sf.symphony.jpgA scheduled East Coast tour was canceled after striking San Francisco Symphony musicians rejected a federal mediators proposal to resume playing concerts during a “cooling off” period, according to symphony officials.

The three-city East Coast tour, scheduled for March 20-23, had included performances at Carnegie Hall, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The symphony has already canceled four concerts in San Francisco since musicians announced the strike on Wednesday.

The musicians said earlier this week that they were unhappy with a proposal by management that would include a pay freeze in the first year and 1 percent increases in the next two years.

Mjsicians say expensive instruments and the costs of living in the Bay Area hurt their ability to compete with other top orchestras.

Symphony officials said today that their most recent proposal included a new minimum annual salary of $145,979 with annual increases of 1 percent and 2 percent.

The proposal also included a $74,000 maximum annual pension, 10 weeks paid vacation and full coverage health care plan options with no monthly premium contributions for most options. Additional compensation would include radio payments, over-scale and seniority pay, which raises the current average pay to more than $165,000, symphony officials said.

“We have negotiated in good faith since September, have shared volumes of financial information, and we have offered many different proposals that we had hoped would lead to a new agreement by this time,” said Brent Assink, the symphony’s executive director.

The symphony’s operating expenses have outpaced income for the past four years, and the orchestra has incurred an operating deficit, officials said.

Patrons with tickets to cancelled concerts can exchange them for another concert, donate their tickets or get a refund, officials said today.

Information is available by calling the symphony’s box office at (415) 864-6000 or visiting online at www.sfsymphony.org.

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  • MissP

    The fact that the symphony musicians had to strike to get salary increases commensurate with those of management is appalling. As a therapist and life coach who works with a lot of classical musicians, I have a very good idea of what people have to go through to become members of a major symphony orchestra– or even a minor one– and the ongoing psychological cost of retaining such a position.

    A classical musician begins his or her career in childhood. Most of them seem to have very little of childhood at all. While other kids are playing, they’re playing scales. Doctors and lawyers, who make more money, don’t start their professional education and careers when they’re six years old. To achieve the level of professionalism and artistry that it takes to play in an orchestra like the San Francisco Symphony, and to endure the anxiety of auditions and the tremendous competition among their peers, brings musicians to psychological states that can be crippling. No management person ever gave up their childhood and adolescence to become something great; no management person was responsible for winning Grammies; no management person ever had to spend about $100K to buy a violin and another $10K for a bow good enough to get optimal sound; no management person has to endure performance anxiety every time they go to work.

    This strike is exemplary of a crisis of values in our culture. People who dedicate themselves to the arts have to protest to get adequate salaries, but no one seems upset about the fact that corporate executives make millions a year for crushing competitors and using psychological techniques of conditioning to make people want things they don’t need. If symphony players make a decent salary for lifting the spirits of an audience with great music, isn’t that a greater good than that of a corporate aggressor? And there’s been all this talk about how the San Francisco orchestra is one of the three best paid in the country, but it had better be! San Francisco is probably the most expensive city in America to live in. It’s barely enough of a salary to own a home in this city. People complain that they get 10 weeks of vacation a year, but every symphony musician has to practice for hours every day of their lives to retain the skills that got them the jobs.

    What is the value of giving your life to artistic achievement? The arts are the soul of our culture, and this country places so little importance on them that we don’t even have an arts secretary in the Cabinet, unlike almost every other first world country, and even most third world countries. While everyone deserves an increase in compensation for a job well done, the increases awarded to management should at the very least be no greater than the rewards to the musicians– or less. If the symphony weren’t world class, management would have nothing of merit to manage.

    A great conductor is only as good as the caliber of the musicians in his or her orchestra. Without them, the conductor is nothing, incapable of making great music with inadequate musicianship. And yet, the conductor’s salary is many times that of the musicians; the conductor achieves fame, but the players are rarely known. There should be real compensation for their supportive role in making the orchestra what it is, a role that no management person, regardless of their brilliance, could possibly achieve.

  • MissP

    The fact that the symphony musicians had to strike to get salary increases commensurate with those of management is appalling. As a therapist and life coach who works with a lot of classical musicians, I have a very good idea of what people have to go through to become members of a major symphony orchestra– or even a minor one– and the ongoing psychological cost of retaining such a position.

    A classical musician begins his or her career in childhood. Most of them seem to have very little of childhood at all. While other kids are playing, they’re playing scales. Doctors and lawyers, who make more money, don’t start their professional education and careers when they’re six years old. To achieve the level of professionalism and artistry that it takes to play in an orchestra like the San Francisco Symphony, and to endure the anxiety of auditions and the tremendous competition among their peers, brings musicians to psychological states that can be crippling. No management person ever gave up their childhood and adolescence to become something great; no management person was responsible for winning Grammies; no management person ever had to spend about $100K to buy a violin and another $10K for a bow good enough to get optimal sound; no management person has to endure performance anxiety every time they go to work.

    This strike is exemplary of a crisis of values in our culture. People who dedicate themselves to the arts have to protest to get adequate salaries, but no one seems upset about the fact that corporate executives make millions a year for crushing competitors and using psychological techniques of conditioning to make people want things they don’t need. If symphony players make a decent salary for lifting the spirits of an audience with great music, isn’t that a greater good than that of a corporate aggressor? And there’s been all this talk about how the San Francisco orchestra is one of the three best paid in the country, but it had better be! San Francisco is probably the most expensive city in America to live in. It’s barely enough of a salary to own a home in this city. People complain that they get 10 weeks of vacation a year, but every symphony musician has to practice for hours every day of their lives to retain the skills that got them the jobs.

    What is the value of giving your life to artistic achievement? The arts are the soul of our culture, and this country places so little importance on them that we don’t even have an arts secretary in the Cabinet, unlike almost every other first world country, and even most third world countries. While everyone deserves an increase in compensation for a job well done, the increases awarded to management should at the very least be no greater than the rewards to the musicians– or less. If the symphony weren’t world class, management would have nothing of merit to manage.

    A great conductor is only as good as the caliber of the musicians in his or her orchestra. Without them, the conductor is nothing, incapable of making great music with inadequate musicianship. And yet, the conductor’s salary is many times that of the musicians; the conductor achieves fame, but the players are rarely known. There should be real compensation for their supportive role in making the orchestra what it is, a role that no management person, regardless of their brilliance, could possibly achieve.