
     
     
  • Steven Henrikson

    Ultimately the Board of Directors of the Detroit Symphony is in charge of all matters concerning the Detroit Symphony. Ms. Parsons and her ilk are only employees. Surely Ms. Parson’s job description/contract includes phrases like: “ensure the ongoing making of music in the community by the Symphony,” and “foster good relationships with symphony players and the community” and more like this to be sure. Ms. Parson’s record of poisoning relations at the New York City Ballet and causing a prolonged strike is well-documented. It is clear to see where the real problem exists as she repeats history in Detroit. If management is not doing its job and the Board is siding with them by not releasing them from contract, is it not time to begin resolution by litigation against and replacement of individual Board members?

     
     
     
  • Gilbert Rose

    Many years ago I managed a smallish community orchestra in Western New England. When I came on board we were carrying a fairly large deficit which meant that we owed everyone in town.

    Within three years we erased the deficit, but did not do so on the backs of the musicians of the orchestra. We did it by careful management.

    The most important thing I learned during that three year period: One either likes and respects the musicians who make up an orchestra and seriously addresses their concerns, both individually and collectively, or one has no business managing that orchestra or being its president or chief executive officer.

     
     
     
  • Laurie Goldman

    Amen to your point about not courting “minor donors.” Most of the time, there is no way to tell which minor donor can/will become a major one. There are countless people who live frugally (dress modestly, drive old cars, etc.) but have lots of money in the bank. Being kind and solicitous to “minor donors” is the way to make major ones.

     
     
     
  • Michael Comins

    After failing to force a two-tiered system on the New York City Ballet Orchestra and causing a strike/lockout during the winter Nutcracker performances in 1999-2000 when she was president there, Parsons has brought these same anti-musician policies to the DSO. Also included in her NYCBO demands were tighter controls over the musicians’ workload.

    Perhaps she should find a line of work that she is actually suited for.

     
     
     
  • Beatrice Moss

    Ms. parsons,
    Detroit does not have many jewels but the DSO is recognizeably one of them. You must not give this gem away! Be more respectful, please.

    Beatrice Moss
    Your behavior is not winning friends!

     
     
     
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