LSM Newswire

Friday, December 5, 2008

Memphis Symphony Orchestra Agrees on Innovative Contract


Memphis Symphony Orchestra Agrees on Innovative Contract

Memphis, TN --The musicians and board of directors for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) recently approved a new employment contract for the 2008-2009 season that reflects a deepening engagement of professional musicians within the Memphis community.

This contract supports our mission of creating meaningful experiences through music, said Ryan Fleur, MSO president and chief executive officer. It has the potential to transform the way our orchestra will serve the community in the future by allowing us to develop new and diverse partnerships and activities that will have a positive impact on peoples lives.

A key component of the contract, Fleur said, is the opportunity for musicians to do community engagement work this season via an optional engagement contract. Full-time musicians who opt-in to the contract can receive up to 3 % incentive pay based on the number of community engagement activities they participate in.

I feel that the days of our job is to play the music, their job is to pay for it are long over, said Scott Moore, MSO principal trumpet player. It is to everyones benefit when musicians are able to more actively engage in the process.

Examples of community engagement services are mentoring at The Soulsville Charter School and the creation of Leading from Every ChairѢ, a seminar developed and led by MSO musicians who use music to actively teach teamwork, creativity and leadership skills to corporations and non-profit organizations.

This agreement combines an innovative way of increasing the pay for our musicians while providing a valuable service to our community, said John Sprott, MSO principal percussionist and president of the local musicians union. We will be using our talents and training to help others in addition to performing in concerts.

Working in teams to plan, implement and evaluate community activities, each musician can participate in up to 25 community engagement services during the 2008-2009 season. A service is a unit of time traditionally used exclusively to rehearse and perform as a group. Musicians who do not participate in a community engagement contract experience a pay freeze from the 2007-2008 season.

According to Moore, musicians are valuable resources who individually possess knowledge and expertise beyond their abilities on their instruments.

This unique and innovative new partnership allows musicians and management to work together to find effective ways to connect with our community, and more importantly, to have a positive impact on lives, Moore said.

In this experimental season, 28 of the Memphis Symphonys 36 full-time musicians have chosen to participate in the engagement contract.

The ingenuity of this contract is that it allows us to more fully utilize the services of the musicians to re-define orchestra services for creative partnerships, Fleur said.

Engagement services are governed by an Engagement Oversight Committee, a team of three elected musicians, three MSO staff members, the music director and board members. The committee will ensure that all re-defined services are artistically meaningful and need-fulfilling for community partners, and are tied to a new revenue source for the Memphis Symphony.

Our engagement oversight committee permits us to direct services toward planning and evaluation, and ultimately, the delivery of new projects, Sprott said. This means our musicians actively influence and shape our community activities, creating a sense of identity, ownership and commitment that is unprecedented.

This contract is a marvelous example of what is possible when an orchestras stakeholders work collaboratively and creatively; a win-win for the Memphis Symphony family and for their community, said Jesse Rosen, president of the League of American Orchestras. This agreement puts Memphis in the forefront of American orchestras exciting movement toward stronger relationships with their communities.

The new contract was born out of the Memphis Symphonys planning process in which the organization took a critical look at how it deploys resources and time.

Musicians, board members, staff and community partners looked at each community engagement to see if it is artistically fulfilling to the musicians, meets the needs of the partner organization, is beneficial to the greater Memphis community and can be tied to new revenue sources for the symphony. Out of this dialogue grew the need to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to address the issue of re-defining orchestra services.

The language of the existing union contract severely restricted musician time to a simple formula of rehearsals, concerts and education ensemble performances, Fleur said. With our evolving community engagement partnerships, we needed flexibility for new kinds of services that stepped beyond the traditional.

Since 1952 the Memphis Symphony Orchestra has created meaningful experiences through music in the Mid-South. Today more than 400 musicians, staff and volunteers in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Memphis Symphony Chorus and the Memphis Symphony League operate education programs, organize community engagement events and present concerts within a $4 million budget.


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