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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000024.txt from 2002/06

From: "Forest E. Aten Jr." <forestaten@-----.com>
Subj: [kl] Just for fun....value of what we do.
Date: Sat, 1 Jun 2002 15:12:54 -0400

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting Mark Charette on his way
home, moving truck and all. (I'm not sure my neighbors mailbox will ever be
the same :-)) After a pleasant dinner, Mark and I heard a cascade of water
coming from a downstairs bathroom. Soon the worst was realized, the upstairs
(40 gal) water heater had catastrophically failed. The events that followed
were pretty standard fair. Cleaning up the mess, calling the insurance
company and of course contacting a plumber. The plumber arrived bright and
early the next morning (very nice shinny new truck) and reviewed the
situation. A bid came shortly after and I was a bit stunned. After reviewing
the bid, I argued almost every line. It was (in my opinion) abusive in every
way. The plumber listened quietly and after my review of his bid was
complete he simply said, "you've got to love us, don't you", to which I
said, "NO".
This plumber then proceeded to give me a history lesson. He pointed out that
the entire Roman empire failed because the society didn't have good plumbing
nor good plumbers. :-) The people of Rome had to live in their own sewage
and so as a result they and their culture died out. :-) This expert
historian plumber then pointed out that if every client complained and
refused to pay what plumbers were "really worth" to society....so would go
our current culture. Failure. (I was having a very difficult time keeping it
together.....:-) I am sorry that Mark had to leave early that morning. I
know he would have enjoyed the lecture.)
I informed the plumber that people have more choices than he thought
existed. I listed a few below and I'm sure many more exist.

1 another plumbing company
2 I could shower in cold water (not really)
3 I could do the job myself...it's not rocket science

I then sent him out the door telling him I would not contribute to the
purchase of his next car or big screen TV.....and did the work myself. I got
a $500 pay check as a plumber on Monday. Employer: ME.

So where am I going with all of this?

To the books by Norman Lebrecht, "Where has all the music gone" or "The End
of Classical Music". This topic hits close to home. The Dallas Opera
orchestra went through a bitter contract negotiation this past year. I am
embarrassed to say that the musicians in this very fine orchestra suffer
some of the poorest compensation offered by a major musical arts
organization in the world. The orchestra made some but not a lot of
progress. (It's a long story) The musicians in the Dallas Opera suddenly had
to become businessmen....as well as do their job as artists. We were will
prepared and fought a good fight but had to identify and manage risks in the
end. It is important to realize that the businessmen working for the Dallas
Opera (board and management) have choices just as I did with my plumber.
Musicians have one advantage....the business men involved can't do our job
as I did the plumbers. We do have a serious disadvantage....they may not
need us as much as they need that plumber. Remember Rome....:-) God, I had
to laugh out loud when that plumber passed the door.

What are your thoughts...what is having a top professional arts group in
your community worth? Is it worth a fight? Paying more for tickets? Paying
more in taxes? Donating money? Helping to raise money?
I and other professional musicians do not want to be in the shoes of the (my
ex) plumber, with the board and management of the Dallas Opera laughing out
loud as I walk through the doors of the hall for the last time. Yet I and
other professional musicians need to make enough money to justify continuing
on. The musicians of the Dallas Opera are not the only musicians in this
spot. More than a few very fine professional musicians have had to change
careers as the job market shrinks....Symphonies, opera companies and ballet
companies failing all about the U.S.

The value of what we do.......any thoughts are welcome.
I'm in it for the fight.....I love what I do.

Forest Aten
Clarinet/bass clarinet
Dallas Opera
www.dallasopera.org

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