Notebook: The Philharmonic settlement

Pianist Alessio Bax performed with Scott Terrell and the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra at least year's season-opening concert. Tonight's season opener will go on as scheduled, thanks to a short-term agreement between orchestra management and musicians. © Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley.

Pianist Alessio Bax performed with Scott Terrell and the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra at least year’s season-opening concert. Tonight’s season opener will go on as scheduled, thanks to a short-term agreement between orchestra management and musicians. © Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley.

Depending on who you talk to, there was little to no progress this week on the central issues in the contract dispute between Lexington Philharmonic management and musicians.

What they agreed to was essentially a faster version of one of the musicians’ proposals to avert a strike that had been called for tonight’s season-opening concert. The musicians had proposed an agreement that would incorporate points the parties had agreed on to this point in negotiations and reverted anything they had not agreed on back to the language of the 2008 contract. Philharmonic musicians and management renegotiate their contract every four years, and the 2012 contract has been in negotiations since April 2012.

In the original proposal from the musicians to management late last week, the agreement would carry the orchestra through June 2015. What they ended up settling on will carry them to the end of June 2014, and new negotiations will commence after the new year. A formal document still needs to be worked out and ratified by musicians, but orchestra committee chair Dave Shelton said a slim majority of the musicians did agree to the proposal.

Philharmonic board president R. Scott King said that since it was obvious they would not hash out all their issues before Friday’s concert, the focus became getting an agreement that would get the season started. But, he said, management also did not want to lose momentum of negotiations thus far by delaying talks until next summer, which the original proposal designated.

He did say, however, that Philharmonic management did want something that would guarantee the entire 2013-14 season would go on without any more strike threats.

When they return to the table in the new year, the burning issue will likely remain the peer review process for demotion and dismissal, which musicians say they want to retain to protect themselves from unfair actions by management. In its most recent proposal, management advocated final authority going to third party artistic arbitration. Previous proposals had included giving final authority to the music director.

Philharmonic executive director Allison Kaiser pointed out that in this agreement, each party retains and gives up something they wanted for the time being. The peer review process will remain in place, but musicians will not get a guaranteed minimum number of full orchestra concerts with 60 musicians or more, and the 2014-15 season will likely be planned and announced in the ensuing time.

At the end of the day Thursday, King did make one of the more conciliatory comments of the process.

“I think there’s some give and take on both sides,” King said. “I can say that we have heard the orchestra loud and clear, and we do have a better understanding of their positions.”

We’ll see if there’s some real harmony next year.

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