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Utah Symphony, Utah Opera reach new contracts with musicians

SALT LAKE CITY — Orchestra musicians in the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera are financially set through the summer of 2022, the organization announced Wednesday.

The musicians reached a four-year agreement with the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera. The agreement outlines increased base salary amounts, more scheduling flexibility and increases to insurance coverage for string instruments, and will run Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, 2022.

The existing base salary for musicians ($72,968) will increase by 1.75 percent in year one, 2.84 percent in year two, and 3 percent in each of the contract’s final two years — making the 2021-22 season base salary $81,496, according to a press release.

The Utah Symphony has reached a new four-year contract agreement with its musicians.
The Utah Symphony has reached a new four-year contract agreement with its musicians.
Provided by The Utah Symphony

While this new contract doesn't have any “seismic differences” from previous contracts, Paul Meecham, the organization's president and CEO, told the Deseret News that previous contracts have typically been for three years instead of four.

“There was a desire on both parties to have further stability by just making it a longer contract,” Meecham explained.

The new contract, he said, gives the musicians more flexibility when partnering with well-known guest performers. Since the symphony typically plans events years in advance, and guest performers' availability usually isn't known until a few months beforehand, the symphony has previously had to turn many of these opportunities down.

Meecham said this new scheduling flexibility also helps the symphony meet the demands of its education outreach programs and the increasing popularity of its new Films in Concert Series, which Meecham said has been a solid success for the symphony.

“We discovered that there’s a whole new audience that’s coming to these," he said. "We’re attracting a lot of new audiences — younger audiences, older audiences.”

Additionally, this new contract allows the Utah Opera to also plan for a longer future, as members of the Utah Symphony play in the pit of the Utah Opera's productions. The Utah Symphony and Utah Opera are the only "merged symphony-opera organization in the country," Meecham said, meaning that when patrons attend the opera, they are getting the instrumentals performed by symphony members.

"What this enables us to do, by having the same full-time orchestra, is to have a higher level performance at the opera," Meecham said, "because you’ve got a world-class symphony also playing for the opera. We’re not to contract different players for just a two-week run. You’ve got the same high-quality ensemble year round.”

The orchestra’s negotiations committee was comprised of members Keith Carrick (percussion), Julie Edwards (viola), Rebekah Johnson (violin), Matthew Johnson (cello) and Caitlin Valovick Moore (piccolo, flute). Meecham led negotiations on behalf of the administration, and was assisted by Senior Vice President and COO David Green, Vice President of Symphony Operations and General Manager Jeff Counts and Director of Operations Cassandra Dozet. Discussions also involved federal mediators Kevin Hawkins and Xavier Merizalde.

“On behalf of the USUO Board of Trustees, I would like to express gratitude to all the members of the negotiating committee,” said Kem Gardner, chairman of the board of trustees in a prepared statement. “It’s evident that our organization holds mutual respect at the forefront of our negotiation interactions, and values the best interests of the musicians and organization as a whole to allow everyone to focus on our mission, which is to connect the community through great live music.”