Musicians at the San Francisco Symphony have gone on strike this week, canceling at least one performance and casting doubt on their scheduled Carnegie Hall concert next week.
The orchestra members, resident players at the Bay area's Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, have rejected the most recent contract proposal from the symphony administration, a three-year deal that offered a base pay of $144,560 with 1% increases after the first year. "That kind of an offer is going to put us in a position where we will not be able to hold on to our most talented players, and we certainly won't be able to recruit the most talented available players in the pool that are out there in the United States," violist David Gaudry stated in a news conference.
The symphony's administration has characterized the proposal as one that would maintain the orchestra's standing as one of the top three best paid classical music institutions in the country (the other two being the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). But the San Fran musicians claim that the LA orchestra makes wages that are 5% higher than their current contract proposal stipulates, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, adding that their city boasts a more substantial cost of living and that players are required to purchase quality instruments that can cost up to $1 million. One principal musician, timpanist David Herbert, has already left the organization after 19 years of service to join the Chicago Symphony.
“We are disappointed that the musicians have chosen to strike and deeply regret any inconvenience to our patrons,” Brent Assink, executive director of the San Francisco Symphony, said in a statement on the orchestra's website. “We will continue to work hard to develop a fair agreement that gives our talented musicians a contract that reflects our stature as one of the top orchestras in the country but also one that sets a prudent financial course for the future.”
Assink emphasized the financial pressure faced by the symphony, stating that the music haven has accumulated an operating deficit over the last four years. Nonetheless, the current stalemate, the first big musicians' strike since 1997, holds steady, with players anticipating a revised deal to presented by the symphony administration soon.
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