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Symphony Pulls Off Highly Orchestrated Contract

Lauren Eberhart
Lauren Eberhart and her daughter

In a surprise move, the San Antonio Symphony announced last Friday a new contract with the Musician’s Union, signed before the current season is over with. 

“My name is Lauren Eberhart. I’m the second trumpet with the San Antonio Symphony.”

She’s also the chair of the Union’s negotiating committee. We spoke at a coffee shop.

"We are trying to find a way out of a cycle of hand-to-mouth living for the Symphony. And I think this is a way forward.  Its initial term is two years and it has the option to go for as many as five years.”

A series of fundraising benchmarks have been set for those two years, and if they’re met they can add weeks to the performance schedule, and modest raises for the players.

“Token pay raises, if you will. They’re not large dollar amounts. The actual raises comes from the added week of work.”

One of the contract’s biggest objectives is to grow its endowment.      

"Currently the endowment is only about 2 million [dollars]for the San Antonio Symphony. That endowment  needs to be much higher.  Growing the endowment helps provide a guaranteed income stream.”

Ticket sales are up, but that only does so much.

"Only about a third of our operating costs are ever covered by ticket sales."

Compared to tense negotiations in the past, these went much smoother. I asked “Things seem to be coming together more easily than at times in the past. Do you know why?”

“There was a real attempt for everybody to find common ground and figure out some creative solutions.”

She says the negotiating climate allowed for something a bit unusual.

“For everybody to row in the same direction to get where we want to go.”

And where they want to go is a financially stable future.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii