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CSO: Seen But Not Heard? 

You've seen the headlines and the news stories that began surfacing early last week. So you know that the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra musicians have declared a strike in a contract dispute, forcing cancellation of last week's season-opening concerts with flutist Sir James Galway.Well, I've read about CSO management calling in federal mediators to help reach a settlement. I've seen an item-by-item listing of increases in expenses, decreases in revenues and corporate donations, and the drop in funding from the Arts & Science Council, all adding up to a shower of red ink totaling $654,000. I've seen how they've frozen musicians' pay scale while trimming 7.5% off musician payroll expenditures by cutting the CSO season from 40 to 37 weeks. And I've read the litany of orchestras elsewhere who have either accepted pay cuts recently or perished.

What I haven't read, in any similar detail, is the musicians' side of the issue. Repeatedly, they call the 2002-03 numbers an aberration, but no point-by-point refutation has been published. In one report, I read that both sides cite other orchestras to substantiate their positions, but the musicians' examples have yet to be specified. Most importantly, there hasn't been a word -- or a number -- issued publicly that contains the musicians' counterproposal.

So I called the musicians' designated spokesman, principal trombonist John Bartlett, in an effort to explore the strikers' position and solution in depth. Twice.

There has been no response.

Perhaps the musicians believe they'll get their way -- whatever that may be -- by striking during contract negotiations, picketing with cute slogans outside the PAC, and giving free concerts at Queens University. From where I sit, the musicians need to consider more effective ways of communicating, beginning with a spokesperson who actually speaks. In the early sparring over their new contract, CSO musicians are playing it too close to the vest and too far from the brain.

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