Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Management Prepared to Begin Search for New Musicians, Players Plan Holiday Concerts

Today is the deadline for Louisville Orchestra musicians to return to work. The orchestra board says it will begin replacing the players if they do not sign on by the end of the day.

This comes after a year of talks for a new contract broke down.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Says Musicians Have Accepted Contract Offer

The Louisville Orchestra labor dispute is over, according to orchestra management.

The management had extended what it called a “final offer” to the musicians. The orchestra board agreed to sign any musicians who remain in Louisville to a contract for upcoming seasons. However, by June 2013, enough players would have to retire or leave the orchestra to bring the ensemble’s size to 55 players. The management gave the players until 4:00 to accept the offer, and if they approved, the current season would continue next year.

The musicians said the deal was scarce on details and high on threats. They wanted clarification on which players would have to leave and other details of the proposal. After a day of meetings, the orchestra management released the following statement:

The Louisville Orchestra confirmed, late today, that counsel for the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Committee (LOMC), Chris Sanders, called the Orchestra’s labor counsel, James Smith, affirming that the LOMC has accepted the terms of the Louisville Orchestra board’s proposal to return to work.  The Louisville Orchestra board is awaiting written confirmation to this effect.  No further details are available at this time.

The musicians and management did not immediately return requests for comment.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Musicians Voting on New Contract Today

The musicians of the Louisville Orchestra are voting today on a contract for the current and upcoming seasons.

The musicians and management have been at odds over the contract for months, and the impasse has resulted in the cancellation of three months of concerts. The management had previously pushed for a tiered system, with musicians signing contracts for 10, 20 or 30 weeks. The musicians countered with a proposal to cut the number of full-time players from 71 to 60 and the season length from 37 to 35 weeks.

The management had insisted on a tiered contract, saying it was the only affordable option after emerging from Chapter 11. But sources close to the deal tell WFPL the proposal being voted on today calls for 50 full-time players at the current pay rate for 30 weeks each season. It allows for more musicians and higher salaries to be added over the next five seasons. The contract will expire in 2017.

The deadline for the cancellation of December concerts is looming, and the voting on the contract will close today. If the contract is approved, the orchestra season would continue.

The contract also increases the maximum temperature under which musicians can perform and cuts the number of portable toilets the management must provide at outdoor concerts.

Both sides are under a press blackout and have declined to comment.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Musicians Protest, Consider Federal Mediation

The Louisville Orchestra is in the middle of a bankruptcy filling and contract negotiations. This week, the musicians rejected an offer from management, saying it was unfair. Now the management, board and union leaders have agreed to bring in federal mediators, but there’s one group that hasn’t accepted that process: the musicians.

Shortly after three of the four sides released the statement saying federal mediation was on the table, the musicians held a protest outside of the orchestra’s offices to publicly reject the latest contract proposal and discuss further mediation.

“The musicians are still looking for an acceptable mediator,” says bargaining committee chair Kim Tichenor.

The players—who are part of the union—have met with federal mediators, but want to bring in someone with experience in orchestra contracts. Unless a mediator is found and unless that mediator brings both sides into agreement, the next season won’t start this fall, and it could be cancelled altogether. While the management has declined to comment, it’s reasonable to say no one wants an abridged season, which could isolate the orchestra’s supporters.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Returns to Court Tomorrow, Reorganization Plan Due

The Louisville Orchestra is due in court again tomorrow for a bankruptcy hearing.

Under the ensemble’s Chapter 11 filing, orchestra management has to submit a plan for reorganizing operations. Officials have declined to comment on the content or status of the plan, but the management had previously sought to reduce the number of full-time musicians.

That proposal first came up in talks to renew the musicians’ contract late last year. Musicians said a smaller orchestra would not be artistically or financially successful, and countered with new ideas for fundraising. When the talks broke down, the Chapter 11 filing was made.

The players’ contract expires this week and talks have resumed outside of court. Both sides have been silent about the negotiations.

At tomorrow’s hearing, the management could take any number of actions. First, they could submit a reorganization plan for the judge to consider. They could also decide not to submit a plan and instead ask for more time to put a plan together. The judge could either grant that request or end what’s called the exclusivity period. That would allow other parties in the case to submit their own reorganization plans. The judge could also dismiss the Chapter 11 filing or convert the case to Chapter 7. That would effectively end the current orchestra by requiring it to liquidate its resources.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Keep Louisville Symphonic Plans Second Concert

The second fundraising concert put on by orchestra musicians apart from the official Louisville orchestra is this week.

The orchestra has filed for Chapter 11, though the musicians are still being paid and the season is continuing as planned. But, management is seeking to cut the number of players, and the musicians say that’s unacceptable. They founded Keep Louisville Symphonic last month to show that a 71-member orchestra could be supported largely through additional fundraising.

KLS held a free show last month and collected about $50 thousand in donations. Their concert Friday will not be free. Musician Kim Tichenor says the money raised will be used to pay overhead for future concerts. The rest of the money is being put in a fund. Tichenor says that money could be used to start a new ensemble if negotiations with the Louisville Orchestra don’t work out, or it could go to the orchestra if they decide to keep the current players on contract.

“It could be the Louisville Orchestra really decides to embrace Keep Louisville Symphonic’s mission, which is great symphonic music, then it’s possible we could support the Louisville Orchestra,” she says.

Orchestra management placed a note in a recent program apologizing to any patrons who donated to KLS thinking their money was going to the orchestra.

Tichenor says KLS isn’t trying to deceive anyone.

“It really was presented by Keep Louisville Symphonic,” she says. “I thought that was made pretty clear at the concert, so I’m sorry there was confusion. But it seemed pretty clear to me.”

They have said repeatedly they want to keep the orchestra active.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Judge Rules In Favor Of Orchestra Musicians, Warns Them Not To Gloat

Louisville Orchestra musicians must be paid, despite the orchestra management’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. That’s the ruling a federal judge handed down Wednesday. The ruling gives the orchestra’s board of directors limited options for what to do next.

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Pay up or go under: those could be the only options the board has. The orchestra’s management was seeking temporary relief from the musicians’ contract as part of its Chapter 11 filing. The judge denied the request, saying the orchestra would only accrue more debt if the musicians didn’t play, since ticket holders and guest artists could seek money for cancelled concerts.

Now the board must come up with around $650 thousand that will be paid out between Friday and mid-April. The musicians will tentatively continue playing.

If the board can’t find the money, it may need to tap the orchestra’s nearly $10 million endowment. The board could also file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and essentially close. Board president Chuck Maisch said after the proceeding he couldn’t comment on what the board will do.

The judge told the musicians not to gloat. Their contract expires at the end of May, and the orchestra’s management would then have more leverage in trying to reshape the orchestra into a smaller ensemble that plays fewer shows. Management has argued that a smaller orchestra would stay solvent.

The orchestra is still seeking Chapter 11 protection, and management is hoping to cut one million dollars in annual operating expenses. Both sides could come to an agreement out of court and end the bankruptcy proceedings.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Players Schedule Free Concerts Independent Of Management

As part of their Chapter 11 filing, the Louisville Orchestra will not be able to pay musicians after Wednesday. That means the Louisville Ballet will dance The Nutcracker to recorded music for the final few performances. But the orchestra’s musicians will keep playing holiday concerts.

To make up for the change in Nutcracker performances, the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association has scheduled three free holiday concerts for this week.

Small groups of musicians will play on Thursday and Friday, and the full ensemble will perform at Ballard High School on Saturday. The concerts were organized without the orchestra’s administration, which is seeking to cut about one million dollars from the annual operating budget.

No official concerts scheduled for next year have been cancelled, but the administration and musicians would have to reach an agreement about pay and the orchestra’s budget in order for the shows to go on.

The administration and musicians’ next court date is the 28th. The judge has ordered both sides not to speak to the press about the bankruptcy proceedings.

The free concerts are:

Thursday 12/16 at 7:30 pm at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in the Highlands. This is a chamber concert.

Friday 12/17 at 7:30 pm at Beargrass Christian Church in St. Matthews. This is a chamber concert.

Saturday 12/18 at 7:30 pm at Ballard High School. The full ensemble will play.