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Detroit Symphony Suspends Season after Latest Contract Offer is Rejected

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The Detroit Symphony has suspended the remainder of its 2010-11 season after musicians rejected what management called its final contract offer.

Calling the contract "one-sided," the 85 musicians overwhelmingly voted against a proposal that included pay cuts by more than a quarter and a two-tier wage system for veteran and new players. Of particular debate was how to allocate $2 million slated for community outreach and how much of that money would be used for guaranteed base salaries — versus extra pay for optional work.

Stanley Frankel, the DSO's chairman, said in a statement: "It is apparent that the members' expectations continue to exceed what we can responsibly provide. A settlement we can't afford compromises the DSO's viability and jeopardizes its contribution to Detroit's revival."

The announcements from both sides on Saturday thwarted hopes for a quicker end to the bitter four-month walk-out. No further meetings with management have been scheduled.

The Symphony says it has released conductors and soloists from their contracts. Among those who were scheduled to join the DSO this spring include violinist Leila Josefowicz, pianist Olga Kern and conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Music director Leonard Slatkin was to have led the orchestra in a Beethoven symphony cycle and Mahler’s Symphony No. 8.

The strike reflects the challenge of maintaining a world-class orchestra in a metropolis largely dependent on the auto industry that was already struggling before the recession almost buried it. Michigan’s median income fell 21.3 percent between 2000 and 2009.

This is the DSO’s fifth strike since 1969 but the first time the orchestra has suspended an entire season. Management says a settlement in the dispute could lead to some concerts being rescheduled or a 2011 summer season.