CLASSICAL NEWS: Houston Symphony Strikes on Pay Cut Plan & Colorado Springs Symphony Dissolves Itself in Court


HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Symphony Orchestra went on strike Sunday after rejecting a pay cut that management said was needed because of a $3 million deficit and reductions in donations and ticket sales.

The musicians said the Houston Symphony Society's demand for cuts averaging 7.4 percent would drive out talented musicians and damage the symphony's quality.

"This orchestra has toured Asia and Europe to rave reviews," said Joe Householder, a consultant for the musicians' union. "This is a top-notch orchestra."

Society spokesman Art Kent said a pay cut for the 97-seat orchestra is vital because of the weak economy. "It's a tough time in the nonprofit world, and we're struggling like everyone else," he said.

Houston's isn't the only symphony hurting.

The San Antonio Symphony earlier this month couldn't pay its musicians, who already had accepted a 20 percent pay cut. Last month, the Savannah Symphony Orchestra canceled the rest of its season after it couldn't pay a $1.2 million debt. The bankrupt Colorado Springs Symphony did the same after a judge approved its request to dissolve its contract with musicians, who had rejected a pay cut.

And the San Jose Symphony decided in November to dissolve itself in bankruptcy court, with more than $3 million in debt and less than $300,000 in assets.

Broadway musicians also went on strike earlier this month, silencing 18 musicals. They are fighting to maintain a minimum of players required for each show.

The Houston musicians went on strike at one minute after midnight Saturday after performing a pops concert, canceling the same concert Sunday night.

Kent said the society will meet this week to discuss what to do about upcoming performances.

About 40 players staged a 15-minute protest Sunday in front of the home of lawyer Douglas Hamel, who handles negotiations for the society, chanting "Save our symphony!" Hamel didn't emerge during the demonstration.

Earlier Sunday, he said the symphony faces an uphill battle even if musicians eventually accept the pay cut.

Colorado Springs Symphony Dissolves Itself in Court

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The debt-ridden Colorado Springs Symphony dissolved itself in bankruptcy court, ending its 75-year run.

The 85-musician symphony filed Wednesday for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, requiring it to liquidate its assets. The group owes about $1 million, an amount estimated to "well exceed assets," according to its Web site.

The symphony sought to reorganize in January by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after musicians rejected a pay cut. In February, a bankruptcy judge allowed the symphony to dissolve its labor contract with its musicians.

"It's very unfortunate for the community," said symphony board president Shawn Raintree, "but the sooner this chapter is closed, the sooner a new one can begin."

The Colorado Springs Symphony is one of a handful of orchestras nationwide suffering financially. The San Antonio Symphony earlier this month couldn't pay its musicians, who already had accepted a 20 percent pay cut. Last month, the Savannah Symphony Orchestra canceled the rest of its season after it couldn't pay a $1.2 million debt.