an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

San Francisco is out of Carnegie Hall

The strike by musicians of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra last night forced the cancellation of its East Coast tour, with incalculable and lasting damage to the company and its brand.

Many in Europe remember in bemusement the late-1990s tour when musicians of the SFSO picketed their own concert in different halls as part of an ongoing wage dispute. The orchestra acquired a reputation for washing its laundry in the least appropriate public places. It has just done so again. The stain will take years to erase.



Here’s the Carnegie release:

Date: March 17, 2013 | Contact: Matt Carlson | Tel212-903-9751 |
(NEW YORK – March 17, 2013) Carnegie Hall today announced that concerts by the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, originally scheduled for Wednesday, March 20 and Thursday, March 21 in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, have been cancelled due to the orchestra’s current work stoppage. These concerts will not be rescheduled.Patrons who purchased tickets for these performances with a credit card will receive automatic refunds. Those who purchased tickets with cash can return them to the Carnegie Hall Box Office to receive their refund. Ticketholders with any questions should contact CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800

And here’s the company statement:

SAN FRANCISCO, March 17, 2013 – The Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony have rejected a federal mediator’s proposal to resume playing concerts during a “cooling off” period while negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement continue. The Symphony’s administration was willing to abide by the federal mediator’s recommendation, based on developments over the past three days of talks.


As a result of the musicians’ continuing work stoppage, the orchestra’s three-city East Coast tour on March 20-23 will not go forward.  The tour was set to include performances at Carnegie Hall March 20 and 21, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on March 22, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on March 23. The ongoing five-day musicians’ strike has already forced cancellations of four concerts in San Francisco.


Over the past three days of lengthy negotiations, overseen by a federal mediator, the musicians’ union rejected the latest administration proposals and continued their strike.


Several proposals by the administration have been rejected by the musicians’ union.  The most recent proposal offered increases in musician compensation to achieve a new annual minimum salary of $145,979 with annual increases of 1% and 2% for the latest two-year proposal.  Contractual benefits also included a $74,000 maximum annual pension, 10 weeks paid vacation, and full coverage health care plan options with no monthly premium contributions for musicians and their families for three of the four options.  Additional compensation for most active musicians also includes radio payments, over-scale, and seniority pay which raises the current average pay for SFS musicians to over $165,000.


“We are deeply disappointed that the musicians have continued to reject proposals for a new agreement and that the musicians will not proceed with our planned East Coast tour,” said Brent Assink, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony.  “We have negotiated in good faith since September, have shared volumes of financial information, and have offered many different proposals that we had hoped would lead to a new agreement by this time.  We will continue to work hard to resolve this situation.”


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. How sad. I live in Los Angeles & not directly affected but feel bad for the audiences back east, Yuja Wang, MTT, and the presenters. Are their salaries really that far behind LA & Chicago???

  2. harold braun says:

    That ´s terrible! Are they aware of the damage being done here?

  3. Fabio Fabrici says:

    It’s funny how in the picture above the musicians seem to take pride in their numerous Grammy awards. If they just knew how meaningless classical Grammys are.

  4. Oh. “Incalculable damage to the brand” how friggin’ Terrible. I say Power to exploited artists everywhere !!!!!!!!! STRIKE !!!!!!!!

  5. sense of entitlement musician says:

    Yep, it’s always the musicians’ fault…..always…under any circumstances….always…..
    Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…..
    It’s hard not to go into total sarcasm mode, and I have failed again….
    From my perspective, by the way, orchestras aren’t ‘in peril’…..musicians are under attack…..
    Why pay musicians well, when they do their jobs well, if you can cut benefits, ad more work, and freeze wages…
    oh yeah, how about a half a BILLION dollars instead for ‘improvements’ to a building…..
    Buildings, not musicians… I sense a theme? Minnesota, now Nashville, Chicago, Philly….
    oh, never mind….blame the musicians….after all, as my mother-in-law used to say, “Don’t you just LOVE to play?
    You’d do it for free, wouldn’t you?” Another favorite….”You get paid THAT, for playing an instrument? I should’ve stayed in band longer……”
    And the beat goes on…….

    • Dude, I’m a musician and I think they are being completely ridiculous. They are already one of the highest paid orchestras in the world, and they are being offered a RAISE! They get 10 weeks PAID vacation, a $74,000 annual pension(higher than the median SALARY in San Francisco) and a full health care plan. What else could they possible want? Please don’t compare this situation to the truly tragic and unjust situations in Minnesota and Atlanta. Those musicians are getting slammed. The SFSO is being coddled, and they still turn it down. Ridiculous.

      • So are they just being greedy, or are there legitimate beefs with the management?

      • NoMusicwithoutMusicians says:

        Dear Jeremy,

        I wish you would do some more research on what’s really going on instead of believing everything that the SFS management is lying about. I’m guessing you also haven’t heard SFS live, because if you had you definitely wouldn’t be talking this way.

        Here’s a good start

  6. The conflict between SFS musicians and the management is not about how much money they earn but about fairness. If the company was in trouble the execs would not get big raises and bonuses. And since they did the musicians feel that it is unfair to ask them to take a cut. They are the heart of the organization. Without them there would be no symphony. They feel that the administration has lost sight of its mission. They seem to be more concerned with growing the endowment (which the second largest in the country) than taking care of the orchestra.

    • But the musicians are not being asked to take a pay cut. They are getting a 1% raise! Also, since the endowment has everything to do with the future health of the orchestra, they better be concerned with growing it.

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      Would the orchestra stop the strike if the management took back their pay disproportional rise and in the future tie their pay rises to those of the orchestra? (If I were SFS’s management that would be the thing to do for me.)

      • Musicians are effectively are asked to take a cut since the increases in health insurance and other changes to working conditions are way more than the 1% increase.

        • What do you mean by “Increases in health insurance”? The management’s statement says that three of the four health care options are FULLY covered. That means NO employee co-pay, which is extraordinarily rare in this country (and helps contribute to health care cost inflation, BTW).

          These coddled cry babies really need to get back to work and thank the lord/saraswati/their-lucky-stars for the great gig which they have.

        • kate smith says:

          Guess what? The entire United States of America has just taken that same haircut. wake up!

  7. Fabio Fabrici says:

    Dear musicians of the SFS,
    I suggest the following solution to your problems with management:
    All of you quit your jobs effective immediately. Then you build a new orchestra, but you do it with a business model where all of you own shares in the orchestra. You determine your base salary and benefits collectively. You share profits collectively. You hire managers and all other staff which you then have on payroll, not the other way around. They do the fundraising for you.
    What is stopping you?

    • kate smith says:

      fabio, you are calling their bluff. The musicians just want to be taken care of so they can opt out of the messiness of life and play their instruments in peace. They are like children. Do they read the newspapers? Have they taken a look at the unemployment rate? Do they realize the vast majority of the working populace just took a significant haircut on their paycheck due to US federal benefit taxes? The musicians simply need to grow up like the rest of humanity, but they refuse. It’s tantrum time.

  8. For those reeling in chagrin at the loss of an opportunity to experience the Mahler 9, which the SFO was slated to perform at CH , here is an alternative…

an ArtsJournal blog