Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Press Release

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Musicians and Management Reach Collective Bargaining Agreement


By - Sep 24th, 2021 09:49 am

Milwaukee, September 24, 2021 – Board Chairperson Susan Martin and President and Executive Director Mark Niehaus announced today that the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and its musicians, represented by Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, have reached a two-year collective bargaining agreement that will be in effect through the 2022.23 season.

The new agreement comes after a separate memorandum of understanding between the MSO and its musicians during the 2020.21 season, when the final year of the prior collective bargaining agreement was put on hold due to the pandemic. At that time, the MSO and its musicians created a new working agreement to allow for continued pay and benefits for the musicians while together they navigated the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and performed the MSO’s reimagined virtual season.

Wages in the new contract resume previously planned increases, with musicians guaranteed 41 consecutive weeks of employment, including vacation. The agreement also includes the opportunity to add additional performances and rehearsals during profitable weeks and perform two major concerts on the same day.

As the new season begins, the musicians generously donated the first week of the 2021.22 season with free performances for the Friends & Family concert on Thursday, September 23 and the Doors Open Milwaukee performances on Sunday, September 26. The musicians’ gift is to the MSO’s Grand Future campaign and the Milwaukee community for their generous support throughout the pandemic. The value of this donated week is $146,000.

“The new collective bargaining agreement showcases the MSO’s and its musicians’ shared collaboration and dedication to our mission of creating extraordinary musical experiences that enrich and inspire our community,” said Susan Martin. “We are thrilled to move beyond many of the difficulties created by the pandemic and to once again be playing for our patrons in what is arguably one of the best artistic venues in the country, if not the world. As we do, we are grateful to our musicians and the Players’ Council for their collaboration in developing a fair, equitable agreement that rewards their expertise while supporting our shared goal of continued fiscal responsibility.”

“As we enter a new era, the Bradley Symphony Center creates new opportunities for the MSO to modernize its business model while taking advantage of creative and collaborative opportunities that didn’t exist before,” said Mark Niehaus. “By having the ability to create our own performance calendar, we can schedule highly-regarded performers and conductors and hold performances during profitable times. This allows the MSO much needed flexibility to deliver a world-class experience and remain fiscally sound.”

“We are proud of this new two-year contract that recognizes our contributions, while creating additional opportunity to serve the Milwaukee community as the MSO begins its first in-person season in our new performance home,” said Robert Klieger, Players’ Council chair. “We are looking forward to playing in the beautiful Bradley Symphony Center and to once again perform for our patrons and the community.”

This agreement comes just before the MSO’s first official season in the Bradley Symphony Center with a live audience. Music Director Ken-David Masur specially curated the 2021.22 season to honor the MSO’s new home. It will feature world-renowned guest artists and performances, symphonic blockbusters, pops superstars, and a staged production. During the 2020.21 season, the MSO offered virtual programming in the Bradley Symphony Center so the MSO could continue to connect with patrons and the community through its transformative music.

About Local 8, American Federation of Musicians

The American Federation of Musicians has been promoting and protecting professional musicians for almost 120 years. Local 8 has been serving Milwaukee area musicians since 1896 and continues to be an effective advocate for musicians’ rights in the workplace. The AFM and Local 8 protect the recorded works musicians produce from being exploited and protect our members’ live performances by providing several types of benefit programs that help them to build successful careers. Local 8 has collective bargaining agreements with the following local employers: Broadway Across America, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Skylight Music Theatre.

About the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Ken-David Masur, is among the finest orchestras in the nation and the largest cultural institution in Wisconsin. Since its inception in 1959, the MSO has found innovative ways to give music a home in the region, develop music appreciation and talent among area youth, and raise the national reputation of Milwaukee. The MSO’s 72 full-time professional musicians perform over 135 classics, pops, family, education, and community concerts each season in venues throughout the state. A pioneer among American orchestras, the MSO has performed world and American premieres of works by John Adams, Roberto Sierra, Phillip Glass, Geoffrey Gordon, Marc Neikrug, and Matthias Pintscher, as well as garnered national recognition as the first American orchestra to offer live recordings on iTunes. Now in its 51st season, the orchestra’s nationally syndicated radio broadcast series, the longest consecutive-running series of any U.S. orchestra, is heard annually by more than two million listeners. The MSO’s standard of excellence extends beyond the concert hall and into the community, reaching more than 70,000 children and their families through its Arts in Community Education (ACE) program, Youth and Teen concerts, and Family Series.

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