Hartford Symphony Musicians Resolve Dispute: Leadership of Musical Director Cited

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Mozart- Sonata k331 / Monica Liu

January 19, 2016; Hartford Courant

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s musicians, who were asked to accept a 40 percent cut in pay and benefits cuts by management under threat of a shutdown, agreed to a 36 percent cut—but only after Carolyn Kuan, the music director and conductor, agreed to give up a commensurate proportion of her own salary.

The union had until midnight on Monday to agree to concessions, but on Friday Kuan made the following statement, which some credit with helping to turn the tide in the negotiation:

“It has been a privilege to work with the Hartford Symphony musicians, who are not only tremendous artists, but are also passionate, caring and beautiful human beings—on whom I can depend and for whom, I can be there. Together, along with our incredibly dedicated staff, it has been an honor to make a difference in our community. Making a difference: that has been what drives us as an organization, and I have always believed that if we do the right thing—serve the community—support will come.

“In the past five years, we brought awareness to issues of conservation and environment with Life: A Journey through Time. When Governor Malloy talked about Connecticut having a greater presence in China, Yellow River Cantata brought the China Consulate General to our stage, and the news of Hartford Symphony’s performances was broadcast throughout China. We actively seek to serve and collaborate with local organizations from The Wadsworth (Coney Island exhibit, Sunday serenades and a variety of other programming), Hartford Stage (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Hartford Chorale, Goodspeed Opera, Nutmeg Ballet, The Hartt School, University of Connecticut, Farmington High School, Arthur Murray Dance Studios and countless others. We perform masterworks as well as introduce world-class artists of unusual instruments such as sheng, koto, kamancheh, bagpipe, beatboxing, and more. In our desire to serve Hartford, Playing with Food was created in response to Mayor Segarra’s call for more people to visit downtown restaurants.

“In ways both big and small, and with impacts ranging from artistic to societal, Hartford Symphony makes a difference in our community. It is our highest aspiration to continue our service:  we want to do more and we can do more.

“But first we must resolve our present contract challenges.

“Given the urgency of the situation, I want to personally recognize the substantial cuts being asked of the musicians of the HSO and offer publicly to share their sacrifice by reducing my salary commensurately. I had intended to do this privately, but I am hopeful that making this gesture public might help, in a small way, to resolve the present crisis.

“I truly love this orchestra and this community, and hope all of us who care about Greater Hartford, culture, and a higher human spirit can now come together to help, and find a fair and workable solution.”

Before their negotiations on Monday, the musicians made a statement through their union, thanking Kuan for her act of leadership. “Her willingness to share in our efforts to preserve the orchestra is the essence of leadership. […] This gesture shows her commitment to the success of HSO and the success of its mission, which is to provide Greater Hartford with the best in symphonic music. In short, she shows that she cares about both our institution and our city.”—Ruth McCambridge