Symphony within $1 million of key fundraising goal

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians are hoping they'll be able to move forward with a new five-year labor contract even though the ISO is still about $900,000 short of reaching an important $5 million fundraising target only a week before the deadline.

Musicians have been working under a bridge agreement since a five-week lockout ended in October. At the time, the parties agreed that a new, five-year contract would kick in if the symphony could raise $5 million by Feb. 3.

As of Monday, the ISO had raised $4.1 million, spokeswoman Jessica Di Santo said in an e-mail.

More gifts are in the pipeline, said Rick Graef, lead negotiator for the American Federation of Musicians Local 3 union, which represents more than 70 ISO musicians.

“We all want to move ahead with a five-year contract,” Graef said.

Negotiators face the possibility of returning to contract discussions if the ISO misses the goal. However, an amendment to the bridge agreement allows ISO executives to lower the goal if they are satisfied with the amount raised.

The new long-term contract will bring significant musician pay cuts and fewer performances.

The fundraising blitz targeting first-time donors was a key term of the bridge agreement. The ISO has run radio and television ads, and Graef said musicians themselves have played an unprecedented role in the effort.

Led by Paul Berns and Allen Miller, musicians ran their own letter-writing campaign and put forward a list of roughly 1,000 contacts, Graef said. The musicians had never been asked to participate at that level before, he said.

The expanded donor base is important to the ISO’s long-term viability, Graef said. “Our existing donors will feel more comfortable knowing we’re not hitting them over and over.”

The five-year contract will cut starting pay for musicians from $78,000 a year to $53,000, then gradually restore it to $70,000 by 2017. The musicians will go from playing 45 weeks a year to between 38 and 42 weeks. Non-union performers will play the remaining shows in the schedule.

The cuts, which amount to $11.5 million in concessions from musicians, were in response to years of operating deficits.

The fundraising effort has made up ground in recent weeks. Only about half the amount needed had been raised as of Jan. 8.

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