Grand Rapids Symphony, musicians ratify 5-year contract
April 05, 2016
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 139
MI, April 5, 2016 – The Grand Rapids Symphony and the Grand Rapids Federation
of Musicians have ratified a new, five-year, collective bargaining agreement
that raises pay and partially restores employer-funded retirement contributions
for members of the orchestra.
agreement that will carry the Grand Rapids Symphony through its 90th
anniversary season in 2019-20 maintains the present 40-week performance season,
preserves the current complement of musicians, and makes no changes to the
orchestra’s health insurance.
contract ending in August 2020 introduces seniority pay to recognize musicians’
years of service beginning with the 2016-17 season opening in September.
five-year contract in place is good news for the entire community of Grand
Rapids, said Kate Pew Wolters, chairperson of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Board
“As a city consistently recognized nationally as one that is
vibrant and growing, I count the Grand Rapids Symphony as one of our greatest
cultural assets. The roles that our musicians play, not just on the stage, but
as contributing members of our community can be seen in our schools, as tutors
and as mentors,” Wolters said. “As we look forward to our 87th season, the
board applauds the partnership that has led to this vision of growth and
represented by the American Federation of Musicians, Local 56, ratified the
contract on Saturday, April 2. The Grand Rapids Symphony’s Board of Directors
gave unanimous approval on Monday, April 4.
lasted 11 months, but the result is a labor agreement that “represents a shared
commitment to advance the work of our great orchestra,” said Grand Rapids
Symphony President Peter Kjome.
“The ensemble that our community has
nurtured over many years has received national recognition, and we’re delighted
that this new contract will take us through the 2019-20 season, which is the orchestra’s
Kjome said. “The successful conclusion of our negotiations will help the
symphony and its superb musicians continue to enrich our community at a high
level of excellence, while supporting ongoing efforts to assure the orchestra's
long-term strength and positive direction.”
contract follows a four-year collective bargaining agreement signed in
September 2011 that expired Aug. 31, 2015. Though the Grand Rapids Symphony
began its 2015-16 season without a contract, operations continued under terms
of the previous pact while discussions went on in the background.
contract includes a 1 percent pay raise in the first year, rising to a 3
percent raise in the final year for the orchestra’s musicians.
contributions to the musicians’ 401(k) will resume in September, beginning with
a 2 percent contribution, rising to as much as 4 percent in the final year when
matched with a 2 percent contribution from the players.
seniority pay component, which begins next season, provides for additional pay
for all rehearsals and performances for musicians beginning with their sixth
year of service and increasing every year afterward.
contributions to the 401(k) plus the introduction of a seniority pay system are
commonly found among ensembles whose musicians are members of the International
Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, which represents 52 of the largest
orchestras in the United States, including the Grand Rapids Symphony.
"The musicians were mindful of an industry
standard since becoming members of ICSOM in 2013,” said Paul Austin, a French
hornist and co-chair of the negotiation committee for the Grand Rapids
Federation of Musicians. “Having comparable benefits, such as the return of a
401(k) contribution and establishing a seniority pay system will keep the GRS competitive
with peer orchestras and attract top talent to join the Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids Symphony has 50 full-time, contracted positions with three
positions currently held open, and about 30 part-time positions on its roster.
The new agreement outlines efforts to raise additional funds to help add
full-time musicians to the ensemble, a development that violinist Diane Helle,
co-chair of the negotiation committee, described as “extraordinary and
musicians are pleased, after months of talks with the Grand Rapids
Symphony Society, that our shared vision for the orchestra includes a
commitment to increase the number of full-time musicians, continuing the
exciting work of building the great orchestra that this community deserves,”
addition to the Grand Rapids Symphony’s own concert series – including the
10-concert Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series and the six-concert Fox
Motors Pops Series in DeVos Performance Hall, and the D&W Fresh Market
Picnic Pops, which returns to Cannonsburg Ski Area in July – the orchestra
collaborates with Grand Rapids Ballet in its annual performances of
Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” in December and with Opera Grand Rapids in
several productions each season, including upcoming performances of “Orpheus
and Eurydice” on Friday and Saturday, April 8-9, in DeVos Center for Arts and
Worship at Grand Rapids Christian High School;
and of “Romeo and Juliet” on April 29-30 in DeVos Performance Hall
concluding contract negotiations enables us to give full energy to the impact
of the Grand Rapids Symphony and our musicians on our community,” said Roger
Nelson, vice president and chief operating officer. “Not only does our
orchestra perform for the Grand Rapids Ballet and Opera Grand Rapids, our high
quality musicians infuse excellence throughout the community, including their
work for the symphony’s Education and Community Engagement programs.
labor agreement between the Grand Rapids Symphony and members of the Grand
Rapids Federation of Musicians smooths the way for the arrival of the
orchestra’s next music director. The search for a successor to music director
laureate David Lockington is expected to culminate within the next couple of
music director wants to take the helm of an orchestra that is strategically
aligned with all stakeholders,” said Larry Robson, vice chairperson of the
Grand Rapids Symphony’s board of directors and co-chair of the music director
newly signed, five-year contract will go a long way to attract the best of the
best,” added Mary Tuuk, a member of the GRS board of directors and co-chair of
the search committee. “And it’ll pave the way for a new era of artistic
excellence and community vibrancy.”
About the Grand Rapids Symphony
Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the
quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry
Rachleff, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John
Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music
and performance styles. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids
Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand
Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony,
please visit GRSymphony.org.
This activity is
supported in part by an award from the Michigan
Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.