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CSO takes a coronavirus cut

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association announced today that its musicians, chorus, board, and staff have agreed to institute organization-wide salary cuts to mitigate the financial impact of coronavirus-related cancellations.

“The CSOA is anticipating significant financial losses for the 2019/20 season based on the cancellation to date of 58 paid, ticketed concerts, as well as facility rental events for the period between March 12 to May 10, 2020 when large public gatherings have been restricted in the State of Illinois as part of the community-wide effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the CSOA said in a statement.

Music director Riccardo Muti and CSOA president Jeff Alexander will each take a voluntary 25 percent salary reduction, while members of the orchestra and chorus will take 20 percent reductions, starting April 27, but will retain health care coverage and other benefits. (Muti’s total compensation according to the most recent publicly available  tax record exceeds $3 million; Alexander’s is over $500,000.)

Members of the Civic Orchestra will take a 20 percent cut to their stipends; stagehands will also see a 20 percent reduction in pay. Administrative pay will be reduced on a sliding scale, from 20 percent for vice presidents to as little as 5 percent, depending on salary.

And how long will the cuts be in place? Indefinitely: “We are prepared to keep these arrangements in place while closely monitoring this rapidly changing situation. The goal is to take care of our people and take care of the organization and to be ready to come back for our community. But, as the situation changes, we may have to reevaluate what’s possible and make adjustments,” Alexander said, in a written response to a query.  

According to the announcement: “Musicians also agreed to relax scheduling restrictions to allow for flexibility with postponed or rescheduled programs, and it is anticipated that restrictions pertaining to the Orchestra’s significant archive of audio and video assets will be adjusted to make digital content available more broadly during the pandemic.”

“We are grateful for the tremendous spirit of collaboration among the entire CSOA family who have worked together to develop ideas and make sacrifices that will allow us to balance taking care of our employees while mitigating a portion of the significant financial losses created by the difficult circumstances we are facing,” said Alexander.

“The musicians of the Orchestra are committed to working with the Board of the CSOA and its leadership to address this crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential to protect the Orchestra and this Institution so that we can continue to prosper and again make music for our audiences,” said James Smelser, chair of the members’ committee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

“We are also moved by the messages of support and generosity from our patrons, whom we look forward to welcoming back to concerts as soon as we can all be together again. We are wishing everyone continued safety and good health.”  

Ticket holders are encouraged to donate the value of their tickets for canceled concerts, or to exchange for tickets to future concerts.  v

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