Press Room

Houston Symphony and Musicians Announce New Five-Year Contract

HOUSTON, TX (Oct. 4, 2021) —

The Houston Symphony and the American Federation of Musicians, Local 65-699, announced an agreement on a new five-year contract, the longest contract period in the Houston Symphony’s 108-year history. The new agreement – which goes into effect October 1 – covers the just opened 2021–2022 season, and extends through October 3, 2026.

“I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together with our musicians,” said Houston Symphony Executive Director, CEO, and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair John Mangum. “This agreement will create long-term stability for the Houston Symphony as we continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic, celebrate Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s final season as music director, and prepare to welcome Juraj Valčuha as our next music director in September 2022.”

“The Houston Professional Musicians’ Association – AFM Local 65-699 is very pleased to have arrived at a deal with The Houston Symphony Society,” said President Alex Navarro. “There is significant and positive growth financially and artistically as a result of this long-term contract between our two organizations. What cannot be overstated is the fact that this agreement was reached in the midst of immense challenges as a result of the pandemic, further confirming the collective, collaborative commitment between the Society, the board, and our Houston Professional Musicians.”

Key points in the new agreement include:

  • Full restoration of the musicians’ pre-pandemic salary by October 2022 via incremental increases, with annualized increases thereafter.
  • Additional weeks of available leave for musicians following the birth or adoption of a child.
  • An agreement between musicians and administration to outline a plan for cost-effective efficiency measures in health insurance.

“On behalf of the board of directors I want to thank the musicians of the Houston Symphony,” said Houston Symphony Board President John Rydman, “not only for their artistic excellence, but also for their commitment to this organization, which saw us through the uncertainties of the past year-and-a-half, and will propel the Houston Symphony to even greater heights in the years to come.”

“The musicians of the Houston Symphony are pleased to partner with the Houston Symphony Society and the Houston Professional Musicians Association on this 5-year contract extension,” said Principal Trumpet Mark Hughes. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, while many orchestras were not performing, we have touched the lives of over a million people by our weekly live-streamed and in-person performances. Our shared unwillingness to let the music go silent fortified our relationship with our management making this historic contract a reality. The musicians wish to thank our Board, Staff, and Patrons for keeping the music alive!”

About the Houston Symphony

During the 2021–22 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its final season under Andrés Orozco-Estrada as Music Director and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. One of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, the Symphony held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, with an operating budget of $28.8 million (FY22), the full-time ensemble of professional musicians presents nearly 170 (FY19) concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s two Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 (FY19) community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 (FY19) people in Greater Houston annually, prior to COVID-19.

After suspending concert activities in March 2020 and cancelling the remainder of 2019–20 events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Symphony resumed activities in May 2020, opening the 2020–21 Season on schedule in September 2020 with small audiences of 150, which the Symphony gradually increased to 450 audience members per performance. Due to the financial impact of the canceled 2019–20 Season events, plus the reduction of sales capacity due to audience social distancing in 2020–21, the Symphony cut expenses, reducing planned spending from $36.2 million in 2019–20 to $22.7 million in 2020–21. The Houston Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement team continued to fulfill its mission through creative and virtual means throughout this period. The Symphony successfully completed a full season with in-person audiences and weekly livestreams of each performance, making it one of the only orchestras in the world to do so.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Koch International Classics, Naxos, RCA Red Seal, Telarc, Virgin Classics, and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Eric Skelly: 713.337.8560, eric.skelly@houstonsymphony.org

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