Congratulations to the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!
Thinking about Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra today.
A great letter by the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to the public, as printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. #musiciansofsteel
An Open Letter to the Citizens of Pittsburgh from the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (from this morning's Post-Gazette):
What We're Fighting For
The Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony are on strike for one simple reason: to preserve the excellence of the orchestra that has been making Pittsburgh proud since 1896.
The PSO is widely known as one of the world's best symphony orchestras. That reputation was built by generations of Pittsburghers who desired to show the world what Pittsburgh was made of - and by the talented musicians who came to Pittsburgh, made this great city their home, and spent their careers here honoring the PSO's proud legacy.
That legacy is now threatened. New management of Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc. (PSI) has decided we need a "new reality" - one where steep cuts to the musicians' pay and benefits, combined with reducing the size of the Orchestra, would relegate the PSO to minor-league status. We cannot agree to that. A second-rate orchestra is not what Pittsburgh aspired to for 120 years. It would be a grave mistake to abandon that ambition now - especially at a time when Pittsburgh is rapidly becoming one of the most dynamic cities in the U.S.
That's why we are on strike. That's why we are willing to go without salary or health insurance, stand on the picket line in the rain, and present free concerts to the Pittsburgh community. It is because we believe in the Pittsburgh Symphony - and that means this Pittsburgh Symphony, not a pale imitation of a once-great orchestra.
The Sky Is Not Falling
New PSI management tries to justify its demands for radical restructuring by claiming a “financial crisis.” But they present no evidence of a problem so insurmountable that the only way to deal with it is to destroy the very thing they are charged with preserving. Management has presented nothing but a forecast – a projection that uses pessimistic and unrealistic assumptions to assert future deficits that exist only in theory. It baffles us that management is so eager to present the image of a failing organization, while at the same time boasting – justifiably so – of recent successes in ticket sales and record-breaking fundraising.
Pittsburgh has supported the PSO for 120 years. To claim that this city can no longer do so is an insult to the generations of leaders who worked tirelessly to preserve this orchestra’s excellence, and who always resisted the path the new PSI management is taking – because those leaders knew the consequences of going down that path would be to forever tarnish their legacy. We can only assume that this is a choice made by people who are new to Pittsburgh and just don’t understand what the PSO truly is, and what it means to this city.
There is a better way. Our vision is one of growth: increasing revenue (which is clearly achievable, as the PSO’s recent successes have shown); building ever more meaningful relationships with the Pittsburgh community, and managing expenses responsibly. The Musicians have always been willing to do their part to manage expenses; indeed, we have a long history of working with management to weather financial challenges (as we did coming out of the Great Recession in 2011, when we took a nearly 10% pay cut and agreed to management’s request to close our pension to new and younger musicians).
We stand ready to work with management now, as we always have. We will continue to explore ways for the parties to compromise, and to reach a responsible agreement that preserves the greatness of Pittsburgh’s orchestra and its 120-year legacy. That is our most fervent wish. But we need PSI leadership to work with us to achieve that goal.
The Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony
Free upcoming concerts presented by the Musicians of the PSO:
Oct. 23, 6 p.m.: A Brass Spectacular (East Liberty Presbyterian)
Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m.: Halloween Classics (Kelly Strayhorn Theater)
Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m.: A String Spectacular (Rodef Shalom)
PRESS STATEMENT | October 2, 2016
We, the Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with the deepest respect for our music, our audience, the City of Philadelphia, and the world's musical community, have today ratified a new contract. This agreement covers the next 3 years, and gives us modest increases of 2%, 2 1/2% and 2 1/2%. These increases do not achieve our goal of being compensated on a level comparable with other leading American Orchestras.
The Philadelphia Orchestra Association has indicated to us that it will be engaging in new methods to enhance the position of the Orchestra in the community and to reach new donors. The musicians have committed to working with the Association in these endeavors.
The musicians believe that the vast majority of the recommendations made by Michael Kaiser should be adopted by the Association. We will be closely watching to see if this occurs.
When we reluctantly went on strike a few days ago, we had no expectation that we could quickly restore this Orchestra to the compensation and working conditions for which we are striving. But we felt that, after years of decline which threatened to become irreversible, this was the only way in which we could call attention to a situation we regarded as desperate.
Three years from now, we look forward to ratifying a contract which will truly restore the Philadelphia Orchestra to its rightful place among the great orchestras of the world.
We hope to see you at any of our October 4th Audience Appreciation Day concerts. Further information can be found on our website: www.POMusicians.org
We stand with our colleagues, the Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians.
We stand with the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as they voted to go on strike today.
From the press release: "Management demands the following: ... A reduction in the Orchestra complement (presently 99 plus 2 librarians, though 3 positions are currently vacant) to some lower number that would be unilaterally determined by PSI Management, which would have sole discretion to decline to replace Musicians who retire or leave the Orchestra."
Does this sound eerily familiar? It didn't fly here in Atlanta, and sure isn't going to fly in Pittsburgh, either. Stand strong,
Response by the Musicians of the PSO to Management’s statement:
PSI Management claims that the severe cuts it is demanding to the Musicians’ pay, benefits, and orchestra complement are needed or else the PSO will “have to close the doors.” That is not accurate, and needlessly alarmist. By Management’s own admission, the PSO is seeing strong growth in ticket sales, subscription sales, and its Annual Fund – in fact, Management acknowledges “a record-breaking fundraising year.”
Management cites a series of misleading figures that the Musicians have thoroughly debunked in face-to-face meetings with Management since February. We were, in fact, surprised to see Management release those figurers publicly, as the Musicians, with the assistance of an experienced actuary, conclusively demonstrated that Management is inflating its forecasted liabilities, and understating its potential revenue, by using assumptions that are inaccurate and unrealistic.
Management’s demands are not driven by necessity. Rather, Management has taken the ideological stance of seeking to impose a “new business model” that Management claims will be more “sustainable.” Management seems to think that such a radical shift will not affect the world-class excellence of the PSO. That is a pipe dream. As has been shown by misguided attempts to impose this “new business model” in other places, such as Detroit and Minnesota, the result is that Musicians will leave. We will not be able to attract replacements of the same caliber. Musicians who do come here will stay for a short time and then leave. Instead of an orchestra made up of the world’s best musicians, who choose to become proud Pittsburghers and raise their families here, the PSO will be a transitional group – a stepping-stone orchestra for lesser musicians who immediately seek greener pastures. The PSO that Pittsburgh has come to know and love will cease to exist.
We again call upon Management to return to the table and bargain for a fair contract that will ensure the continued excellence of the PSO.
ATL Symphony Musicians