Music and Musicians in the News

By Alex Martin

At the time of our last musicians’ newsletter, The Atlanta Symphony was locked out, going without pay and benefits for the second time in just two years. At the heart of the dispute was the lack of financial progress since the previous lockout and contract, when musicians ended up conceding $5.2 million in wages (an average of about $14,000 per person per year) in hopes that this would help the symphony get back on solid financial ground after accumulating a $23 million deficit over the previous ten years.

The 2014 fiscal year ended, unfortunately, with another $2 million deficit. Anticipating trouble, musicians and management talked for eight months, with little progress, before the orchestra was locked out yet again. In addition to pay and benefits — and perhaps even of more importance to the musicians — was the lack of promise to build, or even maintain, the size of the orchestra, which had already shrunk due to the previous turbulence. A war of words ensued, with both music director Robert Spano and principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles taking vocal pro-musician stances. Historically, most music directors have chosen to remain silent during these types of labor disputes.

After a month of stagnation, talks finally resumed, led by a federal mediator, on October 7th. On November 8th, it was announced that an agreement had been reached. Key items in the four-year contract include a modest 6% raise over the length of the contract and perhaps most importantly, an assurance that the orchestra will grow in size throughout the four years to 88 full-time musicians from the 77 at the time of the agreement. For more information, visit the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


If you talk to any traveling musician, they probably have any number of horrific stories regarding their attempts to fly with their instruments. The FAA, in 2012, had published a statement clarifying rules about musical instruments. While this made the process of getting ones instrument through security much more efficient, airline policies regarding getting them on the plane and to the destination still varied widely from airline to airline, continuing to cause headaches for musicians just trying to get themselves and their instruments to their next gig or audition.

In December, 2014,The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a final rule to add to the FAA’s 2012 statement clarifying, among other things, that passengers traveling with instruments are in fact allowed to carry them onto airplanes provided they meet the FAA’s size requirements, a notion with which not all airlines were in agreement. Passengers who have purchased a seat for a large instrument such as a cello must be allowed to bring them on the plane as long as they do not threaten the safety of other passengers.

The American Federation of Musicians has since issued a statement applauding the efforts of all involved in finalizing this rule which, at the very least, gives musicians traveling with instruments something to cite should the process go awry. For more information, visit Minnesota Public Radio® and SlippeDisc.