Kennedy Center reaches new contract with NSO that keeps musicians on the payroll

Tue Apr 07, 2020 at 12:41 pm

The Kennedy Center has reversed course on its much-criticized plan to furlough National Symphony Orchestra musicians, announcing a renegotiated contract Tuesday morning that will keep NSO members on the payroll.

“The severe economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have unfolded at an incredibly rapid pace,” said center president Deborah F. Rutter, in a statement released to the press. “We are grateful to the musicians of the NSO for partnering with us and that, together, we have found a way forward.” 

While the NSO musicians will no longer be furloughed, they have agreed to a temporary 35% wage cut through early September. That will be followed by a freeze in the 2020-2021 season on their previous contracted salary. Further, wage increases will be delayed for the duration of the current four-year contract, which has now been extended one year through September 2024.

The announcement signaled a striking shift after the Kennedy Center’s abrupt decision to furlough the NSO musicians on March 27. Coming just hours after the center received a controversial $25 million payout in the coronavirus relief bill, both the money and the furloughing of NSO musicians resulted in harsh criticism of the center and president Deborah Rutter from across the country.

Reached after several days of discussions, the new agreement is “a significant step in stabilizing the institution as it faces financial challenges resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the press release. The sacrifice of NSO musicians will result in savings of approximately $4 million, representing “a substantial long-term investment in the Kennedy Center’s future.”

The revised contract comes in the wake of NSO musicians’ plans to file a grievance against the Kennedy Center for violating the terms of its contract. That procedure, not expected to be completed until April 10, appears no longer to be necessary.

The Kennedy Center also recently announced a large number of administrative staff furloughs and pay reductions, which will remain in place until the Kennedy Center can reopen. The venue closed on March 13 and will remain so until at least May 10.

For listeners bereft of their weekly NSO concerts, there is a silver lining in this news. As part of the restructuring, NSO musicians and NSO management have also agreed to form a joint working group to discuss alternative ways to share new and archived NSO content during the current pandemic closure.

One Response to “Kennedy Center reaches new contract with NSO that keeps musicians on the payroll”

  1. Posted Apr 08, 2020 at 10:57 am by Joan Durak

    Shame on the KC and its president Ms. Rutter. She and her board forced their hand and played dirty. The agreement is a travesty, a disgrace. Rutter and her board took advantage of the corona crisis to “punish” the musicians for no fault of their own.

    Rutter showed herself as unfit for the position she holds. Once the crisis is over and concerts schedule returns to normalcy, the board has to take a closer look at Rutter’s actions and the justification for paying her the $1.2M salary and take appropriate actions.

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