Music lovers, and all Utahns who take pride in the state's culture and performing arts, can only rejoice that the four-week strike by musicians of the Utah Symphony has ended.
While the walkout cost the symphony the opening portion of its season - six concerts were canceled - the remainder of the season can still be a success with enough enthusiastic support of the public.Such support is crucial because the symphony - like others around the nation - has fallen on difficult financial times. It was the lack of money that led to the strike in the first place.
Union leaders talk as though the musicians made significant compromises. But it is hard to escape the feeling that the union came out as the clear winner.
Management had sought a 3.7 percent pay cut the first year of a three-year contract, plus reducing the season to 46 weeks and shrinking the orchestra to 75 players. None of that was achieved.
The union had proposed a 20 percent pay hike, but settled for 12.3 percent raise spread over three years, plus keeping the 52-week season and the 83-member orchestra. In addition, the musicians gained seniority pay of $5 a week for each five years of service, medical insurance for all musicians and their dependents at no cost to the musicians, and union wages for recording sessions.
All of this raises a serious question of how the symphony management is going to pay for the new contract. The symphony already was facing an operating deficit of $280,000 this year. The new contract will add another $700,000 to operating costs.
In recent years, the symphony has faced serious operating deficits, including $1 million in the red in 1987. Donations have fallen short of the $2 million needed each year to prop up the $5 million budget. And the orchestra's $5 million endowment fund has shrunk to $3.5 million.
The new contract does not solve any of these problems; it makes them more serious. What it amounts to is three years to prove whether the symphony can survive.
Clearly, a great deal of public support is going to be needed, both in the purchase of tickets and in generous donations, to cover operating costs and to build the endowment fund to a level where it can guarantee the orchestra's future.
There have been philosophical differences in recent years among symphony board members over the best way to raise money. Some have argued for broad-based support involving a large segment of the community, while others have urged the targeting of big donors.
Without getting into the merits of each approach, it is clear that both methods are needed if the symphony is to have the resources it needs. Symphony management must become more creative and aggressive - and citizens must respond to their pleas for support.
The symphony is an enormous asset to the state. It builds Utah's image and reputation in ways that affect the business climate and economic development as well as the arts.
To lose the symphony - something that has happened in other cities recently - would be tragic. The support is there; it just has to be tapped. The strike is over. Musicians, management, and the community must join hands and build for the future.