All Louisville Orchestra concerts scheduled for September and October have been canceled.
The season was set to begin September 10. But orchestra management sent out a notice of the cancellations Wednesday evening, citing an impasse with the musicians over a contract for the next season. The two sides are in mediation with the Louisville Labor Management Committee and will meet with Mayor Greg Fischer later this week to try to work out a deal.
“I think we’re on the verge of a collapse in our arts community,” says musicians committee chair Kim Tichenor. “As it is right now, the orchestra plays for the ballet and the opera. We have musicians who are leaving town and that affects the whole community.”
In the meantime, the national musicians union has effectively blocked any members from playing without a contract. Tichenor says the musicians have offered to simply extend their previous contract until a new deal could be reached, but the proposal was rejected.
In the statement announcing the cancellations, Orchestra CEO Rob Birman said the musicians turned down an offer to be paid their previous wages of $925 a week for the next season.
“That is a highly competitive wage for any professional musician in the United States,” he said.
But Tichenor says that’s misleading, as the length of the contracts would be altered as part of a tiered plan that hired musicians only for certain concerts
“People are being asked to go from 37 weeks down to 10 weeks. Some musicians are being asked to take that large of a pay cut. Going from $34,000 a year to $9,000 a year with a huge cut in benefits along to go with it is not a competitive wage.”
Not all musicians play in every concert and Birman previously told WFPL News the orchestra could not afford to pay all of the musicians for the entire season.