Nashville Symphony CEO Alan Valentine finally broke his silence on Wednesday, granting interviews with the media for the first time in six months. The occasion was the end of the orchestra’s year-long ordeal that began with a crisis over the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and ended Tuesday with the conclusion of contract negotiations with the musicians.
Valentine was quick to point out how busy he and his staff have been over the past six months. During that time, the orchestra has reduced its debt by 75 percent and its debt service by 90 percent. The orchestra’s overall operating budget has been reduced by $6 million.
“We have accomplished all of this without strikes, lockouts, foreclosures or bankruptcy,” Valentine says. “Everything we’ve done the past six months sets the stage for what comes next.”
Along the way, the musicians did have to make a big concession, giving up 15 percent of their salary for the 2013-14 season. They will play the same number of weeks (44) and will also increase the number of their education and community outreach performances. The contract lasts just one year, meaning negotiations of some kind will likely start again soon.
“Nashville Symphony musicians were already earning the lowest salaries among top-tier orchestra musicians,” says David Pomeroy, president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 257. “We need to find a way to get the musicians back to their former income level as quickly as possible. A one-year contract gives the orchestra time to raise money.”
My interview with Valentine is published in this week’s Nashville Scene. The orchestra’s 2013-14 season opens next Thursday with an all-Russian concert featuring the music of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
Photo credit: Schermerhorn Symphony Center by Michael W. Bunch