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Utah Symphony musicians agree to salary cuts

By Associated Press | Posted - Dec. 3, 2011 at 3:41 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah Symphony orchestra musicians have agreed to $1.1 million in salary cuts over the next three seasons to help get the state's largest performing arts organization through a difficult financial period.

Under a three-year contract extension that took effect Thursday, about 80 musicians agreed to an 8 percent cut to their base salaries this season, or a total of $616,000 in salary cuts.

The musicians accepted additional salary cuts of nearly $500,000 over the next two seasons, and will have endured a total of $3.8 million in salary cuts over a seven-year period when the current contract expires in 2015, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The management of the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera praised the musicians, saying their sacrifice shows how dedicated they are to ensuring the organization's long-term sustainability. Orchestras and opera companies across the nation have confronted major financial struggles in recent years because of the economy, with many facing musician strikes or being forced to file Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Word of the union's acceptance of the cuts has spread across the country, said Bruce Ridge, chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. "The audiences that surround and love the Utah Symphony are fortunate to have this inspiring group of musicians as members of their community," he said.

Taking the salary cut was a sign of how proud the musicians are of being a 52-week orchestra, said trombonist Larry Zalkind, one of the lead negotiators for the contract extension. "That still defines us," he told the Tribune. "We look at communities three, four and five times our size who don't support a 52-week orchestra."

Musicians aren't the only ones undergoing austerity measures in Utah. A recent $950,000 budget shortfall also forced the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera to impose a staff hiring freeze and to cut staff salary and benefits.

Artistically, the organization is enjoying a successful season, with music director Thierry Fischer leading the orchestra through an ambitious cycle of all nine Beethoven symphonies. Ticket revenues for the 2011-12 season were up 4 percent over last season.

But the financial difficulties aren't over, and others will have to join the cause as well, said Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the organization.

"We are working together, but we need a call to action that this economy is not so kind to any of us," Tourangeau said. "All is not fine."

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(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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