Nashville Symphony reaches agreement with its musicians

nsomusiciansThe musicians of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra have a new contract.

On Monday, the NSO announced that it had reached a new, four-year agreement with its musicians that offers three-percent raises during each of the first two years. During the third and fourth years, the NSO will reopen salary negotiations.

“We are thrilled that we have reached an agreement which recognizes our musicians’ critical importance to our organization and the sacrifices they have made,” Nashville Symphony president & CEO Alan Valentine said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working with our immensely talented orchestra as we continue to focus on restoring the Nashville Symphony to full fiscal health, and we are grateful for our musicians’ continued commitment to that goal.”

The NSO’s new contract does not restore the 15 percent salary cut that the musicians accepted last season, a sore point with many musicians, who note that the orchestra had a record year. During the 2013-14 season, the orchestra sold 166,000 tickets and earned $8.6 million in revenue, a 26-percent increase in ticket sales from the prior season. The symphony also raised $6 million in its annual fundraising campaign, a whopping 71 percent increase from the prior year.

Those figures represent a substantial comeback for the NSO, which was in severe financial distress following the 2008 recession and 2010 flood. Indeed, the orchestra’s ornate Schermerhorn Symphony Center was just barely saved last year from the auction block.

“For the good of the entire organization, the musicians of the NSO took a huge pay cut last year while increasing their workload,” said David Pomeroy, President of the Nashville Musicians Association, AFM Local 257. “This agreement is a first step in the right direction, but there is much more to be done to make things right.”

Their frustrations aside, Nashville Symphony musicians didn’t have to look far to see what happens when negotiations break down. On Monday, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra announced that it was postponing the start of its 2014-15 season, according to ArtsATL. The ASO and its musicians have been at loggerheads over how to close a $2 million deficit, which has resulted in a lockout of the players that has now dragged on for two weeks.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.

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