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January 18, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra on strike; Seattle Symphony may be next

It looked all along that the situation with the Cleveland Orchestra would get ugly, and it has.

The players went on strike Monday, a move that threatens an educational residency at Indiana University and concerts in Miami as part of the orchestra's annual residency. One slight bright spot: a bargaining session is scheduled for Monday at noon.

Money, of course, is the main issue -- management, having already gone through its own pay cuts, wants a 5 percent reduction in musician salaries this year, with a return to current level the year after and a 2.5 percent rise the third year. Players countered with an offer of a pay freeze this year. This is going to be a tough PR battle for both sides.

Same out West, where the Seattle Symphony players have authorized a strike; no word yet on when, or if, that threat will be carried out.

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:52 AM | | Comments (4)


I hope that Baltimore goes forward and strikes. The musicians in Baltimore have already taken between 12 and 18% paycuts: they deserve better. No one has much sympathy for musicians making $50-$100k/year, but we must remember that these are World class musicians in a World class Orchestra. To maintain this, they should be paid better. Symphony management should stop taking advantage of this situation.

Musicfan, perhaps you didn't realize Tim is talking about the Cleveland Orchestra, not Baltimore. Cleveland musicians' salaries probably start a good deal over 100K. Plus, the organization had their first deficit, of $2 million, since 2005. The Cleveland musicians should take a page from the BSO musicians and be a bit more proactive toward the success of their orchestra. A strike will help no one. I doubt if Cleveland symphony management is taking advantage of anyone. More likely they're trying to keep the organization in the black for the benefit of all. If you do actually want the BSO musicians to go on strike, I question if you truely are a "musicfan."

Maybe a percentage of the income to these major orchestras can be invested with some of the large growth corporations, like FORD. Some of the bonds for these bailed-out companies are pretty good yielding too!


Thank you symphonyguy.

@Musicfan The Baltimore musicians are not the only people who have taken a hit. The administrative staff have taken pay cuts, faced layoffs and two consecutive fiscal years of ten-day furlough. Base staff salaries are no where near $100k.

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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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