Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Announces $1.3 Million in Cost-Saving Measures

Executive and Artistic Leadership, Administration, and Orchestra Musicians Take Steps To Counter Tough Economy

Measures To Include Administration Pay Cuts, Furloughs, and A Hiring Freeze
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The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s executive and artistic leadership, administration, and Orchestra musicians have taken steps to counter the tough economy. The ASO has announced pay cuts, furloughs, and a hiring freeze in the 2009 fiscal year, beginning with President and CEO Allison Vulgamore, who will take a minimum of 7% compensation reduction. Vice Presidents will take a 6% pay cut, and all other employees will take a 5% pay cut. These cuts will be effective beginning with the April 3, 2009 pay period, and will extend through May 31, 2009 — the end of the 2009 fiscal year. These reductions, combined with previous cost-cutting measures, will result in $1.3 million in savings for the 2009 fiscal year, and will enable the ASO to continue to provide the highest level of artistic quality for all concerts and presentations.

Beginning June 1, 2009, and extending through May 31, 2010 (fiscal year 2010), salaries will be fully reinstated, but employees will take unpaid furloughs — Ms. Vulgamore will take 18 days, Vice Presidents will take 15 days, and all other employees will take 13 days. Music Director Robert Spano and the entire ASO artistic conducting staff join in the cost-saving measures through compensation reductions. In total, these ASO compensation reductions and unpaid furloughs will save the Atlanta Symphony over $750,000 in the 2010 fiscal year.

The Orchestra’s musicians and the Atlanta Federation of Musicians are also in discussions with ASO management to assist the institution in weathering the current financial environment. Daniel Laufer, president of the ASO Players’ Association (ASOPA) said, “While we are currently in the second year of a four-year collective bargaining agreement, the musicians have maintained a consistent, high-quality dialogue with Allison Vulgamore and her staff, and are sensitive to finding appropriate ways to play a part in helping the bottom line.”

“We take seriously the fiscal health of the ASO,” said Atlanta Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore. “Certainly, we are experiencing, together with our donors, patrons, board members, and employees, the tremendous challenges of these shared national concerns. We have great admiration for our ASO employees who have, through these compensation contributions, now become stakeholders and investors in the ASO’s mission during these extraordinary economic times. We are also tremendously grateful to our loyal patrons who continue to support the ASO through donations and with concert attendance, especially given their inevitable personal circumstances.”

Previous measures taken by the ASO have already reduced the economic impact on its revenue by $1 million in 2009. Earlier this year the decision was made to freeze open positions and delay the hiring of any new staff. Marketing initiatives, such as a recent one-week $25 ticket offer for 2008-09 season concerts, and other special offers to concert-goers, have kept the Classical-series ticket volume equal to what it was last year. In addition, recordings have been, and will continue to be, limited to Atlanta School of Composers projects in 2009.

Looking to fiscal year 2010, the ASO will sustain a lower headcount through the continuation of frozen and unfilled employee positions, and the redistribution of staff responsibilities. There will also be additional benefit savings in Group Health plans and other employee benefits.

“Despite the economy, the Atlanta Symphony has not cut our art. In fact we have performed for more young people this season than any season in our history through the Concerts for Young People,” said Ms. Vulgamore. “Our Symphony Street concerts will close the year with an increased student attendance of 13%, and Discover/Next Generation concerts will close the year with an increased student attendance of 16%. Our Talent Development Program celebrated 15 years this season, during which cellist Khari Joyner won the Junior Division of the Sphinx Competition, the first of our TDP students to do so. In addition, as a result of a $100,000 grant from Humana, in partnership with the Renaissance Learning Center , the ASO recently auditioned nearly 100 young musicians for its Kids with Strings program, a new TDP feeder program with a new partner that didn’t exist last year.”

Ms. Vulgamore says the ASO is committed to providing the community with stimulating art: “The ASO Theater of a Concert staging of John Adams’s opera, Doctor Atomic, and recently Haydn’s The Creation, both had a huge response, and we are looking forward to continuing our art with a performance by Yo-Yo Ma as part of our two-week Musica Ardiente! celebration of Latin America at the end of the season in June. And we are very excited to open our second season at our new summer home, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park .”

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