Springfield Symphony Orchestra says new season in jeopardy without agreement with musicians by Oct. 1

  • The Springfield Symphony Orchestra backs up a pop group playing the music of Journey at Springfield Symphony Hall. Musicians and management are locked in an extended contract dispute, including over the future of the organization. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2021 9:48:54 PM

SPRINGFIELD — At 8 a.m. on Friday, The Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO), an independent organization of the players from the group, sent out a press release about a free concert they’re staging Oct. 15 in the city.

Less than four hours later, the orchestra’s management sent out their own release, warning that if they cannot finalize an agreement with the musicians union on a new contract by Oct. 1, there is unlikely to be a 2021-2022 season for SSO.

SSO’s management and the musicians have been locked for months in a dispute over the terms of a new contract, including how many concerts should be presented in the coming year. The musicians formed MOSSO this summer and went public with complaints about the situation, especially what they felt was management’s lack of commitment to the future of the orchestra.

But management says MOSSO, by forming a separate group and hosting its own concert, will only “further muddy the waters” by creating “confusion among the concert-going public” and “splintering the already limited symphonic orchestra audience and donor base.”

SSO officials also said the musicians union only responded to management’s most recent contract offer on Friday, more than a week after they had expected a reply, and that the union’s counteroffer “(was) substantially the same offer as many weeks ago, without meaningful movement.”

“Our most recent offer included acceptance of the union’s demand for a contract that would extend through the 2022-23 season, as well as a substantial pay rate increase for both seasons, while still allowing for the SSO to further develop a viable plan for the coming seasons and beyond,” management said.

Now, SSO officials say, if a new contract cannot be signed by Oct. 1, the 2021-2022 season will likely be canceled because beyond that date “it would be unrealistic to organize concerts, secure dates, engage all of the elements of a program and undertake the significant marketing necessary to hold a symphonic concert season.”

Thomas Bergeron, principal trumpet for the orchestra, says any suggestion MOSSO is trying to compete with SSO is “disingenuous and frankly very hurtful. We are trying to give musicians a chance to play after they’ve gone almost 20 months without playing.”

Holding the 2021-2022 season “hostage” to the lack of a new contract, Bergeron added, is also wrong, and he took issue as well with the SSO’s reference to a “limited symphonic orchestra audience” in the region.

“That is the complete opposite of what the board of directors should be thinking,” he said. “They should be thinking of ways to expand the audience, not assuming it’s limited.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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