Sarasota Orchestra, musicians reach agreement that includes wage increases

wtatangelo@bradenton.comOctober 23, 2012 

SARASOTA -- The music won't be stopping anytime soon.

The Sarasota Orchestra and its musicians have agreed on a contract that covers 2011-12 as well as the next three seasons. The agreement includes wage increases for musicians of 1.5 percent in this 2012-2013 season and 1 percent in the next two seasons, the Sarasota Orchestra announced Monday.

The parties also agreed to transition from a defined benefit pension plan to a 403(b) retirement plan, which is the non-profit version of the private sector 401(k) retirement plan.

Orchestra musicians will continue to receive health, life and disability insurance coverage under the new

agreement. Another highlight of the new contract is the conversion of three per service musicians into the core orchestra who regularly perform all the major concert series starting in the 2014-2015 season.

"The Board of Directors of the Sarasota Orchestra is very pleased to have an agreement in place through the 2014-15 season," said Anne Folsom Smith, board chair, in a statement by the Sarasota Orchestra. "The terms of the contract recognizes the board's commitment to maintain a first-rate orchestra for the benefit of the Sarasota-Manatee region.

"Our region has a storied legacy as one of the finest arts communities in the country. Our goal was to ensure the continued quality that audiences have come to enjoy and to also provide a stable foundation while our search for a music director continues. Our Board has been committed to these goals and we are pleased they have been achieved."

The Sarasota Orchestra season remains at 36 weeks. The terms of the contract also were made possible by confirmation of performance dates at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall through the 2014-15 season. The Van Wezel is the orchestra's primary performance venue for the Masterworks and Pops Series.

"We are pleased that we have ratified a four-year agreement," said Christopher Takeda, a member of the musicians negotiating team, in a statement issued by the Sarasota Orchestra.

"There has been tremendous movement forward that I feel will make the orchestra stronger, and while we have some goals that were not achieved in this negotiation, our mutual compromise has helped create the best environment possible for our ongoing music director search for one of the country's most highly recognized regional orchestras. With the continued support of our generous patrons we will be able to reach even higher."

The Sarasota Orchestra is currently in its 64th season and provides more than 125 performances in the Sarasota-Manatee region. The organization also offers an education program featuring six levels of youth orchestra, a three-week summer camp for local students and the Sarasota Music Festival for emerging young artists ages 18-25.

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