Striking San Francisco Symphony players explain absence to fans


Country music great George Jones earned the dubious nickname “No Show Jones” because he was often otherwise engaged when it was time to go on stage.

His way of apologizing, sort of, was to write a song that humorously admitted he wasn’t the most reliable of music professionals: “My whereabouts are unknown, they call me `No Show Jones.’”

This is not how they handle things in the world of classical music. Witness the open letter Friday from striking musicians of the San Francisco Symphony to three jilted east coast venues and their audiences, where the orchestra had been booked on a now-cancelled tour starting this week.


The phraseology addressed to Carnegie Hall, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. included “heartbroken,” “deeply saddened” and “deep frustration and disappointment.”

But it was not an apology, asking instead for “your support and understanding.”

The musicians said it was important to stick to their longstanding policy of not touring without a contract, and they briefly stated their brief against an orchestra management they said was “unwilling to offer…an agreement that reflected the success and health of the organization.”

“We sincerely believe that the cause we are fighting for now will positively impact the level of orchestral music making in America,” the musicians wrote, saying that fair contracts are important “to attract the best and brightest willing to dedicate their lives to making and sharing beautiful music.”

The strike began March 13. Under the old contract, which expired after an extension through Feb. 15, the musicians earned a minumum of $141,700 a year. Management initially offered a raise to $144,560 over three years, then, after the strike began, sweetened it to $145,979 after two years – not enough to clinch a deal, at least for now.

Meanwhile, all is not silence at Davies Symphony Hall, where the orchestra announced that the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, whose members range from 12 to 21 years old, will play as scheduled Sunday afternoon, performing pieces by Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Respighi, Schumann and a percussion quartet by young composer Evan Chapman.



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