Good evening. I’m Keith Carrick, a musician with the Utah Symphony, and I’m here on behalf of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, also known as ICSOM. ICSOM membership includes the top 53 orchestras in the United States and Puerto Rico, including 4 in the great state of Texas. The Dallas Symphony. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Houston Symphony. And the professional musicians of the San Antonio Symphony.
Thank you to Richard Oppenheim and Local 23 for the invitation to address all of you today. While it’s good to see all of you again, I’m very sorry that your strike has not yet come to an end. A lot can change in six months, and, unfortunately, a lot can stay the same.
First, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the musicians on your committees. These musicians have the weight of an entire orchestra on their shoulders, and they are doing a remarkable job.
I would also like to congratulate all of you for your performance on March 4th. What a joy to see and hear the San Antonio Symphony again. What a shame we aren’t able to hear you on a regular basis. The silence is deafening.
This strike isn’t just about those of you in attendance, and it’s not just about the San Antonio Symphony, it’s about what performing in a Symphony Orchestra will be like in the modern world. Generations of musicians have worked hard to build the orchestras of today, and you’re on strike because you will not dishonor them by tearing it all down. You’re striking because every professional musician deserves a job worth having, one that provides for you and your families and for the community in which you live. And, you’re striking because you are committed to deliver a better orchestra and a better job to the next generation of audience members and musicians, a symphony that you can be proud of.
We all know that the primary purpose of management and the board is to be good stewards of the organization, but that means more than just fiscal stewardship. It means musical stewardship as well, it means being careful not to harm the people who actually make the music come to life. The longer it takes to reach an agreement, the more harm is done to these musicians, these members of your community and their families, these people.
Enough is enough. Enough with the constant emergencies, enough with mismanagement, enough with the bankruptcies. None of these things are the fault of the musicians. Enough with the musicians bailing out the orchestra, giving concessions in 1984, 1987, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016, and 2018. That is a dozen pay cuts in 38 years, about one every three years for more than a generation. Is that enough yet? You give and you give, but nothing seems to change. When will that change finally come? When will management stop blaming you for their mistakes?
While the rest of San Antonio moves on from the pandemic, the organization, and all of you, are being left behind. The San Antonio Development Foundation reports a growing population and higher job growth than the national average. Where is all that growth going? Doesn’t a growing San Antonio deserve a growing orchestra?
Support for the San Antonio Symphony is here in this community, both the money and the love of music. Michael Kaiser said as much when he came here to help in 2018. The only thing that has changed since then is that the working class has been devastated by a pandemic and runaway inflation, while large corporations and the 1% are richer than ever. Costs for food, gas, and housing are all rising, so, why not the cost of your labor? Do symphony musicians not have bills to pay? Mouths to feed? Kids to raise? The financial part of any agreement is about the actual cost of your labor, not your manager's perceived value of it.
It hurts to see your management treat you like numbers instead of people. They’ve decided that you’re not worth the cost. But what about the loss of music in the community? Loss of trust in the organization? Loss of relevancy? Loss of audience members? Have they taken those costs, those losses, into account?
Trust between management and the musicians is broken, and frankly, has been for some time. The first step to restoring that trust is a fair agreement, an agreement that doesn’t demote members of the orchestra, an agreement that doesn't threaten the way of life of your musicians. I have hope that such an agreement can be reached, but only if management abandons its scorched earth approach and comes to the table with a real plan for growth.
Many of you may wrestle with difficult emotions as the strike drags on. You may feel tired or hopeless, you may wish to simply walk away, or just give in. But I hope you will not. It takes courage to fight for the things you want in life. It takes conviction to stick to your principles when times are hard. Remember that you are not alone, thousands of ICSOM musicians across the nation are watching, counting on you to stand up for what’s right. Millions of working-class people, while they may not know you, they know your struggle, they know how you feel. What you do here matters.
I hope you all will remember that you are not disposable, you are a unique group of individuals that come together to elevate the spirits of the community through your music. That is an amazing thing, and it’s something worth fighting for.
Principal Percussion, Utah Symphony
ICSOM Governing Board, Member-at-Large