As Dallas Symphony "Struggles" to Balance Art and Economy, Musicians Get a New Deal

Categories: Arts
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The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has spent the last year trying to balance its books and fill its coffers, going so far as to launch last fall The Great Orchestra Campaign intended to raise a quick $50 million. The process continues: Per a press release dispatched by the DSO today, management has "cut over $1 million from its 2011-12 budget, including the elimination of staff positions and a staff wage freeze." It had to be done -- especially because, in the midst of putting together its budget, the DSO also had to come to terms with its musicians, without whom, well, there'd be no DSO -- and who haven't gotten a raise since 2007.

Four months of contract negotiations later, a deal's been struck. According to the Labor Day announcement:
"Musician wages will remain level during the first year and will increase by less than 1% the following year. With a base musician salary of approximately $90,000, the Dallas Symphony ranks 11th in base salary among leading American orchestras, while performing in the nation's ninth largest city and fourth largest Metroplex."
In the prepared release, DSO principal trombonist and SMU Adjunct Associate Professor of Trombone John Kitzman says the deal's music to his ears. "While DSO musicians have taken a wage freeze for the past four years, we understood the economic realities and worked with management to find a solution that would not compromise the artistic excellence of our fine orchestra," he says. "This agreement demonstrates the orchestra's commitment to bring the very best music to the city of Dallas for generations to come." Jump for the whole symphony.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra Ratifies New Musician Contract

Two-Year Agreement Balances Artistic Excellence with Financial Realities

Dallas, TX (Sept. 5, 2011) - The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and its musicians announced today a new two-year contract between the DSO and members of Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians. The new contract takes effect October 1, 2011 and runs through August 31, 2013.

This contract is the result of more than four months of negotiations focused on maintaining artistic excellence, while balancing financial prudence in the face of difficult economic realities. In tandem, the DSO recently cut over $1 million from its 2011-12 budget, including the elimination of staff positions and a staff wage freeze.

"The DSO musicians' committee and management team really came together for the greater good of our organization and community, and I am grateful for this shared commitment and hard work," said Blaine Nelson, board chair-elect of the Dallas Symphony. "This is a responsible settlement that will maintain our artistic integrity as we continue to evaluate new strategic and financial options."

"While DSO musicians have taken a wage freeze for the past four years, we understood the economic realities and worked with management to find a solution that would not compromise the artistic excellence of our fine orchestra," said John Kitzman, DSO principal trombonist and chairman of the musicians' Orchestra Committee. "This agreement demonstrates the orchestra's commitment to bring the very best music to the city of Dallas for generations to come."

According to the agreement, musician wages will remain level during the first year and will increase by less than 1% the following year. With a base musician salary of approximately $90,000, the Dallas Symphony ranks 11th in base salary among leading American orchestras, while performing in the nation's ninth largest city and fourth largest Metroplex.

"Like so many cultural organizations around the country, the Dallas Symphony struggles to balance our artistic aspirations with the economic challenges," said David Hyslop, DSO interim president and CEO since May 2011. "Given my years of experience in orchestra negotiations, I knew that both sides needed to give some in order to make this work. The agreement speaks volumes about the Dallas Symphony's commitment to each other as an institution and to the Dallas community. Both sides are to be commended for how they worked together in this difficult process."

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7 comments
Guest11
Guest11

Interesting that the article mentions nothing whatsoever about staff wage freezes. Staff wages have been frozen for four years also.

Gailalong
Gailalong

Paying a decent salary for the best musicians assures the continuation of high quality music.  Many great orchestras in big cities have gone mute in the last few years due to financial woes.  I am thrilled to live in a city that is supporting our orchestra.  It is extremely enriching to the life of our city, and on a practical side, attract big businesses and educated people searching to live in a city with a vibrant cultural life.

pjf
pjf

I'm floored. I work for an orchestra where the musicians make less than half of that, more like a a quarter or a third of what the Dallas musicians are making, and our orchestra, like many in our area, is still struggling. What's worse is know that this salary figure is released, there will be even less understanding for musicians who are struggling to get by in the REAL world.

Mdequesada
Mdequesada

It would be interesting to show the ten other orchestra's cities and do a little cost of living analysis. You can still buy a house for under $100k and a sandwich for $3 in Dallas... Don't try saying that in Chicago, Seattle, Boston...

Mimi de Quesada

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

Just imagine what Beethoven and Mozart could accomplish if they were guaranteed a base salary of that magnitude.  Moreover, the DMN recently declared the maestro's salary as $1.1 million.  So much for struggling artists in a bad economy.

PPPF
PPPF

Maybe instead of being hateful towards them, you should bring this situation up to your own administration as an example of a truly responsible solution to the economic struggles that ALL orchestras are facing now.  The full time orchestra for which I have worked for the past eight years almost just folded because of irresponsible stewardship.  I am always pleased to hear of success stories in other cities.  Texas supports the arts heavily.  Maybe you should focus on getting your community to do the same.

John
John

Are you really incapable of understanding why they make the amount they do? The DFW market can and does support it. No one is paying their salary unwillingly. If there are enough patrons who are willing to pay what it takes to grant the musicians that salary, then so be it. That would be like complaining about how much athletes get paid. You want them to make less? Don't buy their product! As a musician, you should be THRILLED that there are orchestras that pay that much and some even more. That means that if you practice like crazy and devote your life to music, maybe one day you can be fortunate enough to land a job like that. To question the salaries of the elite of your own field is mind-boggling.

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