By Jack Howell
To all of our supporters, our most heartfelt thanks. One day shy of eight weeks, our strike ended.
Common sense tells us that you can’t drive a boat by looking at the wake. It is true, the strike is over. It is also true that damage has been done, especially to the relationships and trust between the institution’s different parts. But the strike ended not because the musicians took cuts, although that is true, but because the agreement we reached preserves the future of the Pittsburgh Symphony as one of the world’s great orchestras. There is a difference between doing what must be done in order to regain altitude, or settling into a glide slope, and this contract represents the former.
The strike is also over because you, our audience, our donors, our neighbors, responded to it with an outpouring of support. Without this community and its values, the Pittsburgh Symphony would not be the orchestra it is in the first place, and our days walking the picket line, and playing chamber music and orchestral concerts all over the city deepened our personal connection to you. As we walked with you on the street or talked after a chamber music concert we got to hear about your children who play instruments, and how proud you were to see them on stage with us in a side-by-side concert, or how many years you have been subscribers, and how appalled and disappointed you were that your beloved PSO had been bought to such a point. And you wrote letters to the editor, to the mayor’s office, to our management. You pointed out the importance of great music as a measure of a city’s vitality and civility, as well as its economic opportunity. You argued for the use of the orchestra’s greatness as leverage to overcome difficulties rather than using difficulties as an excuse to diminish us.
The latter would have been an easier path. Nothing great comes easily. But taking the easy way isn’t art. Those of you who heard the PSO in the brief time at the beginning of the season before the strike (the RAD concert and the gala) heard an orchestra that was savoring what might be its last chance to play together in Heinz Hall for some time, and that was also ferociously angry. Those were some pretty incredible concerts. We have carried that memory with us as we have walked the picket line, and as we have performed as substitutes with all of the top tier orchestras in the United States. This experience has clarified our knowledge of what kind of orchestra the Pittsburgh Symphony is, has deepened our respect for each other as musicians, and has strengthened our resolve to protect this uniquely powerful, sensitive, and virtuosic instrument. There is only one Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This is our identity; this is our future.
So the strike is over. Now the real work begins. As musicians, our work is first and foremost to play concerts that you will never forget. But it is also our work to better engage and serve you, our valued audience, and to join us in exploring, discovering and experiencing some of the most profound utterances of the human spirit. We learned during the strike that so many of you greatly value the PSO, whether or not you are able to attend very frequently. We intend have more presence in your neighborhoods, and respond better to your needs. But if you have never been to Heinz Hall, please come! We welcome you and look forward to making music for you.
See you at the concert!