The musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the ISO management have been meeting with a federal mediator this week.
According to press releases from both sides, the discussion is producing progress.
Nevertheless, the musicians are still locked out, and ISO management has now cancelled a third week of concerts.
The Collegian sat down with Karen Moratz, Butler adjunct professor and principal flutist of the ISO, to discuss her take on the events and the effects the long negotiations have had on her life and career.
What is your history with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra?
I won the audition for the principal flute chair in 1989, so I’ve been here close to 24 years. Indianapolis is the longest I’ve lived anywhere. I moved around a lot before that, just in my life. My parents did, so the longest I really lived anywhere was about four years or so. To have been living here for 24, I think it makes me a Hoosier.
How many contract renegotiations have happened since you’ve been here?
How are these negotiations different?
There’s always some tension associated with negotiating a new contract. There’s usually a feeling, or even a statement sometimes on the part of management, that financially, things aren’t going so well. And of course, it’s always difficult being in the arts. It’s never exactly easy.
One thing that was very, very different leading up to this was certainly the mass exodus of so many people in management: our CEO going, our director of marketing leaving, the director of development. What was also highly unusual was the postponement of our opening gala concert. That was a red flag, and we knew we would have a fight on our hands.
In management, leading up to these negotiations, things were happening in sort of a “knee-jerk” kind of way.
$100 million campaign. $20 million gift. Oh, wait, fire the campaign consultant. And, by the way, the development director is gone. Boom, boom, boom.
It left the musicians feeling a little bit like, “Who’s running the show? And what’s actually going on?”
Coming up to this, we knew we were negotiating without a permanent CEO in place, without a permanent development director.
Without a CEO, who is running the show?
We are directly negotiating with the interim CEO, Jackie Groth, who is the former CFO of the organization. Then there’s the vice president of the organization, Tom Ramsey. He is about to retire, so he is not exactly permanent at this point either.
The board is not actually at the table, but, of course, they’re influencing the negotiations. Then there’s the lawyer, also, for the symphony side.
The feeling is we’re negotiating with the interim management at this point, so it is all very strange. There can’t be a real plan for the organization in place, not a true one, if the leadership we have there is interim.
Essentially, without a permanent CEO in place and with all these holes in management, it’s almost as though we’re negotiating directly with the board.
What’s the general sentiment among the musicians right now?
Actually, we are trying to remain positive. At the same time, of course, we’re all very disappointed and very sad, and there’s some anger there. We feel like we have to address the job at hand, which is communicating with the public what our story is: that we want to save the ISO as we know it.
There’s some fear. I know some of us are looking for outside work even, things like temporary office work, because we don’t know how long the lockout is going to go on. Depending on how long this goes on, we just try to save our pennies and not burn through our savings so that we can hold out however long we need to.
Are there musicians looking to leave the orchestra entirely?
For my part, seeing the writing on the wall, I was looking around for different jobs. I’ve been looking through the university want ads for full-time positions across the country. There was an administrative job somewhere else that I applied for. The gears do turn in that direction when this kind of thing is happening.
Again, that’s what we’re talking about with the artistic integrity of the orchestra. If someone can make a good living at a job and they can be happy where they are, they’re going to be much less likely to want to go somewhere else. But now with their proposals, there would be other jobs around the country that would trump ours.
I’ve got to say, kind of a total aside, I am really grateful to have Butler, where I teach the flute students. Not only does it help to have the part-time income, but it also adds a sense of normalcy. All is not lost; I still have my students here. I feel very fulfilled when I’m teaching.
I actually signed up for yoga teacher training. That’s another thing that’s keeping me going. Something completely different, a complete other universe, and it also ties into my teaching, as far as body work and breathing.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about the situation?
I see performance majors here at Butler, or music education majors, and I think, “We have to make sure that there is a future in the arts, period.” And the orchestra is part of it.