Atlanta Symphony Orchestra: Compensation Reductions to save $4.2M

Cost-Saving Measures include Executive & Musician pay reductions over the next Four Years

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has announced cost-saving measures that will amount to $4.2 million over the next four years, beginning with the 2009 fiscal year, and continuing through the 2012 fiscal year. These measures include 100% participation from all constituents of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, including executive and artistic leadership, musicians of the Orchestra, and administration.

The Orchestra’s musicians have ratified an agreement to modify the current four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (effective through the 2010-11 season), and take a reduction in contracted compensation during the 2009 fiscal year, joining the ASO’s executive and artistic leadership and administration in previously announced pay cuts, furloughs, and hiring freezes. The musicians have agreed to a 5% reduction in contracted compensation for fiscal year 2009 (which ends May 31, 2009), proportionate to the ASO staff pay cuts for the same basic period — Vice Presidents will take a 6% pay cut, and all other employees will take a 5% pay cut. President and CEO Allison Vulgamore will take a minimum of 10% compensation reduction for each of the fiscal years 2009 and 2010. Music Director Robert Spano will take a 7% compensation reduction in fiscal year 2009, and a 14% compensation reduction in fiscal year 2010. The entire ASO artistic conducting staff will also join in the cost-saving measures through compensation reductions. The Orchestra’s participation will contribute an additional $81,000 against the fiscal year 2009 deficit, totaling $1.4 million in institutional cost-saving measures for 2009. Musician salaries will be fully reinstated beginning June 1, 2009 and extending through August 29, 2009 (the end of the musicians’ 2008-09 contract-year).

“The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with the Atlanta Federation of Musicians, have been in continuous discussions with Allison Vulgamore and her dedicated staff in order to chart a course for the Atlanta Symphony through these challenging financial times. The personal sacrifices offered by President and CEO Allison Vulgamore, Music Director Robert Spano, and the entire ASO staff are impressive. Along with their actions to help weather this current economic climate, the musicians have offered an unprecedented and comprehensive modification of their current four-year agreement to ensure long-term stability for the ASO. Among several measures, the musicians have agreed to a 5% reduction in salary for the remaining fiscal year and for the following contract year. It is due to the true culture of collaboration that exists in the entire ASO organization which makes these adjustments possible. Music is nurtured on and off stage by all who enjoy and support the ASO. We hope our community will take notice of these extraordinary actions, and we are confident in an even stronger Atlanta Symphony moving forward.” - Daniel Laufer, Associate Principal Cello and President of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association.
“It is my honor to serve alongside my colleagues throughout the institution of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to co-create innovative initiatives, and prescribe fiscal actions that promote our musical journey with our audiences in Atlanta , around Georgia , and throughout the country. I respect and remain most appreciative to the ASO Orchestra Players Association for their leadership, not just in these most recent actions, but also for our consistent culture of regular and thoughtful deliberations on behalf of our ASO. It is because of our ongoing interdependent collaboration that we will continue to enjoy the highest level of artistic quality for our mission through concerts, presentations, and learning activities for the public we serve.” – Allison Vulgamore, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra President and CEO
“Our musicians, our staff, and our professional leadership are taking absolutely unprecedented steps to sustain one of Atlanta ’s and the nation’s most precious cultural assets. I hope their collective, thoughtful actions will be an example to our volunteer leadership, our many generous and supportive patrons, and the community at large to take their own steps to recognize that even in the darkest financial hours, the arts must sustain us and must be sustained by us. The Orchestra’s agreement to reopen their four-year contract in its second year is a remarkable example of the cross-constituent understanding and shared ownership of the organization’s sustainability that makes the Atlanta Symphony so unique. Both I, and the Symphony’s Board, are deeply grateful to both the musicians of the Orchestra and Allison Vulgamore. This is precisely why our best days are ahead.” – Ben Johnson, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chairman

Additional Cost-Saving Measures
In subsequent years, ASO executive and artistic leadership, administration, and Orchestra musicians will continue to participate proportionately and equitably in cost-saving measures.

The Orchestra musicians will leave a minimum of two positions open, and will take additional compensation reductions for each of the fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Ms. Vulgamore will take a minimum of 10% compensation reduction for each of the fiscal years 2009 and 2010. Mr. Spano will take a 7% compensation reduction in fiscal year 2009, and a 14% compensation reduction in fiscal year 2010. These ASO compensation reductions and furloughs of the executive and artistic leadership, administration, and the Orchestra — in addition to other cost-saving measures — will save the Atlanta Symphony an additional $2.8 million over the course of fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012:

Fiscal Year 2010

  • Beginning August 30, 2009, and continuing through August 28, 2010 (fiscal year 2010), musicians will take another 5% reduction in contracted compensation.
  • Four orchestra positions will remain open during the 2009-10 season.
  • The entire ASO artistic conducting staff will also join in the cost-saving measures through compensation reductions.
  • As previously announced, ASO administrative salaries will also be fully reinstated beginning June 1, 2009, and continuing through May 31, 2010. However, employees will take mandatory unpaid furloughs through May 31, 2010 — Ms. Vulgamore will take 18 days, Vice Presidents will take 15 days, and all other employees will take 13 days.
  • ASO administration 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.
  • Previous measures taken by the ASO had already reduced the economic impact on its revenue by $1 million in the 2009 fiscal year:
    • Earlier this year the decision was made to freeze administrative open positions, and limit hiring to the replacement of departing staff critical to achieving revenue goals.
    • Recordings have been, and will continue to be, limited to Atlanta School of Composers projects in 2009.
    • The annual Free Parks Concert in Piedmont Park has been cancelled for summer 2009.
    • A not-yet-announced tour to China with the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra has been cancelled.
    • Significant reductions were made in direct concert expenses and administrative expenses, donor events, ASO Outreach, and Learning Community programs.
    • 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 just 3% off last years amount.

Fiscal Year 2011

  • ASO musicians will take a 3.8% reduction in contracted compensation beginning August 29, 2010, and continuing through August 27, 2011 (fiscal year 2011).
  • A minimum of two orchestra positions will remain open during the 2010-11 season.

Fiscal Year 2012

  • The musicians will add one additional year to their existing four-year contract beginning August 28, 2011, and continuing through August 25, 2012 (fiscal year 2012), restoring the weekly salary that would have otherwise gone into effect during the 2010-11 season, one year later than planned.
  • A minimum of two orchestra positions will remain open during the 2011-2012 season.

About the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, currently in its 64th season, is one of America ’s leading orchestras, known for the excellence of its live performances, presentations, renowned choruses, and its impressive list of Grammy Award-winning recordings. The leading cultural organization in the Southeast, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra serves as the cornerstone for artistic development and music education in the region. Under the creative partnership of Music Director Robert Spano, Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles, and President and CEO Allison Vulgamore since September 2001, the Orchestra and audiences have been invigorated through a creative programming mix, recordings, and visual enhancements, such as the ASO Theater of a Concert, the Orchestra’s continuing exploration of different formats, settings, and enhancements for the musical performance experience. The Atlanta School of Composers reflects Mr. Spano and the Orchestra’s commitment to nurturing and championing music through multi-year partnerships defining a new generation of American composers.

During its 31-year history with Telarc, the Orchestra has recorded more than 100 albums and its recordings have won 26 Grammy Awards in categories including Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance, Best Choral Performance, and Best Opera Performance. The ASO Chorus has earned a nine Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance, most recently for the Berlioz Requiem in 2005.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs more than 200 concerts each year to a combined audience of more than a half million in a full schedule of performances which also feature educational and community concerts. A recognized leader and supporter of contemporary American music, the Orchestra recently received the 2007 award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. In addition, Music Director Robert Spano was named Musical America 2008 Conductor of the Year. With the opening of the 12,000-seat Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in May 2008, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra becomes the first U.S. orchestra to annually perform and present in its concert hall, and in two amphitheaters. In Summer 2008, the Orchestra celebrated 35 years at legendary Chastain Park Amphitheater, the award-winning 6,500 seat venue in Atlanta , during the ASO’s annual Delta Classic Chastain concert series.

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