CSO Musicians Approve New Contract

Category : Blog Archive Sep 22nd, 2008

A possible stop-loss in the Columbus Symphony crisis has finally occured. WOSU radio is reporting–and so far this appears to be an exclusive report–that the musicians have voted to ratify a new three-year contract. The Holiday Pops will go on as scheduled.

WOSU provided a few sketchy details about the new agreement, though at this time there is still no official announcement on the CSO Musican’s Symphony Orchestra Committee website or the orchestra’s official homepage.

The new contract will allow all fifty-two full-time musicians to be retained. The trade off is that the season will be shortened, though by how much is still unclear. Jim Akins, the Orchestra Committee’s chairman, was quoted as saying “weeks” would be cut.

In addition to the reduction in the number of concerts, the musicians will take a pay cut, though the details of this decrease were also not announced. WOSU reported that the average musician’s salary fell from last year to this year from $55k to $34k. It was unclear whether this 38% reduction represents the new salary level and/or the amount lost by the cancellation of the summer pops and the first three months of the regular season.

The report also neglected to mention whether or not Maestro Hirokami will be retained as music director. The contract that the musicians rejected back in July proposed to lessen the severity of the salary cut if the musicians would agree to dismiss Hirokami to make up the difference.

Not surprisingly, WOSU has been unable to reach anyone on the board for comment.

Principal clarinetist David Thomas says this may be the beginning of an unfortunate trend to reduce the size and scale of America’s symphony orchestras. I agree that this is a major concern. Without better leadership in place at the CSO, this may be a painfully temporary solution. The damage that has already been done to the orchestra may never be fixed.

Although this contract allows all of the current full-time musicians to be retained, the question remains: who exactly these people will be? Many of the orchestra’s best and most seasoned players–including several full-time and even principal players–have already sold their homes and moved out of state, as a Columbus Dispatch article of several weeks ago reported.

Of course, there are still many wonderful musicians who have remained in the area and would certainly go back to work for the orchestra. The question is whether or not they will stay here or eventually find work with more stable and better-paying organizations elsewhere. And whether new musicians can be attracted to fill the seats of those who were forced to leave Columbus.

More details to come as I am able to root out inside information.

UPDATE: WOSU has posted their report on their website. The salary and season length information is still confusing.

UPDATE 2: The Columbus Dispatch picks up the story and provides further information and reactions from the board.