Long Beach Symphony may cancel 2010-11 season over union dispute
The Long Beach Symphony says its 2010-11 season could end up on the chopping block as a result of an unresolved dispute with a union that represents musicians.
The orchestra said Tuesday that its board members have voted to ax the future season unless the two sides can reach an agreement by Jan. 22. On the discussion table are requests to make changes to the musicians' current one-year contract as well as new terms for a contract for future seasons.
Roger Goulette, the orchestra's president, said in a statement that the organization "will run out of cash and exhaust our secured line of credit by the end of January." He added that that the union -- the Local 353 of the American Federation of Musicians -- needs to come to the table and "be part of the solution if we are to have a next season.”
A representative of the AFM did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Among the orchestra's requests is a more flexible contract that would help bring costs under control. The orchestra said that it has received monetary pledges that are contingent on the creation of an affordable business plan for the years ahead.
Long Beach Symphony is a relatively small orchestra with an annual operating budget of $2.7 million and an endowment of $1.6 million, according to Robert C. Jones, interim executive director. Last fiscal year, the organization ran a deficit of $397,000.
The orchestra employs about 87 musicians and has an administrative staff of 10, Jones said. Each year, it produces six classics concerts, four pops events and two holiday celebration concerts.
In October, the orchestra inaugurated its 75th season with a celebration and performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
This is not the first time the Long Beach Symphony has faced a crisis of this magnitude. Twenty-five years ago, the orchestra closed its doors as a result of economic hardship, according to Jones. The organization re-started in a reduced capacity about a year later.
To help resolve the current labor crisis, the orchestra said it is considering facilitation or mediation by a third party.
"We have enormous respect for our musicians," Jones said in a phone interview. "We just can't put as many of them on stage as frequently."
-- David Ng
Photo: the Long Beach Symphony. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times