With negotiations between management and the Indianapolis Symphony musicians hitting a standstill, one of the few remaining full time orchestras in the country has been locked out.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musician’s contracts have been under negotiation over the last few months as the board and union struggle to find common ground amidst economic downturn, a depleted endowment, and falling ticket sales.
The management demanded extreme cuts,
the orchestra would be slashed from 87 to 63 members, those surviving would take a 45% paycut, pension changes, and perhaps most devastatingly, the ISO would become a 36 week orchestra.
Having a full-time, 52-week orchestra is a relative rarity at present, with the ISO making up one of just 17 such organizations
in the USA, and having a full-time symphony is a source of pride
amongst many cultural institutions.
The musician’s counteroffer was a 14-week furlough per member, taken over a five-year span in order to save the organization 3.2 million dollars. They offered to bring in an outside consultant,
a move the management refused. With the deadline looming and no change in sight, the musician’s union tried to drum up support with an online petition,
and offered up a heavily reduced “play and talk
” temporary contract, so that the first two concerts of the season could be performed.
Instead, they were locked out,
and have taken to playing in the street
outside their venue as protest.
The ISO’s financial woes are hardly unique in the world of orchestras. Loiusville just finished a year of brutal contract negotiations that saw the management seek non-union players; Minnesota
faced dramatic cuts,
and cities around the country
have been struggling
through the recession.
However, the ISO’s situation is perhaps a bit different to many others. In 2009, longstanding music director Mario Venzago unexpectedly did not have his contract renewed,
a move the man called "unprecedented
" given how little warning their was. In early 2011, Simon Crookall,
the CEO who ousted Venzago himself stepped down in mysterious circumstances.
Venzago’s replacement is the Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski,
the youngest music director of a major US orchestra. Urbanksi has only played a small number performances with the ISO since his appointment due to previous engagements, but his hiring was viewed with much excitement, his arrival heralded with billboards
, and the hope that he would bring some youth and excitement to the orchestra. His performances in other locations have earned him rave reviews, and his recent west coast debut prompted a reviewer to state:
"Urbanski has already caught the attention of the music world, especially in Europe. He is on the radar of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic. The Indianapolis Symphony would be crazy to blow the opportunity Urbanski presents. If it does, someone else will snap him up in a second. I would if I ran an orchestra."
The first of the canceled concerts
was to be his season opener
with the ISO (the second was with the popular pops group Time For Three
With the musicians now playing in the streets, and facing an unknown period without their salary — including health benefits
— the lockout has received some national
coverage. In Indianapolis, internet commenters
are primarily on the musicians' sides
, and some are asking why the city was willing to help the financially ailing Colts basketball team in 2010,
but hasn’t waded in now.
As of yesterday, both parties posted statements
"On Tuesday September 11, and Wednesday September 12, members of the bargaining teams from the Indiana Symphony Society Inc. and the Indianapolis Musicians, AFM Local #3 met with a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. During these meetings, the parties had good dialogue and made some progress. Additional meetings have been scheduled for next week. At the request of the federal mediator, the parties will refrain from public comment about the details of the talks that have occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday."