SPCO musicians agree to a 12% cut in pay

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 6, 2009 - 8:09 PM

Orchestra members readily accepted their portion of the effort to reduce costs. The plan includes canceling a tour.

Musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have agreed to a 12 percent reduction in pay for 2009-10.

The cuts come in the wake of reductions announced last month. Those included the layoff of 7.5 positions (17 percent of staff), a 15.5 percent pay cut for senior management, a salary freeze for non-senior staff and the cancellation of a European tour for 2009-10.

The musicians agreed to a five-year deal in June 2007 that would have increased minimum scales to a top of $78,223 by 2012. Under terms announced Monday, base pay for the 35 full-time musicians in 2009-10 would drop to $65,000 from a current figure of $73,732.

Musician pay would spring back up to the amount specified in the contract for the 2010-2011 season.

The pay-cut talks happened "without a hint of rancor," said Sarah Lutman, who took over as SPCO president in December. She said it was key that management and staff took pay cuts before approaching musicians to do likewise. After that, Lutman said, "There never was any inkling that the musicians would do anything but step forward to help keep us vital and exciting."

An orchestra member confirmed that approach Monday: "When they finally came to us, it was with the message that 'We have cut everything we possibly could, the only thing left is that we need your help,'" said Thomas Kornacker, co-principal second violinist and a member of a task force of musicians, board members and management that has been meeting on pay issues since February. "We looked at the numbers and we agreed," Kornacker said, with musicians voting "overwhelmingly" last week to approve the pay cut.

Musician pay accounts for about 29 percent of the SPCO's annual expenses.

The chamber orchestra will not halt plans to audition and hire players for four open positions -- two violinists, a cellist and a timpanist.

Several top arts organizations in the Twin Cities have announced cuts in the past month because of the plunging economy. However, only the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra have substantial local union contracts with their artists. (Theaters are governed by national deals with Actors Equity.)

The Minnesota Orchestra announced reductions in senior staff salaries last month in addition to a handful of layoffs. However, chief executive Michael Henson would not comment on any prospective talks he might have with the orchestra's 95 musicians.

"We have a contract through 2012," he said. The orchestra and the musicians signed a deal in October 2007 that would push salaries to a minimum of $120,016 by 2012.

Other U.S. orchestras have announced cutbacks this year. Musician pay cuts have been reported at only a few, including the symphony orchestras of Phoenix and Cincinnati.

Claude Peck contributed reporting to this story.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters