Symphony's Tactics Strike a Sour Note

* Much has been said about the "merger"/dissolution of the Conejo and Ventura County symphonies, but there are pieces missing, which result in a distorted and confusing picture.

The most recent hot issue is that because they refuse to hire members of the "merged" orchestras without open auditions, the New West Symphony has been placed on the "unfair" list by the American Federation of Musicians. Only non-union players or those who scoff at $10,000 fines and expulsion need apply. With the opening concert weeks away and no one on the payroll, organizers are upset.

New West loudly protests that they are "an entirely new entity" and in no way beholden to the members of the county's erstwhile orchestras.

Why hasn't anyone looked back a few months when even the New West public relations team urged subscribers of the Ventura County and Conejo orchestras to "hold on to your seats, from our two great orchestras, a magnificent new orchestra has emerged."

The image of Conejo and Ventura County symphony players as amateurs masquerading as professionals and standing in the way of good music, progress and public entertainment/enlightenment is inaccurate and demeaning. Many of the musicians in both orchestras make more than half of their income playing with symphonies, light and serious opera and ballet, movie and record studios, churches and choirs, and playing pops and "casual" sessions.

Meanwhile, back at the podium, the very conductor who finds these people so lacking has a separate career as a motivational speaker for corporations. How is Mr. Brott a more professional musician? Where else does he conduct? Who are the people really spending time making music?

As a union member in good standing with 15 years' experience with the Conejo Symphony (yes, I play other jobs, and teach instrumental music part time), I have refrained from writing, fearing that anything said by an orchestra member would be perceived as sour grapes.

But when my fellow musicians are denigrated, when the orchestra committees we elected are slandered in the press and no one bothers to research the real story, I will take the risk. I consider myself a serious musician. I urge serious music lovers to ask for the facts. All of them.

JANET BERGAMO

Piru

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