The Nashville Symphony is making a slow return to the spotlight after suspending concerts this year. They’re bringing back furloughed musicians on a small, $500 weekly stipend as part of an agreement with local union Nashville Musicians Association.
“We were able to do this because we have growing optimism for the future,” said Alan Valentine, the president and CEO of the Nashville Symphony.
The musicians will be paid a reduced salary. However, Valentine says it’s a start, until the orchestra is able to resume concerns next summer.
The symphony has lost close to $10 million since the pandemic put a halt to large gatherings in mid-March. The organization furloughed 79 musicians in July and cut staff down to just 19 people. All staff who remained were forced to take pay cuts.
The organization has, however, continued to pay the cost of health insurance for its employees.
Valentine says the reduced, two-person development team has spent the past few months raising funds for the organization. He also says thanks to community members and support from partners like Amazon and Nissan North America.
“We’ve been able to see that we were going to raise more money than we anticipated when this started,” said Valentine. “That really enabled us to begin … putting our toe in the water.”
Thousands of musicians have been out of work and essentially left to fend for themselves and survive off unemployment. In June, when the symphony canceled its concerts, several orchestra members told WPLN News that they had no other way to generate income.
“The July 1 announcement of the extended furlough of all Nashville Symphony musicians created an untenable situation for many of these world-class players,” said Nashville Musicians Association President Dave Pomeroy, in a press release. “Like so many unemployed Americans, they were faced with heartbreaking decisions in order to survive — some of which involved not being able to stay in Nashville at all.”
As part of the agreement, musicians who agree to participate will be paid for participating in community performances and local education initiatives. The two groups are working to reach a more permanent agreement before the start of the new season.
The orchestra will start getting back into the swing of things by putting on virtual performances. The symphony is currently planning to release a pre-tapped concert on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. They are also weighing the possibility of holding small, socially distanced, in-person concerts at schools, community centers and assisted living facilities.