Following mass layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic — cuts that forced maestro Giancarlo Guererro to temporarily put down his conductor’s baton — the Nashville Symphony and the Nashville Musicians Association union have announced a new three-year contract for the orchestra musicians.
According to a release, the contract replaces an interim agreement, reached in December 2020, that ended the six-month furlough of the orchestra and provided a $500 weekly stipend to the musicians beginning in January. Under the new agreement, which takes effect Aug. 1, the musicians will return to full-time work in September, beginning with a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on Sept. 11 at Ascend Amphitheater. The Nashville Symphony was recently awarded a $4.6 million Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, which — along with community and patron support — will help ensure the musicians’ return to the stage of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center for the 75th anniversary season.
Prior to the pandemic, the musicians were working under a four-year contract that was set to expire in 2022. Much of the new contract is a modified version of the former agreement, but as the Symphony rebounds from the financial impact of the pandemic, the musicians’ annual compensation in the first year will be cut 7 percent from their salaries in the year leading up to the pandemic. In the second year, compensation will return to pre-pandemic levels, followed by a 6.25 percent increase in the third year, which will, as noted, nearly return the 79 musicians to the salary level that would have been reached at the end of the former agreement.
“While the past year has been extraordinarily challenging for our entire organization, we recognize that it has been especially difficult for our musicians,” Pamela Carter, chair of the Nashville Symphony Board of Directors, says in the release. “This agreement represents the most essential step in the orchestra’s reemergence, as it enables the musicians’ return to the stage, while at the same time ensuring that the Nashville Symphony can remain sustainable and continue to serve our community for generations to come.”
In addition to establishing annual compensation levels, the agreement provides for an immediate lump-sum payment of $7,000 per musician.
Also, the musicians' union and management have agreed to update the audition process based on recommendations from the National Alliance for Audition Support, a national initiative to increase diversity in American orchestras.
“We are profoundly grateful to our community for its unwavering generosity and support, which has enabled us to reach this point,” says Nashville Symphony President and CEO Alan Valentine. “The Nashville Symphony will once again be able to focus on … providing great music and education programs for the people of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.”
The Nashville Musicians Association, Local 257 — of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO — was founded in 1902. Led by President Dave Pomeroy, it is the third largest AFM local in the United States, and has more than 2,200 members.