Delaware Symphony Orchestra making music again

No longer stuck in contract purgatory, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and its musicians union have finally ratified a new three-year agreement.

“I am breathless with joy that we have reached an agreement with our musicians union and we can go forward,” said DSO general manager Diana Milburn.

The board and Local 21 of the American Federation of Musicians Inc. of Delaware signed off on the deal last week, almost a full month after both sides reached a compromise in principle. But Milburn asserts the delay had nothing to do with either side having second thoughts.

“The musicians actually have to meet to discuss and vote; and, they have to have a quorum, so if they don’t have quite enough people they have to take votes by mail, so it just took a little longer because of process.”

The new agreement, retroactive to June 1, 2013, expires on Aug. 31, 2016. A temporary agreement between the two expired at the end of May.

“This agreement strikes the right balance between artistic excellence and fiscal responsibility,” said union representative Glenn Finnan. “Most importantly, it removes any uncertainty about whether or not the DSO will continue to perform.”

A big question mark hovered over the orchestra as it struggled, and continues to do so, with financial challenges that came to a head last May, when the orchestra was forced to suspend its 2012-2013 season because it was broke. Shortly thereafter, the orchestra announced an abbreviated performance schedule. 

As the group continues to rebound, the DSO is scheduled to have its annual meeting tonight at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, during which time the orchestra will announce its upcoming 2013-2014 season. While Milburn remained tight-lipped about the details, “I can tell you I’m very happy about it,” she said.

It’s expected the season will have more performances than last year, but still fewer than in past years, as indicated by Finnan.

“Our musicians have ratified this [collective bargaining agreement] even though they know it means they will make less money than they did before,” Finnan said. “There are no reductions in the rates they are paid, our musicians will earn less because the DSO is performing fewer concerts than in prior years.”

“I look forward to making music together soon, presenting a full season of concerts, and sharing with our audiences the love we have for our art and the passion we have for our work,” said DSO music director and conductor David Amado.

Meantime, Milburn says tickets for the DSO’s classics and chamber series will go on sale tomorrow.

Wilmington’s 4th of July celebration

R&B singer-songwriter Macy Gray is going to headline this year’s 4th of July festivities on the city’s riverfront.

The DSO performed last year, and Milburn says the city approached her a few weeks ago about performing again. However, the timing wasn’t right, Milburn said, adding there are no hurt feelings about the city’s decision to go in another direction.

“By the time the city was ready to settle on which way they would like to go, first of all our contract was not signed… and we really did not have enough time to get enough of our excellent musicians together to make this concert happen,” said Milburn who tells NewsWorks and WHYY that she already has a meeting set up with the city’s cultural affairs director to talk about next year’s 4th of July event.

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