Edda Breit, member of the board of IGFM

From now on our blog will present every month a Member of the board of IG Freie Musikschaffende before. Edda Breit, born 1964, is a freelance cellist and mother of 4. She tells us about falling fees, what she regrets and what she fights for.
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Edda Breit, freelance cellist

"I am a child of the Kreisky era".

My name is Edda Breit.
I was born in 1964 and grew up in Breitenfurt in the Vienna Woods - I sometimes use Edda Breit von Breitenfurt as my stage name.
I am a child of the Kreisky era - equal opportunities were the order of the day. My siblings and I had free places at music school, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to learn instruments. I have always been political; anti-nuclear, peace movement, women's movement - but above all environmental movement. Zwentendorf and the Aubesetzung! 

I studied cello and piano in Vienna and Detmold. But actually I didn't really get to study because I played so much: chamber music, Viennese waltzes with a ladies' band, (that was tremendous fun), new music, old music, Viennese chamber orchestra - and theatre with the Vienna Mask and Music Theatre.

"We were actually afraid of being sued, and we couldn't afford that. Unimaginable nowadays!"

Being single and healthy was no problem, on the contrary, I enjoyed the bird-free life, always travelling and being a guest everywhere. Then, surprisingly, the desire for a family and a child arose. Compulsory insurance for musicians did not yet exist, so I had to find a job. That was not so easy back then. The big Viennese orchestras didn't take women and the others were quarrelling and had a modest reputation. If I regret anything, it's that I didn't try out for an audition with the Vienna Philharmonic or the State Opera Orchestra, disguised as a man, as I fantasised with my friends. We were actually afraid of being sued, and we couldn't afford that. Unimaginable nowadays!

I started teaching in a music school in Upper Austria. Later followed Vienna, then baroque cello at the music university. As a result, I had 4 compulsory insurances at times! At the same time I am a member of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, play a lot of baroque cello and then there is my own ensemble "extracello", four cellists who cover a particularly broad spectrum from baroque to free improvisation. This diversity suited me very well. One third teaching, one third orchestra, one third extracello or chamber music. And the feminist studies at the Rosa Mayreder College. I really wanted to do a Master's in Feminist Research and Politics. Now I realise that it wasn't in vain.

"This is UNWORTHY!"

With four children, it all looks different. I gave up travelling and limited myself to productions in Vienna, quit in Upper Austria, the focus shifted to teaching, even before the pandemic. But the reason was also the falling fees.
Ten years ago I wouldn't unpack my cello for less than 150 euros a day, now it's a good fee.

At the same time, or perhaps precisely because of this, the scene in Vienna has been running hot. On the one hand, the diversity and abundance is incredible. But the other side of it is, and no one wants to notice this: the fees are so low that one actually has to talk about it: The main burden of cultural funding is borne by the artists themselves - they finance the magnificent Viennese independent scene. The subsidies are too little to live on and too much to die on. The ensembles that have managed to get hold of a somewhat higher sum, for whatever reason, can outdo the others in the competition for fees, but also in the competition for resources to work on ideas and concepts. This keeps the independent scene in permanent competition - solidarity cannot develop in this way.
For example, three-hour baroque operas are performed at the highest level at a renowned Viennese theatre - for 90 euros gross!

Normally, professional ethics dictate that we keep quiet about fees, but this simply has to be said out loud! This is UNFORGETTABLE! But unfortunately not an isolated case! Quality also has to do with payment.
Musicians who are really only freelancers play themselves to death. And believe that this is professional. Professional would be to join forces. The fear of making enemies and falling out of the networks has successfully prevented this so far.
Until now.

"IGFM is really an opportunity."

IGFM is really an opportunity. A group, wonderfully mixed, old and young and from many different musical genres, pulling together - and most professionally! In doing so, we look to the time after the pandemic, we want to change the landscape, we want to end exploitation in the cultural sector.

My core topics:

  • Social security that deserves its name!
  • Safety and freedom from fear - otherwise there will soon be no more offspring.
  • A legally anchored artists' ombudsman's office that can really represent all the concerns of artists independently under one roof.

And if I may make one more wish in the pandemic :
I would like to see a spark of solidarity and support from the big fixed orchestras and their representatives for the concerns of the independent scene - after all, this is their new generation!!!!!