Tag Archives: orchestra news

San Antonio Symphony Looks Toward Future with New CBA

In late August, the San Antonio Symphony announced that its musicians and management had reached a new three-year contract agreement, ushering in a new era of stability. The orchestra was on the verge of collapse in early 2018.

Although the contract freezes wages in year one, musicians will see a modest wage increase in year two and one additional week of work in year three. The new CBA also includes a provision for exploring a new retirement plan option.

San Antonio Symphony musicians are members of Local 23 (San Antonio, TX).

indianapolis chamber orchestra

Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Local 3 Agree to New Contract

indianapolis chamber orchestra

Local 3 (Indianapolis, IN) and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra (ICO) ratified a progressive three-year collective bargaining agreement on August 2. The musicians had been working under a one-year extension of the prior CBA, which expired in 2018.

The musicians used information gathered from the AFM about wages and working conditions in comparable orchestras to support their proposal for significant wage increases. The result is a two-tier wage structure with increases in both tiers—Subscription Concert Series Services and Contract/Education/Outreach Services. All service rates will increase by 3% in the first year of the contract. Concert Series service rates will increase by 5% each in years two and three for a total increase of 13% over the life of the agreement. Contract/Education/Outreach service rates will increase by 2.5% each in years two and three for a total increase of 8% over the life of the agreement.

In addition to Local 3 President Kara Spurlock, Secretary-Treasurer Martin Hodapp, and attorney William Groth, the bargaining team included ICO Orchestra Committee members Pamela Ajango (chair), David Murray, Alfred Abel, and Jared Rodin (all members of Local 3).

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Solidarity with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Musicians Continues

Orchestras throughout the US continue to don Baltimore Symphony Musicians T-shirts to express solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Local 40-543 who have been locked out by management for the past two months. Many of these orchestras have taken photos of themselves showing this support. Last month, we had photos of eight orchestras, this month we add three more: New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.

baltimore symphony
baltimore symphony
baltimore symphony

Albany Symphony Reaches Agreement on New Contract

After five months of negotiations, musicians and management of the Albany Symphony reached an agreement on a new contract near the end of July.

The four-year contract increases the number of guaranteed services per season, and increases pay rates for services, mileage, and per diems. In addition, pay rates could be further increased pending the organization’s achievement of sales, fundraising, and endowment goals.

The new contract also includes changes in rehearsal and concert conditions that will support artistic quality, and for the first time, includes language addressing education and community-engagement activities. A side letter affirms Albany Symphony’s commitment to the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The negotiating committee and the Albany Symphony engaged in days of meaningful discussions about the future of the orchestra and how to solve problems both sides were facing,” says Joey Demko of Local 14 (Albany, NY), a French hornist in the orchestra and co-chair of the musicians negotiating committee. “Together, we were able to build a collaborative agreement that ensures that the Capital District continues to have a world-class orchestra.”

National Philharmonic Will Continue Operations

The National Philharmonic in Maryland will continue performing in the coming season and beyond, after avoiding a near shut-down this summer.

In July, the orchestra announced unexpectedly that it had run out of money and would cease operations. The announcement prompted an outcry from audience members and musicians. In response, the philharmonic’s president put together an emergency fundraising campaign which raised $210,000—enough to cover operations in the coming season.

However, the musicians’ trust in management had already been lost. Jim Kelly, a violinist in the orchestra and a member of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) and of Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD), launched an independent fundraising campaign, raising $300,000. Those funds were to go to the National Philharmonic on the condition that senior leadership would be replaced; the board unanimously approved the plan.

Kelly will work unpaid for one year as president while the board searches for a permanent replacement. The outgoing president, who was in support of the plan, will serve as a consultant to Kelly through the end of the calendar year. The current board chair will step down and will be replaced by another board member.

Orchestra Players Honored with Ford Musicians Awards

The League of American Orchestras has named the winners of its fourth annual Ford Musician Awards—and all five awardees are AFM members.

The awards, made possible through the Ford Motor Company Fund, celebrate professional orchestral musicians who provide exemplary service in their communities and make a significant impact through education and community engagement.

ford musicians awards
Victoria Griswold, Local 3 (Indianapolis, IN)

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra violinist Victoria Griswold of Local 3 (Indianapolis, IN) was recognized for writing the Teddy Bear Series programs, introducing young children to orchestral instruments through stories, live music, and movement.

ford musicians awards
Jeff Handley, Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL)

Chicago Sinfonietta Principal Percussion Jeff Handley of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) was recognized for creating Audience Matters and SEED, two in-school residency and instrumental programs for students from underserved communities.

ford musicians awards
Rebecca Patterson, Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven CT)

New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) Principal Cello Rebecca Patterson of Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT) was recognized for her work with the NHSO Harmony Fellowship Quartet and Recording Composition Class. The program allows students from underrepresented communities to create new works that merge classical and hip-hop traditions, that are then recorded together with NHSO musicians.

ford musicians awards
Donna Parkes, Local 11-637 (Louisville, KY)

Louisville Orchestra Principal Trombone Donna Parkes of Local 11-637 (Louisville, KY) was recognized for her work with hearing- and speech-impaired children, teaching skills such as singing, clapping with rhythm, and dancing. 

ford musicians awards
Rebecca Young, Local 802 (New York City)

New York Philharmonic Associate Principal Viola Rebecca Young of Local 802 (New York City) was recognized for hosting the philharmonic’s Very Young People’s Concerts, chamber music performances where she does everything from tap dancing to riding a scooter around the stage, engaging toddlers and young children with music.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to Receive State Funding

In an effort to help Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) musicians and management reach a contract agreement, a bill providing an additional $3.2 million in state funding to the orchestra over the next two years is expected to become law by the end of May. The $1.6 million in annual support will be in addition to $3.3 million in state and local government funding for the current year. BSO’s current annual budget is more than $29 million, and the last reported evaluation of the BSO endowment showed a balance in excess of $72 million.

In February, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution urging the Maryland legislature to restore its support for the symphony to pre-recession levels. The resulting bill—called the John C. Merrill Act, in honor of the late BSO violinist—was approved by both the House of Delegates and Senate in April. The bill also establishes a working group to examine the BSO’s business model. The group will be tasked with exploring, among other things, health care options and strategies for attracting younger and more diverse audiences to the symphony.

BSO musicians, members of Local 40-543, have been playing without a contract since January; negotiation sessions are ongoing.

Chicago Symphony Strike Settled with New Contract

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s strike came to an end in late April, as musicians ratified a new five-year contract. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped in to assist with negotiations, bringing both sides of the negotiating table to his office for a meeting. The strike was resolved two days later.

Lasting seven weeks, the strike was the longest in the orchestra’s history. The sticking point was a proposed change to retirement benefits, moving musicians from a defined-benefit pension plan, which guarantees a set amount in retirement, to a defined-contribution plan. A compromise was reached with the new contract: Current musicians will shift to a defined-contribution plan and will be responsible for the prudent investment of their individual accounts, but the organization will guarantee that they will receive the same amount in retirement as they would have had under the previous plan. That guarantee will not be available to new musicians coming into the orchestra.

Musicians will also receive raises between 2% and 3.5% in each of the five years of the contract, bringing base salary to $181,272 by the final year. Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) member Steve Lester, bassist and chair of the negotiating committee, remarks: “After about a year of negotiations, we are victorious in our efforts by protecting and maintaining our secure retirement and gaining lost ground on our annual salaries.”

minority students

CIM Sees Increase in Minority Students

minority students
Performing a trombone quartet piece are CIM students (from left) Christopher Wengert-Ramos, Philip Williams, Mary Cubero Navarro, and Christopher Jordan.

The Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) has announced that its incoming Fall 2019 class of 188 students comprises 13% minority students. The addition of the 15 incoming African-American and Latinx students means the diversity of the CIM student body has increased by 235%—what school officials are calling a historic high: 15% of the 375 students.

“CIM has never shied away from addressing the inequities in classical music and in the conservatories and schools of music who prepare the next generation of musicians,” says Paul W. Hogle, CIM’s president and CEO. “The way to change the face of classical music is to recruit, empower, and engage a community of exceptionally well-prepared student musicians of color and immerse them in CIM’s high-quality training and the subsequent benefits that training provides.”

CIM promotes student diversity through multiple programs and initiatives, including establishing fellowships and training programs for African-American and Latinx classical musicians and music students. The Cleveland Institute of Music is one of just seven independent conservatories of music in the United States and one of three devoted exclusively to classical music performance.

Madison Symphony Hosts Event for LGBTQ Community

In April, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) presented an “Out at the Symphony” concert and after-party geared toward the LGTBQ community. The evening began with an MSO concert featuring pianist Marc-André Hamelin of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) in works by Strauss and Ravel. At the after-party, guests enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres, met the orchestra’s music director and musicians (members of Local 166), and connected with other LGBTQ community members and friends.