US musicians raise $200k for Chicago strikers

US musicians raise $200k for Chicago strikers


norman lebrecht

April 24, 2019

The International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) has collected $200,000 in seven weeks.

Press release:
The musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are now in the
seventh week of their strike. This strike is the result of unacceptable
demands made by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association,
including minimal salary increases and that the musicians agree to
close their defined-benefit pension plan and replace it with a
defined-contribution system (e.g., 401k or 403b accounts).

ICSOM issued a CALL TO ACTION on 4-8-2019 and immediately
musicians of the San Francisco Symphony responded generously
with a lead donation of $15,000 for their colleagues in the CSO. In
the past two weeks, the $200,000 mark has been swiftly reached by
the generous donations of ICSOM’s member orchestras. This recent
CALL TO ACTION also reaches another important milestone, as
now over $2 million has been raised and issued to orchestras in
ICSOM CALLS TO ACTION since their inception in 2007.

“It has been deeply gratifying to see the speedy response of our
member orchestras to our colleagues in peril at the CSO,” said
Meredith Snow, ICSOM Chairperson. “Our musicians clearly
understand that what happens in Chicago affects us all and have thus
responded generously with this collective action.”

It is essential that the musicians of ICSOM respond whenever and
wherever our members are in need. It is through our united network
of orchestras that we can effectively articulate to our managements
that a move against one of us is a move against all of us. The unity
and generosity of all ICSOM musicians, along with our brothers and
sisters in the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), the
Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM), the
Recording Musicians Association (RMA) and the Theater Musicians
Association (TMA), and throughout the American Federation of
Musicians (AFM), have been an inspiration to our members and a
cautionary tale to our managements. The support of our ICSOM
orchestras in these Calls to Action has been extraordinary and makes
a tangible difference in the lives of our fellow musicians.



  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Yes, but these BIG orchestras could do with a bit of reality check as well. I realize that ticket sales are only a part of their income – maybe even a small part. But it can’t be encouraging to play to a bunch of empty seats out there (not all nights – I know that). They should be asking themselves why people settle on hearing low income local orchestras with lots of free (or inexpensive) parking and lower ticket prices. Same with opera companies, dance companies, theater, you name it. Even in the sports world, many people prefer seeing the San Jose Giants (AA, I think) than the real S.F. Giants for the very same reasons: cheap parking; lower ticket prices; more intimate venue; better weather; cheaper food, you name it. A lot of it has to do with just how good the major league team is doing, and perhaps that’s where the CSO should begin picking up a clue (?). The courts of public opinion matter. Just ask the S.F. Giants.

  • anon says:

    So heart warming to see the 10% banding together in revolt against the 1%.

    The Satin Vests movement, as it were.

  • Pete says:

    Yay! All of these orchestras have raised enough money to buy 1/10th of a Stradivarius! What tenth shall CSO buy, a fingerboard, perhaps the ribs, maybe the tuning pegs?

    • Max Grimm says:

      A bad example, considering the nigh constant accusations of fiscal irresponsibility and outlandish demands being passed back and forth. So why not forget about that 1/10th of a Stradivari and get several excellent instruments by top notch contemporary luthiers for the same money instead 😉


      management doesn’t buy the instruments, the musicians pay for their own equipment, which is now no longer deductible, thanks to the idiotic new tax laws

  • Russ says:

    Why would you raise money for these fools who won’t accept a good deal if it hit them in the mouth?

  • anonymous says:

    1) One can imagine the pressure the union put on its members to “contribute”.

    2) Of course, out of pure interest, the members want Chicago to succeed, because if Chicago falls, they will have lost one of two pillars of support for defined benefit pension.

    3) The other pillar being Deborah Borda. If the dean of America orchestra presidents decides to yank defined benefit from the NY Phil, the oldest orchestra in America, defined benefit will be dead for American orchestras.

    • Steve Proser says:

      There is no pressure from AFM Locals to contribute. As I explained in a comment to an earlier post, when a strike or lock out goes on for a period of time, ICSOM requests donations from member orchestra’s musicians. The musicians then take a vote to authorize contributions from their own internal funds. The amount of uniformed speculation in these comments is spectacular!

    • NYMike says:

      You forget Boston & SF – two other pillars of the DB pension. Again, the AFM is NOT involved in DB plans of its local orchestras. That the AFM’s own DB multi-employer pension is in trouble is a separate matter entirely. So much misinformation bandied about on this blog…..

  • Anonymous says:

    This is great but what about the Civic orchestra musicians and the ushers/staff of symphony center that have been put out of work by the strike? Will a dime of this money go to them? They are the ones scraping by — not the CSO musicians.