People have already made the case better than I, and much more eloquent people than I will continue to discuss the topic (you all know who you are), but I want to share a couple of thoughts in regards to International Beethoven Project and its inability to pay the artists who took part in the 2013 iteration of the Beethoven Festival.
As has been said, the catalyst that caused people to speak out publicly was the announcement of the 2014 Beethoven Festival. Lepauw claims that this coming year's festival is “leaner and more efficient”, but the systemic problems which faced last years festival does not lead me to believe that it will run a big enough surplus to pay the dozens and dozens of musicians who are still waiting for those checks, including myself. And that is a slap in the face. It means that Beethoven Festival will go on at the expense of many who believed the project was a good, if ambitious, addition to Chicago life.
Lepauw has written an open letter in response to the uproar on Slippedisc [http://slippedisc.com/2014/06/chicago-cant-pay-for-its-beethoven], and it only lessens his credibility. In the very first paragraph he reports that “ticket sales for the orchestra concerts (the most expensive of the festival) conducted by Matthias Pintscher were dismal.” Does this imply that the orchestra is to blame for the deficit? Did we demand too much money? Did we play at anything but the highest caliber? Is Matthias Pintscher not one of the most dynamic and successful composer/performers alive today? Later he says that the orchestra concerts, “despite their tremendous quality, did not attract much press attention and therefore enough ticket-buyers”. Now the blame is on the press and on the public. (h/t to Seth Brodsky who pointed this out as a great example of 'kettle logic') Most arts organizations know that you cannot expect ticket sales to fund performances – it is irresponsible and unrealistic. Even if that were the biggest issue at hand, the lack of ticket sales is the fault only of the administration of the festival. No one else. And the lack of press? Also on the administration of the festival.
In that same paragraph, Lepauw blames donors for backing out of their pledges: “of note, certain expected donor pledges did not come in.” Near the end of the article, he says that “loyal donors are giving more than they did last year in order to help us as best they can.” He cannot have it both ways – the same donor base which failed the festival cannot be expected to exceed expectations in the future. [Sidebar to anyone donating money to International Beethoven Project: please use those funds to pay the debts it owes to its most valuable resource, the musicians!!] The failure of donors to follow through with their pledges is, again, the fault only of the administration.
In his response, Lepauw repeated deflects blame from himself and the organization, yet admits to failures which can only be attributed to that organization. If the money has not been raised in the past 9 months while the organization was otherwise idle, how could we possibly expect the money to be raised while planning and executing another expensive, albeit 'much reduced', festival? We musicians have been taken advantage of. Our skills, our time, our efforts, our good will, and our willingness to be patient have all been taken advantage of. And it is not acceptable. Yes, we perform because we love it, and we do it for not enough pay all too often. But we deserve, and demand, respect for what we do, especially from one of our own. Please, George, show us the respect we have shown you.