Steady Movement 

The Richmond Symphony expands its season with wages rising to previous levels.

click to enlarge feat17_symphony.jpg

Late last year, musicians ratified a four-year contract with the Richmond Symphony after playing under an imposed deal since September 2012.

Reaching an agreement allowed plans to be finalized for the 2015-’16 season, says David Fisk, executive director of the symphony. One concert each has been added to the Masterworks and children’s series. But the primary area of growth is in casual, one-hour concerts.

Instead of four concerts, next year the symphony will present eight programs in two separate series. At CenterStage, the concerts expand into the Carpenter Theatre from the Gottwald Playhouse and present portions of Masterworks concerts with the full orchestra. Another series, at Hardywood Park Brewery, offers chamber orchestra works.

Through the years, the Richmond Symphony has held its casual series in such venues as the Flood Zone, Toad’s Place and the National. Taking the orchestra to a bar, so to speak, is nothing new. But the doubling of its casual offerings is — and perhaps more significantly, so is linking a casual series so closely to its Masterworks programs.

After moving back into the renovated CenterStage in 2009 and weathering the recession, Fisk says, “We’ve been waiting for a chance to add more programming based on our experience” and what peer orchestras have tried.

Within the next few months, the symphony will purchase an outdoor performance tent with a $500,000 challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation and matching funds. The tent, plus the truck and equipment to move and assemble it, will allow the symphony to reach tens of thousands of people in new places, Fisk says. It’s on track to be ready by the UCI Road World Championships, with conversations underway about performances that week.

What else is growing? Depending on how you define growth, musicians’ wages are. According to a statement from the musicians, their new contract includes raises every year — enough to get back to 2011 levels by September 2016.

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