Announcement from the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony

Announcement from the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony // September 29, 2021

The Symphony Society of San Antonio has announced that it is not interested in negotiating any further and that it is unilaterally imposing its intolerable proposal to reduce more than 40% of the Symphony to part-time gig workers at salaries of approximately $11,000 per year, to reduce the salaries of the remaining full-time musicians by approximately one-third, and to destroy the artistic integrity of the San Antonio Symphony by reducing it to a chamber ensemble. This announcement follows the 20-21 pandemic season during which the musicians voluntarily accepted a salary reduction of just over 80%. The musicians have already unanimously rejected the terms being imposed, and have voted “no confidence” in the leadership of Symphony executive director Corey Cowart and board chair Kathleen Vale by an overwhelming margin.

Representatives of the Symphony Society’s board and management made it clear to us at the negotiating table that they were not interested in an emergency fundraising appeal to the public. This astonishing refusal to engage in necessary fundraising over the past several months reveals compellingly that the Symphony board never intended to preserve the San Antonio Symphony that its gifted musicians have sacrificed so much to maintain. Instead, the Symphony Board has used the pandemic as an excuse for a radical restructuring of the Symphony that has been proposed and rejected many times in years past. It is now clear that the board and management entered into negotiations with a fixed intention to agree to only their own demands.

The musicians do not dispute that the Symphony Society has a revenue problem, but it was not caused by the musicians’ salaries, which are already extremely low by any standard, especially when compared to orchestras in comparably sized cities. Instead, the crisis stems from a willful refusal to recognize the need for a mass emergency fundraising appeal. To add insult to injury, the Symphony management has locked the musicians out for the current week by unilaterally canceling the previously announced rehearsal and performance schedule.

The musicians, represented by the American Federation of Musicians, Local 23, refuse to be complicit in the action taken by Kathleen Vale and the board to destroy the San Antonio Symphony, and will not cooperate in the unjust betrayal of more than 40% of their colleagues.

Therefore AFM Local 23 is initiating a lawful strike in protest of the Symphony Society’s

betrayal of the good faith the musicians have exercised during the pandemic

willful refusal to construct a mass appeal to the business community and the public for adequate funding

unfair labor practices of bad faith bargaining, including, for example, demanding these radical changes with no intention of considering the musicians’ reasonable proposals for solutions.

Consistent with the strike, we have asked the American Federation of Musicians to place the San Antonio Symphony on its international unfair list and advise all members of the AFM not to perform for the San Antonio Symphony.

We urge the community of Symphony supporters and concert-goers to contact Symphony management offices in support of the musicians, and not to attend any purported Symphony performances by musicians who are not the true San Antonio Symphony musicians. Supporters are encouraged to contact Symphony executive director Corey Cowart at with their concerns.

Mary Ellen Goree Chair, Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony

Richard Oppenheim President, Local 23, American Federation of Musicians