Jacksonville Symphony performs despite stalled negotiations

Musicians working without a contract as new season opens

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's performance Friday night had an undertone of discord, but neither the symphony nor its musicians will allow the sour note contract negotiations have taken to ruin their music.

"We love the music and the richness of what the symphony brings to the cultural community here. It's a huge asset for us," said symphony patron and donor J.F. Bryan.

Friday was opening night of the symphony's season, which faces a $1.5 million shortfall and begins with the musicians being paid 19 percent less than last year.

Since Labor Day, the musicians and the symphony have tried to agree on terms of a new contract, but are at an impasse.

"They are forcing us to take a pay cut, which we are not in agreement with. We believe we are in a pay and talk situation, where we continue to perform and we still negotiate," said Peter Wright, the union president.

"We are all working very hard to have a successful contract and fabulous season ahead. It's such an important part of our community," said Stacey Ridenour with the symphony.

It is a problem symphonies in Atlanta and Chicago have faced this year as well.

Since Channel 4's first story on the financial strains of the symphony, it says it has seen some positive movement, at least as far as revenue is concerned.

"Based on the high volume of calls, there has been a surge of excitement for the Jacksonville Symphony's opening concert weekend, and many more ticket sales for events in the weeks ahead," said Bryan.

Bryan said she hopes to see even more enthusiasm for the symphony.

Even though the two sides have yet to come to an agreement, she said there is a chorus of people who will trumpet its worth to the city, and everything its musicians mean to the show.

"It's great, though, that they can at least get over everything enough to play tonight," she said, adding that it is a step forward in the right direction for both parties. "Because not playing, you get into strike or lockout and all that crap and we don't need that."

The symphony performs again Saturday night at Jacoby Hall at the Times-Union Center for the Arts.  For ticket information and a schedule of the reset of the concert season, visit JaxSymphony.org.

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