GRAND RAPIDS SYMPHONY MUSICIANS ASSOCIATION
Welcome to tonight’s concert! It is always an honor for us to share great symphonic
music with you, our loyal audience and devoted supporters.
We can all agree that 2015 is a great time to be in Grand Rapids. The city is growing at an incredibly fast pace with the construction of new buildings throughout town offering visible proof of Grand Rapids’ current ranking as the third fastest growing economy in the United States.
Like our city, the Grand Rapids Symphony has also been moving forward. After the economic downturn of 2008, the GRS, like most arts organizations, faced challenges. The following year, the Musicians accepted a contract with significant reductions including two fewer weeks of work resulting in lower salaries and suspension of all employer payments into 401K accounts. We also reluctantly consented to leave four Musician contracts unfilled. Now, six years later, we applaud the admirable fundraising work that is bringing the orchestra’s $40 million “Legacy of Excellence” endowment campaign very close to a successful conclusion, with all eyes upon the future.
If we may blow our own horn, the Musicians are proud that, during this time and despite the cutbacks, we continued to pursue our own legacy of excellence, giving hundreds of outstanding performances to our region. The acceptance of the Grand Rapids Symphony into the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) in 2013 is firm evidence of the reputation GRS Musicians attained for skill and artistry; we are now among the top 52 orchestras in the country.
In the midst of all this good news, however, there stands one sharply discordant circumstance: the Musicians are still working without a contract with the Grand Rapids Symphony Society. While the Society’s attention has been focused upon the long-term needs of the GRS as an institution, the equally important responsibility of assuring the Musicians’ current livelihood has been largely overlooked.
The question before us now is one of vision. Will Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Symphony Society support the Musicians as well as the Institution? If so, the orchestra will surely have a bright future, continue to draw musicians from all around the country who will put down roots and ensure that the artistic momentum of the city will match its economic momentum.
Thankfully, many people have that vision and understand the link between a great future for the symphony and a strong commitment to its musicians.
Yet right now, with so much looking up for the Society, the Musicians are still being asked to accept cuts that further reduce the length of the season, diminish our livelihoods, and shrink the size of the contracted orchestra itself. We’ve been asked to agree to leave an astounding 11 positions unfilled, an artistically devastating prospect in an orchestra of 80 Musicians.
Leading arts consultant and current GRS Society advisor Michael Kaiser, states in his book The Art of the Turnaround : Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations:
Revenue is the problem with most arts organizations, not cost. Organizations focused simply on reducing costs will continue to get smaller and smaller and will never create the economic engine that is required for long-term stability and growth.
When art and marketing are sacrificed to balance budgets, the organization virtually always suffers a loss in revenue. This results in more cutting, more ‘saving’, more losses, and a vicious spiral is created that has damaged more arts organizations than one can count.
In Grand Rapids 2015, our trajectory should be up!
As one donor and former Women’s Committee chair recently said, “Too many people worked too hard for too many years to build this orchestra into the fine ensemble we enjoy today for us ever to consider letting it go backwards.”
We agree. We hope you do too!
Now enjoy the concert. We are delighted to share the music with you.
What Can You Do To Help?
1. Contact the Symphony Society at http://www.grsymphony.org/contact to
leave a note of support for the Musicians’ vision for the GRS.
2. Visit our GRSMA website at www.GRSMusiciansAssociation.org and
sign up for our newsletter.
3. Continue supporting the Grand Rapids Symphony in all the ways you do.