Orchestras facing difficult labor negotiations nationwide

While here in the Twin Cities both the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are still hammering out their contracts (and the Minnesota Orchestra musicians could possibly face a lockout as soon as Monday), the chips are falling for other orchestras across the nation.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its players ended a labor standoff and agreed to a new contract on Tuesday - and late yesterday, the Atlanta Symphony and its musicians did the same.

NPR’s Kathy Lohr reports the Atlanta deal means the orchestra’s 68th concert season will begin next week on schedule.

The issue in Atlanta is a $20 million budget deficit that management said had to end. It closed the gap in part by cutting musicians’ salaries…

When the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement last month, players were locked out of the Woodruff Arts Center. With the season set to begin in just a week, the musicians approved a new contract with $5 million in concessions.

This, for an orchestra that has won 27 Grammies.

  • Mary L.

    Sadly, Grammys don’t lead to balanced budgets. And to be honest, it was probably Robert Shaw’s excellent work with the Chorale that brought the Grammys.

  • Mark Gresham

    In response to Mary L.: I’ve just made a count, and it appears that 16 of the 27 Grammy Awards won by the Atlanta Symphony were for recordings made during Robert Shaw’s lifetime (as both music director and as emeritus) and some involve another conductor. Of those 16 Grammy Awards, 8 were for “Best Choral Performance.” The rest of the 27 Grammys, the subsequent 11, have all been won in this century during Robert Spano’s time as ASO Music Director — 2 of those were for “Best Choral Performance.”

    The name of the chorus, btw, is “Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus” and has never been known as Shaw’s (or anyone’s) “Chorale.” The Robert Shaw Chorale was disbanded when Shaw came to Atlanta in the mid-1960s.

    And not a small point: the “$20 million” figure reported by NPR is not a “budget deficit” but an “accumulated debt.” There is a difference, even though the terms “debt” and “deficit” are sometimes confused. The difference is meaningful.

  • Mary L

    Thanks Mark. I really should have checked my facts before posting.