7 years ago

Volume 5 Issue 3 - November 1999

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Of bricks and mort a:

Of bricks and mort a: Behind the Scenes with Ian Cowie, Orchestra Contractor BY DAWN LYONS Today I am talking to Ian Cowie in his office at the Canadian Opera Company. The walls are · warm red bnck. Two ivy-framed windows let in the afternoon sun. The office is large, quiet and restful. So is Ian. Me: I was told you are an orchestra contractor, whatever that is. Is that right? ' Ian: Well, yes, I do some contracting, but my Number One Job is second trombonist for the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. And in 1993 I was invited to be P~onne1 Manager for .the COC orchestra, as well. The contracting grew out of that, when other people needed an orchestra. Me: How does contracting work? Ian: Anyone hiring musicians has to deal with contracts. Say someone wanted the COC orchestra. If they met the conditions of the COC orchestra contract they would then have the name and the reputation of the · COC orchestra for their presentation. Or else they could get 'f!laybe the same people, or . some of the same people without the COC orchestra name, at local scale, which is a little lower. Me: Scale? Ian nods: The Toronto Musicians Association sets a minimum rate for performances by its members: That's scale. But th~re are other agreements that may also apply: Principals can usually command more than Scale; the COC has a master agreement with its musicians; there is the CBC agreement for radio; there is the basic TV/fihD agreement- the · CBC has not filmed opera for some years, but occasionally they will re-broadcast from their archives and the musicians will receive a royalty when that happens; there is a phonograph labour agreement; and a commercial agreement; and others may have to be invented to suit circumstances. Last spring _ for example the orchestra was asked to record some ·excerpts from "The Golden Ass" to be - used as promotional material for · sch()9ls, interviews, talk shows and that sort of thing. But the COC also wanted to be able to use the recordings for radio commercials, so we needed to negotiate a special rate for that. Me: So your work would be what? Ian: I'll get a call from a concert ~n:iety, for instance, and they'll say, 'We are doing a concert, we need an orchestra.' We work it out - how many shows, how many rehearsals, what is their budget, which union agreements apply, do they need principals. Usually they have a program in mind, that determines which musicians they'll need. I work out the cost and give them a price. If it works for their budget they sign a contract with me and I start calling musicians and scheduling rehearsals. Another time it might be a call for a recording _session or a film score, but that doesn'thappen very often. I get some crazy requests too. I got asked for music for a golf tournament. We did Wagner, outdoors. I don't think they'll ask us again, they mostly seemed interested in eating theit: lunch. We once played for an opera marathon. Yeah, really, these people were seeing something like 18 operas in a weekend! The trombones did a show we called "My Favoun'te Mortas ". Me: "Mortas?" PHOTO: DEN CJUL Ian grins wickedly.< Didn't you · ~ow that trombones are always mat the death? The characters on stage don't know she's dead, but WE know, there's that trombone fart! We did all the great death scenes. We did the ~n Giovanni death scene, no smgers, the tuba played the Commendatore's part. It was great! These jobs all came through the COC. I can steer these requests to the people I think can best fulfill them. It's a great job. It allows me a lot of flexibility, and creates more work for musicians and the orchestra. Ian hesitates for a moment. "But you know, contracting is not the most... " He shrugs: "My job as personnel manager is actually more interesting, in a way. The master agreement is very com~l~cated. It covers working condttJons, rates of pay including special situations - backstage, doubling, leaves of absence, extra musicians ..." · Me, intrigued at the idea of someone fmding pay rates interesting: OK, tell me about being personnel manager. · Ian: It's my job to create and ' maintain a positive working atmosph~e, and to mediate disputes between the conductor Me: Boss of the orchestra, then? Ian grimaces: The illusion of power. But usually, if people aren't happy, you're abusing your power. The phone rings. He answers, listens for a tninute, then tells it, "The singers will absolutely have to rehearse onstage, the zither player and the soloist, on the 31st. The... maybe ... could you call him? No, I'd better, I need to talk to him 8J!yway. :. . Hold it open, then, but I reserve the right to cancel? OK." He hangs up. _ "Confirming a rehearsal hall" he explains. "for Sai.UJe to Vienna - we do it for them every year · ' JanUary 1. But this year there's a big Millennium New Year's bash ­ there and it will be hard to ' schedule rehearsal time. Do I wait a couple of months for them to call me, or do I make the calls? , Me: I:e, do the contracting? Ian nods: It's always kind of scary, the money and the union. I · make all the arrangements, and I sign all the contracts. The contractor is on the hook if the producer doesn't pay - it's an awkward spot. So far, the un.lon . has never gone after a contractor where a producer defaulted, but they might." We contemplate that for a moment. Me: So you also have to arrange rehearsal space and time? Ian: Yes, and more. Rehearsal ­ halls, sometimes we have to rent instruments, moving, tuning, paying the musici~s, whatever is required. I remember my first contract. When they showed up I thought WOW, they're all here, and the right number!" and the members of the orchestra , Me: And you even brii'Jg the If someone has to be fired, I do · cookies I hear? that. And I set up the auditions. Ian sighs: And I bring the '

Welcome to part three of our 1999/2000 Member Profiles Every year WlroleNote looks at the entire season ahead with these Members' Profiles, which, incidentally. are not wrinen by WlroleNote but by the members themselves. So what you read here is straight "from the horses mouth". ' Profiled over the last two months (and now available for reading on our website at were: IN SEPTEMBER Orion House Amici Chamber Ensemble Penthelia Singers Canadian Music Centre proVOCE Studios Canto res Celestes Roy Thomson Hall Cathedral Bluffs Symphony and Massev Hall Centuries Opera Association Scarborough Philharmonic Geordie McDonald, percussion Shevchenko Musical Ensemble Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony St. James' Cathedral/ Orchestra Association Organ Alternatives High Park Choirs of Toronto Tafelmusik Kiwanis Music Festival Toronto Choral Society of Greater Toronto Toronto Children's Chorus Music at Metropolitan Toronto Early Music Centre Mooredale Concerts loronto School of Music Mozart Society Toronto Sinfonietta New Hamilton Orchestra Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir North Toronto University Settlement Institute of Music Music & Art School North York Singers Women's Musical North York Suzuki School Club of Toronto of Music York Symphony Orchestra The Academy Concert Series Aldeburgh Connection All The King's Voices The Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto Amadeus Ensemble Art word Theatre Bach Children's Chorus Bell' Arte Singers CAM MAC Canadian Children's Opera Chorus Canadian Music Competitions The Canadian Singers Christ Church Deer Park Church of the Holy Trinity Collaborations Creative Artist Productions DANCE OREMUS DANSE The DCAT Chorus D.G. Concert Productions Duo L:'lntemporel East York Choir Elmer lseler Singers Esprit Orchestra Etobicoke Community Concert Band Exultate Chamber Singers Faculty of Music, U of T Fridays at Eight Lawrence Park GILPIN ENTERPRISES Glenn Gould Studio The Gryphon Trio Hampton Avenue Lakeshore Arts Maureen Smith Music Studio The Mississauga Symphonic Music at St. John's Music TORONTO Music Umbrella Music at Willowdale The New Guitar The North Toronto Women's Chamber Choir Off Centre Music Series The Ontario Folk Harp Society Orchestra Toronto · Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association (ORMTA) Orpheus Choir of Toronto Riverdale Ensemble Royal Conservatory of Music Sine Nomine Ensemble Sinfonia Toronto The Singerstudio Toronto Camerata The Toronto Consort Toronto Philharmonia Toronto Symphony Orchestra Toronto Wind Orchestra The Trillium Brass Quintet Tryptych Productions Vesriivka Choir VocaiPoint Chamber Choir This month BEHIND THE ScENES WITH IAN CowiE, ... continued cookies, and my wife wonders. But that was for a recording session, and the breaks are usually short and they can't go out and get things. That's part of keeping people happy, making them feel appreciated. The most interesting thing is dealing with all the personalities. Me: How did you get this job? Ian: I've always had a mixed career. In Nova Scotia, we basically had the summers off, weeks without pay, so I was always looking for stuff to do. I got involved in arts administration. Even now, the COC has a short season until we get our new opera house - then the job of personnel manager will get more difficult. I got this job - these jobs - because I had the confidence of the orchestra. I couldn't if there wasn't that trust. I'm not management, and I'm not orchestra, but each of them has to know that I will deal with them fairly. I get all sorts of appeals. As chairman of the orchestra audition committee, for example, I can't vote. I will, however, encourage the committee to make a decision if it looks like they're taking too long. · Me: You talked earlier about people working best with people they like to work with. Is congeniality part of the orchestra audition? Do you consider whether a player will fit into the team? Ian laughs: Our auditions are done behind screens. the audition committee chooses the best performer. Easy and pleasant to work with, that's a bonus. Me: Where do COC musicians come from? Are they members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra? Ian: No, there is no COCffSO crossover. We have 54 r~gular musicians, but we may have up to 70 in the orchestra for some operas. We have regular extras we call on, and we can get other musicians if we need them. I call the managers of the National Ballet Orchestra and the Hamilton Philharmonic to avoid conflicts with their rehearsal schedules. He gestures at his warm red brick surrounds. "Working in the office is fun. It's a great group. There's always time for discussion, what do you think of this, what do you think of that, it helps everybody. I fmd out why the horn player is not doing too well, maybe they have a cold, maybe their kid is sick. .. all this personal stuff. If people trust you, they'll tell you things because they know you won't use it against them. And maybe knowing will help someone understand why something's wrong, or why it isn't the same as it was last time." 't' S) ·t~Y IIIIHI PHOTOGRAPHY PROMOTIONAL PHOTOS Headshots Groups Orchestras CD I Cassette Artwork I Photography Me: And you never panic? Ian: Well, I really try not to. Sometimes people tell me, "Ian, I've got a conflict, what am I gonna do?" I tell them, wait a few days, something might change. Maybe a musician does something dlunb in rehearsal and the conductor wants to fire him. I say, well, maybe wait a few days. He might do something brilliant, and the conductor will say, hey, we gotta keep that guy. 10% discount to Wholenote readers & CJ RT listeners on all services. Studio 102 - 457 Richmond St. W. Toronto phone 416- ~12- 6701 fax 416- 778- 8928

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