Response to column from Carolyn Goldstein

The following comment was in response to a discussion on a about the postings and content on
The honesty of the content and tone of the posts is criticized. The following is a defense of the Musicians’ website:

Dear Kevin, Drew, and Bruce,

I have seen many of these exceptional people, who are not only some of the finest Musicians in the United States, but human beings, experience this nightmare from before they were forced to strike
The betrayal, the cruelty, the surprise tactics foisted on these fine individuals, whose professionalism and dedication are more rare by the day, has been breathtaking and heartbreaking. I have known and written about this orchestra and individual musicians over the course of forty years. I have promoted it, formally and informally, broadcast this orchestra for the first time, raised money for it, and saved the Children’s concert series in the past, among other close associations with the DSO and the Musicians. I grew up hearing this exceptional orchestra since I was little more than a toddler. I have seen them go through one struggle after another, and I know they have handled themselves with great discipline and dignity, always remembering to maintain deference for the organization to the best of their abilities.

Please, do not forget, the public wants the truth and only in the Musicians site are they able to obtain it. Lack of transparency has caused many, many people to get the wrong ideas, or forced them to arrive at inaccurate conclusions. One of the most frequently stated being the DSO is supported by taxpayers at the State and Federal levels. That, of course, is not true, and is one of the areas that separates the Musicians from auto workers (GM rescue) and teachers. The pensions are totally different in structure and the Musicians’ union and Music Business is so complex on so many levels there is little comparison to any other union. I really believe the Management and Board do not understand the implications of their demand, now dropped, of disassociating the Musicians from the Union and the Pension. (It’s almost laughable, frankly, to anyone who knows about it.)
Another is the accusation that the Musicians, not the Board, or Management, consider themselves ‘divas.’ How many know that the Motown sound was recorded and contributed to by the Musicians of the DSO on countless hits and non-hits, night in and night out, after performances to make ends meet, prior to musicians earning a living wage? They continue to do so to this day.

From the beginning, the strategies and tactics employed by the Management and the Board’s leaders have been designed to position the Musicians in such a light as to make them seem unreasonable and greedy. Such representations are completely off base by anyone’s measure if they know the business at all. The Board and Management, cynically, played off of the public’s ignorance and abused their position.

The management’s and Board’s mindsets are such they were bound to slip up, and they did, such as the disinformation they fed for an editorial stating the banks had called in the loans. In a radio interview shortly, after that editorial appeared, Ann Parsons was caught in having to admit it wasn’t true. She and the Management consistently feed misinformation about what is transpiring. The unsigned email distributed to subscribers and donors, etc. was written with the inability to contain a baseline hostility that shocked everyone. Yet that tone did not even match the degree of animus spewed onto the Musicians, time and again.

Another denigrated the spontaneous and newly formed advocacy group, Save Our Symphony, claiming it was a few years old, and the names and numbers denoted this and that, which were unadulterated lies written to sound trustworthy and authoritative. They never could have seen the list of members, in the first place.

We, the public, learned earlier, in a piece by Larry Johnson, that when these plans that included degrading the quality and caliber of the Musicians and, thus, the DSO, were revealed to the Board, one of the members asked, what about the audience? Another member quickly answered, they won’t know the difference. At that point, a reader could not but conclude the disrespect for the audiences.

Soon after this all ensued, patrons began to realize the monies they had donated and expended for tickets to sustain, improve, and attend the DSO was going to destroy it. They were given the option of a full refund. Many recounted on line the trouble they had doing so, advising others how they finally retrieved their money. Several withdrew their generous donations as well.

The toxins were entered into the public waters. The environment poisoned by Management and the Board. The Musicians had nothing to do with this.

Consequently, what Drew wrote about damage control became unattainable, since it can only be acquired, or work, if the speaker, has credibility. The Management and its Board and its CEO’s destroyed their own trust and credibility. Donors in all various ranks are going to be hard put to trust these people with any sums, now, especially, with the exposure of the mishandled contributions for capital improvements and the endowment. This, they did to themselves. Again, the Musicians have not done this.

Emily Dickinson said, ” Truth is such a rare thing – it is a delight to tell it ”

From the beginning, the miscalculations of the Strategy and tactics placed the Musicians at the frontline of a battle that is defending the quality and finest performances and the standards for all of the symphony orchestras in the United States. The DSO Musicians cannot settle for an inferior contract jeopardizing its top ten status. They cannot permit inferior precedents on any level to be established. The Musicians in this country have fought for more than 80 years for work conditions and a proper and appropriate salary.

However, this is not only about the money. The DSO Musicians had worked on a Strategy Plan with Management, including Ms. Parsons and an outside firm for over two and a half years, which both sides, originally accepted. It was written with recognition and accommodation of fiscal realities and provided a plan that included a vision for ten years with which to go forward. All the while, Ms. Parsons was secretly contriving a plan which was sprung on the musicians, while tossing the one they had worked on and were under the impression was acceptable to all.

What is happening is really not about the money. It is about maintaining the highest standards for Classical Music presentations for the Audiences, and much more.

The DSO Musicians have accomplished many feats these last few months, because they care and are honestly passionate about the Music and the Audiences with whom they have a covenant. They know the Music is the first priority. They know the importance and the role of the audiences.They know, the audiences want the greatest Music ever conceived recreated by the finest musicians – solo, or in ensemble form- as often as possible with the highest standards and quality of performance. That is what they have continuously maintained for the public.

They know they are part of the Community and continue to participate in various services for the community as they have for many years: They gave a benefit concert at a homeless shelter, they held a press conference alerting the public of the consequences to the small businesses dependent on the DSO performances in Mid-town Detroit and promoting their establishments they presented Christmas programs for their audiences, so those patrons whose holiday always includes the DSO concerts would not be disappointed, they worked with a high school concert orchestra for ten weeks, and for the concert featured a young girl as the violin soloist.

To date, the Musicians have presented no less than 15 concerts in various venues around the Greater Metropolitan Detroit Area for filled and overflowing audiences, despite terrible winter weather, all the while adapting as an ensemble to less than ideal acoustic conditions. At each venue, they recognize individuals at the venues, who have made special efforts and contributions to the concert and to the venue, such as the organ they made sure to include in Saint-Saens Symphony, no.3. Thus, they enabled the donor to realize his dream.

All soloists and conductors are donating their services along with the DSO Musicians for nothing. Often, they are playing with heart and passion through tears and pain they saw mirrored in the faces of the audience members.

I am not exaggerating when I say people are angry, beside themselves, crying, disappointed, feel betrayed and want the story of what in the is happening to their beloved orchestra.

No one seems to want to listen, or understand, that for many of us, this is personal for various reasons. It is our Heritage, passed down from our Parents and Grandparents. Its traditions are deep and glorious, and for the City, it is a cultural treasure of which we can be proud. Like the Detroit Institute of Arts, it is world renowned, but when it performs it is a living organism, alive with the energies of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Verdi, Mahler, and all who realized their human potential in creating their compositions, giving us hope.

Truth, it is said, is the first casualty of war, and in this battle for standards and quality of the finest masterpieces ever composed, it becomes more precious to find and tell in today’s world on a daily basis.

The musicians are to be commended for keeping “their heads about them “to present the Truth. After all, it is in the Music where the truth can be found, logically, intelligently, and creatively, bringing sense and order out of the chaos.

Carolyn Goldstein


Comments: 8

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  • eileen Aboulafia

    you expressed the feelings of all of us so well thank you.

  • eileen Aboulafia

    this should be published in the newspapers and the JN.You have expressed the anguish of all of us so well.
    To think that our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will not enjoy the beauty of our outstanding orchestra is sad indeed. I hope your letter makes a difference

  • S. Novacek

    Good thought, Peggy – is it time/appropriate for another ad? I would be willing to donate for it.

  • Odin Rathnam

    Thankyou for this well conceived and written response to the emotionally driven acrimony created by the DSO management and Board, who ought to be ASHAMED of themselves. A decade ago, we watched several corporations implode because of book cooking and outright theft. When poor ethics and worse yet, deception enters the policy of charitable organizations management and board policy, it represents an even higher betrayal of the public trust. Kudos for spelling out the truth here………………..

    Odin Rathnam, Concertmaster of the Harrisburg Symphony and Artistic Director of West Branch International Music Festival and Academy

  • Carolyn Goldstein

    Thank you, Peggy, Lee and Oliver, and Brenda, for taking the time to respond so kindly. In truth, I missed a few edits, but …
    There is one more very important aspect to this entire situation regarding the audiences, children, and education. The Board’s and Management’s continual emphasis on education is really brought into question, either because they do not know, or are ignoring this consequence of degrading this orchestra, and/or, destroying it.
    When considering a young person’s education,the fact that a child, or young person, especially , a student of Music, can have continuous access to experience live performances, for which these Classical composers wrote, recreating these Masterpieces at the highest level, week in and week out, enables them to learn, incorporate,and understand the standards and quality necessary to develop their ear. It is an irreplaceable, total Human experience . It is in this way, they are able to develop a little taught critical sense, in which they will know in their being what quality is, what that means, and how it is produced, among other lessons learned. This is essential for an education in Music – in learning what great Classical Music is.
    Without it, the children and students, particularly, those with talent, will be deprived due to geography. Why don’t the CEO’s, Board members and Management want to present the finest Classical Music performances at the highest level for the present and future generations? Why do they insist on depriving the children and talented young musicians? Who is to mentor and teach the children of the Greater Metropolitan Detroit Area and State of Michigan, including the Civic Youth Orchestras? For all of their insistence on education,
    without insuring and supporting this access on a regular basis , their stance rings hollow.

  • Brenda Freedland..

    Carolyn, this should be sent to all subscribers and donors. The issue in doing that is that it would be “preaching to the choir”. This is sad, too sad.

  • Lee & Oliver..

    Thank you for a truly insightful look at all the problems surrounding OUR wonderful orchestra.
    I could not come close to describing it so well.
    The fact that the whole percussion has left our orchestra should be a wakeup call that none can overlook.

  • Peggy Tundo

    So well said, Carolyn. This should be a full page ad in the Sunday paper. I can hardly read it through my tears!

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