Musicians have played their role to put ISO on its feet: Richard Graef, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra– Indianapolis Star

I am not a born Hoosier. Twenty years ago, as a young horn player I was an
audition finalist for orchestras in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Columbus,
Ohio. I had already held positions in the orchestras of Memphis, Honolulu
and Durban, South Africa.

I chose to come to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and play under
Maestro Raymond Leppard for the people of Indiana. The ISO was known as a
“destination orchestra,” one of the top 17 in the nation – one of the few
orchestras that toured, recorded and performed year round.

I chose Indianapolis. I chose to live here, to raise my family here, and to
make music here. I am now a Hoosier.

My story is similar to other transplants within our community, including
many of the musicians of the ISO. We are part of an international talent
pool that chose Indianapolis. The ISO musicians come from all over the
world, yet we are now Hoosiers.

When the ISO musicians were locked out for five weeks last fall, the
community support was uplifting and sustaining. Countless individuals signed
petitions, wrote letters, attended our concerts and offered encouragement
during our lunchtime concerts outside Hilbert Circle Theatre. It became
clear that our community wants, needs – and deeply values – a full-time
major symphony orchestra.

In order to return the music to the people of Indiana and to avoid a
protracted lock-out that threatened to permanently damage our great symphony
orchestra, the musicians agreed to a five-year contract that took effect on
Oct. 15, 2012, and will end on Sept. 3, 2017. It represents $11.5 million in
concessions by the musicians. This contract includes a 32 percent pay cut in
the first year. Five years later, we will be making 10 percent less than we
made at the beginning of this year. Our salary in 2017 will be what we
earned in 2002. We will perform fewer weeks, and there will be a smaller

This is not the first time that the musicians have taken concessions to
solve the financial problems of the ISO. We accepted $7 million in
concessions in our three previous contracts. The musicians have given back
more than $18 million in an effort to preserve our great institution.

While the fiscal issues the ISO faced were real and required immediate
attention, we still believe, based on extensive independent financial
analysis, that the severity of the restructuring was not necessary. The ISO
has a viable financial future. In order to preserve its future artistic
quality and cultural viability, the current reductions in personnel,
performance weeks, salary and benefits must be seen as temporary. We all
have to work together to move forward and regenerate Indiana’s full-time
major symphony orchestra.

The ISO musicians want to be a part of the solution. It is an opportunity
for the organization to rebuild financially and return the orchestra to the
level we once held.

Recently, the ISO announced it had raised $8.5 million, which included $5.4
million from new donors. The ISO musicians played an unprecedented role in
helping raise the funds deemed necessary by our board for a long-term
contract to take effect. Under the leadership of percussionist Paul Berns,
the musicians worked hand-in-hand with our board and management to attract
new donors and engage our existing supporters.

To those who supported the ISO during this critical time, you have our
heartfelt appreciation. You have been essential to keeping your musicians on
the stage, playing the music we all love.

The ISO musicians are hopeful as we move forward. We are pleased to welcome new CEO Gary Ginstling to Indianapolis. We are energized to create music under the direction of Maestro Krysztof Urbanski, Maestro Jack Everly and
ensemble-in-residence Time for Three. We will continue to create an
unparalleled cultural experience for the people of Indiana.

Our community deserves no less.

Graef is assistant principal horn with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
and Orchestra Committee chairman.

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