SPOKANE, Wash. - Since March, the Spokane Symphony administrators and musicians have been in negotiations over salary. Although musicians agreed to a 10% pay cut in 2009 and gave up contracted pay raises, a decrease in ticket sales and events has forced the symphony to make cuts once again. This year's cuts amount to a decrease in salary by about 11% to 13%.
Adam Wallstein who plays the timpani in the percussion session, is in his 10th season with the Spokane Symphony. He says these cuts will affect the amount of time musicians can spend preparing for shows and the amount of money they have to maintain their instruments.
"Cutting the salary will cut into the time we need to be as dedicated as we are," Adam Wallstein said. "So, it will have a devastating impact on our ability to serve the region as professional musicians."
Adam's wife Alaina Bercilla who plays the flute and piccolo for the symphony says it could be an even bigger issue if cuts like this continue to happen in the future.
"It just means that the arts won't be a priority here and I think that would be really sad," Alaina Bercilla said. "That would be a big loss for the community."
In addition to playing in the Spokane Symphony, many musicians like Adam and Alaina give private lessons to kids and help out band teachers in local classrooms.
"With class sizes getting bigger, there isn't much one on one attention and we provide these services for the community," Wallstein said. "We're only able to do that if our symphony salaries are sufficient enough to form a foundation of a livelihood."
With the new pay cut we were told several members of the symphony are considering other options.
However, with less money available and few performances, the symphony says it has to make cuts somewhere and musician salaries are the only option left.
"They cannot continue to pay for services that we're not using, for work that's not being performed." said Brenda Nienhouse, executive director for the Spokane Symphony Society. "We're really looking at the viability of the organization and protecting musician jobs."
The symphony also has a concert for elementary school students to help them get excited about music and decide what instruments they want to play. It also puts on a free Labor Day concert each year in Comstock Park. That concert had been cut in the past due to lack of funding. However, it was brought back because of community support.
"Sometimes I think that people don't realize what we're contributing and when it's missing they do notice," Bercilla said.
At this point, the musicians hope to continue negotiations to keep pay at its current level.