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'Restore Music' to Fort Wayne Rally Draws Crowd, Diverse Speakers

Supporters and musicians gathered to hear speakers talk about the importance of Fort Wayne's orchestra on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

Fort Wayne Philharmonic Musicians held a rally with supporters to ‘restore the music’ on the Allen County Courthouse Green on Saturday, another protest of management’s treatment of musicians over the past year.


Several speakers from both around the community and the country came to show support for the musicians, decrying management’s use of the pandemic to furlough musicians.


Ray Hair is the International President of the American Federation of Musicians. He pointed to orchestras in Columbus, Ohio and Chicago where management worked with musicians to keep working during the pandemic.


“The majority of American symphonic institutions saw their obligations to their communities to sustain their orchestras and continue to care for musicians while the pandemic raged and ravaged all of our lives,” Hair said.


Hair also pointed to Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s managing director James Palermo’s salary as an outlier for an orchestra of its size. In 2019, Palermo’s salary accounted for 3.3 percent of the Philharmonic’s overhead.


Another speaker was Christopher Guerin, the former CEO of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic from 1985 to 2005. He criticized current management for making decisions based on business caution, rather than an effort to continue bringing music to Fort Wayne.


“It’s a matter of vision, of focusing on dreams and aspirations, instead of fear and undue caution," Guerin said. "Consider this; A balanced budget is not an artistic vision.”


Guerin also talked about his time as CEO, butting heads with the musicians’ union, but spoke fondly of the programs they were able to collaborate on and his respect for the musicians.


Guerin had previously shown support for the Philharmonic players in a post on his Facebook page.


Supporters came from all over the area, with some musicians coming from Toledo and Columbus, Ohio. Other unions from the Fort Wayne area also held signs and showed support.


Other speakers included The Reverend Dr. Fred Hasecke, Pastor Emeritus, Trinity English Lutheran Church; Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker; John Michael Smith, President, Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA); and Paul Austin, President, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM).


Musicians were furloughed in July and have been protesting in various parts of Fort Wayne since December. In March, the National Labors Relations Board filed a formal complaint against the Philharmonic in March.

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