05. October 2010 · Comments Off on Houston Symphony · Categories: Negotiations, Symphony

In happier news, Houston Symphony musicians have ratified their four year contract.

05. October 2010 · Comments Off on Detroit Symphony · Categories: Negotiations, Symphony

In case some of you are living under a rock or in a cave, I thought I should at least write a short blog entry about Detroit Symphony. As of yesterday the musicians have been on strike. A strike is serious business. Musicians don’t just strike for fun, and it’s a scary time for all. There are plenty of articles about the issue, and Drew McManus has been blogging quite a bit about the symphony at his music business blog. (Go here for all his Detroit entries.)

Orchestra strikes are tricky issues; there are so many people — perhaps the majority? — who are baffled that we get paid at all. Many think we should get “real jobs” and “play” on the side. I don’t know all the issues with Detroit. I do know the city is in deep trouble. I know the musicians were asked to take a 29% pay cut over three years, and add more services to the contract (services are what we call each rehearsal or concert). It appears that newcomers to the orchestra would be paid less, as would subs. (Having experienced a tiered system, I know it causes all sorts of bad feelings.) The orchestra came back with an offer of starting with a 22% pay cut but ending up at an 8% pay cut in the final year. If you visit the musicians’ site you can read about their interpretation of the proposals. Of course management will have a different take on the whole thing. It’s always fascinating to hear the different interpretations.

In any case, I wish the Detroit Symphony and the Detroit Symphony Musicians well. I suffered the death of a symphony not even close to this full time symphony; I had been in San Jose Symphony for 27 years when it died. It was a horrible experience. I do hope Detroit will fare better.

29. July 2010 · Comments Off on Orchestras in Trouble · Categories: Negotiations, Symphony

Detroit (read here):

Salary cuts upwards of 28 percent, drastic cuts in their health insurance, elimination of contributions to their retirement benefits, and a sharp reduction in the size of the orchestra – those are key provisions of management’s demands from the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as contract negotiations continue.

The musicians believe that this may be the beginning of a trend that will see managers of other symphony orchestras make similar demands from their musicians.

According to DSO cellist Haden McKay, one of the musicians’ negotiators, the demands by management, in addition to imposing drastic cuts in salary and benefits, would drop the DSO out of the top ten, the majors, in the ranking of American symphony orchestras, with no opportunity to reclaim its position.

“The fall from the top ten would make it that much more difficult to attract internationally famous guest conductors and artists, as well as the best musicians,” he said. “This orchestra has been a source of pride to us and to music lovers throughout Michigan. To many in our audiences, it has been an introduction to great symphonic music.

Pittsburgh (read here):

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is projecting a budget deficit of $876,000 in 2011 because of funding cuts.

… and then there’s this:

On the verge of its 50th anniversary, the Southwest Florida Symphony finds itself in a less-than-festive mood.

The orchestra owes $300,000 — including $100,000 from this past season’s shortfall in tickets and donations — and it’s about to lose another conductor.

Popular conductor Erich Kunzel died in September — and with him, ticket sales for his scheduled pops concerts, which dropped about 30 percent. Now chorus and “Holiday Pops” conductor Joe Caulkins plans to leave the orchestra in December.

Both losses could affect ticket sales in the upcoming anniversary season — and perhaps add to the symphony’s debt.

It’s not an enviable position to be in, said executive director Fran Goldman.

“We haven’t closed our doors or anything like that,” she said. “It’s just something we need to get a handle on.”

The symphony isn’t alone. Across the country, the recession has taken a bite out of orchestra ticket sales and donations.

The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra borrowed $652,000 to balance its 2009-10 budget. Like the Southwest Florida Symphony, Naples also froze salaries. Orchestras in Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle, Baltimore and elsewhere have cut concerts, laid off employees or slashed salaries. The Philadelphia Symphony is considering bankruptcy, and the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra is already there.

Tough times, to be sure.

Support your local arts organizations!

01. January 2010 · Comments Off on Happy New … Contract? · Categories: Links, Negotiations, Symphony

I do hope so! No one wants a lockout or strike these days. Do they?

Contract negotiations between the management and musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra have begun to harden, setting the stage for a possible strike or lockout as early as next week.

On the eve of 2010, the orchestra’s administration announced that the musicians had terminated the month-to-month extension under which they’ve been playing since September, and that as of midnight, no plan would be in place to pay the artists for work scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The extension was to a three-year contract signed in September 2006. Without a new contract or extension, the players, members of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians, are free to strike.

“[W]e will be operating without a contract, and I am hopeful…that a work stoppage can be avoided,” read a statement by executive director Gary Hanson. “We welcome the impetus to get back to the table.”

The musicians, in response, released their own statement — their first on the matter — noting a willingness to bargain but also expressing reservations about the administration’s demands, which they said stand to diminish the orchestra’s stature and jeopardize the ability to attract and retain the best players.


17. May 2009 · Comments Off on More On Pay Cuts · Categories: Links, Negotiations, Symphony

(April 7, 2009) Facing a $3 million debt and an endowment down a quarter, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra announced Monday a second round of salary cuts. Its 95 unionized musicians will see their paychecks drop by 5 percent through 2010, with a 3.8 percent cut in 2011.


(April 8, 2009) Some administrators and musicians of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera are taking pay cuts of 10 percent or more to make up for an anticipated budget shortfall.


(April 25, 2009) When the San Antonio Symphony first-chair violinist, representing all the musicians, takes the Majestic Theater stage next Friday and Saturday, the entire orchestra deserves a standing ovation, even before playing a bar of music.

The orchestra players have made an unselfish sacrifice to keep performing arts going in San Antonio. The recession has pulled the rug out from under the symphony’s best-laid financial plans. The musicians didn’t resist when the symphony board declared a financial emergency and opened contract negotiations, even though the musicians are only in the second year of a four-year contract.

They are taking a 14 percent pay cut for the last five weeks of the current season and a 15 percent cut below what their 2009-10 salaries were supposed to be.


(May 17, 2009) Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians have agreed to a 2.5 percent salary reduction and will donate additional services as part of institution-wide budget cuts designed to save the orchestra an estimated $4 million through the 2010-11 season. The salary cuts are part of a general cost-cutting plan designed to ensure financial stability amid the nation’s economic meltdown.


The list goes on, of course. This article covers a number of groups.

But the good news? They all still have jobs. As do I. I prefer to look at the bright side. Just because I can.

Feel free to add your orchestra to the list by leaving a comment.