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St. Louis Symphony Musicians Will Recover A Portion Of Pandemic Salary Cuts

Shawn Weil, Nicolae Bica, Andrew Francois and Jennifer Humphreys of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra perform a socially distanced set of music outside the Crown Center for Senior Living in University City in October. [10/8/20]
File photo / Jeremy D. Goodwin
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Symphony has scrambled for ways to perform during the pandemic. In October, Shawn Weil, Nicolae Bica, Andrew Francois and Jennifer Humphreys performed a socially distanced set in University City.

An agreement between the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and its musicians union will roll back some of the pay cuts instituted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Orchestra players agreed to a 40% cut in their base salary from Sept. 11 through Monday, following a cut of about half that over the spring and summer. The agreement reached this week reduces the pay cut to 15% of musicians’ base salaries of $96,376 and will be in effect through August.

“This is a great relief,” said Principal Trombonist Tim Myers, chair of the union’s negotiating committee. “It is really going to help our musicians stay financially healthy. Plus, we’ve got plans in place so that we can stay medically healthy.”

The amendment to the union’s contract also allows for the reconfigured season that orchestra leaders had planned in light of restrictions on public gatherings.

The SLSO canceled performances in March when local and regional officials instituted limits on public gatherings to cut down on the spread of the virus. Since then, musicians have played for small audiences outdoors and staged performances for web streaming. In October and November, some assembled as small chamber ensembles for a series of Powell Hall concerts in front of strictly limited audiences.

Revenue from ticket sales is sharply lower than in past years, and President and CEO Marie-Helene Bernard described donations as steady but reduced. The organization cut $12 million from its $31 million annual budget.

“We value our partnership with the orchestra union, so we want to take care of our people and also provide greater certainty for them and for the institution,” Bernard said.

Myers said he is glad the orchestra’s donors and board of trustees worked to keep the orchestra employed during the pandemic.

“This is really a heroic effort to keep the music alive,” Myers said.

Bernard said Powell Hall concerts could resume as early as late February if the number of coronavirus cases in the region decreases enough.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

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