© 2023 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

San Antonio Symphony Musicians Asked To Take Pay Cuts Amid Uncertain Future

San Antonio Symphony

According to a musicians union spokesperson, the San Antonio Symphony has entered another financially unstable period. It has a long history of barely getting by, and developments underway suggest that's continuing.

The musicians regularly negotiate contracts covering San Antonio Symphony performances from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 of the coming year. Currently, they are in the final year of a three-year contract, but according to principal second violinist and musicians union member Mary Ellen Goree, there’s nothing normal about the way this year has played out. And it all started with their performance contract.

“We voluntarily agreed to take a drastic cut in pay for the 2020-2021 seasons. The musicians took an 80 percent pay cut,” Goree said. “And we also agreed that we would agree to reopen the third year of the contract if management requested to do so by a certain date last January.”

This past January, COVID-19 still had Symphony performances on hiatus, and there still was no vaccine in sight. The apparent future wasn’t bright.

“And management reasonably exercised their right to ask to reopen the third year of the contract. So what we are currently engaged in is negotiations for possible modifications to an existing contract,” she said.

Mary Ellen Goree is a musician in the San Antonio Symphony, who gives lessons on the side. The coronavirus crisis has forced her to be a bit more creative when it comes to making a living.
Courtesy of the San Antonio Symphony
Mary Ellen Goree

In the interim, the vaccine arrived, and the San Antonio Symphony began playing in public again, with COVID-19 protocols at performances. It is managed by the Symphony Society of San Antonio, and Goree said what the Society is offering musicians at this point is drastic reductions in pay. The current base salary for symphony musicians is $35,744.

“The proposal from the Symphony Society that is currently on the table is for 23 weeks. It would be for a total annual salary of $18,000,” Goree said.

That’s almost exactly a 50% cut in pay and eight fewer performances in front of the public. Texas’s other big three symphonies pay their musicians between two and three times what the San Antonio Symphony does, and that’s before the reduction requested by the Symphony Society. Goree says if you want to help the Symphony, you can.

“They can buy tickets, they can come hear us play, they can contact the Symphony Society, let them know we love the symphony,” she said.

The symphony’s management did not immediately respond to TPRs request for comment.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

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