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Presidents of Fort Worth Symphony and Musicians' Union Talk About What's Next

This week, we saw the end of a three-month strike by Fort Worth Symphony musicians.  The players and management agreed on a four-year contract. The deal freezes wages for two years and provides small raises the last two. An unnamed donor gave the orchestra $700,000, clearing the symphony’s deficit. But there’s more to do. 

Fort Worth Symphony President and CEO Amy Adkins and president of the musicians' union Stewart Williams discuss what’s next for the symphony.


After all the tension and contention how do you move forward?

Adkins: "Well I think it’ll take time to mend fences. I think everyone will be surprised that wounds heal more quickly than you might expect. We have the willingness of both parties to move forward together to work for a brighter future for the organization."

Did you think you would get here?

Adkins: "I knew we would get here at some point. This has been a long and challenging path to get here. It was always difficult to predict how it was going to conclude. But we are grateful that it did come to a conclusion, that the parties are happy with and that can help the organization end the work stoppage so that we can go back to making music and raising new friends and attracting new audiences." 

What’s the difference between this contract that’ll run through July of 2020 and the one that you proposed to them and they rejected three months ago?

Adkins: "The difference is that they don’t have to accept pay cuts at this point,  because of the anonymous donor. The donation is providing us the same financial relief that we were asking from musicians in last proposal. We were never asking musicians to bridge entire gap. So, we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Musicians marched outside Bass Hall when they launched the strike in September

Adkins says the symphony has several fundraising strategies to attack the remaining funding gap. Those plans will be announced soon.  

Stewart Williams is president of the musicians' union. He says the players are ready to return to Bass Hall.

Williams: "We certainly are pleased and relieved to have final confirmation that what we really felt all along was possible.  We’ve had faith all along that there was a real concern for the orchestra and for the musicians themselves."

Would there have been a ratification without the $700,000 donation? 

Williams: "I think that the stepping forward of this anonymous donor is really a result of that reaching out that we have done. We believe that people were out there that cared for us, that cared for the Fort Worth Symphony, that understood that it needed to grow. This is a sign that we were right."

You know what this agreement is, is a beginning. It is a four-year covenant, which puts in front of us — that’s a promise and an agreement that says we will start where we are and we’ll move forward. And that is just a start. We will continue to communicate and try to build all the relationships that we need to build to continue that. It’s an ongoing process. We don’t consider our job finished, in other words. We do have hopes and a certain amount of faith and we feel we’re ready to move forward to make that happen.”

Musicians return to work the week of Dec. 26. Their first concert at Bass Hall is New Year’s Eve.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.