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Springfield Symphony Orchestra: No Season If Musicians' Contract Not Settled Soon

Springfield Symphony Orchestra

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra announced Friday it will likely not produce any shows this season if it can't reach a contract agreement with union musicians by October 1. Earlier this month, the musicians accused SSO management of unfair labor practices.

In the most recent back-and-forth this summer, the SSO agreed to higher pay for musicians per concert, although for fewer concerts.

The musicians' counteroffer was substantially the same the union made weeks ago, SSO management said Friday, "without meaningful movement."

"The SSO Board and management established October 1, 2021 as the reasonable date after which it would be unrealistic to organize concerts, secure dates, engage all of the elements of a program and undertake the significant marketing necessary to hold a symphonic concert season," the statement said.

The musicians allege that SSO management has bargained in bad faith and failed to comply with its legal obligation to honor their most recent contract. A complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

Meanwhile, the musicians have scheduled their own concert at Springfield Symphony Hall. It's free and they're bringing in longtime maestro Kevin Rhodes, who is also without a contract.

"The musicians of the SSO have not performed together on the stage of Springfield Symphony Hall since March of 2020," Marsha Harbison, the longtime assistant concertmaster, said in a statement. "The professional musicians of the symphony are eager to perform exciting and healing music in our great Symphony Hall, under our world class maestro Kevin Rhodes."

The symphony's management said the musicians' union's plans "will further muddy the waters."

"It appears [the union] is intent on forming its own orchestral organization and competing with the SSO, which will result in splintering the already limited symphonic orchestra audience and donor base," the statement read.

The concert, which requires prior registration and proof of vaccination, is scheduled for October 15.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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