OPINION | ISO lockout harms Indianapolis’ musical culture

Humming strings, braying horns and musical majesty will be missing from downtown Indianapolis in the immediate future.

Contract disputes between the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra management and musicians have led to the cancellation of season -opening concerts.

Despite the musicians’ union’s attempts to negotiate its contract, ISO management has pressed back with its offer—one that could lead the orchestra to ruin—relentlessly.

Management and board members plan to slash musicians’ wages by 40 to 45 percent, according to an ISO musicians’ press release on Aug. 31.

They plan to shorten the concert season from year-long to 38 weeks and to reduce the orchestra’s size from 87 to 69 members.

They will also cut pension benefits for performers.

If the musicians’ union accepts these terms, numbers of performances and outreaches to the Indianapolis community will drop.

The acceptance of these terms would mean that these orchestra positions would more likely become “revolving-door” jobs, in which musicians enter and leave constantly due to low quality and benefits.

And if this revolving-door phenomenon occurs, then the quality of the music would decline since members would not plan on staying in the ISO for long.

When The Collegian contacted the ISO management and board members to explain their decision, they declined to comment until negotiations are finalized.

ISO musicians also declined to comment for similar reasons.

While a necessity to condense operations into a manageable situation exists, surely a more equitable and fair solution can be created.

For instance, ISO musicians negotiating with the committee made a proposal that would keep 82 musicians and not cut their wages too harshly over the next few years.

The ISO management turned  the offer down.

Then the  musicians’ union came forward with a proposal to add a two-month extension to the current contract so the musicians could continue performing while negotiations continue.

Management also rejected this proposition, eliminating the concerts scheduled for this coming weekend and the following one.

The conversation between the musicians’ union and ISO management seems quite stilted and one-sided.

Either the union accepts the ISO’s draconian terms or one of Indianapolis’ cultural highlights will not take the stage.

So far, two weeks’ worth of concerts have been cancelled, one week including performances with renowned conductor Krzysztof Urbanski.

If the management continues discarding the musicians’ union’s propositions, who knows how many more concerts will be struck off the schedule.

Whether the negotiations end now or months down the line, Indianapolis’ culture will suffer if the musicians have to defer to the demands of ISO management.

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