“New Financial Realities”- Letter to the Board from the Musicians of the SPCO Negotiating Committee

Dear Members of the Board of Directors of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Society,

We, the Musicians of the SPCO, are disheartened at the current status of the negotiations, and we share your urgent desire to resume concerts for the community. We are well aware of the financial challenges of the organization, regardless of the credit situation on hand and the companies who have tried to help. However, we feel there is a more nuanced financial picture than the one that the Management has painted, and there is more than one solution to the crisis.

We have recalculated the cost of our latest proposal, based on all the financial information the Management has provided us and the new harsh reality of the 10 week lockout. As you know, the Management has never budged from their demand that $1.5 million be cut from the Orchestra’s budget. In the spreadsheet that is attached, you will see that a large part of the present budget for the orchestra is for replacement and extra player costs. We discussed this issue in the last negotiation meeting on November 8, and Musicians pointed out that programming within a budget could lead to significant savings in this area. An increase in Baroque programming or a focus on Haydn Symphonies, for instance, could maximize the use of the current roster and save on the use of extras without compromising our artistic standards. If you find yourself wondering why the SPCO spent $1 million dollars on extra and replacement musicians la Read More

SPCO musicians ratify contract; concerts to resume May 9–Pam Espeland, MinnPost

On Monday, the musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra accepted management’s latest proposal and its conditions, which include a significant salary cut and the downsizing of the orchestra from 34 players to 28. After a lockout that began Oct. 1 and lasted 191 days, they will play their first official concert on May 9 at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, a program of music by Schoenberg, Robert Schumann and Mozart featuring cellist Steven Isserlis and conducted by Thomas Zehetmair.

The lockout is over, but all is far from copacetic. Along with signing a three-year agreement, the musicians called for “the immediate commencement of a search for a new SPCO leader with proven orchestra management experience, and the vision and skill to substantially increase revenues.”

“We’re eager and excited to return to the stage and play music again for our loyal audiences,” said Carole Mason Smith, chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee, in a press release sent yesterday afternoon. “But we remain deeply concerned about the artistic quality of the SPCO for future generations.”

We spoke with Mason Smith later that day.

MinnPost: How are you feeling, now that the lockout has ended?

Carole Mason Smith: It’s a relief to know that we’ll be getting back to work, that we’re going to have revenue coming in to every household. But it’s a regressive agreement, and Read More

Pittsburgh Symphony settles contract with musicians a year early–Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 10, 2013

Management and musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have settled a
new contract more than a year before the current one expires.

The agreement calls for a 4 percent wage increase for the 2013-2014 season,
a wage freeze in 2014-2015 and a 3 percent increase in 2015-2016.

The annual base salary for 2013-2014 will be $104,114, and the current
number of musicians, 99, will be maintained.

Two years ago the musicians, who are members of Local 60-471 of the American
Federation of Musicians, accepted a 9.7 percent wage reduction for the first
two years of a three-year agreement, with a wage reopener in the third year,
which is this one. Today’s agreement essentially bypasses the third year of
the current contract and begins again under the new provisions.

“It won’t get us back to where we were, but it gets us close,” said bass
player Micah Howard, the musicians’ union representative. “In the climate
we’re in now, this is a great contract. It keeps the PSO as a destination
for the world’s best talent.”

He was referring to several other orchestras across the country that have
endured bankruptcy, strikes, a lockout and a cancelled season.

James A. Wilkinson, Pittsburgh Symphony president and CEO, said PSO members
make up “one of the best orchestras in the world. It’s extremely important
we continue to reward them by keeping their sala Read More

A harmonious agreement for the Kansas City Symphony – Steve Paul, Kansas City Star, July 4, 2013

In a show of operational harmony, the Kansas City Symphony and its musicians
have reached agreement on a three-year contract a full year ahead of

The new contract, effective July 1, 2014, and ratified by the Symphony board
recently, includes a boost in musicians’ base salary and other enhancements.

By all accounts, negotiations were amicable and compromise came easily
against a backdrop of orchestral pain and labor disputes across the country.

Symphony musicians have been locked out in Minneapolis for months. Contract
squabbles have erupted in recent years in New York, Chicago, Denver,
Indianapolis, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Fla., and elsewhere. The new
concert hall in Nashville, Tenn., has been on the verge of foreclosure, and
the financial future of its orchestra remains wobbly.

But here, the Symphony is coming off its second straight successful year in
its new performing home, Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the
Performing Arts. Ticket sales rose again, and the Symphony eked out an
unplanned $200,000 surplus on its $13.5 million budget.

“We wanted to settle early as a signal that not only are things going well,
but we all want to be part of a proactive plan,” said Frank Byrne, the
Symphony’s executive director and principal negotiator.

“We are very proud of the positive relationships and mutual trust between
our mu Read More

Musicians of the SPCO honor retirees

We would like to acknowledge and thank those musicians who are leaving the orchestra for their musical and personal contributions that have helped to make the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra a world renowned ensemble.  Over the course of their tenure, the SPCO has done twelve international tours of Europe, Asia, and South America, many domestic tours, including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and the Ravinia Festival. They have also performed in 49 recordings with artists such as Pinchas Zukerman, Hugh Wolff, Christopher Hogwood, Mstislav Rostropovich, Douglas Boyd, and Bobby McFerrin.  We are very grateful to them for their talents and friendship over the years.

The following is a list of the musicians who have elected to retire, along with the number of seasons performed with the SPCO:

Gary Bordner, Principal Trumpet – 31

Fred Bretschger, Assistant Principal Bass – 32

Christopher Brown, Principal Bass – 34

Evelina Chao, Assistant Principal Viola – 33

Thomas Kornacker, Co-principal Second Violin – 36

Brenda Manuel Mickens, Violin – 33

Michal Sobieski, Violin – 34

Paul Straka, Horn – 31

Tamás Strasser, Viola – 38

Thomas Tempel, Oboe – 44

Read More