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Posts Tagged ‘Columbus Symphony’

Columbus Symphony musicians rehearse (Photo: symphonymusicians.com)
Columbus Symphony musicians rehearse (symphonymusicians.com)

Last week (Monday 22 September) the musicians of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra accepted a contract which calls for substantial cuts in their salary and benefits. Principal clarinetist David Thomas, for example, will see his paycheck sag below what he was earning when he first joined the orchestra in 1989.

The $1.3 million reduction is an echo of 2005, when the musicians gave up exactly the same amount in salaries and benefits.

The symphony board had first suggested trimming the roster from 53 to 31, effectively turning the symphony into a chamber orchestra. Later they amended that proposal to maintain the orchestra’s strength but with a 40% cut in base salaries, partly through a reduction in the number of concerts per season.

In the end, the giveback was 27%. The final agreement curtails the musicians’ season, from 46 to 38 weeks. It cuts the base salary from $1,200 per week to $1,100 per week, with further reductions in pension contributions and health care plan expenditure. Some concerts will move from the Ohio Theatre to Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium, where the rent is cheaper and the acoustics less suitable.

Officially, the Columbus Symphony is back in business. But at what cost? The relationship between management and orchestra members could hardly be described as amicable. At least a half-dozen musicians have already moved on. Given the tense atmosphere and the financial stress, how many more experienced players will defect to other orchestras? With salaries declining, what caliber of musicians will audition to replace them?

Perhaps the greatest and most immediate uncertainty for both musicians and listeners is — who will lead? During the contract dispute, the orchestra’s well-regarded music director, Junichi Hirokami, came down solidly on the side of the musicians. At least one of the board’s budget proposals included sacking Hirokami. The musicians turned thumbs down on that pact, but Hirokami’s future with the Columbus Symphony is still in doubt.

Meanwhile, the Symphony must begin the process of raising funds to cover its $9.5 million budget ($3 million less than last year’s). Not only will they be hampered by a tight economy, they’ll have to overcome lingering concerns among potential supporters over the organization’s internal acrimony, artistic leadership status, and long-term viability.

The orchestra is expected to perform in the pit for Opera Columbus’s staging of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers in October. Opera Columbus’s artistic director, William Boggs, will conduct. The Holiday pops concerts are on for December, with an abbreviated regular season to begin in January. The conductor of those concerts? No one knows.

Further reading:

Orchestra is revived, but future still murky (Columbus Dispatch)

Joint Statement (Columbus Symphony and AFM Local 103)

All Columbus Symphony entries in WKSU Classical

Columbus Symphony (Photo: Vern Riffe Center)Although the orchestra hasn’t officially disbanded, its prognosis isn’t good. But don’t count Columbus’s classical music out yet.

The Columbus Symphony, still unable to reach an agreement with its musicians, has officially cancelled part of the upcoming season. There’s still a glimmer of hope for concerts from December, including the holiday pops, but official Columbus Symphony performances through November are definitely off the schedule. This summer’s outdoor concerts were also given the axe.

Despite mediation and telephone discussions, the musicians and management are still far apart. The Columbus Dispatch quotes the president of the board, Robert "Buzz" Trafford: "We have gone absolutely as far as we can go. Unless musicians change their position, we won’t reach an agreement."

This month (July 2008) the musicians rejected an agreement that called for sacking the orchestra’s highly regarded music director, Junichi Hirokami, and cutting 27% from the players’ salaries. The musicians’ union has filed unfair labor charges against the orchestra’s management for allegedly locking them out and failing to bargain in good faith.

Although the Columbus Symphony is shuttered for now, orchestral music has not vanished from the city. As Symphony Columbus, orchestra members have already presented two concerts in Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium this summer, and are planning additional performances. Their concert on 17 August will take place outdoors, at a natural amphitheatre in Hocking Hills’ Ash Cave.

Further Reading:

Symphony Talks Stall in The Columbus Dispatch

Goodbye, Columbus Symphony? in The Wall Street Journal

Columbus Symphony official website

Symphony Musicians

Symphony Columbus

All Columbus Symphony entries in WKSU Classical

Columbus Symphony performs outdoors in better times (Photo: discoverohio.com)In the latest chapter of the ongoing struggles over the Columbus Symphony’s future, the orchestra is attempting to cancel its labor contract with the musicians. Douglas Fisher, the musicians’ union’s president, says the orchestra doesn’t have the authority to do so.

The orchestra says that it will incur a US$1.3 million deficit if it continues to pay the players beyond the end of the orchestra’s regular indoor season (which concluded end May). The orchestra’s outdoor summer concerts have already been given the axe for this year, and next season’s concerts are also endangered.

More from the Columbus Dispatch.

Columbus’s weekly The Other Paper muses on the origins of the problem.

Also see earlier WKSU Classical stories:

Back to the Bargaining Table

Another Chance for Columbus Symphony?

A Loss for Ohio’s Arts Scene

On Tuesday (20 May) musicians from the Columbus Symphony proposed their remedy for the ensemble’s fiscal woes. Their offer to give up about 6.5% of their salaries may have been the stalemate breaker. Columbus Symphony board president Robert Trafford says he’ll contact Central Ohio Federation of Musicians president Douglas Fisher to schedule new discussions.

Orchestra management had proposed axing the full-time roster by over 40%, from 53 to 31, effectively converting the Columbus Symphony to a chamber orchestra. The package also included a cut in the length of the season.

The musicians nixed that idea. The scheme they put forth on Tuesday called for the same salary reduction proposal the orchestra’s management had earlier rejected, and also challenged management to reduce administrative and other expenses not directly related to musicians’ salaries by over US$2 million.

More from the Columbus Dispatch.

Earlier this month, the Columbus Symphony announced that they planned to shut down operations on the first of June, putting paid to the idea of summer picnic pops performances, and leaving next season’s concerts in limbo.

Columbus Symphony musicians rehearse (Photo: symphonymusicians.com)Could the orchestra yet save itself? Today the Columbus Dispatch reported that members of the Columbus Symphony were to announce their plan to work within the orchestra’s management’s proposed US$9.5 million budget while maintaining their current stable of 53 full-time players. No details were provided, and at this writing none has yet been posted on the musicians’ website.

Last week, the orchestra’s shutdown threat prompted the grants committee of the Greater Columbus Arts Council to recommend no funding for the orchestra. President Bryan Knicely said the Council "shouldn’t be giving operational support to an organization that’s not going to be here after June 1." Last year the Columbus Symphony received $261,417 from the Council.

In April, the orchestra’s musicians voted to reject management’s final offer for next season’s contract. It included a 40% salary cut for all 53 full-time musicians. In 2005, the players had agreed to $1.3 million worth of reductions in the length of the season and in benefits.

More background from the New York Times (Note: registration required)

 

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