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Springfield Symphony Orchestra and musicians reach agreement after years of negotiations

From left: Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert discuss the collective bargaining agreement made by the SSO and musicians. The announcement was made at Springfield Symphony Hall on Thurs. May, 4, 2023.
Jill Kaufman
/
NEPM
From left: Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert discuss the collective bargaining agreement made by the SSO and musicians. The announcement was made at Springfield Symphony Hall on Thurs. May, 4, 2023.

After three years of waging a heated and public debate, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and its 64 union musicians jointly announced a collective bargaining agreement on Thursday.

A significant sticking point had been the number of concerts performed, per season. The musicians wanted 10, the symphony said five. They agreed to eight.

Violinist and local American Federation of Musicians President Beth Welty said both sides had to compromise. The standoff had been going on too long.

"I think had we kept being at loggerheads — if it's gonna kill the orchestra what's the point?" she said. "Better to sacrifice a couple of concerts now in the hopes we're gonna rebuild to [be] even better later."

The two year contract also includes a 5% pay raise for musicians. Separate from the agreement, the musicians will change the name of a performance group they formed in 2021. They will now be called the "Springfield Chamber Players" and have agreed not to compete with the symphony on fundraising.

Paul Lambert, the president and CEO of the SSO, said now that an agreement has been reached, the hard work begins.

"The challenges that are facing symphony orchestras are hardly unique to Springfield. And the challenges that we face, especially in an economically challenged city in an area like this, are very real," he said.

The agreement was announced inside Symphony Hall on Thursday in front of state and city officials as well as musicians and SSO board members.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."

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