Change is in the air

Financial Vice President's report

Volume 123, No. 8September, 2023

Karen Fisher

Longtime Mostly Mozart music director Louis Langrée receives a standing ovation at his last performance. From left: Concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini, Music Director Louis Langrée, and Violinist Laura Frautschi.

Welcome back! It’s been a busy summer for Local 802: both the MET Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic hit the road on tour; summer festivals were back in full swing; and here in New York, orchestra negotiations continued throughout July and August. Downtime for any of us at Local 802 seems to be a relic of the past. Adding to the “fun,” the air conditioning on the fourth floor broke down for two weeks, right at the height of the July heat wave. The building renovation and “greening” of Local 802 cannot come soon enough!


Sadly, this summer also marked the end of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra as we know it. Despite consistent rave reviews for the orchestra itself — if not for some recent programming — new management at Lincoln Center announced the certain termination of the Mostly Mozart Festival. Lincoln Center maintains, however, that the orchestra will continue to exist under a different, yet to be announced, name. There has been speculation both in the press and among musicians over what future seasons will look like. Even after eight months at the bargaining table, we still don’t know exactly what Lincoln Center proposes to do with this fine ensemble. (For more coverage, see these two interesting articles: “Mostly Not Mozart: Lincoln Center kills off its more than half-century-old summer classical fest” and “A Farewell to Mostly Mozart, and to its music director.”)

This year also marked the exit of beloved longtime music director Louis Langrée after 21 years. Langrée appropriately programmed Mozart Symphonies 39, 40, and 41 for his last concert with the orchestra, which I attended.

The evening began with remarks from the chief artistic officer including a new, pre- concert ritual “call and response” that didn’t go over well with the Lincoln Center crowd. Instead of responding as directed, someone in the hall repeatedly shouted, “Bring back Mostly Mozart!” which was followed by enthusiastic applause. Clearly, New Yorkers will miss this festival.

Another noticeable change was the absence of paper programs. I heard more than one patron complain and wonder aloud — “They can’t afford it?” — at this strange turn of events. Not having programs meant not only no program notes, but no list of musicians. As we often must do, musicians themselves made up for the deficiency by posting the roster, along with many photos and videos, on social media and on their own website:

Once Maestro Langrée walked onstage, the mood brightened as he was enthusiastically greeted by a five-minute standing ovation before even giving a downbeat. Langrée gave his own insightful and personal program notes from the podium, greatly adding to our understanding and enjoyment of the concert.

The evening was a musical and emotional tour du force. The orchestra performed brilliantly, and once the final cadence sounded, the grateful house once again erupted in applause. Langrée, visibly moved, was repeatedly called back to the stage for at least 20 minutes. No one wanted it to end.

Langrée’s exit happened to coincide with the expiration of the orchestra’s contract.

Our negotiations began late last year and continued through August 10, two days before Langrée’s last performance with the orchestra. With the future of the ensemble very much at stake, progress at the bargaining table was slow but steady. We held our ground and came away with some positive changes to our contract. Mindful of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, we negotiated language that will expand both the audition pool and substitute lists to include musicians from underrepresented communities. Another important change to the audition language is a statement declaring that a winner will be chosen in every audition; in other words, no more endless, winnerless auditions. This is the first time such language has been included in any Local 802 contract and I hope to see it in all our contracts (where applicable) in the future!

The new agreement was ratified by the orchestra on August 21. It includes wage increases of 3 percent in each of the three years of the contract, increases in longevity pay and health benefits, and permits more flexibility with time off. Additionally, the union had filed a grievance concerning hiring discrepancies; as a settlement, each musician on the roster will receive a $500 lump sum payment.

I wish to express my appreciation to the very dedicated Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra Committee: Ann Kim (chair), Tanya Witek, Mike Roth, Lou Kosma and Laura Frautchi, and to Olivia Singer of the law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon, who helped us close the deal. Many thanks to the Local 802 Executive Board, and the friends and colleagues who put up with my anxiety throughout this process!

We only hope that this gem of an orchestra, which has managed to survive various artistic visions, threats to its roster, and changing public perceptions for 57 years will endure and thrive for decades to come. “Although the name will change in the future, and we welcome Jonathan Heyward as our new music director, the members will continue playing with dedication and love to the ensemble and its patrons!” said Lou Kosma.

Indeed, that is what we do.


From July 24-27, I attended the 40th annual ROPA convention hosted by AFM Local 148-462 (Atlanta) as well as the musicians of the Atlanta Ballet and the Atlanta Opera Orchestra. I was again impressed by the commitment and dedication shown by musicians across the country to their respective organizations. One of the most inspiring segments of the conference was a job action panel of committee members from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Opera Philadelphia, Minnesota Opera, and the Philly Pops describing in detail how they organized, fought, and won contracts against extremely hostile employers. The tried-and-true tactics they executed got them what they needed contractually along with a satisfying sense of empowerment. If they can do it, we can too.

Other topics of interest were media and messaging; performing artists and special considerations for medical evaluation, diagnosis and care; how to best use the National Labor Relations Board to protect musicians’ rights; and so much more. As the largest local in the entire AFM, we need to have a larger presence at this conference! I strongly urge all of our orchestra committees to go to for more information, or you may contact me directly at


Last but certainly not least, Local 802 has been supporting the writers and actors in their strike for a fair contract. Both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are fighting for fair wages and benefits, including fair streaming payments and protections against the use of destructive technology and A.I. As of August 9, the WGA had been on strike for 100 days. I was honored to say a few words expressing Local 802’s solidarity at the rally held in front of the Netflix building. I quoted my favorite founding father, John Adams: “Always stand on principle…. even if you stand alone.” This is something that we can all aspire to, but with a union, you are never standing alone. Local 802 stands with the writers and actors in this fight as we stand with all working people. Some of you know that we will be at the same bargaining table, facing the same threats in just a few weeks. I urge all our members to come out and march. Not only does it feel great to know you are supporting our colleagues but there’s camaraderie on a picket line, live music provided by our members, and sometimes, ice cream! For information on how you can support the writers and actors, see, and for information on our own upcoming campaign for a fair contract for musicians, see


As Allegro went to press, Local 802 had just participated in the National Day of Solidarity to support actors and writers on strike for a fair contract. All three Local 802 officers attended, and music was provided by Colin Williams and the New York Philharmonic Brass Quintet. Here I am with NYC Councilmember Gale Brewer: