The Metro: New DSO contract increases pay, creates more inclusive audition process

Detroit Symphony Orchestra CEO Erik Rönmark and DSO Principal Trombone Ken Thompkins joined The Metro on Tuesday to discuss what the new contract means for the symphony. 

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra agreed to a new three-year contract last month. 

Agreements in the contract will increase the guaranteed compensation for musicians by almost 11%. The new contract also outlines new audition and tenure processes intended to set standards for diversity, equity and inclusion across the field. 

Detroit Symphony Orchestra CEO Erik Rönmark and DSO Principal Trombone Ken Thompkins joined The Metro on Tuesday to discuss what the new contract means for the symphony. 

Rönmark says the contract being reached months before the September deadline is a testament to the culture of the DSO.  

“The fact that we can do it this early, the fact that the process itself is collaborative, through mutual respect and dialogue, it really speaks about the culture that we built here over the past decade plus and, and the culture that we work hard everyday to maintain,” Rönmark said. 

The contract also aims to set a new standard for other symphony orchestras. Outlined in the contract are changes to the DSO’s audition and tenure process to make it more equitable and inclusive. DSO African American Orchestra Fellows and finalists for the Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions will be invited to audition for the DSO during the program and two years after its completion. 

Established in 1990, the DSO African American Orchestra Fellowship will also be included in the collective bargaining agreement, according to the DSO’s website. 

“Throughout the process everyone wants the priority to be to bring the greatest music to the people of Detroit. That’s our mission. That’s what we’re here to do,” Thompkins said. “And, you know, having a contract, a three-year contract for the musicians, is a signal of confidence that the board has in the musicians and the heritage, and our legacy, and our deepening commitment to the people of Detroit, and our deepening relationship with our music director.”

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Orlando Bailey’s role with the barbershop story for BridgeDetroit.

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