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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Amid strike, San Antonio Symphony musicians conclude unusual season away from the Tobin Center

Erica Howlett
Texas Public Radio
Erica Howlett

The musicians of the San Antonio Symphony ended their unusual season with a flourish Saturday morning. Afterwards, the audience expressed their hopes for the symphony to continue performing, though its future has been jeopardized by the strike against management that has gone on since late September.

“I’d love to see them continue to play and so anything that we can do to support them, I think the city should,” said concert attendee Lisa Breshears. “I can’t believe that it would go away, after all the years they’ve been here.”

Saturday’s free family concert was the last in a series of three performances held this weekend at the First Baptist Church downtown. These concerts are not affiliated with the official San Antonio Symphony management and the Tobin Center, and were funded partly by the San Antonio Symphony League.

As patrons filed into the pews for the concert, volunteers distributed light blue ribbons meant to be worn in solidarity with the symphony. T-shirts, yard signs and other merchandise were also sold to benefit their cause.

Music Director Emeritus Christopher Wilkins, who served as Music Director of the San Antonio Symphony for 10 years, conducted the concerts. He led the musicians through several pieces by composers like Edward Elgar and William Grant Still. In between, he explained the music to the audience, particularly to the many children in attendance. The concert also celebrated the achievements of the student winners of the Symphony League’s annual “Paint to Music” competition, with the winning pieces on display.

Erica Howlett
Texas Public Radio

The musicians of the San Antonio Symphony went on strike about eight months ago following several contract disagreements with management. The musicians rejected management’s proposals to reduce the size of the symphony and significantly reduce pay.

There have been several attempts at negotiation, but these efforts have beenunsuccessful. The symphony musicians were determined, however, to continue holding concerts despite the uncertainty. They held a total of eight concerts at the First Baptist Church this spring, beginning in April. Their future, however, remains shadowed in doubt, as no deal has been reached with management.

Melanie Meier, who also attended Saturday’s concert, believes that the city needs to do more to fund the symphony and bring an end to the strike.

“I wish the city would fund it,” Meier said. “Houston, Austin, Dallas, they all have permanently funded symphonies, but we don’t.”

“It’s uplifting, it’s beautiful, it attracts all kinds of people and makes the city look like an attractive place to live,” Meier added, expressing her fondness for the symphony.

Attendee Mel Villarreal is also hoping to see the symphony live on.

“It just makes a contribution to the soul of San Antonio,” he said.

As the show concluded, the symphony received a standing ovation. It’s clear that if the symphony can continue to perform, they will be eagerly welcomed by the city.

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Erika Howlett is the 2022 Summer Arts Intern at Texas Public Radio. She assists with community engagement and produces articles on local arts and culture for TPR’s website.