Musicians’ Strike Cancels Pittsburgh Symphony Concerts Through October 27

Due to the ongoing strike by its musicians, upcoming concerts through October 27 must be canceled, Pittsburgh Symphony Inc. announced today.

The canceled concerts include:

  • BNY Mellon Grand Classics: Pinchas Zukerman on October 7 & 9
  • BNY Mellon Grand Classics: Dvorak’s New World on October 14-16
  • FUSE@PSO: Bartok + Bjork on October 19
  • Music 101 on October 19
  • Classical Mystery Tour: Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary on October 22
  • Canady Symphony Series at WVU: The Music of John Williams on October 27

No other Pittsburgh Symphony concerts are affected at this time.

Heinz Hall concerts and events are unaffected and the following will go on as scheduled:

  • Il Divo: Amor & Pasion Tour on October 3
  • Pittsburgh Speakers Series: Rita Moreno on October 5
  • Brian Regan on October 8
  • ARW (Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman) on October 12
  • Pittsburgh Speakers Series: Ehud Barak on October 26
  • Carol Burnett on October 27

“We deeply regret the cancellations of these additional concerts,” said Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. “We understand the disappointment this causes patrons and we appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time.”

Ticketholders will be notified as soon as possible with options for handling unused tickets. Options for ticket holders include exchanging their tickets for Heinz Hall performances later in the 2016-2017 season, donating their tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony, or receiving a refund. The box office can be reached at 412-392-4900. In addition, pittsburghsymphony.org will share the most up-to-date information and updates for patrons about the status of future concerts.

For updates on the status of negotiations, please visit PSOupdate.com.

18 Comments

  • Brenda D.
    Posted October 3, 2016

    WOW Pittsburgh Symphony Inc…what is your plan to resolve this dispute? Will you just keep cancelling shows? Shouldn’t you be meeting with the musicians to try to resolve this?

  • Max
    Posted October 3, 2016

    This is incredibly disappointing not only for the ticket holders for these performances but the entire City of Pittsburgh. I consider the management’s inability to reach a fair and equitable agreement as a complete and utter failure, which leaves a bad impression to all parties involved. I hope that this situation is resolved soon, so that this world class orchestra and cornerstone of Pittsburgh can continue to thrive.

  • Mercedes Smith
    Posted October 3, 2016

    The musicians have made it clear to management that they are ready to talk anytime, anywhere, but management is refusing. Giving the musicians the silent treatment is not leadership. Management, it is time for you to demonstrate leadership by negotiating in good faith!! You are already losing musicians to other orchestras.

  • Laurel
    Posted October 3, 2016

    The PSO is an incredibly talented institution that brings so much to our city. The attempt to downgrade their quality in the interest of saving a few dollars is atrocious and the manipulation of facts and numbers by management is disrespectful to not only the musicians, but to the legions of supporters throughout the years. I hope management sees the error of their ways soon and returns to the bargaining table!

  • Susan M.
    Posted October 3, 2016

    These cancellations are easily avoidable but for the management’s recalcitrance. The management has refused to come to the negotiating table and undertake the hard task of creative problem solving despite repeated requests from the musicians that it do so. I suppose from the management’s perspective it is easier to sit back and continue to collect a paycheck and benefits. I do not see where the management has offered compromises on its own salaries and benefits to reach a resolution to preserve this world class orchestra.

  • Laurel
    Posted October 3, 2016

    The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is an incredibly talented organization that is vital to our city. The attempt to downgrade its quality in order to save a few dollars is atrocious, and the misinformation being distributed by management is disrespectful not only to the musicians, but to the legions of PSO supporters throughout the years. I hope management sees the error of their ways soon and returns to the bargaining table!

  • Christopher L Cox
    Posted October 3, 2016

    Crying Shame it has come to this. Get this settled fast, like they did in Philly.

  • Amy
    Posted October 3, 2016

    This speaks volumes about the motives of management. That they are incapable of reaching a resolution and aren’t even meeting with the members of the symphony to try to work things out tells me that they don’t have the best interests of the people of Pittsburgh in mind and should be replaced with a management team that actually values the arts.

  • Emily S
    Posted October 3, 2016

    Once again we have a great American cultural institution held hostage by it’s own ignorant management. What you currently have is one of the finest groups of musicians in the country, and as such they deserve negotiations in good faith. Shame on you.

  • Mike
    Posted October 4, 2016

    When salaries out pace revenue by 2-1, how long can that business model continue? No one likes to talk about money when it comes to art, but it’s a sad reality.

  • Max
    Posted October 4, 2016

    Sure, that’s absolutely right. However there seems to be a lot of conflicting data as to whether the revenue stream is in fact dwindling. It’s a case of “he said, she said” so I am not sure who to believe in this case. However, if revenue is dwindling, management is responsible for ensuring that the situation does not escalate into a strike. They should have enough foresight into their revenue and costs to have adequate information to make strategic decisions to prevent this from happening. If management was expecting the musicians to accept their initial offer of a 25% salary cut, they are completely irrational. It also raises some flags as to how the management was able to go from a 25% decrease to a 15% decrease so quickly. Of course we do not have all of the facts, but this should have been avoided.

  • Kaitlin
    Posted October 4, 2016

    I support the musicians wholeheartedly! We have some of the best musicians in the world; treat them accordingly!

  • Irma
    Posted October 4, 2016

    You want unfairly treated and paid musicians to produce the greatest sounds of this city?! Shame on you management of the Pittsburgh Symphony!! You gentleman, are in plain english; bullies and profiteers!!

  • G. Fullerton
    Posted October 5, 2016

    I checked the “PSOupdate.com” link and there is no mention of continuing talks to resolve the dispute. The donors and patrons of the PSO deserve better than this. Why are negotiations not happening? Is Management trying to starve the musicians into accepting draconian cuts? This is the first act of the “new PSO management.” I suggest that if the New Management team refuses to negotiate with the musicians, they be fired and a management team with negotiating skills be brought in to work things out.

  • Laurie Brager
    Posted October 6, 2016

    We live out of state and were unaware of PSO strike, no call to 15 year member patron of situation. It is perplexing to me that we have received calls to increase our voluntary donations, yet no contact when such a major communication is needed. We hope that the talented musicians and management team find a speedy and helpful resolution.

  • Michael
    Posted October 6, 2016

    Really? You all feel that $80,000/yr isn’t enough money for the musicians? In the face of a budget deficit? We should all just keep spending money we don’t have and everything will be alright?
    I’m not saying it’s not galling to take a pay cut, but goddamn, look around you. Guys make half that and are happy for it. Selfish bastards.

  • Bob T.
    Posted October 11, 2016

    I’m glad I’ve been blessed to hear the fabulous Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra when it was truly a world-class orchestra. I’m angry that the Board of Directors is willing to allow the new management to play hard-ball. As the Orchestra’s top talent leaves for orchestra’s that will be thrilled to have them, Pittsburgh will be left with a second-class group of musicians. Given the interest other cities have had in Manfred Honek, I expect he too will be accepting a job elsewhere and his contract will be bought out by an orchestra who will be more than happy to get a talent of his caliber. I’ve only been a subscriber for a few years, mostly because I’ve come to appreciate what a gem we have here. When that changes, I doubt I’ll renew. PSO Inc. is fiddling while Rome burns! Drop the ultimatums, get back to the negotiating table and negotiate a contract that both sides can live with.

  • Chris Wiles
    Posted October 20, 2016

    This is a true story, and given the time of year and the fact that its true, it is a scary story too. It’s actually a classic business life-cycle story.

    Our business is a 120 year-old enterprise that is locally loved and internationally respected. There was a time when they had to turn customers away, but unfortunately those days are long past. Today they are lucky to operate at 50% of capacity.

    Another unfortunate aspect of the business was that when times were good, management believed times would remain good, and they entered into compensation and pension plans with employees that were a reflection of those good times. They agreed to pay employees a base salary of $107,239 (some more talented employees make twice that), give them 10 weeks of paid vacation, 12 weeks of paid sick time, generous health benefits, and a pension that nearly matches their base pay for life.

    Management also took good care of themselves, their salaries, benefits, and pensions were equally as lucrative.

    Now this is a strange business, their Operating Revenue is only about $9 million, but Other Revenue is $23 million, so they have an Operating Budget of about $32 million. Salaries and benefits come to about $26 million, and the Operating Deficit is $1.5 million per year and growing.

    One of the big problems is the pension. Like so many companies and government entities, they assumed that the good times would last forever and that market returns would be high forever. Our company is assuming an 8% return on investment. Now with interest rates pegged at zero for the last eight years they find their pension plan woefully underfunded. In fact they are only 65% funded, and need to come up with $10.4 million in just the next five years to meet current obligations.

    The company is already heavily indebted, and struggling to remain current on their debt repayments.

    New management was brought in last year, and were frankly shocked at how bad the situation was. They estimate that without any changes, they will have to close the doors permanently in June of 2017.

    The plan of action is pretty straight forward; find ways to increase revenues, and dramatically reduce expenses.

    Revenues have been declining for more than a decade, and show no signs of turning around. Their product is discretionary and their normal customer, middle to upper middle-class, have seen their discretionary dollars squeezed with massive increases in education and healthcare costs. The product also has to compete with many newer and cheaper forms of entertainment.

    On the expense front the largest expense is employee salaries and pensions. So the obvious tack is to cut employee salaries and change the pension plans. Unfortunately the employees have a union, so the types of dramatic cuts needed will probably result in a strike.

    Well, if you haven’t figured it out already our mystery company is the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

    I’m not picking sides here, I’m just highlighting a scary story that will be recurring at an accelerated pace throughout our society. Massive pension obligations that are not funded, that can’t earn required returns in a ZIRP world, that can only be met through drastic cuts, or increased taxes in the case of government obligations. None of this was even mentioned in any of the three Presidential debates.

    The Pittsburgh Symphony musicians are being asked to take a 15% cut in their base pay to $91,153, and to transition their current defined benefit plan to a 401k plan. They’ve decided to strike for the time being. Unfortunately for them, there is no way to make the math work without substantial concessions.

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