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October 7, 2009

Economic pain continues to spread; Indianapolis Symphony agrees to 12 percent pay cut

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians ratified a three-year contract that calls for a 12 percent pay cut in the first year, gradual increases after that. It's the latest retreat in the face of the lingering recession. Over the summer, the Baltimore Symphony players swallowed a 12.5 percent salary reduction and other cost-saving measures.

A few months ago, the Indiana ensemble tried saving money by asking then-music director Mario Venzago to take what would have effectively been a 50 percent drop in pay. He declined and departed. A successor has yet to be named.

Here are excerpts from the Indianapolis news release:


Ratified October 4, 2009, the new agreement will result in substantial savings for the ISO and is a critical component in stabilizing the Orchestra’s financial operations. The terms of the new contract include a 12% reduction in salaries for the first year, with an increase by 2.7% for the second year and 7.8% in the third year. In addition, ISO musicians agreed to greater individual contributions toward health care benefits and a limited reduction in their pension earnings. This new contract represents approximately $4 million in savings to the ISO during the next three years.

...Along with the new agreement for ISO musicians, the Orchestra has taken steps to proactively reduce additional operating expenses in this new fiscal year (Sept. 1, 2009-Aug. 31, 2010). Effective in October, 2009, the President and CEO will take a 15% cut in salary; ISO vice presidents will take a 10% reduction in pay; and the remainder of ISO staff will take a 5% cut in salary. Approximately $2 million will be saved with these and cuts within other departmental expenses in addition to the savings from the musicians’ contract. During the previous fiscal year, the ISO eliminated a total of 13 administrative positions and trimmed its operational, marketing and development budgets to save the organization approximately $1.7 million.

Michael Borschel, chairman of the musicians’ negotiating team, said, “Given the current economic environment, the real concern for the musicians was whether or not our community is willing and able to support a truly world-class symphony orchestra. For the short term, we have pledged to do our part by agreeing to cuts in wages and pension and in shouldering additional health care costs. However, the longer term answer lies with our employer, the Indiana Symphony Society. The Society’s willingness to address our wage and pension concerns over the next three years points toward future fiscal stability and artistic growth of the Orchestra, under its yet-to-be determined Music Director...”

Posted by Tim Smith at 12:16 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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