Friday, October 8, 2010


I've been wanting to write about this subject for a couple of weeks now, but I wasn't sure if I had the right words. I'm still not sure, but I'm going to speak (write?) from the heart and hope it all comes out okay.

Little Girl Shaina, practicing her "clarinet"

I started playing violin at the age of 3 (and piano at the age of 4!). I begged my parents to let me start playing these instruments because I grew up surrounded by beautiful music. Why? Because I was an "orchestra brat." My dad plays clarinet in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and my mom is a piano teacher. Growing up, I thought that EVERYONE'S dad played an instrument! I was surprisingly old when I figured out that this just isn't the case. I realized, then, that my parents were special - they had this thing, this talent, this special gift that a lot of other people don't have. And I thought (and continue to think!) that was pretty darn cool.

My mom still recounts one of the first times she took me to a DSO concert - it was at Meadowbrook, a great outdoor pavilion, with lawn seats and ice cream and all sorts of fun things. I was maybe around two years old, and we had lawn seats. My mom brought coloring books to keep me occupied as the DSO played what I'm sure was a wonderful concert. Miraculously, I stayed quiet and occupied throughout, until I heard a familiar sound - my dad playing a solo. I stood up, pointed, and loudly proclaimed, "clawinet!" My mom was mortified, but she said that people around us were very impressed that I could identify the instrument. :)

A year or so later, I came home very frustrated from preschool one day because I had created a lovely drawing and my teacher couldn't decipher what it was. I apparently kept saying what she interpreted as "clean-up pail," so eventually the drawing was labelled as a "clean-up pail." At
home, my parents realized that I had drawn a "clarinet player" - definitely something new that my preschool teachers weren't used to hearing! I've been told I had some trouble saying the letter R at that age, which probably led to some of the confusion.

Daddy + Daughter practice time, 1984

Growing up as a DSO kid, I went to countless concerts, rehearsals, tours, and I even got to go up on the scaffolding when Detroit's Orchestra Hall was undergoing renovations back in 1988ish. And yes, I still remember my dad lifting me in the air so that I could touch the place where the giant chandelier would be wired to the ceiling. Some of my favorite summer memories involve spending weeks out in Vail during the summer music festival and hanging out with my friend Jillian, another "DSO kid." I remember tours to the Upper Peninsula and concerts at Interlochen.

My childhood revolved around music and concerts, and as I grew older and became a more competitive violinist, my life started to revolve around MY concerts, performances, lessons, rehearsals, etc. Playing violin was a huge part of my life growing up - and it always will be. While my competitive playing tapered off around college, I still love to play (and just recently joined the Bloomington Symphony!). Being so involved with music has done nothing but influence my life in a positive way. I have made amazing friends, learned from amazing teachers, and visited amazing places.

To be honest, I could go on for days sharing all the ways music has influenced my life ... but instead I'll turn to the subject at hand. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is in serious trouble. Despite being consistently ranked as one of the top ten symphony orchestras in the United States, money is tight. Contract negotiations went nowhere, with management asking for a 28% salary cut, drastic cuts in health insurance, elimination of contributions to the musicians' retirement accounts, and a reduction in the number of musicians. The musicians agreed to a 22% salary cut - but that wasn't enough. Finally, at a negotiation standstill with an expired contract, the musicians made the painful decision to strike.

At this point, the future of the DSO is in jeopardy. The thought of the DSO not being around - and my dad being out of the job he loves so much - is more than heartbreaking. There has been a ton of press around Detroit - and the country - about the DSO strike, and I saw a great quote in a Letter to the Editor of the Detroit News, written by Bruce Ridge (Chariman, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians):

Of all the great artistic institutions in Detroit, none are more visible internationally than the Detroit Symphony. There can be no doubt that if the management is allowed to implement their proposals, the reputation of the organization will be irreparably damaged. With the arts meaning so much to Detroit's economy, the question cannot be "can Detroit continue to support its world class symphony?" but rather "how can Detroit afford not to?"

I realize that several of you might not care that much about classical music and the arts - but I know that many of you probably played instruments in elementary school, junior high or high school. Perhaps some of you participate in your community orchestra, teach music lessons on the side, or participate in a musical group at church/temple/whatever. Perhaps some of you are part of a union - maybe you are a teacher, maybe you or someone you know works for GM, maybe you know what it's like to be in this position. I am asking you now to reach out and help support the Detroit Symphony. It doesn't have to be monetary - just take a moment to click "Like" on the DSO Musicians' facebook page. You can access it here. That's all it takes. Let the DSO musicians - and management - see that their support is growing daily.

If you are interested in learning more about the situation, please visit the Detroit Symphony Musicians' website. You can also follow the musicians on Twitter @dsomusicians.

If you live in the Detroit area, please consider supporting the DSO musicians by attending their October concert series! You can learn more about that by clicking right here.



Jen @ Canadian Rhapsody said...

I play the violin too!
I didn't know the orchestras in some cities pay their musicians. I guess the ones around here don't have the population base to sustain it.

Jenny @ Practically Perfect... said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the strike - that's awful. The last thing that Detroit needs is to remove an attraction from their area, and if they cut salaries and benefits like that, then they're harming local economy. People love knowing that there are things like the symphony and the theater in a city, and it can be part of the appeal in terms of choosing one city over another (in my opinion, at least). I started playing the piano when I was 4 years old, too, and took lessons for 13 years before graduating. I played clarinet in middle school, too, and my family is very musical - all of us have taken piano lessons, played in band, and my sister was in marching band at Purdue. People underestimate how important music is!

Jackie said...

that second picture is priceless!! so sweet :)

Lisa said...

I think you forgot the #1 thing music brought to your life. Me.