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April 16, 2019

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PaulB

it's all well and good that Prof. Rice has enjoyed the CSO for so many years and admires the virtuosity of its musicians. The sticking point in the negotiations, though, is a $35 million deficit in the pension fund that the board wishes to deal with in part by putting future orchestra members on a defined contribution plan in which CSO will make an 8% contribution to their accounts each year.

I appreciate that for you Illinois residents, this sounds like petty change compared to the city, school board, county and state pension holes. However, the CSO like all orchestras and similar cultural institutions must rely upon charitable donations for the bulk of their revenues. Trying to pay the bills with nothing more than "I really enjoy their performances" doesn't cut it.

Finally, his comparison to big law firms competing for talent is wrong. A vacant spot at one of the top orchestras will get dozens of highly qualified applicants who want to audition for that spot. Every other top orchestra is in the same boat as Chicago so it's not like the CSO musicians will all be heading off to New York or Cleveland en masse with this change.

Jeff

The supply and demand problem is an interesting one which implicitly informs much of the problem,. Do you believe the musicians, en masse, are easily replaced. My answer is a resounding no. There are many excellent musicians underemployed to be sure. And it is true that when a CSO musician retires here are many applicants who may well be qualified. Why then do some positions remain unfilled for a year or more despite tryouts. Specifically I can mention the principal horn which has been open since the retirement of Dale Clevenger in 2013. I cannot give you a specific reason but it may be because no one was either good enough or able to blend their sound with the brass section of the CSO. You are right, every orchestra is competing for the same talent and why would one move from one top five, say Boston, to another, say Chicago. If the working conditions aren't as good or worse they will not move. I would assume there are many more excellent lawyers than excellent hornists but to join a fancy blue chip firm you have to be at the top of the heap and fit in. My point was that such a firm could not fire 1000 lawyers in one day and expect to keep its position in the hierarchy of firms (maybe my numbers are off but my point is not).

That the CSO owes money for its "upgrade" the musicians should not bear the brunt of that boondoggle. For the past couple of years the budget was close to being balanced which today, in the absence of public funding, is impressive.

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