A fourth US orchestra is out of contract

Fort Worth is on strike. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are beck-pedalling desperately to achieve some kind of back-dated agreement.

Far from the metropolitan limelight, the Pacific Symphony has joined the post-deadliners.

As of Thursday, the Pacific Symphony’s musicians have no contract. Negotiations between representatives from Local 7 of the American Federation of Musicians and symphony management ended on Aug. 31, the day the last contract expired, without an agreement.

“This is very disappointing. We started bargaining on July 12, and we’ve put in more than 60 hours at the table,” said Adam Neeley, a violist with the Pacific Symphony who has served as chairperson of the orchestra committee for the last year. “The musicians have made four contract proposals that we feel have been more than fair.”

Read on here.

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  • Observer says:

    Is this even a full time orchestra?

  • phf655 says:

    The Pacific Symphony is the resident orchestra of the Segerstrom Performing Arts Center, located in Costa Mesa, California. Costa Mesa is southeast of Los Angeles, located in Orange County, part of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area The county has a population of over three million. It is thus totally inaccurate to say that this orchestra is ‘far from the metropolitan limelight’. A bit of web surfing on my part, which should have been done by the webmaster of this blog, turned up the fact that the orchestra performs more than 100 concerts per year. Until now the musicians have been paid on a per service basis. They are seeking a weekly wage, which is the way players in major United States orchestras are paid.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      No big-city newspaper or media outlet has reported the situation. Hence: far from the metropolitan limelight.

    • THOMAS GOSSARD says:

      While the Orange County Register isn’t a national newspaper, the story has just emerged so give papers like the LATimes time to follow up on the story.

      Here is what the President (Forsyte) had to say, in part:

      “Forsyte acknowledged that the local landscape for musicians is shifting, but pointed out there are other conditions unique to Orange County that make it extremely difficult for the Pacific Symphony to alter its compensation model. “It’s critical to remember that this orchestra is only 37 years old and hasn’t benefited from multigenerational endowment giving like other orchestras have.”

      The orchestra receives only $150,000 in public funding and only 4 percent of its operating budget comes from endowments; both are far less than most ensembles of its size, he added.

      It’s also costly to produce a concert in Orange County, Forsyte said. “Many concert halls are owned by cities or highly funded by government resources, and they don’t charge [tenants] very much. We enjoy none of those privileges. We’re blessed to have one of the world’s finest concert halls, but it’s very expensive to operate. That shows itself in very high rental costs.”

      And the classical music market is ultra-competitive here, Forsyte said, making it especially challenging to keep seats filled. “I would say that next to the New York metropolitan area, [Southern California] has the highest saturation of classical music offerings.””

  • SickOfExcuses says:

    Cue the inescapable arguments of how these overpaid musicians should be happy they even have a job when the firemen, policemen, teachers, etc. etc. make so much less…

    This is yet another example of inept management, blaming the musicians for their inability to raise money or market their product properly. It’s not the product’s fault!!! But if you read these statements from every single president or CEO of an orchestra with failed contract talks, they read almost word for word. “Not sustainable”, “Small endowment”, “Shrinking donor base”. I’d like to see the salary of the CEO and the MD compared to the salary of the musicians on stage. Then we can talk about balancing the budget.

  • PacificSymphonyMusician says:

    The salary of the MD is in excess of $475,000 and he conducts fewer than 12 weeks per year. Mr. Forsyte’s salary is in excess of $300,000, and he receives considerabe benefits and bonuses. In 12-13 (the last tax year available), he brought in close to $375,000.

    The average non-principal is offered $31,000 of work each year, and none of it is protected by a guarantee of any kind.

    The Pacific Symphony’s nearly $20 million annual budget makes it the 22nd largest orchestra in the nation, “full-time” or not.

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