Florida Orchestra and Milwaukee Symphony Settle

We have two new entries in our list of mid to large budget orchestras with expired agreements that managed to ratify a new contract without resorting to a work stoppage: The Florida Orchestra and Milwaukee Symphony.

Florida Orchestra

Adaptistration People 022A new three-year agreement begins reversing several rounds of concessionary agreements with annual improvements in base musician wages and number of weeks per season.


  • 26-week season (four half weeks at 75% scale)
  • base musician annual salary: $32,707.65; 2.18 percent increase


  • 30-week season
  • base musician annual salary: $33,990; 3.92 percent increase


  • 31-week season
  • base musician annual salary: $35,282.65; 3.8 percent increase

One new element in this agreement worth noting is a provision for substitute musicians to begin receiving pension contributions. Regular readers might recall that the Florida Orchestra is unique in that it has the distinction of being the only players’ association and Local to adopt internal measures designed to help offset a substitute musician pay disparity (details).

This agreement also brings an end to that disparity adopted in the 2010/11 season and returns substitute musicians to equal pay for equal work status at the beginning of the 2017/18 season. Stay tuned for a follow-up article on that topic later this month.

The Milwaukee Symphony

Milwaukee’s agreement is more of a holding action in that it only covers a single season and provides a 0.787 percent increase in total base musician wages; $63,500 to $64,000.

Unfortunately, Milwaukee retains a substitute disparity clause with those musicians only earning approximately 87.5 percent per service (a rehearsal or performance) less than full time members.

Given the short term, the orchestra can expect to re-engage bargaining for a successor agreement in the near future.

Here’s an updated version of the fourteen mid to large budget orchestra and opera organizations with a collective bargaining agreement that expired within the last three months:

  1. Chicago Lyric Opera 6/30/2015
  2. Chicago Symphony 9/13/2015
  3. Cincinnati Symphony 9/13/2015
  4. Cleveland Orchestra 8/30/2015
  5. Columbus Symphony 8/31/2015
  6. Dallas Symphony 8/31/2015
  7. Florida Orchestra 8/31/2015
  8. Fort Worth Symphony 7/31/2015
  9. Grand Rapids Symphony 8/31/2015
  10. Milwaukee Symphony 8/31/2015
  11. New Jersey Symphony 8/31/2015
  12. Philadelphia Orchestra 9/13/2015
  13. San Antonio Symphony 8/31/2015
  14. Utah Symphony 8/31/2015

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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1 thought on “Florida Orchestra and Milwaukee Symphony Settle”

  1. Philly news today:

    Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Classical Music Critic
    LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 9:57 PM

    As talks continue between the Philadelphia Orchestra Association and musicians over a new labor pact, management has agreed to hire consultant Michael M. Kaiser to assist in addressing chronic big-picture challenges like fund-raising and strategic direction.

    Musicians have been frustrated in contract talks – not only with the financial details of the deals management has been floating, but also with the financial realities that appear to be underpinning those offers.

    The association has been engaged in an endowment drive whose goals are not ambitious enough to support an orchestra of the level of Philadelphia’s, musicians say.

    Kaiser will be retained for a six-month contract, according to an association spokeswoman. “He will be advising the association on the next phase of strategic planning, specifically resulting in proposed directives for increasing earned and contributed revenue and for creating a larger endowment fund,” said Katherine Blodgett.

    Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, expects to start within two weeks, and will be working with staff, board, and musicians. His plan will be subject to board approval.

    His work will be funded by “special support outside normal operating funds,” Blodgett said.

    He will recommend ways to increase revenue, and examine larger organizations issues. “I think I have to look at how all the pieces fit together,” Kaiser said.

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