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Pops Musicians Seek Public Support

In wake of the recent news that The Pasadena Symphony and the Pasadena Pops Orchestra will merge, musicians decry their firings.

July 19, 2007|By Jane Napier Neely

Officials involved with the recently-announced merger of the Pasadena Pops Orchestra with The Pasadena Symphony remained mute this week over claims by outraged musicians that nothing less than a mass firing is taking place.

And, results of two preliminary meetings held this week with the Professional Musicians Local 47 regarding charges of unfair labor practices and grievances against The Pasadena Symphony and the Pasadena Pops management were not released as of press time.

In the meantime, the soon-to-be fired musicians have launched their own website, www.pasadenapopsmusicians.org, in hopes of building public support.

The drama began to unfold late last month when the Pops musicians were informed just prior to their opening concert for the season at Descanso Gardens that there would be a merger of the two entities and their services would no longer be needed for the next season because their chairs would be filled by The Pasadena Symphony members who had right of first refusal to perform.

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Under the new structure the Pops will officially dissolve on Oct. 1 and the name of the orchestra changed to Pasadena Pops Symphony, it was announced to the media. The Pasadena Symphony would still be conducted by Jorge Mester, who has been with the symphony for 25 years, and the Pops would still be conducted by Rachael Worby, who joined the organization in 1999. There was no mention in the announcement that the 65 Pops musicians, 40 of whom are tenured, would lose their jobs.

Attempts to reach Hal Espinosa, president of the Professional Musicians Local 47 executive board, for comment were unsuccessful. Telephone calls made to Worby seeking comment were not returned. Tom O'Connor, executive director of The Pasadena Symphony, was reached, but said that he could not comment on the subject.

According to several musicians affiliated with the Pops orchestra, the news of their firing came out of the blue. Orchestra members were in shock and disbelief, followed by anger that their orchestra would be taken over and they were losing their jobs without any forewarning, they said.

Letters to musicians

What made the sting of losing their jobs even more intense for the Pops musicians was that a letter was sent first to The Pasadena Symphony orchestra members telling them of the disbanding of the Pops orchestra and that they (The Pasadena Symphony) would be playing the next summer season.

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