Nashville Symphony, musicians reach tentative contract agreement

nso2After months of negotiations, the Nashville Symphony and Nashville Musicians Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new musicians’ contract. Union negotiators provided musicians with an outline of the new collective bargaining agreement during a meeting Friday morning. Details of the agreement are being withheld pending ratification by the musicians.

“The new agreement is not as progressive as it has been in past years,” says one source familiar with the agreement who requested anonymity due to the ongoing media blackout. “But it’s still good because it resolves a lot of issues.”

That should come as a big relief to the orchestra’s 86 full-time musicians, who faced a proposal for steep cuts from the symphony when negotiations began in June. According to an email from the NMA to the musicians obtained by the Nashville Scene, the Nashville Symphony initially sought a 30-percent cut in the musicians’ compensation, from an annual base salary of $60,000 to around $42,000. The initial proposal also called for cutting the length of the season from 44 weeks to 36.

For now, the tentative agreement promises to bring to an end a season of crisis at the Nashville Symphony. Earlier in the year, the symphony defaulted on about $100 million in outstanding debt on the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. After negotiations on repayment of the debt stalled, Bank of America issued a foreclosure notice on the concert hall.

An auction on the hall was finally canceled in late June after the symphony agreed to provide its lenders with approximately $35 million in liquid assets, and after a realty company controlled by long-time symphony patron Martha Ingram agreed to hold a new (and vastly less expensive) $20-million mortgage on the hall.

“We believe that deal is going to put the symphony back in the black,” says a board member familiar with the details of the bank negotiation who requested anonymity because of the blackout. “Things are looking up.”

And that means the symphony’s 2013-14 season should begin as scheduled. The new season begins Sept. 5, when music director Giancarlo Guerrero leads the NSO in an all-Russian program featuring, among other things, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.

Later in the month, the symphony will present a pair of gala concerts, featuring soprano Renée Fleming (Sept. 21) and Al Jarreau (Sept. 22).

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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.