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Furloughed Orchestra Musicians and Nashville Symphony Reach Agreement for Interim Stipend

Victoria Wasylak • News • December 4, 2020

After more than three months of negotiations, the Nashville Symphony and the Nashville Musicians Association, AFM Local 257, have reached an agreement that will provide the Musicians of the Nashville Symphony — who were furloughed July 1 — with an interim stipend that will begin January 3, 2021.

“This agreement represents a vital first step in bringing the Nashville Symphony back from one of the most monumental challenges it has faced,” said Pamela Carter, chair of the Nashville Symphony’s Board of Directors. “We have much work left to do, but we cannot do it without our musicians, who represent the heart, soul and artistry of our organization. Many of our musicians have been profoundly affected by this pandemic, but thanks to the support of our community, whose generosity has helped make this agreement possible, I am confident that our orchestra will reemerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient than ever.”

Nashville Musicians Association president Dave Pomeroy talked about what our symphony musicians have had to endure this year. “The July 1 announcement of the extended furlough of all Nashville Symphony musicians created an untenable situation for many of these world class players. Like so many unemployed Americans, they were faced with heartbreaking decisions in order to survive — some of which involved not being able to stay in Nashville at all. It is fortunate that we were finally able to reach an agreement with the NSO to give some assistance to these world-class musicians, and help them get through this unprecedented time,” Pomeroy said.

In mid-June, the Nashville Symphony’s Board of Directors voted to furlough all musicians and a majority of administrative staff, and to suspend all scheduled concert activity through July 31, 2021.

“Like most other performing organizations and concert venues, the Nashville Symphony has experienced staggering financial losses, that since mid-March, when we were forced to shut our doors, have topped $10 million,” said President & CEO Alan D. Valentine. “Despite every effort to keep our musicians and staff employed, our Board of Directors was forced to make some extremely difficult decisions with painful short-term consequences in order to secure the long-term future of the institution. Today’s announcement is also driven by our commitment to the Nashville Symphony’s long-term well-being. Our orchestra cannot survive unless we invest in our greatest resource: our musicians,” Valentine said.

Orchestra Committee Chair and Negotiating Committee member Melinda Whitley commented on the agreement. “Orchestras and ensembles around the country have been finding creative ways to sustain their artistic mission, and we’re happy to see the Nashville Symphony reemerging to do the same. The musicians are glad that the end of the furlough is in sight, and we look forward to working together again with the Nashville Symphony to provide music for our beloved audiences and communities in middle Tennessee,” Whitley said.

The new agreement provides musicians with a $500 weekly stipend, for which the musicians will commit to participating in community performances and other activities to be determined in collaboration with the orchestra’s administrative staff. The Nashville Symphony will also continue to provide musicians with health insurance benefits for the duration of the agreement, which ends July 31, 2021. Due to the short-term nature of this agreement, negotiations between the symphony and the musicians will continue with the goal of reaching a new agreement before the start of the 2021-22 season.

Under the terms of the agreement, musicians will engage in a variety of activities as the Nashville Symphony continues to work toward its return to normal operations. In addition to producing virtual performances and participating in educational initiatives, musicians will work with staff to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure that both the orchestra and the audience can safely return to the concert hall.

This agreement is made possible in part because of significant support provided by two key corporate partners, Amazon and Nissan North America, both of whom have demonstrated a commitment to investing in the Middle Tennessee community.

“The Nashville Symphony has demonstrated an abiding commitment to creating a more diverse, equitable and thriving community through music education, and young people need these resources now more than ever,” said Parul Bajaj, Nissan’s senior manager of Philanthropy. “As a longtime partner, Nissan is thrilled to create this opportunity for the musicians of the Nashville Symphony to share their gifts and wisdom with the next generation of leaders in Middle Tennessee.”

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