Musicians of the SPCO ratify agreement and call for new Orchestra leadership – Musicians remain deeply concerned about ensemble’s future

ST. PAUL, MN (April 29, 2013) – Today the Musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) ratified a 3-year agreement with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Society, and they 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 and to maintain and enhance the SPCO’s status as one of the world’s leading chamber orchestras.

If revenues are not significantly increased in the next three years, the artistic quality of this Orchestra will not be preserved, according to Carole Mason Smith, Chair of the Musicians Negotiating Committee.

“We’re eager and excited to return to the stage and play music again for our loyal audiences,” Mason Smith said. “We’ve keenly missed performing for our community, but we remain deeply concerned about the artistic quality of the SPCO for future generations.”

Mason Smith said the Society’s proposal of April 18 was considerably improved in negotiations on Sunday, April 22 and Monday, April 23, and the Musicians Negotiating Committee, in the best interests of the SPCO, then “strongly” recommended ratification.

“It was necessary to play some concerts at the end of this season in order to assure that there will be a 2013-14 season,” Mason Smith said.  “If that season did not take place, the institution could have been seriously impaired.”

Mason Smith said that one thing the Musicians discovered during the lockout is their audience’s unbelievable loyalty and support. The audience group, Save Our SPCO, was formed during the lockout, and Mason Smith said the Musicians want to thank the group in particular for its “unflagging support and encouragement during this very difficult time.”

The new contract requires a more than 22% reduction in annual salary of Musicians and an up to 20% reduction in their overscale. Overscale is the additional compensation some musicians receive for their special skills on their instrument and their leadership roles within instrumental sections.  The Musicians accepted a lower salary in order to assure that new Musicians would be paid the same salary as present Musicians, said Mason Smith.

She added that this sacrifice was made to support the attraction of the very best musicians to audition for the significant number of openings which already exist, and which will be increased by retirements incentivized by the Society, in an orchestra, which has been reduced from 34 to 28 Musicians.

“The vast difference between the new SPCO annual salary of $60,000 and the salaries of other major American orchestras, many of which exceed $100,000, will make attracting such musicians very difficult,” Mason Smith said.

The savings during the lockout and the reductions in compensation to Musicians will reduce the Society’s costs by over $5 million by the end of the contract in 2016.

The Musicians of the SPCO will have been locked out for 191 days. Their contract expired September 30, 2012. Management imposed the lockout on October 21, 2012 and it will not end until tomorrow, April 30, 2013.

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