Proposed contract would reduce 26 San Antonio Symphony members to part-time, eliminate 4 positions

click to enlarge A new contract proposal for the 2021-2022 season would reduce many Symphony musicians to part-time employment, and eliminates four positions. - Courtesy of San Antonio Symphony
Courtesy of San Antonio Symphony
A new contract proposal for the 2021-2022 season would reduce many Symphony musicians to part-time employment, and eliminates four positions.
Contract negotiations between the San Antonio Symphony and its musicians remain contentious, with the orchestra's managing body suggesting deep payroll cuts and the union arguing for the need for additional fundraising.

Under a new proposal from the symphony's leadership for the 2021-2022 season, the orchestra's 72 full-time musicians would be reduced to 42, with 26 positions converted to part-time and four positions eliminated entirely, according to the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony (MOSAS).

This new offer follows a prior proposal that would have cut the musicians' base salary by half, which MOSAS Chair Mary Ellen Goree decried as "poverty level" wages.

The orchestra's managing body, the Symphony Society of San Antonio, insists that the proposed personnel cuts are necessary to maintain "organizational viability."

"For more than half of our 82-year history, the San Antonio Symphony has struggled to stay financially solvent. With a new plan in place and many critical financial milestones reached, the Symphony Board is unanimous in its belief that the Symphony live within its means," Symphony Society of San Antonio Chair Kathleen Weir Vale said in a statement emailed to the Current.

"The musicians remain the heart of the Symphony and the Board is dedicated to creating an environment for them to thrive artistically, while simultaneously adhering to a sustainable financial model for the organization to deepen our commitment to San Antonio. That is why the last proposal submitted brought the average salary of 42 core musicians to $32,812 for 24 weeks of work."

As an alternative to the personnel cuts, MOSAS expressed its desire to work with Symphony management on an aggressive fundraising campaign.

"Our Board and management should work together with musicians on an ambitious, aggressive fundraising campaign, casting the net far more widely than has been done in the past," MOSAS Chair Goree said in a statement emailed to the Current. "While we are grateful to our existing donors and patrons and rely on their continued support, we are confident that there are many more potential donors and supporters who would gladly be part of a successful San Antonio Symphony if only they knew how they could help."

However, the Symphony Society doesn't consider such a campaign a viable option, stating that the organization has "gone from one emergency fundraising effort to another" over the course of decades.

"There is no evidence these repeated emergency campaigns serve our organization, our musicians, our donors, and our patrons for the long term," Vale said in a statement. "The pathway to maintain stability, and to move to sustainability, is to focus on growing reliable, renewable annual revenue, while adopting new long-term financial discipline."

For its part, MOSAS said it's been advocating to establish an endowment to fund the organization for the long term.

"For years, the musicians have been urging our board and management to hold such an endowment drive, and for years, we have been told that it isn’t the right time, that some other ongoing endowment drive (such as the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts) takes precedence, and so on," Goree said.

"The result of such thinking is that we now have a beautiful building that is in danger of losing its largest resident arts organization."

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