After two marathon bargaining sessions on April 2 and 3, the Negotiating Committee of the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra reached a tentative settlement on a new contract late Sunday evening. The details of that contract and of our possible return to the stage of Orchestra Hall must of course await a full orchestra discussion and vote in the coming days.
One thing does not have to wait, however—an expression of heartfelt thanks from the members of the DSO to our thousands of supporters in Detroit and around North America and the world. It has been a long and difficult road. In fact, April 4 marks six months since the strike began. From the beginning we faced a strong attack not only on our livelihoods, but on the great institution we are proud to be a part of. But also from the beginning, we were gratified to learn that many other people cared deeply about us and our orchestra. The first mention must go to our audience members, since they are the reason we exist and the reason to preserve a great orchestra in Detroit. From the earliest days last summer they came forward to say that they heard our message and shared our commitment. They filled the hall in 19 special concerts around Metro Detroit. At those events, their warmth and applause, along with the welcome chance to make music together, sustained the musicians of the DSO in a vital way. They wrote letters of support, made generous contributions, fabricated buttons, and brought a wealth of suggestions (and constructive criticism) to keep us moving forward. So many of them coalesced into the powerhouse that Save our Symphony has become in the few short months since it formed in November. We have a strong conviction that SOS will prove to be the focal point of a broad new base of support for the DSO going forward.
A second key group of supporters can be found from Detroit to the four corners of the United States and Canada: our professional colleagues from the world of music. Their wave of support began before we had even announced that we faced difficult negotiations and has never stopped since. Individual musicians, AFM locals and the members of dozens of professional orchestras from ICSOM, OCSM and ROPA wrote to us and sent an unprecedented amount of money to our Contingency Fund, well over $250,000. It mattered so much to us to know that our colleagues saw the struggle here as their own. The money they sent enabled us to cover expenses entailed in producing concerts and spreading the word of our situation. It made it possible to give emergency loans to our own members in need of assistance and to supplement our national strike fund checks during part of the work stoppage. We learned once again that the wide world of music and musicians is a small one. The solidarity we have felt in 2010 and 2011 will not be forgotten.
A third pillar of strength from Day One has been the American Federation of Musicians. President Ray Hair marched with us in Detroit on Labor Day. The national office never flagged in its support. AFM negotiator Chris Durham flew to Detroit to assist in the crucial last sessions. Our own attorney, Leonard Leibowitz, was a tireless and sustaining presence and strategizer over many, many months. The AFM’s commitment became crystal clear right at home in Detroit. Local 5 President Gordon Stump and Secretary-Treasurer Susan Barna-Ayoub signed their lives over to the musicians of the DSO for the duration. In countless ways they enabled the orchestra members to function more smoothly than we had any reason to hope, week by week.
Without a doubt, challenging and interesting times still await us. Most of all we look forward to a future filled with many wonderful days and evenings of music making in Orchestra Hall and beyond. We look forward to performing for you all and to meeting many of you. Please stay tuned.
-The Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchesta