The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is in the midst of its 75th season. In celebration of this milestone, Buffalo Heritage Unlimited, in cooperation with the BPO, has published The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra: The BPO Celebrates the First 75 Years. This highly informative volume outlines the history of the orchestra from its inception to the present with a wealth of photographs and text. In addition, the Buffalo Philharmonic has produced a five-CD set of recordings that includes Beethoven Symphony No. 6 (William Steinberg, 1949); Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 (Josef Krips and Glenn Gould, 1960); Foss Baroque Variations (Lukas Foss, 1967); Foss Renaissance Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (Lukas Foss and Carol Wincenc, 1986); Mozart Symphony No. 36 (Maximiano Valdes, 1987); Ruggles Men and Mountains (Michael Tilson Thomas); several Gershwin selections (Michael Tilson Thomas and Sarah Vaughn, 1975); Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 (Julius Rudel and Emanuel Ax, 1980); Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 (Semyon Bychkov, 1988); Schreker Prelude to a Drama and Das Spielwerke (JoAnn Falletta, 2008); and Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade (JoAnn Falletta and Michael Ludwig, 2007). All of these recordings took place at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York. Additional information is available at www.bpo.org or www.music.buffalo.edu/bpo/record.htm.
The Columbus Symphony got a contract settlement in less than a week—six months before the expiration of the current agreement—through transparent collective bargaining between two highly motivated parties. This follows a long history of problems.
Beginning in 2003 the orchestra began to run large deficits, and its 52-week contract was lost in 2005, with musicians accepting a 10% cut. In 2008 the musicians were locked out mid-term after several months of public battles, and the orchestra ceased operations for six months. When the dust cleared, the musicians faced an additional cut of 21%. It was also extremely difficult for the orchestra to resume operations, having lost both contributed support and subscribers. Despite the severe cuts accepted by the musicians since 2005, the orchestra was barely alive in 2009. A new board and management leadership had taken charge, but so much damage had been caused by the nine-month public fight that, a year ago, the orchestra faced another imminent shut down. Because of confidence in the new orchestra leadership, the musicians agreed to another 20% cut to give time to repair the orchestra. A new business relationship was established with the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA), essentially handing control of the orchestra’s management over to them. As the first anniversary approaches it appears that this relationship has been successful and is working well.
At 25 weeks, total compensation for musicians this season is 40% less than it was in 2008. Making matters even worse, the group health insurance premiums were about to increase 42% on March 1. Musicians must pay 20% of the premiums each month, and those premiums already represented about 8% of gross wages on average.
Earlier this season the orchestra leadership informed musicians of its plans to build a large cash reserve and to begin planning for an endowment drive, tied to an early settlement and a multi-year agreement. The local and the orchestra committee said that if there could be financial relief this season and help with the huge health insurance increases, it might be possible to reach an early settlement. Over a tense period of four long days, a deal was put together. A change in insurance companies and policies contained the premium increase to 24%. The musicians will receive $1,000 this April to provide some financial relief this season. Over the four-year term beginning this September, the minimum annual salary will increase 14%, recovering to $40,000 in the last year for a 26-week season. With strong new leadership on all fronts, including an excellent new music director, some relief and hope has finally come to Columbus.
Congratulations to ICSOM orchestras whose recording won awards in the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards. The Chicago Symphony won the Best Classical Album for its recording of the Verdi Requiem with Riccard Muti and the Chicago Symphony Chorus on CSO Resound, also taking the Best Choral Performance award. The Nashville Symphony Orchestra scored big with its recording of Michael Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony coupled with his Deus Ex Machina (with pianist Terrence Wilson). With Giancarlo Guerrero conducting, the Naxos recording won Best Orchestral Performance, Best Classical Contemporary Composition (Deus Ex Machina), as well as the Best Engineered Album, Classical award (tied with Quincy Porter: Complete Viola Works, featuring Eliesha Nelson on the Dorian Sono Luminus label). The Best Surround Sound Album was Britten’s Orchestra, on Reference Recordings, featuring Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony. Mitsuko Uchida won the Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with Orchestra) award for her performance of Mozart Piano Concertos Nos. 23 and 24 with The Cleveland Orchestra on Decca.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal recently, the New York Philharmonic has not only met its five-year fund raising campaign goal of $50 million, but expects to nearly double that figure. By the time the campaign concludes in June, the Philharmonic expects to have raised more than $90 million, with $52 million going towards the endowment. The bulk of those funds came in before the market meltdown in 2009, but the Philharmonic board has still been able to raise more than $12 million during the past two years, with another $18 million to come in future years. One area that has made fundraising more successful is the increase in endowed chairs.
There are currently 41 endowed chairs, up from 21 at the beginning of the campaign. Many of these positions are “term endowments” that expire at some point in the future (usually after 10 years), at which point the chairs can be re-endowed. The endowment of chairs seems to have set up a system in which there is a more personal connection between large donors and orchestra members.
All is not completely rosy. The Philharmonic has still been running deficits and has needed to draw $25 million from the endowment to cover them along with the usual endowment draw, and to make contributions to its under-funded pension plan. The $190 million endowment is still $23 million lower than it was in 2000.
The Phoenix Symphony was looking at some dire numbers for the 2010–2011 season. As of December 31, 2010, contributed revenue was down 58%, total revenue was down 39%, and there was a projected deficit of $1.7 million on a budget of $9.2 million. Jim Ward, the new CEO, asked the musicians to reconsider their salary for 2011–2012, which was negotiated two years ago when the musicians took their last cut. It was to have been a restoration year with a 12% raise.
Orchestra committee chairman Chuck Berginc says that with the new CEO and a new general manager, these were by far the easiest, and most non-adversarial negotiations the musicians have ever experienced. They are very encouraged by the way they were treated and by the degree to which their views were heard and considered.
The changes to their contract include a cut from 40 to 38 weeks and a base salary of $35,200, including $5 per week EMG ($190), representing a wage freeze to the base salary on an annual basis for 2011–2012. This will continue to Oct 31, 2012. In addition, there are a few minor alterations to work rules that limit services on runout weeks, and minor restrictions on personal leave during classics weeks.
The musicians report that, having peacefully reached an agreement that they can live with in the short term, they are hopeful that it will give their new management a foundation that will lead to much success in the future.
Recently, musicians from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra created and organized a “flash mob” in an effort to transport classical music out of the concert hall and into their community. This grass roots project has proved to be very successful both in enriching the lives of citizens and in increasing awareness of the ISO. Brian Smith, section bass, led the first effort, which occurred on a Saturday afternoon in one of the biggest malls in town. A string orchestra performed the last movements of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings and Vivaldi’s Summer from the Four Seasons, featuring Concertmaster Zach DePue. One of the biggest hurdles was memorizing the music and arranging everyone so that the beginning of the performance looked unplanned.
There was ISO literature available for the “audience,” and ISO’s director of communications, Jessica Di Santo, made a video of the event that can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrc2uXT9suc. The video is approaching 10,000 views, and there is great excitement about using flash mobs to bring classical music to more locations around the city.