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Detroit Symphony Orchestra Musicians Sign New Contract

The three-year contract will see musicians receive a 10.9% pay increase, and the audition process has been updated with diversity and equity in mind


The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and its musicians have recently ratified a new three-year contract. For the fourth time in a row, the resolution was reached early, with the current contract not expiring until September 1, 2024.

The musicians will receive a 10.9% increase in compensation compared with the previous contract. Paid family leave has been extended and made more equitable for parents of all genders. In addition, the orchestra has relaxed its dress code: men will now wear black suits, shirts, and ties, with tailcoats now being optional at gala events only.

The DSO has also made several changes to its audition and tenure processes, intending to make the orchestra more inclusive. Its cohort of African American Orchestra Fellows will now be invited to the semifinal rounds of auditions during their fellowship, as well as for the next two seasons afterward. Certain place-winners from the Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions will also receive these invitations.

The DSO reached the agreement with its players following several collective bargaining sessions, which were described by the organization as "highly constructive."

The contract was ratified on February 13, just in time for the DSO's tour of Florida — which is the first tour that the orchestra has undertaken with its new Music Director, Jader Bignamini.

"I commend the work of the Negotiations Committee in developing this new agreement and sustaining the spirit of openness and cooperation that we have instilled in the culture of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra over the past decade," said Erik Rönmark, DSO President and CEO. "This agreement affects change in vital ways that will propel us forward artistically under Jader’s leadership, and continue to support our mission, vision, and values."

"I am extremely proud of the collaborative nature of our contract negotiations," said Kenneth Thompkins, DSO Principal Trombone. "Our top priority is to always provide the finest music to the people of Detroit and the world."

"On behalf of the musicians, I would like to thank our Board leadership for their ongoing support of the mission of the orchestra. It is very exciting to have all of the pieces in place to deepen our relationship with Jader Bignamini and to sustain our creative momentum."

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