San Francisco Symphony musicians and management were very nearly singing an “Ode to Joy” on Monday after reaching an agreement to resume concerts.

San Francisco Symphony musicians marched on a picket line on March 21. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
San Francisco Symphony musicians marched on a picket line on March 21. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

The two parties announced Sunday they had drawn up a tentative new contract after a strike that silenced the orchestra for 2½ weeks.

The musicians have to ratify the proposed contract, and so does the Symphony’s Board of Governors. But the musicians voted to return to the symphony hall while looking it over.

Both sides said their mood was jubilant as they anticipated the first post-strike music, a Tuesday morning concert for children in elementary school as part of the Symphony’s “Adventures in Music.”

“I will characterize it right now as a sense of celebration. We’re looking forward to it very much,” the Symphony’s executive director, Brent Assink, told KQED’s Paul Lancour.

“We’re feeling positive for the future,” David Gaudry, a violist who chairs the musicians’ negotiating committee, said to KQED’s Polly Stryker.

The committee has recommended the musicians ratify the contract, but the vote can’t take place until 48 hours after musicians get corrected copies of the proposed contract, said Gaudry.

The strike stopped an East Coast tour and silenced several programs at Davies Symphony Hall. The musicians were angry about an offer that included wage freezes, cuts in health care benefits and pension changes. Symphony management said its musicians were already among the highest paid in the country.

Just a week ago, the two sides sounded pretty tense. What changed?

“We found over the course of the last weekend the mood of the two parties working together seemed to take a turn for the better,” Gaudry said. “And it made for a more collaborative, problem-solving pair of sessions Friday and Saturday, and I think that’s really what allowed us to go forward and reach an agreement.”

The negotiations got a lift from a skilled mediator, he said.

Neither side was willing to discuss the details of the deal, but Gaudry said both sides gave ground. “We talked a lot about medical insurance. We talked about wages. We talked about retirement security as well as some non-financial issues related to the normal day-to-day things that come up in a workplace. I would say there was fair movement on both sides.”

He added that he is itching to open his viola case after days spent locked in a negotiating room or glued to a computer screen.

The Symphony posted more information about rescheduled concerts for ticket holders. Here’s the Symphony’s press release, issued about 4 p.m. Sunday:

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY MUSICIANS AND ADMINISTRATION REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT FOR NEW 26-MONTH CONTRACT

Concerts will resume Tuesday, April 2 with free performance for SF schoolchildren All concerts this week to go on as scheduled

SAN FRANCISCO, March 31, 2013 – San Francisco Symphony (SFS) administration and musicians, as represented by Musicians Union of San Francisco, Local No. 6, American Federation of Musicians, have reached a tentative agreement for a new 26-month contract, subject to ratification by the full Orchestra and approval by the Board of Governors. No details of the agreement will be discussed or released until the new contract is ratified in the next several days.

SFS musicians will return to the stage of Davies Symphony Hall Tuesday April 2 at 11:30 am in the first of a weeklong series of free concerts for San Francisco’s elementary schoolchildren. The entire week of concerts for 1st and 2nd grade students will offer performances for more than 10,000 of San Francisco’s public elementary schoolchildren and their teachers as part of the Symphony’s Adventures in Music education program.

All SFS concerts scheduled this week will take place as planned: Bernard Labadie conducts the Orchestra, SFS Chorus, and guest soprano Lydia Teuscher and tenor Nicholas Phan in a program of Mozart and Handel April 4 and 5; SFS Resident Conductor Donato Cabrera leads a Music for Families concert April 6; and Orchestra musicians perform chamber music on April 7. The San Francisco Symphony’s Community of Music Makers instrumental workshop for amateur musicians will also take place as scheduled on April 7.

Tickets for all SF Symphony concerts are available at www.sfsymphony.org, by phone at (415) 864-6000, and at the San Francisco Symphony Box Office on Grove Street between Franklin Street and Van Ness Avenue. Patrons with tickets to cancelled or rescheduled concerts for the week of March 14-17, March 29, or March 30 may exchange them for an upcoming concert, donate their tickets, or receive a refund. The San Francisco Symphony Box Office is open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and two hours prior to concerts on Sundays.

  • galocke

    Except for statements posted by SFS musicians themselves, the vast majority of the comments added to online news articles about the strike were not exactly sympathetic to the striking players. Had I been among those cooling my heels on the picket line, I might have been swayed just a little by what was probably unexpectedly negative public sentiment.

    • thatBruceguy

      Actually it works that way every single time a symphony orchestra has a labor dispute. About 70% of comments are of the “gee, I wish I could make $_____ doing something my 12-year-old kid does for fun after school” and/or “unions are evil” variety.

      Disclosure here: I am a professional orchestra musician. When my orchestra, the Spokane Symphony, went on strike last fall to protest a proposed 13% salary cut, there was a fair amount of public outrage at our core salary of $17,000+ (before the cut). Most thought it was ridiculously high, and if we loved what we were doing we should be doing it for free. After similar reactions to the disputes in Louisville, Detroit, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Jacksonville (I may be forgetting a couple), I doubt this public sentiment was “unexpectedly” negative.

      • galocke

        I said “unexpectedly” negative only because I had figured that those reading and responding to the article would more reliably reflect the basically pro-labor viewpoints of Bay Area liberals. But I guess that even Boxer and Pelosi voters have their limits, and, after all, we were talking here about a core salary (plus benefits and lengthy vacations) well in excess of $17,000 per year. On one issue I do agree with you wholeheartedly: Nobody should be penalized simply because their job consists of doing that which they love doing. Would that we could all be so blessed.

        • thatBruceguy

          Oh, I see. You were the one who was not expecting it. I understand — it was a surprise to me the first time, too.

  • CA

    They are not returning to the orchestra pit–they are returning to the orchestra stage! SFSO to my knowledge is not a “pit” orchestra, meaning they do not play for opera and ballet.

    • Laird Harrison

      Good point, Viola1cj. We will correct!

  • Julie

    how nice of them to return for the kiddie concerts

  • stevecrawl

    It is not an easy life. But for the Musician, it is the only life, full of unbelievable challenges And pure love of music.Best Events in SF

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