Musicians' union calls for Beethoven Festival boycott | Bleader

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Musicians' union calls for Beethoven Festival boycott

Posted By on 07.02.14 at 03:07 PM

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He didnt work for free
  • Nicku/Shutterstock
  • He too wanted to be paid.

Gary Matts, president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, has stepped into the messy dustup between musicians who performed in last year's third annual Beethoven Festival but still don't have their full pay and the event's organizer, George Lepauw, who's going ahead with plans for a 2014 festival in September.

Matts wants both musicians and the public to boycott the upcoming event unless things are set right.

"He's hiring a group of different musicians for this year's festival," Matts said in a phone interview today. "Will they have any guarantee of being paid?"

Lepauw had previously assured last year's musicians that he wouldn't proceed with a new festival until they got their money. Now he says that the only way he can raise the money to pay them is to forge ahead with this year's program.

It didn't help that he apparently paid some people in full, while others got only a fraction of what they're owed.

The fest, produced by Lepauw's International Beethoven Project, is not a union gig, so the CFM has no legal standing in the matter. But the union couldn't ask for a more opportune demonstration of its own value.

On Saturday Matts sent a letter to Chicago musicians acknowledging his lack of official status but urging them to refuse to perform in this year's festival.

"Presenters like Mr. Lepauw often argue that they are trying to create a 'new' and
'different' model of music-making," Matts wrote. "But there is nothing 'new' about promising
musicians they will be paid and then breaking that promise, or warning musicians to
keep their mouths shut and stop complaining, or lecturing them that they should do it
for the love of the music. That is, in fact, a very old model, and one that unionized
musicians have fought hard to dismantle."

Matts has also written to Lepauw, protesting the festival's "atrocious" treatment of its musicians, and advising him of the union's stand.

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