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Last updated: Sat. Feb. 22, 2014 - 06:17 am EDT

With help of $500,000 donation, Fort Wayne Philharmonic approves new contract with union musicians


One week after its union musicians ratified a proposed labor contract, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic announced its board also had approved the deal, concluding negotiations that began last year and continued well after the previous contract expired in August.

A four-year, $500,000 donation from the Madge Rothschild Foundation helped make the agreement possible, J.L. Nave III, philharmonic president and CEO, said in a news release issued Friday afternoon. The foundation gift was made specifically to lessen the impact on musicians as the orchestra tries to regain sound financial footing.

The Philharmonic currently has debt of $2.3 million, the news release said.

“This gift was a key component to allowing us to reach an agreement and demonstrates the importance of community support for this incredible orchestra,” Nave said in the announcement.

The new contract, which takes effect immediately but expires Dec. 31, cuts musicians' guaranteed weeks of work to 33 from the previous 40 weeks, resulting in a 17.5 percent pay cut, the news release said. The agreement maintains the number of full-time core musicians at the current level, 41 people. Musicians also retain their existing health benefits.

Philharmonic administrative staff are taking similar cuts in pay and benefits, the news release said.

Under the agreement, musicians also will serve on the orchestra's Vision and Planning Committee, help with fundraising and take part in regular discussions about concert profitability, the news release said.

The new contract doesn't guarantee musicians any weeks of pay this summer, but the Philharmonic plans to continue its Patriotic Pops series concerts in Fort Wayne and surrounding communities, the news release said. Those concerts are funded by the Steel Dynamics Foundation and the communities where they take place.

“We are profoundly grateful to our musicians for their spirit of shared sacrifice,” Nave said in the news release. “Like so many cultural organizations around the country, The Phil struggles to balance our artistic aspirations with the economic challenges.

"I knew that both sides needed to give some in order to make this work," he said.

“Artistic quality and financial sustainability, along with service to the community, are core to fulfilling our mission,” Carol Lindquist, Philharmonic board chair, said in the news release.

“We have been inspired by those that have expressed their admiration for our music and educational programs," Lindquist said. "We now need to turn that enthusiasm into tangible financial commitments from our community, which I'm confident will occur.”

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