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Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and musicians reach contract agreement

Charlotte Symphony and Morehead College Glee Club play a benefit concert.
Jon Strayhorn
Charlotte Symphony
Charlotte Symphony and the Morehouse College Glee Club shared the stage in a 2019 benefit concert to raise funds for Charlotte area students attending Morehouse College.

Last week, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and the American Federation of Musicians, the labor union representing CSO’s musicians, announced that a new contract has been ratified between the musicians and the Board of Directors.

“The negotiations and resultant contract represent a very thoughtful and thorough look at our collective bargaining agreement,” CSO horn and Chair of the Orchestra Negotiations Committee Bob Rydel said in theThursday press release. “The musicians are grateful for the collaborative process and the partnership we have with the staff and the Board of Directors.”

According to President and CEO David Fisk, the new contract was ratified before the expiration of the current one. He said that this isn’t always the case.

“Sometimes you find these negotiations going on for a while,” Fisk said. “Not unheard of for a contract to expire and for there to be a breakdown in activity, as a result.”

The contract will be in effect from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, 2024.

Key points included in the agreement are:

  • A 5% increase in salary for all full-time musicians over the two-year term.
  • Expansion of the season by one week (increasing the number of working weeks from 37 to 38), bringing more music to the community and providing a more stable work environment for musicians.
  • Increased remuneration for performances related to education and community engagement.
  • Allowance for a broader applicant base for auditions — no pre-screening of resumes and automatic advancement of applicants coming through The Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions (SOPA).
  • Guaranteed payments for electronic media use that will be used for more wide-scale distribution of virtual performances, including to schools.

Fisk noted that the extension of the playing season by a week will allow CSO to be more responsive in requests for their services.

“We're more able to play outside because obviously, by extending the season we're talking about September through the end of May,” he said. “That's also important for us, some of our most popular concerts are the ones we do outside.”

For union-based organizations, negotiating a new contract is a big deal. In the press release, Rydel said that the “momentum this agreement creates is a key component to fulfilling the potential of the Charlotte Symphony.”

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Corrected: August 26, 2022 at 9:33 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story misquoted David Fisk, who said "Not unheard of for a contract to expire and for there to be a breakdown in activity, as a result.” not "inactivity."
Layna Hong is a digital producer at WFAE. She is a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, where she concentrated in graphic design and reporting.