- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2010

CLEVELAND — About four dozen members of the Cleveland Orchestra wore their formal concert attire on the first day of their strike outside the steps of Severance Hall, the orchestra’s home, over a pay impasse with management.

Oboist Jeffrey Rathbun, who chairs the musicians’ negotiating committee, said during a news conference Monday that their goal is to uphold standards.

He said picketing will not begin until Tuesday in deference to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Several orchestra horn players were donating time Monday for an open house at Severance Hall that marks the holiday.

The orchestra and the musicians’ union, the Cleveland Federation of Musicians, Local 4, of the American Federation of Musicians, asked for federal mediation in the dispute beginning Monday.

The musicians said they “may be considered to be amongst the best in the world musically, but we are a far cry from being compensated that way or treated that way.”

Mr. Rathbun said Sunday that he and the other musicians were disappointed management hadn’t acknowledged sacrifices they’ve made in their last two contracts or their offer to continue to work for the next contract year with no increase in salary or benefits.

“They want more cuts,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “They have taken reductions and say we need to feel the pain yet again.”

In March, the orchestra said it would reduce pay, leave six positions unfilled and scale back artistic initiatives to save money.

The orchestra’s board of trustees said Sunday it recognized the musicians’ “incredible artistry” but was committed to “ongoing prudent cost control.”

“It is only with long-term financial stability that the orchestra can preserve artistic excellence,” board President Dennis LaBarre said in a statement.

Mr. Rathbun said the musicians, whose contract expired at the end of August, had to stay competitive in pay to stay competitive in quality and “our reputation is at stake.”

He said the strike, which began at midnight Sunday, means the musicians likely won’t make their planned trips to Indiana, where they had lined up a residency at Indiana University, and to Florida, where they make their winter home.

The musicians apologized to the students, faculty and alumni of Indiana University and to their friends and supporters at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

The orchestra has concerts scheduled under the direction of Music Director Franz Welser-Moest at IU on Wednesday and in Miami on Friday, Saturday and Jan. 28-30. Executive Director Gary Hanson said the orchestra would reschedule any canceled concerts.

A free community open house at Severance Hall was to go on as scheduled Monday, the orchestra said, although musicians said they would picket outside. The program was to feature community ensembles, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus.

The Cleveland Orchestra, which was founded in 1918 by a group of local citizens, tours around the world and has residencies from Miami to Vienna. Its educational programs have introduced nearly 4 million local schoolchildren to symphonic music, according to its Web site.

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