After weekend walkout, Philadelphia Orchestra offers fans bouquet of pop-up concerts

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra (WHYY file photo)

The Philadelphia Orchestra musician strike lasted just two days, but an important two days: It was the season opening weekend. All concerts were cancelled.

Now that the strike is over, the orchestra is making amends to its audience.

John Koen, chair of the musicians committee, says they did not want to strike, but felt they had to in order to resolve contract disagreements — chief among them, a desire to raise their pay to be on par with their peers in other major orchestras.

“The question of international competitiveness is something we take very seriously, and our musicians feel very passionate about,” said Ryan Fleur, executive vice president of the orchestra. “We believe … the long-term solution in Philadelphia is going to be Philadelphia-based.”

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He added that salaries paid to musicians living in Philadelphia must be in relation to revenue that can be generated in Philadelphia.

The musicians did not get the salary increase they were originally shooting for, but they did reduce the contract to three years, instead of five, to be able to renegotiate sooner.

“There are some interesting things in the contract, about ways we can fundraise with management,” said Koen. “We can agree to send musicians to play for free at parties where they intend to raise money. This gives donors a nice opportunity to interact with artists who make up the Philadelphia orchestra.”

The strike did not help the orchestra’s public relations. During the Friday walkout, some patrons who bought tickets to a concert that never happened were upset with the musicians, and the orchestra.

Fleur said he hopes trust can be repaired because the strike was over in just two days — unlike the last strike 20 years ago, which lasted two months.

“Whenever you have essentially a bad customer service experience — which is, unfortunately, what a number of our patrons experienced — we have to double-down and demonstrate our worthiness,” said Fleur. “We have to do it all together, holding hands — musicians, board, and staff. We’ve begun conversations about how that can take place.”

The musicians have organized an Audience Appreciation Day for Tuesday. They’ll break up into smaller ensembles and play free pop-up concerts in different places around town. While it’s not an official orchestra event — the musicians created the event themselves — management is supporting the day of concerts.

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