Nashville Symphony Musicians Ratify One-Year Contract at 15 Percent Pay Cut

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After three months of intense negotiations between management and the local musicians' union, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra's players voted today to accept a one-year contract.

Among its terms is a 15 percent pay cut for musicians. It's the same rate as cuts accepted earlier this summer by NSO music director Giancarlo Guerrero and president/CEO Alan Valentine, but significantly lower than the nearly 30 percent initially proposed by management, as John Pitcher reported earlier this month in the Scene.

"This news means that we will begin our concert season as scheduled on September 5, and that all of us here at the Nashville Symphony can focus on doing what we do best: bringing the highest-quality music and education programs to you and to the entire community," Valentine and chairman of the board Ed Goodrich said in a joint statement posted on the symphony's website.

Below, the full text of the management statement and a corresponding union statement.

From management:

August 27, 2013

We are delighted to announce that the musicians of the Nashville Symphony ratified a new one-year contract today. This news means that we will begin our concert season as scheduled on September 5, and that all of us here at the Nashville Symphony can focus on doing what we do best: bringing the highest-quality music and education programs to you and to the entire community.

For the past three months, the Nashville Musicians Association-AFM Local 257 and the Nashville Symphony Association have been engaged in negotiations over the musicians’ contract, with the ultimate goal of building a secure, sustainable future for the orchestra while maintaining our unwavering commitment to artistic excellence and community service. This agreement will help us achieve that goal. The terms include a 15 percent reduction in the musicians’ pay, which is similar in scope to the recent cuts in total compensation and benefits taken by members of the administrative staff.

We are profoundly grateful to our musicians for their spirit of shared sacrifice. We were able to reach this agreement through a genuine spirit of collaboration and a common desire to serve the people of Middle Tennessee. We are especially pleased that the new contract will allow us to continue offering the same high level of programming for our audiences, and it will also provide increased opportunities for the orchestra to go out into the city and engage everyone in our community even more actively than ever before.

Since March, when we first notified you of our decision not to renew the letter of credit backing the debt and bond obligations on Schermerhorn Symphony Center, we have worked diligently to guide this invaluable institution on a path toward continued success and sustainability. Thanks to our ongoing restructuring efforts, which wouldn’t have been possible without the willing cooperation of our bank lenders and our musicians, we have lowered our annual operating costs by a total of $6 million. We still have much work to do ahead of us on the fundraising front, but today we can say that we have emerged from this process with a renewed sense of purpose and possibility, and we are wholly committed to ensuring that the Nashville Symphony serves this community for generations to come. But we will need your continued help more than ever.

Thank you again for your steadfast support. Your loyalty and your generosity have allowed us to accomplish so much, from the building of Schermerhorn Symphony Center to the orchestra’s growing list of GRAMMY® Awards. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you and we cannot wait to see you at the Schermerhorn this season!

Sincerely,

Ed Goodrich, Chairman of the Board
Alan D. Valentine, President & CEO


From the Union:

The Nashville Musicians Association, AFM Local 257 and the Nashville Symphony Association announced today that the orchestra musicians have ratified a new one-year contract. The contract will go into effect immediately and will run through July 31, 2014.

The agreement comes after three months of negotiations between the Nashville Musicians Association and the Symphony Association, which have focused on building a secure, sustainable future for the orchestra while maintaining an unwavering commitment to artistic excellence and community service. The terms of the contract include a 15 percent reduction in the musicians’ pay, which is similar in scope to the recent cuts in total compensation and benefits taken by members of the administrative staff.

“We are profoundly grateful to our musicians for their spirit of shared sacrifice,” says Nashville Symphony President & CEO Alan Valentine. “We were able to reach these mutually agreeable terms through a genuinely collaborative effort and a common desire to serve the people of Middle Tennessee. We are especially pleased that the new contract will allow us to continue offering the same high level of programming for our audiences, and it will also provide increased opportunities for the orchestra to go out into the city and engage everyone in our community even more actively than ever before.”

The salary concessions are part of a comprehensive financial restructuring that the Symphony has undertaken in response to the difficult economic conditions that have plagued the organization since the start of the 2008 recession, and which were exacerbated by the May 2010 flood. Taken in tandem with other restructuring efforts, which include reducing debt service costs by more than 90 percent, these cuts will enable the Symphony to lower its annual operating costs by a total of $6 million, or 29 percent of this year’s operating budget.

“This has been a difficult time for the Nashville Symphony and its musicians,” says violinist Laura Ross, who, as union steward, serves as a member of the negotiating team. “As challenging as this agreement will be for many of our musicians, it was ratified because we believe our role in this community is important. We continue to serve Nashville and Middle Tennessee with the same level of commitment and look forward to a revitalized and rededicated Nashville Symphony. We are fortunate to live in a vibrant arts community that supports excellence.”

Dave Pomeroy, President of the Nashville Musicians Association, adds, “This one-year contract is a stopgap measure that provides a way to keep the music playing in the Schermerhorn at the high artistic level Nashville has come to expect. These musicians will be working much more for considerably less money, and their collective sacrifice is a testimony to their ongoing commitment to our community. We look forward to working with the Symphony Association towards a mutual goal of restoring NSO salaries to a level commensurate with their world-class talent as soon as possible.”

The Nashville Symphony’s 2013/14 season will begin, as scheduled, on September 5-7 with “Russian Spectacular,” featuring music by Mussorgsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. “The Nashville Symphony’s Board of Directors has worked diligently to guide this invaluable institution on a path toward continued success and sustainability,” says Board Chair Ed Goodrich. “We hope that everyone in our community will take this opportunity to celebrate by coming out to hear the Nashville Symphony this season. It is the community’s support that has allowed us to accomplish so much, from the building of Schermerhorn Symphony Center to the orchestra’s growing list of GRAMMY® Awards, and it is the community’s support that will help us thrive into the future.”

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