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Atlanta Symphony cancels performances as lockout drags on

By David Ng

Los Angeles Times / (MCT)

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has canceled its opening night celebration as well as performances through Nov. 8 as a labor dispute with its musicians drags on with no end in sight. The company locked out its musicians earlier this month following a breakdown in contract negotiations.

Stanley Romanstein, the orchestra’s president, said in a prepared statement this week that the decision to cancel the performances was made “with a great deal of reluctance.”

But “out of respect for our patrons and the many people who play a role in producing the concerts we all enjoy, we feel we have no other choice.”

The contract between orchestra management and the musicians’ association expired Sept. 6, without an agreement on terms of a new contract. Like a number of classical music groups in the U.S., the orchestra has faced grave financial difficulties, with annual operating deficits for the last 12 years.

Management had proposed cuts to musicians’ compensation, but the players balked. Orchestra leaders are arguing that the most recent collective bargaining agreement proposal from musicians would add another $2 million to $2.5 million to the company’s deficits.

The symphony’s recently completed 2014 fiscal year saw a $2-million deficit, according to company leaders.

In 2012, the orchestra locked out its musicians in a contract dispute that was eventually resolved after musicians agreed to $5.2 million in concessions.

On Wednesday, music director Robert Spano told the New York Times that “this is a dire and critical juncture for the city of Atlanta, which is in danger of losing the flagship of its culture.”

The Atlanta Symphony is part of a growing number of major music organizations experiencing labor and budgetary woes. The list includes the Metropolitan Opera, the Detroit Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra.

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(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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