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Symphony season start in jeopardy?

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Updated: 9/14/2012 6:48 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- A battle over money could be changing the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's tune.

Action News has learned negotiations between the union and the symphony's board appear to be stalled, leaving opening day in jeopardy. The players union and the symphony board have been in talks for five months. They are trying to avoid a repeat of 2007. That's when musicians were locked out of work for nine weeks. During that time, each player lost $10,000.

A brochure just went out in our community and says the symphony is still scheduled to start in two weeks. We got our hands on a letter that was sent to board members Thursday night explaining the situation.

Action News has learned contract negotiations between the orchestra union members and the Symphony board of directors are not going well. Peter Wright is the president of the union representing the musicians. "We've in good faith tried to bargain and come down, and they haven't budged," said Wright.

They went through this same thing five years ago. It resulted in a nine-week lockout. "Each musician lost $10,000," said Wright. The two sides started negotiating five months ago. Wright said they've submitted five proposals to the board's one.

Here's how it breaks down. Wright says the board wants musicians to take a 20 percent cut in salary. The union's proposal is to keep salaries frozen at $40,000. The union also says it could save the symphony $750,000 over the next three years.

We went to the symphony office. They told us the negotiations were confidential and couldn't comment, but the season is still expected to go on.

Wright is worried about a repeat from five years ago, but he's trying to stay optimistic. He and the other musicians just want to share their love of music with the rest of our community. "I love my job and I love making music.....It's important to have an orchestra in a community like Jacksonville," said Wright.

Last year, the symphony had an $8.1 million budget. It operated in the red by $450,000.The season is scheduled to start Sept. 28.
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grumpyoldman - 9/17/2012 11:38 AM
1 Vote
This is a complete waste of MONEY!!!! If people want to hear this kind of music, let them go stand in an elevator....

saveasymphony - 9/17/2012 10:47 AM
1 Vote
Citizens of Jacksonville - remember the huge effort made to get people to buy tickets, season tickets, etc., to keep the Jags going in Jacksonville and keep them televised?? You did it for the Jags - an organization that provides a need in our community, economic benefits, entertainment, civic pride, all for a team that tries hard but loses more than wins. Do it for your symphony - an organization that provides all the above but ALWAYS wins! They are an acclaimed, highly professional, top-notch orchestra right here. This is our real gem and you need to come forth to support them - buy tickets, season tickets, or donate to the symphony. They are worth it and we cant afford to be without it. You don't know how much revenue has been lost in the economic downturn (like all non-profits), so don't complain about what you percieve to be a huge endowmnent squirreled away somewhere. Endowments only provide their interet, and that is way less than $14 million!! Operating costs go up but no salaries have gone up at the symphony for years. PLEASE consider supporting the symphony in any way you can to see them through this dire situation.

MrCitizen - 9/15/2012 3:42 PM
1 Vote
Musicians wanna get paid too!

Eleanor Slaton - 9/15/2012 8:42 AM
0 Votes
Seriously? Again? And, what was the size of that endowment? $14,000,000? Maybe the symphony's management should be put through an intervention on "Hoarders" and learn how to let go of that which is unhealthy. Better yet, maybe they should revisit kindergarten and learn how to share. All sarcasm aside, 20% less compensation (at the rate the musicians are paid) is not negotiation, it is a slap in the face....but not just to the musicians. It is a slap to Jacksonville - suggesting that Jacksonville is not deserving of a professional symphony. Music is a source of creativity (just ask the musicians who teach in the schools) and healing (just ask the musicians who play in health care facilities) and teamwork (just ask the musicians about the spirit that comes out of beautiful music. In a divided and hurting world, I find it hard to believe that anyone would try to chip away and beat up this source of beauty. The fact is that if symphony management can't get the fundraising job done, for crying out loud, find someone who can. It is wrong to ask the musicians - or any front line employees - to take on the burden of management's failure - that is both cowardly and unethical. Of course, as J.R. Ewing said, "Once you do away with integrity, the rest is a piece of cake." That certainly seems to mirror management's cavalier attitude towards the musicians as they take away their livelihood, "Let them eat cake." Come on, Jacksonville. You're better than this.

Symphony lover - 9/14/2012 9:56 PM
1 Vote
A recent study released just days ago by UNF demonstrates that the arts and culture had a $66 million dollar impact on Jacksonville - providing hundreds of jobs in the process. http://culturalcouncil.org/news/study-reveals-66-mil-economic-impact-of-jacksonvilles-nonprofit-arts-industry. So I was very sad to read that Symphony negotiations have apparently stalled. For those who may not know, roughly 2/3 or more of Jacksonville Symphony musicians went to top music conservatories in the United States, including schools like New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, Indiana University, Northwestern University, and Juilliard (which has a lower acceptance rate (and is therefore tougher to get in) than Harvard). The Jacksonville Symphony musicians are some of the best - drawing accolades from all over. In fact, two Jacksonville Symphony musicians were recently part of a special group of musicians recording concerts for NPR in New York; while many continue to visit schools and teach our children music lessons contributing greatly to the arts in our community. Just ask yourself: If you were a Harvard graduate, would you move to Jacksonville to take a $32,000 job and go above and beyond with further artistic contributions to the community? That's apparently what management would like for the Symphony musicians to do. If Jacksonville truly wants to build downtown into a vibrant center and attract more than service industry jobs that pay $8-10/hour, it must continue to build on its arts and cultural foundations, provide stellar educational opportunities and thus provide a higher quality of life for its citizens.

Captain Seeker - 9/14/2012 9:12 PM
0 Votes
Tragic situation yet again. It is hard to understand why an organization with a $14,000,000 endowment in the bank can ask its musicians to accept 20% less compensation and, at the same time, pay substantially more for health insurance. Musicians with children will fall below the official poverty line. Musicians will become part time employees, working a "day job" and playing at night when they can? We did that in the 50s. It was not good. How can Jacksonville move to the proverbial "next level" up when it is moving several next levels down with its symphony? The best symphony in the Southeast is being dismantled -- and in favor of what? Wake up Jacksonville.
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