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Just in: major US orchestra demands ’67 percent pay cuts’

Evelina Chao, a viola player in the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota, has written an open letter to the city’s mayor describing the crisis in its world-renowned orchestra.

The players’ contract expires at the end of next month and the board are seeking pay cuts of between 57 and 67 percent from each and every player. Several musicianshave sold their homes, sought jobs elsewhere or gone on extended leave. The future of the famed ensemble hangs in the balance.

Read Evelina’s article here.

UPDATE: More trouble in Atlanta.

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  1. Pete Whitman says:

    Has the board indicated how it intends to maintain a world class orchestra by hiring musicians on a per-service basis? Can you imagine hiring players for a professional sports team on a game by game basis?

    • another orchestra musician says:

      It’s the practice of union-busting, applied here to a small symphony orchestra. SPCO management will easily find support for it among the local business community. Indeed, there must be a large number of local businesspeople actively encouraging the SPCO management to help demonstrate that symphony musicians, like other skilled labourers, are commodity items, entirely dispensable and replaceable. Because the number of musicians hoping to work in an orchestra is large, whereas the number of paying jobs available to them is relatively small, fielding the SPCO as a mostly pickup ensemble should be simple enough.

      American voters keen to see the middle- and upper-middle-class jobs provided by professional symphony orchestras transformed into precarious working-class jobs, for the benefit of the Romneys and Ryans of the world, will have no difficulty choosing between candidates this coming November.

      • It’s a little early to blame Romney and Ryan for the the fact that the business community nationally is on its back. You’re an elite musician in the courtly tradition, right? Tell me, unless you can pursuade your local government to levy a dedicated tax for the benefit of the orchestra, how is raising taxes on the wealthy in general going to affect your patronage? Maybe this fall, do a little real-world thinking before you walk into a voting booth.

        • Ah, the marriage of music and business. I have never understood why musicians (of which I am one) feel the need to think in liberal terms. Truth is, major corporations tend to fund the arts, therefore we should hope for a strong business community for sustenance of arts programs. This is not a union bust, it is an economic bust.

        • Rich, there are no ‘elitist’ musicians. If you are implying that knowledge gained by hard work makes musicians ‘elite’ that is just ignorant. Yes I’m calling that whole FOX news soundbite idea ignorant.

          Musicians spend years in college, years practicing, tons of money on instruments and extra lessons. The bottom line is that we are just people that want to provide something beautiful to society, and pay our bills doing it. I don’t know a single solitary ‘rich’ classical musician in any orchestra. Most are barely making ends meet by adding other jobs to their already busy schedules. We have car payments, children in college, medical bills and mortgages just like the rest of the working people. Being paid a fare wage for the amount of time we devote is not ‘elitist’ or ‘greedy’. No one would call you greedy for expecting a pay check for services rendered.

          Board members are stewards of the organization they serve. That should mean that dismantling the orchestra should be off the table. Yes there is a down turn in the economy, but there are other groups that are doing well, Colorado Symphony for one, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra serves a large number of people.

          It’s kind of like having the Interior Department decide to clear cut Yosemite.

  2. Peter Rapson says:

    This is absolutely horrendous! Almost a ‘bad joke’ if it weren’t true! How can any board in good conscience make such an outrageous request regardless of the severity of finances? Maybe it is the board who should resign and allow more dedicated and empathetic individuals to take their place! My heart goes out to all you exceptional musicians!
    Peter Rapson (cellist)

  3. Bill Grenke says:

    Who are the people on this board and how can I get in touch with them.

  4. Jaffo Nerr says:

    Next they’ll be asking them to play at monster truck rallies.

  5. Mike Getzin says:

    It will take courage and sacrifice, but the only answer I see is an Orch revolution; Reorganize the Orch with a different name, follow the Berlin Philharmonic model, and have the Orch musicians take over themselves. If leaving St Paul, maybe moving to Canada which isn’t that far away may be an option. America may be a death troll for professional musicians gven the corporate greed and culture of ignorance. What is happening in St Paul is an attrocious travesty and insult to the profession.

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