Why conductors should STFU
Because otherwise they’re going to say things as dumb as what Leonard Slatkin said today about the DSO strike:
…A settlement now would serve both parties well since the DSO’s popular, high-profile music director is the scheduled conductor for next weekend’s concerts.
“What’s really cool is that we would be doing Michel Camilo’s Second Piano Concerto (in its U.S. premiere), so we’d have the elements of jazz and classical music brought together in our return,” Slatkin said. He said that if the orchestra is back on its home stage next weekend, he would change the program’s second half to include “something appropriate, a big, meaty symphony.
…Slatkin acknowledged the pain of the DSO’s protracted strike will not end the moment an accord is reached.
“My job coming up is going to be tremendously hard,” he said. “I’m the one both sides will be looking for to lead the healing. It will be time for music to jump to the fore.”
The parties should settle because… Slatkin’s slated to conduct a really cool program next week? Likely not the first reason to settle in anyone else’s mind.
Does he really think that people are looking to him to “lead the healing?” They’re not. Music directors usually take no position during a labor dispute. But this does not make them able to lead post-dispute; their failure to support either side publicly, while understood by musicians and managers, is actually regarded with contempt by both sides, although no one would admit to that.
Most musicians, and most managers, view conductors as who pop up first when one Googles the phrase “looking out for No. 1.” This is not always fair, but that’s what most in the industry think. No one is going to ask them to help “heal” after a labor dispute. And generally they shouldn’t.
Conductors often do unite musicians and managers, but not usually in ways that are helpful to institutional healing.