US orchestra goes on strike

US orchestra goes on strike


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2021

Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony have walked out over the company’s final contract offer, reducing the size of the orchestra from 72 platers to 42.

The average player wage would be $24,500 a season, or just $125 per concerto or rehearsal.

In oil-rich Texas.


  • Nightowl says:

    I really feel for the orchestra and hope for the best.

    However, during the pandemic it is not a good time for any orchestra to be going on strike.
    It is kind of a moot point with these worldwide economic hardships..

    That being said, EVEN the French orchestras have been giving up to go on with their strikes…

    • BRUCEB says:

      Your arguments are brought out even in non-pandemic times, any time an orchestra tries to negotiate for more money/ protests against drastic cuts/ engages in some kind of labor dispute over such. Things are tough all over, we need to be focusing on literally everything else going on in the world first, things are very precarious right now on Wall Street, et cetera, et cetera, et f**ing cetera.

      Symphony boards across the US (not all of them, obviously, but some) have been using the pandemic as an excuse to impose the cuts they have been wanting to impose for years.

      The San Antonio Symphony is unfortunately no stranger to financial crises. Don’t think for a moment that they don’t recognize the danger of what they’re doing. Think of it instead as an indication of the desperateness of the current situation.

  • phf655 says:

    Of course, this is no way treat musicians. Keep in mind that San Antonio is the 24th largest metropolitan area in the United States, and ranks 182nd in per capita income. The wealth of Texas, mentioned in this post, is distributed unevenly, both geographically and demographically.

  • Brexar County, of which San Antonio is the center, has 80,000 active duty military personnel, but it can’t support 72 low paid orchestra musicians.

    The county also has 250,000 veterans. One in every eight people in the county is tied to the military, but it leaves its arts world in constant neglect.

    • Don't Tread On This says:

      Yeah, watch it with your dumbass comments. We in SA, and in the USA, need and honor the military and our vets. It would be nice to have an orchestra here, however if I want to watch orchestra music I can log into Digital Concert Hall or maybe go to Dallas once a year for a special treat. I wish the musicians well but the SA symphony is not a great orchestra and hardly worth fighting about.

      • justin says:

        Good point, not every orchestra is worth saving, and not every town needs an orchestra, this is the US, not Europe, classical music is a European art form; not every European city needs to have a jazz band, and not every European jazz band is worth having.

        • Actually, Europe supports a good number of full time big bands (jazz bands as you call them.) The USA no longer has a single full time big band even though it is the quintessential American art form in music.

          The two ignorant and blustering comments above could not be a better illustration of the mindset artists face in the USA. We see that there are correlations between a lack of arts support and a lack of education.

        • Only the military has full time big bands. Gee, what a surprise.

          • Jon says:

            It seems so crazy to me that members of the regional air force band in San Antonio make more than the members of this orchestra.

            And, while I’m very happy for Cleveland today, could you imagine if they donated 20% of that donation to San Antonio? That would likely save them and then some.

          • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

            That fact, in itself, reveals much about where we are with the performing arts in the US.

            That a regional military band (not even one of the DC bands) pays more and has better job security and benefits than an ICSOM orchestra in the 24th largest city in the country.

      • BigSir says:

        I have a subscription to the Digital Concert Hall and it is nothing compared to live music. SA will just become the armpit of Texas with your philosophy.

      • Larry W says:

        DTOT, your dumbass comment proves William Osborne’s point. You do not honor the military by putting down this fine orchestra.

    • The View from America says:

      If you’d take the time to get the name of the county correct, your argument *might* carry more weight with readers. It isn’t that hard, you know.

    • V. Lind says:

      Not a lot of military people are all that well paid. There are military families on food stamps. I would very much doubt that supporting symphonic musicians is high on their must-do lists.

      Bear in mind who goes into the military. The Academy kind, who tend to be rightwing, sportif, rigid. The recruits, who tend to be otherwise unemployable because they have been raised poor (no piano lessons) and probably did not finish school — perhaps because they had to go to work.

      None of these things excludes an interest in classical music, but it is not the natural base for it either.

      • The issue isn’t that the military folks should be particularly interested in the arts. The point is about how we use our resources. We spend about $750 billion per year for the military, but the budget for the NEA is only 0.02% of that amount. (1/50th of one percent.) As an expat of 41 years, I can tell you from daily experience that this has created a society for which Europeans have increasingly little respect.

  • Maria says:

    No one should be trated other than with respect, but equally each in this orchestra should be only too glad to have a job, making music that they enjoy and are privileged to do so with the help of a paying audience – the whole purpose of doing concerts. No audience, no point. SO many musicians and singers are totally stuffed and unemployed or have had to leave the profession thanks to the pandemic, and can’t just pick up students to teach. Totally the wrong time to strike.

  • Michel Lemieux says:

    The orchestra has been consistently in the red for several years. It has a very small budget and without significant donations, it cannot afford to pay the musicians more.

    This is not a full-time gig for the musicians and I wouldn’t expect the orchestra to pay them full-time salary.

    • drummerman says:

      In recent years, their budget has ranged from about $6 million to about $8 million….hardly “a very small budget.” (Take it from a guy who used to manage an orchestra with an $800,000 budget!)

  • Thomas Huckaby says:

    Norman; how on earth do you think it helps out the Musicians by continually using an old stupid slogan that the Musicians had nothing to do with. This seems vindictive and said with the intent to harm rather than help the city of San Antonio and it’s very much struggling musicians!!

  • Ramon Scavelli says:

    The San Antonio Orchestra has a history of many strikes over many years. This orchestra will survive! It has in the past and will in the future. I feel for it’s musicians, given a double whammy with this strike and the pandemic. They are down, but not out.