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Orchestra lockout could cause crescendos of concern for musicians

The Hilbert Circle Theatre no longer echoes with the haunting tones of Brahms or the baroque staccatos of Mozart after a recent lockout forced the 80 musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra to pack up their instruments and walk away from their craft.

The lockout came after weeks of contract negotiations failed to come to a conclusion on wage cuts and workforce reduction. The ISO's management was looking to reduce the number of players in the orchestra, cut wages by 40 percent, and substantially reduce the number of concerts in the orchestra's schedule.

According to contract records, orchestra members have had to fight hard to keep their annual salaries relatively stable over the past four years. In recent years, members have already seen a 12 percent pay cut, finally negotiating a wage increase in the 2011-12 season in which they hoped to make an average annual salary of $78,000.

A 40 percent pay cut now would place musicians at just under $47,000 a year, which has hit a sour note with many orchestra members.

Musicians attempted to counter the offer by suggesting only a 20 percent wage cut and not eliminating anyone from the roster. They're adamant about not losing members so as to keep the ISO's standing as a "major American orchestra."

Many of the musicians echo the same sentiments-they would have much rather come to a consensus during negotiations instead of be forced into a lockout. Members of the orchestra may now be faced with financial difficulties due to lost wages, as well as the loss of their healthcare benefits.

Until employment contacts can be reestablished, the ISO has already cancelled the first two weeks of its latest season and may have to cancel further performances.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Orchestras Locked Out Across the Country as Contract Disputes Continue," Lucas Kavner, Sept. 12, 2012

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