Symphony, concertmaster locked in contract dispute
By: Victoria Times-Colonist (Victoria Times-Colonist)
Pablo Diemecke, the Victoria Symphony's concertmaster for the past 20 years, says he's unfairly being pushed out of his job.
The Victoria Symphony Society does not want to renew Diemecke's contract for the 2006-2007 season, something it first notified him of in an e-mail last December.
"Imagine working somewhere for 20 years, and then you get an e-mail saying you don't have a job and good luck with your future," said Diemecke, 54. "I think this is so unfair. It's very upsetting."
Marcus Handman, symphony executive director, confirmed the labour dispute with Diemecke but would not comment on its nature. "This is an internal personnel matter," he said.
But Handman did say the conflict would go to arbitration before a judge in September. "We're looking for a decision at that meeting, not a compromise."
Diemecke has been in conflict with the society for the past year and a half -- since, he said, music director Tania Miller expressed dissatisfaction with his leadership and performance as concertmaster.
In a letter to Diemecke last July, Miller praised Diemecke's "willingness to get much more involved with the music-making in the orchestra" but went on to say: "The area of concern that we must discuss is your own playing.... Rhythm is often rushed ... as a result it is difficult for the section to play consistently as they are watching and listening to your own performance of the music."
Miller could not be reached for comment.
It's the role of the concertmaster, who is the principal first violin player, to work with the conductor in unifying and tuning the orchestra. The high-profile position has made Diemecke familiar to Victoria audiences. He recently received a commendation from Victoria's mayor for his contribution to the music community.
A fellow orchestra member, who would only speak about the issue anonymously, said Diemecke often butts heads with fellow players and management -- something that has been increasingly disruptive both on and off the stage. The musician cited a desire to not get involved in the dispute for speaking off the record.
Diemecke's lawyer, Michael J. Velletta, said the symphony's actions are in violation of his contract.
"Under the master agreement they have to renew musicians' contracts," Velletta said. The only clause he can see that the symphony might be invoking is that of "artistic reasons," defined as "concerns that a musician's performance is below the general standard of the orchestra."
"If that's the case, there's no grounds," Velletta said. "Clearly, Mr. Diemecke is a world-class musician and an asset to this community."
Louis Williamson, from the Musician's Association of Victoria and the Islands, which represents orchestra members, said the group is standing behind Diemecke.
"Our mandate is to ensure the musicians are treated fairly. There is a whole procedure to dismissal that the symphony didn't follow," said Williamson. "We're basically saying that they are in violation of their agreement. We've had many meetings and both sides feel they are right, so we have to settle it with arbitration."
Until the issue is resolved in September, Diemecke will play with the symphony -- though he was not invited to play at this Sunday's Symphony Splash. For non-season summer events such as Splash, orchestra members have to be specifically invited.
If the arbitration does not result in his contract being upheld, Diemecke will seek financial damages from the society. He currently makes a Victoria Symphony salary of about $48,000 annually.