Good news, of sorts, came out of the Seattle Symphony offices today. In a press release, the SSO announced the musician’s contract is extended through December 31, 2009. The current contract was set to expire on August 31, 2009. Musicians also agreed to donate their time for Gerard Schwarz’s Silver Gala on September 12, 2009.
Nailing down a contract extension is good news for the orchestra. The 2009/2010 season begins in a few weeks and the extension helps avoid messy labor issues when the intended focus is supposed to be on Gerard Schwarz’s silver anniversary as music director. It also gives management and the union time to forge a contract that works for the musicians and the health of the orchestra given the tough economic climate of the nation.
“Because we deal with multi-year contracts, it’s important that we get it right, which takes thoughtful consideration and careful work. With the coming transition in artistic leadership, we can work together to create a new long-term plan to look ahead to future opportunities.” Thomas Philion the Seattle Symphony’s Executive said in the press release.
On the other hand, the extension only buys the musicians union and management a few months to hammer out a long-term contract that will carry forward beyond 2009. A number of factors could emerge that might make a new contract harder to achieve – namely, what is being done to find Schwarz’s replacement. Schwarz’s contract runs out at the end of 2011. I understand from musicians, they felt impelled to take a more generous approach with Schwarz because of his decision not to seek a contract extension. If musicians feel the process isn’t moving quickly enough or isn’t being responsive to the concerns of musicians, it is possible this generosity could disappear quickly.