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Delaware Symphony, musicians sign new contract

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(L-R) AFM Local 21 Secretary/Treasurer Glenn Finnan, DSO Executive Director J.C. Barker, and DSO Board President David Fleming sign the new CBA for the Delaware Symphony Association. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOE DEL TUFO/MOONLOOP PHOTOGRAPHY

WILMINGTON – The music will go on after the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s parent organization reached a new three-year contract with its performers union.

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra, a more than century-old institution in Wilmington, reached a unanimous collective bargaining agreement (CBA) renewal with the members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 21 earlier this month and is in effect until Aug. 31, 2025. The last contract actually expired in 2019, but the sides have been utilizing extensions through the pandemic until returning to the negotiation table earlier this year.

The new contract provides not only for regular pay increases for DSO musicians but also for additional contracted services and expanded community outreach opportunities.

The deal represents a calmer conclusion than some of the DSO’s more recent contracts and is evidence of the symphony’s financial rebound. In 2012, the symphony didn’t finish its season and canceled performances as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. After that, a contentious bargaining phase with the dozens of musicians dragged on for months and even saw city and county leaders try to intervene.

This time around, with the pandemic increasingly in the rearview and a slate of shows coming, the negotiations reached a calmer conclusion.

“The positive experience of these negotiations represents nothing less than a historic shift in the relationship between the musicians of the orchestra, Local 21, and management,” DSO Executive Director J.C. Barker said in a statement announcing the deal. “We are all very pleased with our new agreement and look forward to the start of a new era for the organization. The brilliant musicians of the Delaware Symphony are more than deserving of the changes this agreement represents, and we are excited about the bright future ahead — built on mutual respect and transparent communication.”

DSO Board President David Fleming added that they were “proud to have been one of the only orchestras in America to fully honor contracts and pay our musicians for COVID-canceled performances in 2020. Good faith efforts and transparency by our orchestra management and musicians during the most disruptive period in history has led to the most positive, collegial relationship between the two in recent memory.”

Sandra VandeGeijn, a violist, chair of the Orchestra Player’s Committee and a member of the DSO musician’s union representatives, said the musicians are “thrilled with both the outcome and the collaborative, extremely positive way in which the negotiations proceeded. This feels to us like an exciting new chapter for the Delaware Symphony.”

The DSO is the only professional orchestra in the state, performing classical and contemporary repertoires in full orchestra and chamber music concerts. Its concert calendar turns to “Classics Made in America,” featuring works by Charles Ives, William Schuman, Jennifer Higdon, and Antonín Dvořák, starting at the Grand Opera House on Friday, Sept. 23.

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