Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
In a move that surprised only half of the symphony world, Stanley Romanstein resigned from the Atlanta Symphony this week. Read the article here. It’s true that he didn’t originally hail from the symphony world; his last organization in St. Paul was considerably smaller and had not been innately music-related. But at one time, this was thought to be a strength by the Atlanta Symphony and it’s musicians. He was to bring new, fresh perspective on a business model that had become stagnant and relationships that were quickly approaching a stalemate.
But when those relationship did reach a stalemate, he was barely ably to bring the organization up for air before it went under again. By this I mean, of course, that the organization locked out its musicians in 2012 after the inability to finalize negotiations, and had to do it again just four short weeks ago.
My best “arts manager” speculation, aspiring to the symphony world myself and trying to think of this from both sides, wonders how much pressure was applied to him from a board level to resign because of the immense publicity of the matter and his lack of success resolving the issues to date. Perhaps part of it was personal, and he felt that he couldn’t successfully resolve the relationships. But I urge you to remember that when dealing with negotiations, while it can be easy to embody “organization” and “players committee” into massive ideas with figureheads, these entities are still just people. They’re run by people, people’s emotions interfere, and it’s all run through and around relationships. Union rules and entitlements stand too easily on the top and in the way, but underneath you find people. I wonder the degree to which many negotiations have failed simply because the organization and musicians fail to see what is best for the “people” of the institution, or what is best for the institution itself, when in a poorly navigated business model, these two things may not be the same.