Outside Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Symphony, is well known as a top professional orchestra composed of highly-trained, superior musicians. I know this because I was a part of this wonderful orchestra, playing in the viola section for 31 years before I retired. And in the years since then, the quality of the orchestra has continued to improve.
I wonder if some of our own community members realize how fortunate Grand Rapids is to have this highly-regarded arts organization in their midst. In this year of negotiations between the Symphony Society and the musicians, I am afraid that some of the people who should be most aware of this fact are disregarding it in favor of “saving money.”
Grand Rapids is said to be the third fastest-growing economy in the country. The cultural offerings available to residents and prospective residents certainly are drawing cards to this city, and the symphony is the flagship of these arts organizations. What will happen to that drawing card if the musicians’ ranks are decreased and their ability to earn a living is reduced by cuts in pay and benefits leaving many of them no choice but to look for better opportunities elsewhere? Can we degrade our cultural offerings and still think our city will be able to maintain its growth and high rank among the cities in this country? I fear for the city and the orchestra itself if the people in charge don’t wake up to the consequences of their actions and continue to push for less pay, less benefits and less musicians in this year’s negotiations.
Beth Lepak, former violist in the GRS