Knoxville Settles

Over my holiday break, there wasn’t much change among groups embroiled in labor disputes. The key word there is “much” and one positive change that transpired came from the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO).

On 12/28/2020 the employer and musicians issued a joint press statement announcing they reached an agreement that covers the remainder of the 20/21 season. While details surrounding the specific issues at the root of the dispute are not explicitly mentioned in the release, it does appear that the employer walked back some of the service requirements that musicians asserted caused more financial harm than being furloughed.

According the agreement, musicians return to work on 2/1/2021 and began drawing 80 percent of their weekly pay beginning this week. The statement included quotes from employer and musician representatives:

“The pandemic handed the KSO one of the biggest challenges it has ever faced,” KSO Board Chair Bill Riley said. “While we have much work yet to do, I thank the musicians – who are the heart of our organization – for their efforts over the last several weeks as we persevered in reaching an agreement. I am confident that we will emerge from this critical time in our history stronger than ever.”

“We are all looking forward to bringing music back to our patrons and the Knoxville community, especially during this challenging time,” said Stacy Nickell, a cellist for the KSO and Orchestra Committee chair. “I am glad we were able to reach an agreement, as we all need the healing power of music. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra can continue to grow and thrive despite the pandemic, thanks to the collaborative effort of our many talented musicians and creative staff.”

All things being equal, this should provide the organization enough wiggle room to roll with the remaining pandemic punches while keeping an eye on a longer term agreement in a post-vaccine environment.

One down…

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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