Columbus Symphony board and players hold more talks but gain little ground

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Columbus Symphony Orchestra musicians and board members are considering their next steps in negotiations to keep the CSO operating. The two sides met Monday for another round of bargaining. The meeting came almost a week after musicians held a news conference to present a plan that would add “In-Kind” donations to the budget’s bottom line.

“Frustrated. Frank exchanges. Hopeful. Cordial.”

Those are some of the adjectives CSO board president Buzz Trafford and Musicians’ union president Doug Fisher used to describe the most recent negotiations.

Both sides say they talked for several hours about the musicians’ proposal to add $1.6 million of “In-Kind” money to the symphony’s overall budget. Musicians’ union president Fisher said in the end the board rejected the idea.

“Their arguments are unclear. We spent a lot of time trying to achieve a meeting of the minds on what the ‘In-Kind’ numbers meant and whether or not it was appropriate in counting them in creating a budget,” Fisher said.

CSO board chair Buzz Trafford has said before that “In-Kind” money can not be put into a bank account and therefore should not be included in the budget.

Including the “In-Kind” donations would boost the board’s proposed budget to $11.1 million, closer to what the musicians’ say a symphony of Columbus’s size needs to operate.

Also at the meeting the players proposed starting from scratch with a mediation committee of five people who are in no way affiliated with the symphony, its board or union.

Trafford said he must speak with other board members before he can agree to the mediation proposal. But he does not think third party mediators are a silver bullet.

“I’m not convinced that there’s any magic solution here,” Trafford said.

There are no more talks scheduled at this time. The musicians said they’re just waiting to hear from the board.

Meanwhile, Bill Connor, president of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts or CAPA, told The Columbus Dispatch it’s scrambling to book the Ohio Theatre on dates reserved for the symphony.

Fisher said CAPA and its employees will not be the only ones hurting if the symphony does not resume next year. He said if musicians are forced to find work outside Columbus many music students will have to find new teachers.

“There’s just going to be a massive domino effect if the orchestra shuts down permanently,” Fisher said.

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