_____________________________________________________ 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!