San Antonio Symphony shuts down

The San Antonio Symphony, citing an impasse in negotiations with its musicians, has shut down.

The Texas orchestra’s board issued a statement saying that the musicians’ union representatives “made it clear there is no prospect of the resumption of negotiations, absent the [b]oard agreeing to a budget that is millions of dollars in excess of what the Symphony can afford. The absence of a labor contract has effectively forced the Symphony to shutter its operations.”

“During negotiations that began in 2021, the musicians and the orchestra management made multiple proposals to continue the 2021-2022 season with concessions including a reduced schedule and wage reductions,” San Antonio Reports’ Nicholas Frank reports. “What ended negotiations was the musicians’ refusal to accept a two-tier wage schedule imposed on them by management in September, which resulted in a strike that continued until the season was canceled in May.”

The orchestra’s former music director, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, who was dismissed as music director emeritus after conducting concerts by the striking musicians, called for the orchestra board to resign. “If a board resigns, it gives other people the the possibility to carry on the mission,” he told Frank. “Instead of admitting failure, they now claim that the musicians – because of their lack of willingness to negotiate on a plan that doesn’t work – are to be blamed.”

Mary Ellen Goree, the orchestra’s principal second violinist and union spokesperson, told Texas Public Radio that the independent Musicians Performance Fund is planning to stage concerts in the fall and “hinted that a new organization to run the symphony may be in the works.”

The San Antonio Symphony had struggled financially and organizationally in recent decades. Much of its 1987-88 season was canceled, and after filing for bankruptcy, the orchestra canceled its 2003-04 season. An unsuccessful reorganization led it to call off much of its 2017-18 season.

Frank’s report on the dissolution of the orchestra:

Board dissolves San Antonio Symphony, will file for bankruptcy