New Contract Gives Kansas City Symphony Musicians 'Substantial' Raises

Jun 5, 2016

Musicians in the Kansas City Symphony will get a salary increase of nearly twenty percent over the next four years, along with increases in other benefits after successful contract negotiations, the Symphony has announced.

The new contract agreement, completed on May 25 (a year before the current contract expires), continued the Symphony's record of what it called "harmonious" negotiations, noteworthy in an era of difficulty for other orchestras around the country.

In a news release, the Symphony said the new agreement "makes substantial investments in musician salaries and benefits." Musicians will get a 19.7 percent salary increase over the next four seasons, which will raise the base musician salary from the current season's $51,537 to $63,315 by the 2020-21 season.

"We are thrilled that the management and board are making that kind of investment in the musicians and it helps all the different sides to demonstrate that we’re trying to make Kansas City a destination orchestra," trumpet player Brian Rood, who led the negotiations for the musicians, told KCUR.

Trumpet player Brian Rood represented musicians in negotiations leading to the Kansas City Symphony's contract agreement through the 2020-2021 season.
Credit Courtesy Kansas City Syphony

"We’re making great progress toward reaching the salaries of the orchestras that the musicians feel are our peer orchestras," Rood added.

Because Kansas City is a smaller market, musicians' salaries here are considerably lower than in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other larger cities, Rood said. "But we are trying to make some real headway toward the orchestras in the next set of demographics and population size, whether they would be Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, or Milwaukee. This agreement goes a great distance toward reaching those peer orchestras."

Because the Symphony is the pit orchestra for the Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Ballet, its schedule "is fairly unique among orchestras in the United States," Rood said. "We do more pit services than any other orchestra that is not a dedicated pit orchestra like the Metropolitan Opera or San Francisco Opera or Ballet. So we have more flexibility already within our contract than just about any other orchestra that I know of."

This contract also "successfully addresses other topics, including scheduling and workload, a commitment to cover greater costs of family healthcare premiums, and improved long-term disability coverage," the Symphony said in its news release.

In the statement, Symphony leaders praised the effort on all sides.

“With this new contract, we believe we have set a new standard for a productive working relationship based on trust and transparency," said William Lyons, chair of the Symphony's board.

“This negotiation was the most rewarding in memory and I am very proud of what we accomplished,” said Executive Director Frank Byrne. “Our record of success and our investments in organizational culture allowed us to have candid conversations that wisely balanced our dreams with our long-term objectives. We felt a sense of shared aspiration with our common goal to put the music first.”

Music Director Michael Stern called the positive negotiation "inspirational,” saying Byrne and Rood had worked within "a welcome climate of respect and harmony, in record time, and most astonishingly, with the absence of any attorneys.”

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.