Virginia Symphony Furloughs Make San Fran Opera Cuts Look Marginally Attractive

Hopefully, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO) will have an opportunity to relive what would have been their 100th anniversary because as of now, they have cancelled all concert activity through February 2021.

While the group managed to secure a Paycheck Protection Program loan, those funds ran out at the end of summer and as a result, furloughed musician employees through February 9, 2021.

Assuming the group is back up and running at that time, the furlough amounts to what the musicians believe is a 72 percent cut in annual compensation.

Musicians will continue to receive health care coverage, but dependents will not be covered during the furlough period.

Interestingly enough, an article by Amy Poulter in the 9/16/2020 edition of The Virginian-Pilot indicates the musicians approached the employer to see about instituting digitally delivered content but early efforts were cancelled

[Tanner Antonetti, a spokesperson for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Musicians Committee] said orchestra management was on board with the idea initially, and the musicians were optimistic they could find other ways to bring in revenue. The VSO hosted a number of events online and developed an educational YouTube series for students.

The digital events soon came to an end, Antonetti said, and the musicians were told it was because they “didn’t make enough money.”

“To a musician, hearing somebody say it didn’t work this time so we’ll scrap it altogether, that was demoralizing,” he said.

In addition to musician furloughs, Poulter’s article reports that two full-time staff positions have been eliminated and the chorus has suspended activity.

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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