Striking symphony musicians plan benefit concert, forum
Town hall meeting will be chance to discuss issues and options
The striking musicians of the Spokane Symphony are planning a show of their own Saturday.
Five symphony performances have been canceled since the musicians announced the strike Nov. 3. With “The Nutcracker” set to begin in December, there is no end to the dispute in sight, though both sides say they’re hopeful an agreement will be reached to prevent further cancellations.
Saturday’s performance is an effort to raise relief money to support musicians during the strike, said musician Adam Wallstein, and “will be a celebration of artistic excellence and professional musicianship.”
“We’d like to keep the music alive,” Wallstein said, “and also to raise awareness about what our struggle is about and raise some support.”
The performance will be followed by a town hall meeting “discussing what our issues are, what we think is at stake in this dispute and what we’re hopeful for in looking for a resolution that both sides can live with.”
Saturday’s musical performance will feature Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino,” with Robert Spittal as a guest conductor; Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, with Phillip Baldwin as a guest conductor and featuring Mateusz Wolski on violin and Nicholas Carper on viola; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, with Bruce Walker as a guest conductor.
“As always, they’re great musicians and I’m sure it will be a fabulous concert,” said Peter Moye, Spokane Symphony board president. “We wish them well.”
Before the cancellations, the symphony had been scheduled to perform “Rachmaninoff and Pictures” at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox on Saturday night.
Negotiations had been ongoing since March when musicians announced the strike. The board offered a 13.3 percent pay cut reflecting a reduction in guaranteed rehearsals and concerts due to dipping ticket sales.
Board members say their hands are tied by economic pressures, including a 13 percent cut in the symphony’s annual operating budget since 2009, and that they will not run a deficit.
The musicians say they offered to take a 6.6 percent pay cut, but indicated that the board wouldn’t budge.
Also at issue is the symphony’s leave policy, which musicians say prevents them from finding outside employment, and a two-year contract with no guarantees in the second year.
While no formal talks have been scheduled, Moye said the mediator had contacted the symphony’s attorney but didn’t have further details.
“I always hope that there’s a chance for an agreement,” he said.
If a deal is not reached before “The Nutcracker” begins Dec. 6, recorded music could be used instead.
“That would be a real shame,” Wallstein said. “The audience would be deprived of the live music aspect of that, which would be a far less exciting and compelling experience.”
He added, “I think there’s certainly pressure on both sides to get us back on stage for that event.”