Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Saturday Snapshot #31

     The Chicago Symphony Orchestra went on strike Monday, and on Friday Linda Spadlowski drove in from the far Northwest suburbs to join them.  She is not a musician—she's a patron, a paraprofessional at an elementary school in Carol Street. 
    "I came to lend my support to the musicians," she told me. "The orchestra is one of the best in the world, and its musicians should be treated with the respect they deserve."
      We spoke for a few minutes—I was just blundering by, heading to the train from the Hilton, where I had attended the the ACLU luncheon, guest of my friend Howard Suskin at Jenner & Block. Picketing is tiresome, and I was impressed that a concert-goer would go to the effort; it speaks to the devotion that patrons have to the music, particularly since this was her first year as a subscriber. 
    These sympathetic thoughts were in my head as I walked away. Then, as if to ground me in the greater reality, a remark from a man next to me cut through the Michigan Avenue background noise.
     "I'm supposed to feel sympathetic for folks playing the goddamn fiddle?" a man exclaimed. I stole sly glance to my right. Enormous cantilevered gut. Brush mustache. Terrified slip of a wife. Young daughter he was dragging along by her arm. 
     The music is out there, free to all. But not everybody can hear the music.  The CSO has cancelled its scheduled concerts for this weekend.


  1. "Blundering by," yet able to catch exemplars of each side of our present divide, the empathists and the cynics.


  2. What Mr. Cantilevered Gut fails to realize is that the least accomplished player (relatively) in the CSO is better at their instrument than he is at anything. And got that way, reached that level of attainment, through year upon year of dedicated practice, often relying on the music itself as its own reward, in earlier days.

    Time is our most valuable asset. To expend it doing something that offers intrinsic rewards, and at the same time rewards those others who take their time to appreciate the effort and learning, is a noble act. It's something those who would reduce all of humanity to economic activity will never comprehend in their dark, twisted little excuses for souls.

  3. When that slob finally keels over and expires, perhaps a good union fiddle player will refuse to play at his funeral, and his wife and daughter will spit on his grave...or worse.

    Better yet, I hope that nobody ever talks about him, or even mentions his name. It's what a POS like that deserves. My old man sounded a lot like that fat bastard, and that became his fate--he was despised while alive, and forgotten when dead.

  4. I’m a big fan of solidarity. Unexpected and lovely.
    Wonder wonder why this guy is so angry.

  5. I have a feeling that little girl isn't going to be exposed to a whole lot of classical music growing up.

  6. Nanci Griffith, in her song "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go" encounters a fat man in Chicago calling Black people trash to his children. I think you may have encountered the same guy. A world class symphony orchestra is a special thing. I was at the UCBerkeley Newman Center years ago and a symphony was practicing a piece in the church. I forget which piece, but it had a very demanding piano section and their pianist wasn't up to the task. They would play the lead in to his solo again and again only for him to fumble. The immediacy of the venue was special, one could not be unimpressed by the sound of that basically private performance, even though it lacked perfection. I came away with an appreciation of the music and a realization that all the pieces had to fit for a group that large to make the magic. Linda Spadlowski would agree.

  7. I'm sorry, the minimum salary of a player is $159,000.00 with three months vacation. the strike Is i believe about benefits. health care, pension etc. My son was 2nd cello in the CYSO . still I wonder why anyone would feel sorry for these folks. and the classism on display regarding the man with the mustache? Ack!

    1. I'm guessing you've forgotten how expensive it is for instrument upkeep, especially ones of that caliber. I've paid $300 for a set of cello strings, those aren't even the most expensive, and you need to replace them quarterly if played a lot. Bow re-hairs, fingerboard dressing, repairs, insurance, those all add up to the thousands easily. Three months off a year? Well, they still are practicing and getting ready for the next season. Health care? As someone with carpel and cubital tunnel since I was 20 from being a cellist, I can see the importance.

    2. I would refer you to the second graf of my comment above, if I thought it would have any meaningful effect.

    3. 159K is a fraction of what a .220 hitting 2nd baseman makes. That's before per diem and perks. The stars make obscene money. My nephew at lunch with a high school classmate making 8 figures in the majors. His new trophy wife calls to say she just bought a $8000 sofa. He immediately calls his agent and asks him to arrange an autograph event to cover the expense. You can find a lot more overpaid professional athletes more deserving of your scorn, FME. Plus, no one ever got skin cancer attending the Symphony.

    4. The minimum wage for an MLB player is $555,000 for 2019, which is the same minimum for an NFL player with a year’s experience. The reported average salary of an MLB player is $4.5 million. However, the MEDIAN income of $1.5 million tells a different story about the earnings of all players. The average gets distorted because of the large number of players with multi-million-dollar salaries.

      The average NFL player salary is now around $2.7 million, far less than the $7.1 million average of NBA players, and quite a difference from what those CSO fiddle-players are getting.

      And professional musicians don't really enjoy the "off-season" that professional athletes do. There are benefits and tours and summer seasons, plus all those rehearsals and the countless hours of practice time to keep their highly-honed skills from eroding. These musicians are the best at their craft, king of the hill, top of the heap, and are in high demand. The Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Yankees of live and recorded classical music, plays a regular summer concert schedule every year, and THEN embarks on an annual overseas tour, sort of a pre-season, and one that coincides with that of the NFL.

      So sneer and snark, if you must, at some fiddle player who gets over three grand a week...he's earning it. And he probably started to perfect his craft at about the same time (around age ten) that the jocks he went to school with learned to hit, pitch, catch, field, throw a pass, and hit a three-point shot.

      I not only love to hear what those musicians do, I give them my utmost respect. There are only a relative handful of them, out of the millions who make music, and I'm glad I share the planet with well as having ears to hear them with and eyes to see them with. I watch them as well as listen to them. They never fail to blow me away.

    5. my scorn? for the commenters disparaging the man with the mustache. the musicians ? they deserve their money. the best of the best. didn't compare them to others. I haven't forgotten the cost of the instrument or the musical education we provided for my son. did it on a lot less than 150K.


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