Arts and Culture

Last week, the Louisville Orchestra, Inc. and the Musicians of the Louisville Orchestra announced a new, three-year contract agreement extending through May 31, 2020.

Per a news release, a key priority of the organization’s three-year contract agreement is a plan to raise musician salaries over the next five years. By 2020, base salaries will come in at right about $37,000 for the orchestra’s 34-week seasons.

Then, one additional musician will be added to Louisville Orchestra’s complement throughout each year of the contract to fill current vacancies in the wind and the brass sections.

These may seem like small changes, but for an orchestra that has been in financial flux for the past decade, the new contract points to progress.

In 2010, the orchestra filed for bankruptcy. Musicians had to take pay cuts, benefits were slashed, and the orchestra had to let performers go.

Drew McManus is a Chicago-based arts consultant who works with mostly nonprofit performing arts organizations.

“Labor is always going to be the single largest expense item for any orchestral employer,” McManus said. “And that will include everything from base wages to retirement payments to unemployment insurance to your music director compensation to the amount you have to pay guest artists.”

And investing in that labor force on a local level is a sign that the Louisville Orchestra is evolving.

Kimberly Tichenor is a member of the Louisville Orchestra Musician’s Committee.

She said in the news release: “We are heartened by how the institution-wide work on the strategic plan helped us reach a meeting of the minds in contract negotiations without unnecessary delay, even though our progress toward a salary that will attract and retain musicians remains slow as the orchestra continues to rebuild.”

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.