Weepless in Seattle: New deal for musicians, smiles all round

Weepless in Seattle: New deal for musicians, smiles all round


norman lebrecht

June 20, 2014

The Seattle Symphony and Opera have quietly negotiated a new deal for musicians, 14 months ahead of schedule. Players will get an annual wage increase of around three percent, taking the minimum salary to $98,000 by 2018, with a retirement benefit of $31,680.

They have good conductors, good productions, good weather. What’s not to like? (Except the odd bit of mind-blowing dumbing-down). Press release follows.




Fourteen months ahead of schedule, the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, and Seattle Symphony and Opera Players’ Organization announced today that they have reached agreement for a three-year contract extension through August 31, 2018. The current contract would have expired on August 31, 2015. 

The three-year extension guarantees annual wage increases of 3.2%, 3.1% and 3.6%, respectively, with minimum salaries reaching $98,100 in the last year of the contract. The extension also includes a 6% raise in the post- retirement defined benefit pension, taking it to $31,680 per year. All other terms and conditions in the current contract remain the same. The contract continues to guarantee 47 weeks — 87% with the Seattle Symphony and the remainder with Seattle Opera. 

“This agreement was reached in a highly collaborative manner, recognizing that all parties had real benefit to gain from the certainty and stability that would come with an extension,” commented Seattle Symphony Executive Director Simon Woods. “This has been a remarkable year in the Seattle Symphony’s history, with the highly successful continuation of some of the innovations we introduced last season, a critically acclaimed appearance at Carnegie Hall, the launch of our record label, Seattle Symphony Media, and the hosting of the League of American Orchestras National Conference. To end the season with the announcement of a contract extension is immensely gratifying and another significant milestone on our exciting organizational journey. I am very grateful to the Seattle Symphony musicians for their incredible music making and for their commitment to our long- term success.” 

Tim Hale, Chair of the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players’ Organization, said, “We are delighted to have been able to reach an agreement so far ahead of the expiration of the current contract. The agreement was accomplished through a high level of trust and understanding between the parties and through a shared vision for the future of the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera.” 

“The musicians of the Seattle Symphony are one of the integral elements of every Seattle Opera mainstage production,” said Kelly Tweeddale, Executive Director of Seattle Opera. “By extending our current contract for the next three years, the musicians are helping ensure a smooth leadership transition as Seattle Opera General Director Speight Jenkins retires and welcomes his successor, Aidan Lang.” 


  • Halldor says:

    Never fail to be fascinated by the way the constant wails of “the death of classical music” from the USA are accompanied by equally constant reports of orchestral musicians on $98k basic salaries. Truly, we’re through the looking-glass.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Wonderful news! Dear Norman, in response to your remark: “Except the odd bit of mind-blowing dumbing-down”, I like to state that I fully support the excellent response to you ( Why Seattle was so wrong to book the rapper, editorial from June 10) by Mr. Joseph Kaufman from the Seattle Symphony, on June 11. I only have heard the Seattle Symphony at Seattle Opera, in the magnificent RING cycles in 2009 and 2013. I am glad to know that Seattle can look forward into a terrific future of great music making in all its variety

  • MacroV says:

    Seattle is a pretty expensive city (though not as expensive as London). A $98k minimum is probably, in terms of purchasing power, about half of what they get in Cleveland these days.