Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pso Management, Musicians Get Points across Via Social Media

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pso Management, Musicians Get Points across Via Social Media

Article excerpt

The contract for the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is set to expire Sunday night, and while the symphony's management and musicians have agreed not to discuss the negotiations with the media, messages from both sides are getting across.

In the past several weeks, the musicians, members of Local 60-471 of the American Federation of Musicians, have ramped up their social media efforts and established a new website and newsletter. The tone of the musicians' online campaign generally has been positive, focusing on PSO players or orchestras that have found recent philanthropic success. By contrast, at a hearing for the Allegheny Regional Asset District this week, the orchestra's management offered a pessimistic assessment of the organization's finances in the years to come.

The musicians made a point during rehearsals at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado in August, when they wore black-and-gold T-shirts that read "Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra," featuring a silhouette of the Pittsburgh skyline. The musicians posted photographs of themselves sporting the new threads on Twitter and Facebook, and they recently made the shirts available for sale to the public.

In essence, the musicians have established a brand that is independent of the organization at large. In the years since the recession, several musicians' unions have employed similar tactics as a way "to get the good word out" and counterbalance a negative narrative about the financial health of symphony orchestras, said Meredith Snow, chairwoman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. In the case of labor disputes, developing an independent following can prove useful to musicians trying to garner public support.

Separately, Melia Tourangeau, the symphony's president and CEO since last summer, made the symphony's annual pitch for RAD funds on Monday at the Koppers Building. The symphony was seeking $1.4 million in operating funds and a smaller grant for capital costs.

There were a few bright spots: better ticket sales, a successful annual fund campaign, Ms. Tourangeau said.

But for the most part, she offered a bleak assessment of the PSO's financial outlook: The organization had a $1.5 million deficit for the fiscal year that ended Wednesday. Ms. Tourangeau was certain the symphony could balance its budget by next season were it not for the expiration or reorganization of two revenue streams that would sink the organization another $1. …

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