Tag Archives: orchestra news

Baltimore Symphony Has Bright Future

By Jane Marvine, Member of Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD)

I began my tenure at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) serving on the Players’ Committee during a time of great change. The year was 1981. We had plans to build the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and we were locked out by management for 12 weeks. The resulting settlement created a network of supporters called Friends of the BSO and also saw the birth of our 52-week contract. Forty years later, after negotiating numerous contracts, some with incredible gains and some with devastating concessions, I found myself locking arms with my colleagues and supporters once again to save our great orchestra that has taken 103 years to build.

After being locked out for 14 weeks during the 2019 summer, the mid-September contract settlement preserved annual salary thanks to a group of supporters who stepped forward. However, the remaining questions on weeks and size of orchestra were left unresolved. The settlement included the establishment of a standing board committee, the Vision Committee, which is comprised of board, staff, musicians, and community members. The Vision Committee has examined every aspect of the BSO and, to my delight, promises of true collaboration were immediately apparent in the dialog and inclusion in the decision-making taking place.

After bridge funding from the John C. Merrill Act, which was passed by the Maryland General Assembly last year, was withheld, the Work Group, as mandated in the legislation, started meeting. Invited speakers shared concerns and gave advice. Michael Kaiser was invited to speak and was subsequently hired to articulate a vision and draft a plan. The result was embraced by the Vision Committee, approved by the BSO board, and inspired donors to create a transformational fund. Within three months, nearly $10 million has been raised to cover shortfalls for the current year and forestall the use of next season’s ticket money.

On February 25, the Work Group submitted its report to the Maryland General Assembly, which included its support for the Kaiser plan. In the report are a series of recommendations to improve community engagement, education, and the patron experience; board development; and the use of technology. It recommends five additional years of bridge funding from the state of Maryland to help the BSO put many of the proposals into practice.

One of the most important aspects of the plan is the recommendation that the orchestra maintain the 52-week structure. Kaiser advocates that success is dependent on putting the art first, and that generating enthusiasm for the artistic product of the organization is the number-one factor in driving contributed and earned income. The musicians have supported the plan enthusiastically since it articulates that the art we make is the key to success and therefore preserves what we have built so far. The plan has rallied a new spirit and understanding from the staff, board, and donor community regarding the importance of this essential message. Alignment of all stakeholders is a beautiful and powerful source of strength.

Testimony was given to the state legislature by Ed Kasemeyer, retired state senator and former chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee and Work Group chair; Michael Kaiser, turnaround consultant; Peter Kjome, BSO president and CEO; and myself on March 12. The testimony included the update that nearly $10 million has been raised for the transformational fund. Concurrently, it was announced that $1.6 million of grant money from the Merrill Act was restored for the fiscal year which begins in July 2020.

On March 17, 2020 the bill providing additional funding to support Kaiser’s plan was passed by the Maryland General Assembly and awaits Governor Hogan’s signature to become law. This funding will allow the BSO to maintain its structure, increase investment in needed areas for income growth, and pave the way for restoration of the orchestra complement. The BSO will be establishing new ways to connect with communities and partner with arts organizations across the state. Musicians will be leaders in making that happen.

Amid all of this positive news and hard work, COVID-19 has hit our country and performing arts organizations with a sledgehammer. Just as we are emerging from a devasting—nearly fatal—episode, this is especially challenging for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The effects of this global pandemic on the BSO remain to be seen. Personally, I am hopeful that the new level of inclusion and transparency across the organization for all stake holders, including our donors and community members, will continue to inspire us all and create a constructive path forward. We are working together in an unprecedented fashion and this gives me hope for a bright future in spite of the challenges we face.

Allentown Symphony Orchestra Ratifies New Four-Year CBA

The musicians and management of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra have ratified a new four-year collective bargaining agreement. The new contract includes raises of 2%, 2.5%, 3%, and 3.5% to the base service rate, an increase to the local broadcast rate, and a small increase to the mileage rate. The contrabassoon position was added to the base orchestra, and new language was added to increase the number of instrument combinations eligible for doubling payments. It was a difficult task, but the negotiating team was also successful in maintaining audition procedures that reflect industry norms. Allentown Symphony Orchestra musicians are members of Local 45 (Allentown, PA).

Project 19: New York Phil Celebrates Centennial of 19th Amendment

With Project 19, the New York Philharmonic is commissioning new works by 19 woman composers in celebration of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote 100 years ago. This multiyear initiative was inaugurated in early February with the premiere of Nina C. Young’s “Tread Softly.”

The New York Philharmonic’s project is the single largest women-focused commissioning initiative in history. Six premieres were planned for February alone. Concerts will take place at a wide range of New York City venues and the League of Women Voters is hosting voter registration at Project 19 performances. New York Philharmonic musicians are members of Local 802 (New York City).

Orchestras Alter Plans for Asian Tours Due to Coronavirus

Both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra announced in early February that they changed course for plans to tour in Asia due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) canceled its entire Asian tour, which was scheduled to include performances in Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. The orchestra replaced the tour with concerts at home in Boston, including a complimentary performance, “Concert for Our City,” at Symphony Hall, as well as community performances at schools, homeless shelters, and hospitals. BSO musicians are represented by Local 9-535 (Boston, MA).

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) canceled three concerts in China that were planned for March. The orchestra will carry on plans to tour Japan, giving concerts in five Japanese cities, including Hiroshima, marking 75 years since the end of World War II. NSO musicians are represented by Local 161-710 (Washington, D.C.).

The U.S. Department of State and the Center for Disease Control have issued advisories against travel to China, and most major airlines have canceled flights to China.

Locals 9-535 and 216 Organize Atlantic Symphony Orchestra

The Boston Musicians’ Association (BMA), Local 9-535, and the Professional Musicians of the South Coast, Local 216 (Fall River, MA), have joined together to organize the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra as an AFM orchestra. In May 2019, musicians of the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra voted overwhelmingly in a Massachusetts Department of Labor election to recognize Local 9-535 as their bargaining agent in negotiations for a first contract. Because the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra has a smaller budget and would present some jurisdictional issues at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the BMA took the novel strategy of filing for recognition at the state department of labor instead.

Cleveland Orchestra Achieves Balanced Budget

For the first time since 2015, the Cleveland Orchestra ended its 2019 fiscal year in the black, with a surplus of $24,000 on its $53 million budget. The strong financial position this year is attributed to new trustees, a larger endowment draw, and a significant number of unrestricted bequests.

The orchestra’s endowment increased by $14.2 million, to a total of $205.7 million; the organization’s goal is an endowment of $350 million. In addition, average attendance hit a record high and single-ticket sales increased 6.1%. The Cleveland Orchestra also consistently draws a young audience, with 20% under 25 years of age.

Cleveland Orchestra musicians are members of Local 4 (Cleveland, OH).

North Carolina Symphony Begins Three-Year Music Education Residency

Building on the success of its recently completed three-year music education residency in North Carolina’s Sampson County, the North Carolina Symphony (NCS) began a new three-year residency in nearby Jones County in November. NCS’s aim is to play its part by building community through live music performances and educational activities.

The residency began with NCS’s first-ever education concert in Jones County, held in the district’s new K-12 school. Additional programs over the coming three years include 12 interactive chamber music performances for elementary school students, 12 music and literacy programs for preschoolers, an Instrument Zoo to support sixth grade band recruitment, master classes with NCS musicians for middle and high schoolers, a side-by-side community concert with students, and a community chamber music concert.

North Carolina Symphony musicians are members of Local 500 (Raleigh, NC).

Philadelphia Orchestra Begins New Four-Year Contract

Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra began a new four-year contract agreement on September 16. Entering into negotiations earlier this year, musicians expected a difficult road; since The Philadelphia Orchestra’s bankruptcy in 2012, musicians have been attempting to recover losses, and the previous negotiations, in 2016, resulted in a brief strike.

This round of negotiations was difficult, but respectful and productive. The new contract includes a 10.5% salary increase over its four years, bringing base salary to $152,256, including Electronic Media Agreement wages, by the 2022-2023 season. In addition, in each year of the contract, musicians will receive a supplemental payment of either $750 or $1,500.

The Philadelphia Orchestra will also add two musicians over the life of the contract, increasing the complement from 97 musicians and two librarians, to 99 musicians and two librarians. The CBA restores a 10th week of vacation that had previously been lost.

Among audition rules and work rules, the music director may require an audition candidate to perform two trial weeks during which the music director is on the podium; guest conductors may not make personnel changes for a program; and fire and pyrotechnics are prohibited on stage.

The agreement was reached six months early, in March. Several months later, in June, the orchestra received a $55 million donation–the largest in its history.

Philadelphia Orchestra musicians are members of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA).

baltimore symphony orchestra

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Musicians Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

The Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543, (MAMB) and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Inc. (BSO) on September 20 reached a tentative agreement on a proposed one-year contract. Ratified by the orchestra and by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, the agreement will enable the Baltimore Symphony to open its concert season on Friday, September 27.

Details of the agreement were not available at press time, but were released at a joint press event on the afternoon of September 23.

The deal will end the 14-week work stoppage of musicians by the BSO, during which orchestra musicians have been locked out of their concert halls and have not received a paycheck.

“Baltimore Symphony Musicians and Local 40-543 are grateful to all of our AFM sisters and brothers who through their verbal and financial support helped us reach this agreement,” said Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary C. Plaine in a statement. “It is good to know we can count on our colleagues as we continue our fight to preserve and grow the artistic legacy of the BSO.”

In an email to orchestra members, BSO CEO Peter Kjome stated, “This has been an extraordinarily challenging time for our organization, and for you most of all. It would be impossible to express how difficult this summer has been, and how meaningful it will be for you to return to the stage. The year ahead will be a pivotal one for the BSO. I believe that one of the most important aspects of the agreement is the commitment to including members of the orchestra in additional aspects of planning, programming, fundraising, and governance. While we have much work to do to strengthen our organization, we know that we can achieve far greater success by working together.”

baltimore symphony orchestra
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players’ Committee Co-Chair and percussionist Brian Prechtl and Baltimore City Council President Brandon M. Scott share a moment together after the concert at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore City on September 14.

The Baltimore Symphony Musicians have been picketing in front of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall since mid-June and had said they would not return to work until they had a ratified agreement in place.

As negotiations between musicians and management have been ongoing, the most recent development—prior to the September 20 tentative proposal—was a September 9 “final” take-it-or-leave-it offer from management to its musicians. The BSO asked the orchestra to vote on the proposal, which contained an Option No. 1 and an Option No. 2—both options were rejected overwhelmingly by the musicians.

Federal mediators proposed an extension of negotiations until close of business on September 12, which management rejected. Musicians then suggested an extension until the close of voting, but management rejected that proposal as well. The proposal was presented to the orchestra Tuesday evening, September 10, and the vote was taken electronically.

Under Option No. 1, the musicians, members of Local 40-543, would be paid for 40 weeks of work, which has been the employer’s goal since bargaining began. The employer proposed an incomprehensible Rube Goldberg-combination of stipend and donor money to pay the musicians for 12 weeks of non-work. This “bonus” would require the musicians to waive their seniority and over-scale payments for the 12 weeks of non-work. The employer would also agree to hire up to six musicians; when the orchestra does return to work, there will be only 75 full-time musicians under contract, in violation of the 83 mandated by the latest expired CBA, and the 98 that was required before the BSO started extracting round after round of cuts from the orchestra many years ago.

In addition, the BSO wanted to eliminate all guaranteed relief services. They wanted the musicians to agree to participate in the new Integrated Media Agreement, but they planned for the musicians to underwrite that expense. And the employer wanted to initiate yet another joint workgroup, a “vision committee,” which would be a new standing committee of the board.

Option No. 2 was simply an extension of the expired agreement through December 31, 2019, which would have gotten the musicians back on stage with no guarantee that they wouldn’t be locked out again on January 1, 2020.

The employer “lifted” its lockout on the evening of September 9. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on September 10, in part charging the BSO with failure to bargain in good faith and unlawfully locking out the musicians to put in place the employer’s unilateral implementation of their 40 work-week proposal without reaching an impasse.

The Baltimore Symphony Musicians negotiated in good faith throughout the summer during the lockout. They, along with important community leaders, organized prominent donors to assist in this process, donors who have brought over $1 million designated specifically for musician compensation to help secure a contract.

The musicians have maintained they would continue the fight to preserve their 103-year-old institution, which serves the city of Baltimore, the surrounding counties, and the state of Maryland, and that they have always been ready and willing to go back to the negotiating table to achieve an agreement that would enable them to continue to attract and retain the highest quality musicians to perform for their audiences.