Arts & Culture

Newsmaker: Anonymous ‘angel’ saves Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Striking Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians picket under the Bass Hall angels. The strike ran Sept. 8-Dec. 7.
Striking Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians picket under the Bass Hall angels. The strike ran Sept. 8-Dec. 7. dkent@star-telegram.com

One in a series of articles on Tarrant County’s top newsmakers in 2016.

It was a silent fall at Bass Hall.

 

For three months, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians quieted their instruments and raised their voices, asking for “growth not cuts” while walking a strike picket line in front of the performance hall.

And then an angel appeared.

When it looked like symphony management was not going to budge from its contract offer that included pay cuts, an anonymous donor stepped forward to give the symphony $700,000. The donation allowed management to offer modest pay raises in a four-year deal that the musicians approved earlier this month.

“What’s most important is it has brought more support from the community in the form of this anonymous donation,” musicians union president Stewart Williams said of the deal. “It demonstrates the support and the care that the Fort Worth community really has.”

The new labor agreement runs through July 31, 2020, and keeps musicians at their current wage rate for the next two years. The deal includes a weekly pay increase of 2 percent and 2.5 percent in the third and fourth years of the contract, although vacation time will be reduced from 35 to 28 days.

“We were never asking for the musicians to bear the full brunt. We were only asking them to bear a portion of it,” said FWSO symphony President Amy Adkins, noting that the symphony management is working on new revenue-generating ideas to help improve the organization’s finances.

The strike, which ran Sept. 8-Dec. 7, had almost happened at the beginning of the year.

In January, symphony musicians rejected a tentative agreement that included 8 percent pay cuts. Following the vote, Adkins said she intended to impose the concessionary deal on the musicians but then chose not to as the two sides resumed negotiations, ultimately signing a six-month deal that allowed the orchestra to finish out its 2015-2016 season.

The two sides entered federal mediation in July, and musicians again rejected a contract proposal on Labor Day weekend. The musicians decided to strike a few days later.

During the strike, symphony management canceled dozens of performances, including the popular holiday concert series usually held on Thanksgiving weekend. Musicians organized several community concerts, asking for donations to help support musicians during the strike.

With the new contract in place, the music will return to Bass Hall, just in time to ring in the new year.

On Dec. 31, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, will perform Gershwin’s beloved Rhapsody in Blue with guest pianist Adam Golka. Baritone Trevor Martin will join the orchestra to sing Auld Lang Syne as balloons drop from the hall’s ceiling.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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