It seems things have gotten a little out of control at Midori and Friends, a non-profit music education organization that provides music instruction in several New York City Public Schools.
While not taking sides (other than to say we agree with Midori's comment that this strike is not serving the kids who benefit from this program) it brings up a much more important point… are we doing a disservice to our children by "out sourcing" the music program from the public school to begin with?
I am not sure I know the answer… but I would suspect the schools would be better served by having a program as part of the regular curriculum… after all it is the responsibility of our schools to provide this instruction for our children. has the school system absolved themselves of this responsibility by contracting with an outside group. What happens when a strike like this occurs. What recourse does the school have? What does the teachers union (AFT) think about the musicians union (AFM) organizing teaching artists? Are we now looking at Music Education as a program that needs to be externally funded by private donors? What does this say about music education as being part of the basic curriculum? Is this model economically viable for the long term?
Midori and Friends have done some great work over the years this. But this strike now brings forward a whole host of issues that are bigger than Midori and Friends and the teaching artists who are on strike against them.
From the New York Times via the Strike Website:
Music teachers who carry out the work of the foundation established by the violinist Midori went on strike on Thursday, denouncing what they said were a lack of raises, unfair pay and attempts to limit pensions. The foundation countered that the teachers were making unreasonable demands on an organization created to do good.
Several dozen musicians, mostly freelancers who teach in New York City schools on behalf of the foundation, Midori & Friends, have laid down their bows and horns after a strike deadline passed on Wednesday night, said Brenda Vincent, a violin teacher.
"We can't make enough of a living to survive," she said. "We need to be able to eat and pay our bills."
The musicians, represented by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, said they had been without a contract for six months. They said the foundation had refused to raise starting salaries, which have remained at $40 an hour for the last seven years. Veterans make only a few dollars more an hour. In addition, the union said, the foundation is seeking to delay paying into a pension fund until after a teacher's first year.
Ms. Vincent said that while the hourly wage might seem large, teachers were sometimes given only two classes a day at a school and might have to travel hours to get to the jobs. For many, the teaching is just one piece of the puzzle they put together to make a livelihood. Ms. Vincent, for example, said she earned $12,000 a year from the teaching, supplemented by freelance jobs.
The foundation's chairman, Alan Fischer, said that new teachers were offered a 7.5 percent increase but that the union demanded 25 percent at the last minute. He said that it was reasonable to withhold pension payments during a one-year probationary period and that pay was comparable with that of other organizations of the same size.
"We want to serve the kids," Mr. Fischer said. "We want to do right by the teachers. We're a do-good organization."
Midori issued a statement saying she was "surprised and disappointed" by the position taken by the union. In a telephone interview, she said she had not been involved in the negotiations but that "it has always been the intention to really behave fairly." She added, "I'm actually quite disappointed, in fact, that right now our children are not receiving musical instruction."