The Nashville Symphony has not been immune to the economic downturn that has forced businesses to trim expenses and ushered workers to unemployment lines.
As part of an overall series of cutbacks, the symphony musicians have accepted a proposal to extend the freeze on wages and pension contributions. The wage freeze that went into effect for the 2009/10 season will now last through the 2010/11 season.
The decision will save the orchestra around $1 million, according to Nashville Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Allen Valentine.
Despite the costly damage to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and house instruments during the flood, the fiscal cutbacks are not a response to the flood.
“The flood had no bearing at all on this actually,” Valentine said. “This was really in response to the fall of the stock market and the freeze of the credit markets in the beginning of October in ’08.”
The economic downtown was a double-whammy for the symphony that saw the value of its endowment assets shrink at a time when the cost of credit was increasing.
Patrons also starting keeping a closer watch on their disposable income that also hurt the symphony.
“Those two things had a pretty significant impact on the symphony. … They conspired to create a gap for us in our budget.”
The wage freeze by the musicians is a continuation of previous concessions.
Second violinist, Laura Ross serves as the orchestra’s union steward. She said musicians agreed to continue the freeze and extend the contract for an additional year to 2013.
“The musicians agreed in May 2009, to freeze their wages and pension contributions for six months, and to meet during that period to evaluate the continuing financial concerns of the institution,” she said. “These actions represent a significant sacrifice that will be felt by the musicians; however, the musicians understood the concerns of the Association, and agreed to help”
Valentine noted that the sacrifices by employees make up only part of the symphony’s effort. The group’s budget has also been cut by $2.6 million. Between the renegotiation of debt and budget reductions, Valentine said the NSO has saved a total of $5 million.
“We didn’t make our employees carry it all on their backs,” Valentine said. “We cut out a few things that would be largely invisible to the public. I’m really proud of our organization because the whole organization came together and acted like a family and shared the burden. Without cutting services, education programs, community engagement programs, or concerts we stayed committed to our mission while cutting the budget.”