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:
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.
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