East Texas Symphony Ratifies New Three Year Agreement

December 9, 2021

On August 16, the Musicians of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra ratified a three-year agreement that runs from June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2024. After a contract extension to address COVID-19 contingencies had expired June 30, this successor agreement was negotiated in conjunction with an additional side letter to address services guaranteed in the previous season which had not yet been offered to musicians.

Under the conditions of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the ETSO struggled like all performance organizations to move forward through the past year, and finally canceled its concert season which had been postponed and shortened to take place during the spring months of 2021.  As a result, the ETSO had difficulties developing enough programming to fulfill its minimum service guarantee, given that the association lost its Executive Director in the early fall, and did not appoint a successor until the latter half of May 2021, operating through this period with a short staff.

In mid-May a new Executive Director, Robin Hampton, was appointed. The Players Committee went to work to negotiate with Management a path for the ETSO to fulfill the service guarantees of the 2020-21 Agreement as well as a new agreement for the seasons ahead.

What resulted was two agreements: (1) a new 3 year Master Agreement that provides a return to normalcy in year one and wage increases (4% and 5% respectively) in the two following years, and (2) a side letter which provides for the service guarantees of 2020-21 to be completed with offers for engagements during the fall of 2021 (outside of the regular 2021-22 subscription services). One of these engagement was a Labor Day Weekend ETSO Concert to be performed at Bergfeld Park in Tyler. This concert was conceived for this purpose during negotiations, and was partially sponsored by Music Performance Trust Fund as part of a Labor Day Weekend funding initiative. Other services will come from Chamber music performances, and services offered for a Nutcracker Ballet series in December.

Upon ratification, the season moved forward at the time that the Delta Variant had created a surge of COVID-19 infection. Within the polarized political climate regarding safety measures for the pandemic, developing agreed upon safety protocols with the ETSO became difficult. While most musicians in the orchestra have continued to wear masks during services played this fall, the ETSO would not agree to implement a mask requirement for musicians, as has become standard in the industry as a basic protocol. Management has agreed to socially distancing measures, positioning string players one to a stand and to other protocols to separate the musicians from audiences. Discussion over protocols continues.

Much thanks to the Orchestra Committee for its work in the negotiations: James Sims, chair; Chris Deane, Sharon Deuby, Laura Ospina, Tami Peterson, Tonia Pilliod & Tim Stevens.

On October 9, Committee Member Chris Deane passed away after a four year battle with colon cancer. He served this committee throughout his battle and served the ETSO musicians and Local 72-147 through his final months. His service, spirit and talents have been greatly appreciated and will be sorely missed.