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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015 5 years ago

Musicians reach multi-year deal with Sarasota Orchestra

Extending through the 2018-2019 season, the contract includes improved annual salary increases and an expanded retirement plan.
by: Nick Reichert Arts & Entertainment Editor

The music will keep on playing at the Sarasota Orchestra. Well, at least until the end of the 2019 season.

The Sarasota Orchestra's musicians and management have settled a new deal that will keep the orchestra playing for the next four years. Negotiations between the orchestra and the organization's board and administration began back in January. And with the musicians' previous four-year contract expiring on Aug. 31, the orchestra's new contract arrived just in time and includes numerous increases in salary and retirement benefits.

"Going into the negotiations there were some structural and language details in the last contract that we wanted worked out," says John Miller, principal double bass and and chair of the musicians' negotiating team. "We got a lot of our goals and had constructive conversations with the board and administration. Overall, we wanted a deal that would make everyone happy."

Represented by the American Federation of Musicians Florida Gulf Coast, Local 427-721, the orchestra's four-season agreement features several improved amenities including: annual salary increases for 45 full-time core musicians, two to three percent wage increases for 30 part-time full orchestra musicians, improvements in musician travel arrangements, increased soloist compensation, and an employer contribution match to the musicians' 403-b retirement plan. 

John Miller, principal double bass for the Sarasota Orchestra, has been with the orchestra since 1993 and was selected to chair the musician negotiating team because of his role on the new music director search committee in 2013.

Two components of the orchestra deal remained the same from the last contract. The season will remain at its current 36-week schedule, and the orchestra's health, life and disability insurance policies and employer contribution will stay at their current values. 

Miller says that the musicians would welcome a longer season, but without a permanent and comprehensive home, the orchestra can't find extra time available at its numerous regular performance venues such as the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Friedman Symphony Center, Sarasota Opera House, Neel Performing Arts Center, Northport Performing Arts Center and Ed Smith Stadium. 

Joseph McKenna, president and CEO of the Sarasota Orchestra, was happy that the musicians along with the orchestra's staff were able to come to agreeable terms. And though the four-year deal comes at a higher cost than the musicians' previous deal, he's confident in the orchestra's ability to pay the musicians what they deserve. McKenna says he expects increased revenue over the next four years due to an improved and stabilized economy, the musicians involvement in fundraising efforts, and Anu Tali's continued leadership in programming popular and exciting concerts. 

"We're fortunate enough to have here in Sarasota a great affection for the orchestra," says McKenna. "The orchestra is one team and I think this contract process really embodied the board, management, staff and musicians being together on one team. We might be in different sections, but we can come together and create something far larger than ourselves."


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