Another week, another string of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management fails.
As some of you undoubtedly already know, the Atlanta Symphony management has a whole slick webpage devoted to presenting its point of view at http://www.atlantasymphony.org/en/2014musiciantalks.aspx. It was the website they directed their Facebook users to, until the moderator on their Facebook page had a public meltdown and shut down all interaction with and between patrons. And that unusual tactic…………worked, if by “worked” you mean “made September 2014 this blog’s biggest month ever, surpassing the busiest months of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout.”
In any case, on said slick webpage, management prominently advertises this email address: ASOQuestions@woodruffcenter.org. Implication: if you have ASO Questions…you should write this address.
And as you can imagine, I have Questions!
So on September 8, I sent off an email to ASOQuestions@woodruffcenter.org to ask if a more recent 990 form was available, and if not, when it would be released…
Hi ASO Questions:As a lover of orchestral music who survived the hell that was the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, I have an acute interest when I see work stoppages at American orchestras. I would like to know when the next Woodruff Arts Center 990 will be coming out, and where I can get copies. I was extremely discouraged to see Dr. Romanstein’s bonus and incentive compensation in past 990s, and I would like to know what kinds of bonuses and incentive compensation Romanstein has received since the first lockout.A friendly word of warning to whoever is manning this address: 2014 is not 2012.With best wishes for the long-term artistic and financial health of your organization,Emily E Hogstad
As you can imagine, the ASO immediately sent a long email openly and warmly addressing all of my concerns, and we all lived happily ever after.
Haha, just kidding. Actually, they never replied, as evidenced by this screenshot.
So, having run up against that brick wall, I encouraged some friends to write, too. They sent very innocent, mildly phrased questions about ticket policy in case of concert cancellation, giving no indication they were connected with me. And surprise surprise, none of them ever heard back, either. If you’ve been lucky enough to get a reply from the ASO Questions address, please do say something in the comments. But in the absence of additional evidence, I’m guessing that emails sent here are not being answered – or, at the very least, that a large percentage are not being answered. Which begs the question why the address is there in the first place. ASOQuestions@woodruffcenter.org appears to be the nonprofit equivalent of a false storefront.
It actually took an Atlanta Symphony chorus member friend posting on Facebook to clue me in that the document I was looking for – the 990 for the fiscal year spanning June 2012 to May 2013 – has just been posted on guidestar.org. Yep, that’s right: I found the information I was seeking about the Woodruff Arts Center through musician supporters, not the Woodruff Arts Center. I think that might say something.
There’s probably a lot of fun stuff in there; you can check it out for yourself. But I immediately scrolled down to page 34, because after writing an earlier popular entry on ASO administrative bonuses, I was curious to see if the Atlanta Symphony CEO had taken a bonus during the actual fiscal year of the 2012 lockout. (Remember, the previous incentive pay / bonuses that I wrote about were awarded during the run-up to the lockout.)
Lo and behold…
Stanley Romanstein, base compensation of $317,347, other compensation of $1945, deferred compensation of $13,358, nontaxable benefits of $16,704, and…
Bonus / incentive pay of $45,000.
And remember, this bonus was awarded in the same fiscal year that the ASO locked its players out.
I’m gonna be a broken record here, but: bonus or incentive pay for what? Is the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, in conjunction with the Woodruff Arts Center, incentivizing lockouts, incentivizing failure? One’s inner conspiracy theorist has to wonder, is failure the ultimate goal here? Tear down the existing structure, then build a new one, suited to one’s own peculiar ideological purposes, or to cover up past broader failures, or both…the desires of other stakeholders and the broader community be damned?
In Dr. Stanley Romanstein PhD’s case, perhaps this means creating something akin to the Atlanta Chamber Music Players, since he is cheerfully advertising the fact that he wants to have sole control over whether or not departing or retiring players should be replaced. I am not joking. In case you fear I’m a hysterical armchair analyst, here’s an excerpt from an article that appeared on accessatlanta.org called “Orchestra’s size resonates as big issue in Atlanta Symphony dispute“:
At issue is a management proposal in which ASO president and CEO Stanley Romanstein would negotiate with music director Robert Spano and Players Association representatives on whether and how positions would be filled as they come open. In cases where a consensus could not be reached, Romanstein would have the final say.
And the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is advertising this article on its aforementioned slick website! So it’s not like they’re ashamed of their plans or anything.
If this kind of crazy raises your hackles, you’re not alone. Save Our Symphony Minnesota [edit: and Save Our Symphony Detroit; a pretty major oversight on my part for not acknowledging them in the original post!! forgive me! – E] have recently welcomed an unofficial sister organization into the world: Save Our Symphony Atlanta. Like them on Facebook here to keep track of their rabble-rousing and explosive growth. In less than a week, they’ve garnered
nearly over 7000 supporters on Facebook alone.
If it wasn’t obvious before now, it’s now clear: the Atlanta Symphony and the Woodruff Arts Center are now fighting a two-front war: one on their musicians, and another on their patrons.
In logical times, you wouldn’t attack your own patrons. But these are not logical times.