Symphony to sustain musicians’ and staffers’ pay

As many businesses and non-profit institutions lay off and furlough staff because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Richmond Symphony is securing the salaries of its 70 full-time and contracted part-time musicians and its administrative staff.

Drawing on a reserve fund of $600,000, a fund-raising effort and available credit, and having applied for a loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, the symphony should be able to maintain its payroll of musicians and staff through the crisis, said David Fisk, the orchestra’s executive director.

“People care about the people in our organization, both internally and externally,” Fisk said. “We’ve made tough choices in the past when we had to. In this case, though, we’ve decided that we can rebuild from whatever financial hardships that develop far more easily than it would be to have to rebuild relationships and the musicianship of an ensemble that has been built over decades.”

The Paycheck Protection Program, a $349 billion component of the $2 trillion financial rescue package recently enacted by Congress, forgives loans to small businesses that continue to pay their employees. Non-profits such as the symphony qualify under the program’s provisions.

The symphony’s plan covers its “core” of full-time musicians and its regular roster of “per-service” players, part-timers who under contract play a set number of rehearsals and performances each season. “Although the per-service musicians generally have other jobs, many of those jobs have diminished or disappeared, so we felt it was important to sustain their income from the symphony,” Fisk said.

Thomas Schneider, the symphony’s principal bassoonist and chairman of the RSO orchestra committee, says that substitute and extra musicians “are being paid for canceled services and hired for rescheduled services through the end of the season.”

The symphony’s musicians “are incredibly grateful that the [orchestra] has decided to keep its commitments to all musicians (full-time, part-time, and subs) who have been offered work in the coming months,” Schneider writes.

The symphony has canceled or postponed all performances from mid-March through May.

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