New Haven Musicians Protest Symphony Cuts

Symphony fans cue inside Woolsey Hall
Photo:Uma Ramiah
New Haven Musicians Protest Cuts
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New Haven Musicians Protest Cuts

Contract negotiations are underway between musicians and management of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. But some of the proposed changes have performers taking to the streets. 

Dressed in her concert black, cellist Chris Coyle stood in front of Woolsey Hall, passing out bright yellow flyers to audience members as they arrived for an evening performance by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

"We're afraid that our next season we're going to be cut down to the bone, playing very small works, leaving out some of our colleagues."

The orchestra's board has proposed reducing the number of rehearsals and performances, called services. And musicians are paid per service. 

Flutist Marjorie Shansky, chairman of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra committee, is leading negotiations on behalf of the musicians. 

"The board has now suggested reducing the orchestra from 70 contracted players to 48. That will result in our being limited to repertoire -- beautiful music of course -- but limited to repertoire that is not symphonic in scale."
She says while there may be an audience that appreciates music for small classical ensembles, it's not for everyone.

"For the bona fide, hardcore symphony subscriber this will be a dramatic change and not necessarily in our view one that will be received warmly."

Burton Alter is president of New Haven Symphony's board.

"We are not reducing the number of musicians. There's a core of 70 tenured musicians that remains at 70 tenured musicians. Those musicians stay. No one is reducing the size of the orchestra. What we have done of necessity is reduce the services."

Alter says budget concerns are driving the need to cut services. Though the orchestra is not in debt, it has posted losses in the past two years.  And like symphonies across the country, the New Haven Symphony faces an aging and declining donor base. 



"We are not reducing the number of musicians"???

"We are not reducing the number of musicians…” A shrewdly worded statement.

But the full truth is that they will only be hiring 48 of them for most of the work.

The musicians (sans conductor) make only 25% of the Symphony’s $2 million annual budget.

Meanwhile, TWO employees, the Music Director and the Executive Director combined are paid approximately 12.5% of the budget…is that fair?

I think the audience is slowly becoming outraged at this shameful disproportionate allocation of their ticket monies.

This is out of balance with the way most other symphonies around the country manage their resources. The board should be cutting administrative costs not reducing the talent pool of the organization.