ASO Seems Likely to Delay Season Opener, Musicians Publicly Sparring with Management

The headline gave away the story but things don’t look good for the start of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s season.

See here for some back story. 

On Thursday, the musicians and management met for the last scheduled time before Saturday’s deadline over the latest contract.

It… did not end well.

After the meeting, the players’ association released a statement that said in part:

Two years ago, the ASO musicians took a $14,000 annual pay cut. The musicians agreed to this because the ASO and Woodruff Arts Center (WAC) management stated that they needed this concession in order to balance the budget, and to create a new business model for the ASO.

The musicians were assured that this cut was a one-time only concession that would be met in equal measure by additional fundraising. CEO Stanley Romanstein has failed to raise the funding necessary to balance the budget. Meanwhile, the WAC rewarded him with a new three-year contract, despite a catastrophic failure to reach budgeted goals during FY13.

It is important to remember this: The ASO musicians account for only a quarter of the ASO’s budget, and once again, the management of the ASO and the WAC are demanding that every single musician shoulders thousands of dollars in additional concessions.

Sounds fairly boilerplate stuff but it gets tricky when ASO spokesperson Randy Donaldson is quoted by ArtsATL saying: “What has not been communicated is that the most recent proposal of management to musicians includes a pay increase. It’s not a pay cut. It’s a pay increase.”

I’m guessing the ASO didn’t communicate that the past few weeks due to ongoing negotiations but it just makes everything stranger.

That leads us to tomorrow. What happens at midnight when the deadline expires? No one seems to know. The season starts Sept. 25, so theoretically there’s still time to avert a lockout or delay. The players association tweeted yesterday that they will be performing Sept. 22 at Terminal West although that appears to be an informal group, not qua ASO. 

I do know this: the ASO is a great symphony, Atlanta’s lucky to have it. But accruing $25 million in debt and running a deficit for 12 straight years is not a recipe for success. Nor is having the players and management coming to loggerheads every two years over the same issues (which is driving away talented young musicians). This game has to stop.

Anyway, if I hadn’t established myself as an out-of-touch Atlanta elitist, I’ve surely done it with two posts in one week about the symphony.


  1. Will Durant says:

    Your rep as an “elitist” is safe given your recent advocacy of KISS.

    I don’t have a good answer here and doubt if anyone does short of seeing if the Woodruff Foundation has any spare change. Atlanta has often fit Dorothy Parker’s horticulture quip. While I like Spano it was the choral works with Shaw that got us out of the ‘burbs. Personally I’m fine if they have to cancel the scheduled Bolero performance for this season. Short of providing Bo Derek as my date you couldn’t get me to cross the street to watch it being performed.

  2. saltycracker says:

    Tough going for Orchestras, lots of musicians, high dollar digs, expensive instruments – toss in competing in an epi center of another genre, Nashville’s (C&W center) was hours from a hundred million plus default last year, Atlanta is the global epi-center of hip hop,rap….it’s a fun night and a lot of reasons/excuses it is a rare outing…

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