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Hartford Symphony Orchestra Musicians Launch First Salvo in Dispute Over Proposed Contract

Core musicians in the Hartford Symphony Orchestra could see their salary drop by 40% next year.
"One does not grow the Hartford Symphony by cutting the Hartford Symphony."
Michael Pollard

Musicians with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra could take a substantial pay cut next year, under the terms of a contract currently being negotiated between Local 400 of the American Federation of Musicians and HSO Management.

Under their current contract, the HSO's 33-member core players are paid for 180 rehearsals and performances a year, for a yearly income of a little over $23,000. But the HSO has proposed cutting the number of guaranteed appearances to 115 next year, which would bring the core orchestra's yearly salary to below $15,000.

Guaranteed services would also be cut for musicians in the "basic" and "service" tiers of the orchestra. The proposed contract requires musicians to be available for daytime performances, which could be a burden for musicians with day jobs.

"A symphony orchestra is about number one, the music; number two, the musicians, who are the music makers, we're the product; and number three, everything else. We believe that this management, this board, are concerned with everything else, above numbers one and two," said Hartford Symphony Orchestra violinist Michael Pollard. “One does not grow the Hartford Symphony by cutting the Hartford Symphony."

A federal mediator has been brought in to help with contract negotiations. But recently the HSO board sided with management, by approving a budget and strategic plan that includes the cuts to guaranteed work in the proposed contract.

In a written statement, HSO Board director James Remis said, "We remain optimistic that our differences at the negotiating table will be amicably resolved over the coming weeks, but we remain firm in our commitment to making the changes necessary to assure the long-term future of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra."

The ten musicians on the HSO's 47-member board voted unanimously against the plan.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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