Atlanta Symphony, Management, Stuck Playing the Same Bad Tune

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is dangerously close to delaying the start of their season. Both the musicians and management have until Sept. 6 to reach an agreement on their 2014 contracts. They’ve been in discussions for eight months, with the next meeting scheduled for Thursday.

What’s at stake? If you said the same issues as the 2012 debacle, you’d be correct. The size of the orchestra, musician pay and benefits are the points of contention. A massive pay cut and an end to a year-round calendar were agreed to in 2012.

What makes this interesting is that the conductors for the orchestra, Donald Runnicles and Robert Spano weighed in on the issue without taking sides. Conductors remain neutral and almost never speak up in contract disputes (without their comments on Tuesday it would be never). They acknowledged the ASO has run a deficit for 12 years straight and the musicians have made big sacrifices already.

ArtsATL reports the two wrote:

“The ASO is a jewel, which should not be lost or compromised, and the current conditions threaten that loss. There are artistic lines that cannot and must not be crossed…

“We must avoid the residue of discord and acrimony. The concept that stopping the music — whether characterized as lockout or strike — as a reasonable alternative is unfathomable, deeply divisive, and would be a tragic mistake.”

ASO management said in response they “agreed with the sentiments” expressed by Runnicles and Spano, adding that the precarious financial situation is not in the best interests of anyone and “we believe there are solutions that will allow the ASO management and musicians to balance the artistic and financial needs of the orchestra for the long term.”

Hopefully the two sides can work out an agreement. The upcoming season, number 70 for the ASO, is an exciting one. Emanuel Ax and Lang Lang are performing, three world premiers, Bolero, Beethoven’s Ninth and Dvorak’s Cello Concertos are all on the schedule.

Sept. 26 is the scheduled start date of the season.