Philharmonic restores pay, positions

May 15th, 2017

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Fort Wayne Philharmonic finances are strong enough to restore the orchestra to its full size and bring the pay of its musicians back to levels in place at the end of their last union contract that ended in 2013.

“We are delighted to reach a three-year agreement with our musicians and look forward to continuing to work collaboratively on a very bright future, including our upcoming 75th anniversary in just over a year,” Ben Eisbart, board chair, said in a statement.

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic, American Federation Of Musicians Local 58 agreement, announced early this month, is effective retroactively from Sept. 1 last year. It lasts through Aug. 31, 2019.

“The wonderful musicians of this orchestra and community deserve the best, and the board’s investment in them at this crucial time leading up to the Philharmonic’s 75th anniversary is such a promising endorsement,” Chuck Surack, chair-elect, said in the statement.

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic Player’s Association is represented by the Fort Wayne Musician’s Association Local 58 of the American Federation of Musicians.

Following a 2009-2013 contract, the musicians worked under a contract extension with a memorandum of understanding, which shortened the orchestra’s season to 33 weeks from 40 weeks, reducing their pay 17.5 percent, said Jim Mancuso, general manager.

The memorandum of understanding was in place through the end of 2014, he said. Afterward, the Philharmonic kept to the shorter season and its musicians worked without a contract. As an additional cost cutting measure, the orchestra did not fill three vacant violin positions.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, two of the open violin positions will be filled by the start of the next performance season this coming fall. The Philharmonic will audition violinists for the last unfilled position during its 2018-2019 season in order to have it filled for the 2019-2020 season.

The season was not lengthened beyond 33 weeks, but one of two vacation weeks always taken together around Christmas and New Year’s Day will be taken together at a different time of the year so the orchestra will be able to add performances during the week leading up to New Years Day.

The musicians have three weeks of paid vacation time. The new flexibility allowing for additional concerts will “help us raise revenue to keep up with the wage increases,” Mancuso said. The wages will be back up to 2013 levels during the last year of the new contract, he said.

The austerity measures were taken to resolve a $2.5 million accumulated deficit, which Mancuso said was addressed through use of an endowment as well as the cost cutting.

Internal Revenue Service documents show the nonprofit’s revenue of $5.4 million, with a margin of $829,114 in 2011, dropping to revenue of $5 million, with a margin of $197,324, the following year. Then revenue fell to $4.5 million in 2013, with a margin of only $16,943.

The Philharmonic changed its fiscal year to conclude at the end of August instead of June, commencing with the fiscal year that started Sept. 1, 2013.

The board invested in fund raising and marketing to increase philanthropic and earned revenues, and both income categories increased in double digits, “with positive momentum providing the basis for this agreement,” the statement on the union contract said.

The institution’s latest 990 forms available from the IRS showed it with revenue of $5.8 million and a margin of $1.8 million for its fiscal year ended in August 2014 and revenue of $5.5 million and a margin of $973,985 for its following fiscal year.

As an outgrowth of a new 2017-19 strategic plan, the Philharmonic is developing a series of initiatives “to attract new arts participants and serve a larger, more diverse community,” it said in the statement.

Philharmonic also is engaging “novel artistic and venue collaborators in multi-layered partnerships to reach new audiences with an expanded range of programming,” it said.

In addition to the 44 musicians covered by the collective bargaining agreement, the Philharmonic has 19 contract musicians who are paid for the services they provide as needed.

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