ISO shows face cancellation if no agreement today

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The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra faces the cancellation of the first two shows of its regular season unless a deadline is met today.

There was no agreement as of this morning on musicians’ contracts, which expired Sunday night.

Executives told union negotiators last week that the ISO would cancel the first two weeks of performances if the musicians did not accept steep concessions by today.

Jessica Di Santo, a spokeswoman for the arts organization, said in an email this morning that negotiations are continuing. She had no further details to offer.

Richard Graef, French horn player and chairman of the union’s negotiating committee, could not be reached for comment this morning.

The IBJ first reported Aug. 28 ( that the ISO wanted to cut back musicians contracts from 52 weeks of work, with 45.5 weeks of performances, to part-time.

The ISO’s most recent proposal called for 38 weeks of shows with the musicians while using outside performers to play during the other weeks.

Management wants to reduce musicians’ pay by 40.8 percent.

Musicians currently earn a minimum of $78,000 for a full year of work. The ISO wants to reduce minimum salaries to $1,215 a week, or about $46,170 after 38 weeks of work, according to the ISO’s website (

The orchestra would also lose fulltime members.

The previous contracts, signed in 2009, require at least 82 performers on payroll—the full size is 87. The ISO wants to cut back to 69 fulltime musicians and contract with outside performers for shows requiring them.

Graef said in a previous interview he expects the cuts would tarnish the ISO’s image and lead to an exodus of performers.

The union has counter-offered with $3.8 million in concessions, including a 13.8-percent pay cut and 14 weeks of furloughs over five years, according the musicians’ website (

The musicians last week offered to implement a year of its contract so negotiators could have more time to reach a longer-term agreement. But ISO management rejected the proposal, saying it could not afford the contract.

Ongoing financial issues have pushed the ISO into these budget maneuvers, CEO Jackie Groth and Board Chairman John Thornburgh said last week.

The orchestra’s endowment, which had more than $120 million in useable funds before the 2008 market crash, now stands at $80 million. The endowment was $89 million a year ago. The fund grew $2 million, but the ISO spent $11 million.

The group has reported million-dollar budget deficits for fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Groth said last week administrators gave the musicians until today to reach an agreement or else the first two shows would be canceled because the group wanted to have enough time to exchange tickets.

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