Rising to the challenge

Financial Vice President's report

Volume 122, No. 4April, 2022

Karen Fisher

Sacred Music Society of our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church recently agreed to a two-year contract with Local 802 that includes 2 percent increases in wages for musicians and substantial increases in health benefit contributions

Our community of freelance classical musicians has faced multiple challenges over the past few decades. We’ve survived strikes, lockouts, dwindling audiences, so-called “new business models,” and indifferent (or worse) managements and boards. While problems are nothing new for us, the events of the past two years may have been the most challenging times of all, and we’re not yet out of the woods. With multiple negotiations currently in full swing, I’m heartened to see our committees holding firm on realistic and fair wage increases despite attempts from some employers to use the pandemic to extract concessions. Together, we continue to fight for the integrity and quality of the music and to ensure strong, progressive contracts now and into the future. Here are some of the contracts we worked on recently:

  • The NYC Gay Men’s Chorus signed a six-month deal that guarantees Local 802’s single engagement wage scale for all services.
  • The Oratorio Society of Queens and Sacred Music Society of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs agreed to a two-year deal that includes 2 percent increases in wages and substantial increases in health benefit contributions.
  • The Local 802 Executive Board recently approved a memorandum of agreement with the American Symphony Orchestra. The agreement includes increases of 3 percent in year one, 3.5 percent in year two and 4 percent in year three. We were also able to achieve increases in health benefits, a loosening of the policy for rehearsal releases, and other gains. Committee members Lou Bruno (chair), Julia DeRosa, Gil DeJean, Rich Ostrovsky, and Liz Neilson were instrumental in achieving the deal.
  • The Victor Herbert Renaissance Project recently agreed to a successor agreement totaling 5 percent increases in wages and benefits over the 2-year term.
  • Due to the ongoing renovations at David Geffen Hall and multiple changes in personnel of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra management, some changes in scheduling were necessary to ensure the orchestra would meet its five week guarantee. The orchestra committee (Ann Kim, Laura Frautschi, Michael Roth, Lou Cosma and Tanya Witek), took matters into their own hands and crafted a schedule of events that will benefit the orchestra, students and the community.
  • Negotiations with the Scandia Symphony, St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, New Jersey Festival Orchestra, Queens Symphony and Westchester Philharmonic are in progress. If you play in these orchestras — or any orchestra for that matter — please make sure that your Local 802 membership status is active and up to date. If your membership has lapsed, you are not eligible to participate in the ratification vote and you risk losing your position on the roster. Check your union membership at


By the time you read this, our database migration back to our former system KMR will be nearly complete. (For more on what this is about, see our article from last month.) For members, this means that the Local 802 membership portal will look like it used to before the pandemic. Our next step is to make sure our staff knows how to use the system. (Many of our long-time staff are familiar with KMR, so we hope the learning curve won’t be steep.). At the same time, we have reconfigured our physical office space at Local 802 to look more like the pre-pandemic structure and reassigned staff to maximize efficiency. While we anticipate a smooth transition, there are always unexpected glitches to be ironed out. There is one important computer change that will affect you directly: membership and health benefits will have two separate web portals. This means that you will no longer be able to pay the participant premium on your health insurance through the membership part of the portal. Specific details and instructions will be posted on our Web site once we launch our new system. The good news is that we’ll finally have a truly working membership portal again — one that many of you are already familiar with — and our online membership directory will finally be up and running again.

We’ve had several personnel changes in our offices since the end of last year. We recently added a second person to the membership department to serve you better once we open our doors. All these changes will be formally introduced in these pages very soon.