KANSAS CITY, Mo. | July 30, 2020 — In light of the extraordinary conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kansas City Symphony and its musicians have agreed to new contract terms for the 2020-21 season.

This agreement amends the terms of the existing contract, which runs through the 2023-24 season. “It became very clear to the musicians, management and board that we needed a different approach to the upcoming season,” Symphony Executive Director Danny Beckley said. “This new agreement helps provide for the safety of our musicians, staff and patrons, and also will reduce our operating expenses in accordance with the reduction in ticket revenue brought about by the pandemic.”

The musicians’ salaries for 2020-21 will be reduced by 19% from normal contracted amounts. However, when the orchestra returns to ticketed performances in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, musician salaries will increase to only 8% below normal amounts. Eight vacant positions in the orchestra will go unfilled for the season. (This is the second special agreement that the parties have reached in response to the pandemic. The first was back in March, when musicians and management agreed to delay contracted pay raises by one year, thus extending the musicians’ contract through the 2023-24 season.)

The musicians’ Negotiating Committee Chair Brian Rood commented, “We are proud to help our dedicated board and management navigate through this pandemic by voluntarily agreeing to cut overall musician compensation through individual salary reductions and leaving eight orchestra vacancies unfilled next season. This concessionary agreement was accomplished due to the culture we enjoy at the Kansas City Symphony, built over decades of collaboration, with the institutional goal of serving Kansas City as a leader in the performing arts. We are eager to reengage with our audiences both in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and throughout the greater Kansas City metropolitan area as soon as is safely possible.”

“The Kansas City Symphony has long fostered a culture of transparency and mutual trust between the musicians, the staff and the board,” said Symphony Board Chair Patrick McCown. “Our musicians fully understand and appreciate the financial difficulties the pandemic has caused for the organization. Their willingness to reach this agreement with management regarding a temporary salary reduction speaks volumes about their commitment to keeping great music in Kansas City.”

The Symphony has reduced the number of administrative staff and salaries for certain positions as well. The overall impact of musician and staff changes represents a 25% reduction in the Symphony’s fixed expenses.

The Kansas City Symphony was one of very few American orchestras to sustain musician salaries at 100% through the first five months of the pandemic. “Our preliminary financial results for the 2019-20 season indicate a deficit of less than 1% of our operating budget, thanks largely to ticket donations and increased contributions from the community. This support underpins our continued commitment to one another and enables us to think creatively and act with purpose to advance our mission, even in current conditions,” said Beckley. “We see the present situation as an opportunity to innovate, and in the coming months you will see the Kansas City Symphony reaching every corner of the Kansas City region to deliver performances of great music and music education. We greatly miss performing in Helzberg Hall; however, with every challenge comes opportunity. We have a window of opportunity now to quickly implement a radical new means of mobile music performance.”

Live music, “DoorDash®-style”
The Symphony is currently developing plans for a robust offering of socially distanced outdoor chamber music performances in parks and neighborhoods throughout the Kansas City metro. Beckley commented, “Consider this like getting delivery from your favorite restaurant — but instead of pizza or barbecue, we’ll be delivering live music via a brass quintet or string quartet right in your neighborhood.” Stay tuned to the Kansas City Symphony on Facebook, Instagram, and kcsymphony.org for more information in the weeks to come.

Rescheduled performances, January through June
Previously, the Symphony announced the cancellation or rescheduling of all performances at the Kauffman Center through the end of the calendar year 2020, with the intent of shifting all its Classical, Pops and Family concerts into the months of January through June 2021.

“With some serious creative planning, I am delighted that we are seeing success in maintaining our subscription series in a shortened season,” Beckley added. Concerts will be performed to socially distanced audiences through more performances of each program. Each concert also will be of shorter duration than usual, and will not include an intermission. Full details will be announced later in August.

“The shared commitment of everyone at the Kansas City Symphony, to music and to one another, will be what guides our way forward and sees us through this challenging time,” says Music Director Michael Stern. “We can’t be sure of exactly what is coming, but even if evolving and uncertain circumstances mean that we have to continue to adapt, the need for music and the arts as a force in our lives will be more urgent than ever. Thanks to the shared goals that guide the partnership among all our musicians, our board and our staff, to music and to one another, we have an extraordinary opportunity to reimagine how we will continue, no matter what, to bring music forward to our audiences. In the coming weeks, we are going to develop new projects and initiatives. In so doing, we will seek to cultivate new connections, and find new perspectives as we reckon with crafting a new reality, and help to shape a new future.”

Typically, the Symphony performs each Classical and Pops program three times over a concert weekend. The Symphony’s newly developing plans could provide for six or more performances in a week, to accommodate socially distanced audiences. Subscribers will have the flexibility to choose from multiple performance times. Some concerts will also be available for viewing online.

The Symphony plans to return to full symphonic concerts as soon as conditions permit in 2021.


About the Kansas City Symphony
Founded in 1982, the Kansas City Symphony has established itself as a major force in the cultural life of the community. Praised for performances of uncompromising standard, the orchestra is the largest in the region and enjoys a national reputation under the artistic leadership of Music Director Michael Stern. The Symphony performs more than 130 concerts each year, often welcomes guests of international acclaim as part of its Classical and Pops series, and serves as the orchestra for the Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

Complementing its full schedule of concerts, the Symphony enriches the lives of Kansas City residents by providing music education opportunities for children and adults, such as KinderKonzerts, Young People’s Concerts, an instrument petting zoo and concert comments. Highlights each season include a range of free master classes, events and concerts reaching more than 250,000 community members.

The Symphony has released seven highly praised CDs to date with Reference Recordings. The latest release features Holst’s The Planets and The Perfect Fool. Kansas City’s new classical music radio station, ClassicalKC 91.9 FM, broadcasts Kansas City Symphony performances every Thursday and Sunday. For more information on the Kansas City Symphony, please visit kcsymphony.org.