One Woman Ends Co-op's One Man One Vote Policy (1997)


     This document has been made available in electronic
     format by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA     

                              APRIL 1997

               One Woman Ends Co-op's One Man One Vote Policy

                              by David Thompson

After 155 years Vienna's Philharmonic Supports Open Membership
	by David J. Thompson 

Modern times have finally caught up with Vienna's fabled 
Philharmonic Orchestra. The 155 year old orchestra has 
jealously guarded its male only status and up until 
February this year was one of the last few remaining
male only orchestras.  

The Vienna Philharmonic also has another unique status among
orchestras - it is one of the few which are run cooperatively. 
Each of the 150 members of the orchestra have one vote in the
the affairs of the orchestra and the election of the governing
board. The President is a cellist; the general manager a
violist; and the public relations director a percussionist.  

This February, the Orchestra's membership voted to name Anna
Lelkes, a harpist as its first woman member. Now the gender
barrier has been lifted other women will be participating in
auditions for orchestra membership. One man one vote has come
to an end and modern cooperative democracy seems to play well
with a changing Austria.

Unlike most heavily subsidized European orchestra's the Vienna
Philharmonic receives only 1% of its income from the state. 
The self-governing orchestra operates without a music
director, preferring to use only guest conductors. Because it
lacks subsidy the Vienna Philharmonic tends to be conservative
in both its music offering and customs. Unlike almost all
other orchestras the Philharmonic's members would personally
lose income if they played modern music to half empty halls.  

The only other major orchestra which operates as a cooperative
is the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). Founded in 1932,
the LPO had a chequered existence for decades. One night
during the Second World War, after a performance in London,
the hall was totally destroyed by a bomb. Destroyed
with the hall were most of the LPO's instruments and
equipment. Being self-governing, the LPO had no public purse
to constantly rely on and quite often during the 1950's the
orchestra went broke. However, by the 1960's, the LPO began to
find its feet. Soon, the world's best conductors were
clamoring to lead the orchestra with luminaries such as Danny
Kaye and Duke Ellington taking the baton. In 1992, the LPO
moved permanently into the Royal Festival Hall and is becoming
a member of the elite circle of world class orchestras.

In the United States, the Boston based Pro-Arte Chamber
Orchestra is the most known cooperative orchestra. Founded in
1978, its forty member group is a highly acclaimed orchestra
which plays in the Boston area. Similar problems of running an
orchestra without regular subsidies have plagued Pro-Arte's
existence. The self-governing orchestra is committed to
providing work at union scale and must work hard to plan for
one successful season after another. The orchestra leadership
spends a great deal of time on marketing and sponsorship
development. While these extra curricular activities take
their toll on the member musicians they also allow this
talented group of professional musicians the ability to follow
their dreams. The result on stage is a contagious effort which
showcases the incredible talents of individuals committed to
the sound of playing together.  

>From the community concerts of the Pro-Arte Orchestra it's a
long way to the gilded Golden Hall of Vienna's Musik Verein. 
Yet the two groups in different continents are tied together
in an experiment in democracy that has lasted and works. When
the Vienna Philharmonic opens its traditional New Year's Day
Concert next year, a new era will be ushered in. Women and men
should watch with pride because one man one vote has finally
ended in Vienna. It will be a great note to begin the year on.

David J. Thompson, is President of the Twin Pines Cooperative
Foundation in California, USA. He is the author of Weavers of
Dreams and co-author of Cooperation Works!