The agreement will see musicians’ annual salaries increase $10,000 between this year and 2021
6 a.m. Sept. 1, 2016|
The San Diego Symphony Orchestra Association and the American Federation of Musicians, Local 325, on Wednesday ratified a new, five-year agreement that extends through June 2021.
Annual wages for 82 full-time musicians in the 106-year-old orchestra will jump from just under $70,000 in the first year to $80,000 when the contract concludes in 2021. Modifications to the musicians’ health insurance will provide financial savings and ensure the availability of specialized medical care unique to performing musicians, according to a statement issued by the symphony.
The new agreement comes just seven weeks before the symphony kicks off its 2016/2017 season at its 2,248-capacity Jacobs Center’s Copley Symphony Hall home. The upcoming season, which begins Oct. 14 and runs through May 28, will see the orchestra perform 57 concerts at the downtown venue, in addition to performances in the community and its annual season with the San Diego Opera.
“We have worked together to come up with a five-year agreement that takes into account the financial realities of the present as well as the aspirations for the orchestra’s future,” Martha Gilmer, the symphony’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.
Gilmer described the spirit of the negotiations as “collaborative, rigorous and exhaustive.” The goal, she said, was to make a “shared effort to come to greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities that we face.”
“We agreed to a contract structure,” she noted, “that respects the musicians of the orchestra and creates the best working atmosphere for their artistic growth while exploring new opportunities to strengthen the orchestra’s financial future. I could not be happier with the result, and feel that we have developed greater understandings that will enhance our working life together.”
Other facets of the new agreement deal with scheduling flexibility, workload limits, savings for the symphony on parking costs and improvements to severance pay. Also included in the new pact is a revamped education and outreach program, which is designed to “showcase the symphony’s engagement with the San Diego community in new and exciting ways.”
Sam Hager, the musicians’ co-chair, described the new agreement as representing “an important juncture for the symphony” that should prove beneficial to the orchestra’s growth.
The new five-year agreement comes midway through the symphony’s extensive, worldwide search to replace its outgoing music director Jahja Ling. The upcoming 2016/2017 season will be his last with the orchestra, which he is credited with helping to rebuild and expand since coming on board in 2003 as music director. The orchestra has added 17 members since Ling began his tenure here.
The symphony’s search for Ling’s replacement coincides with its ambitious plans to transform its current outdoor summer concert site, located at downtown’s Embarcadero Marina Park South, into a larger, year-round concert and live-events venue.
To be called the Bayside Performance Center, the new venue will be able to accommodate up to 10,000 concertgoers per show and is expected to cost $25 million. On Jan. 12, the symphony won unanimous approval from the San Diego Unified Port District to negotiate a 66-year lease for the 3.6-acre Embarcadero site.
Musicians’ co-chair Hager cited the proposed new venue in his statement, as well Ling’s departure at the end of the upcoming season.
“We look forward to many positive developments, such as seeing the newly envisioned Bayside Performance Center become a reality,” Hager said.
“While we regard Maestro Ling and his tenure with us with great fondness, we are also excited at the prospect of working with the new music director who will succeed him. Our new contract will go a long way to making all of this possible and ensuring that San Diego will continue to have some of the finest orchestral music in the country. The success of the Symphony requires the support of many people, from audience to management, and from donors to board members, and we are thankful to them all.”
Founded in 1910, the San Diego Symphony is the oldest orchestra in California.
On Oct. 29, 2013, the orchestra made its New York debut at Carnegie Hall, where it performed with acclaimed pianist Lang Lang. Four days later, the orchestra began its first tour of China, where it performed five concerts in three cities, including one in Shanghai and two in Beijing.
The newly contract should help the orchestra sustain its momentum as it seeks to grow, noted Chairman of the Board of Directors of the San Diego Symphony Warren O. Kessler, in a statement issued on behalf of the board of directors.
“The San Diego Symphony is in a period of great excitement with the search for a new music director and the building of a more permanent outdoor venue,” Kessler said.
“The ratification of a new contract will allow us to continue to flourish and accomplish the goals and aspirations of the San Diego Symphony. I am particularly thrilled that the negotiations were carried out in a very collegial and professional manner which augurs well for the continued success of the San Diego Symphony.”