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NSO Musicians Ratify New Four-Year Contract

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 20, 2004; Page C04

The National Symphony Orchestra ratified a new four-year contract Thursday night after having agreed to "play and talk" since the last contract expired Sept. 6.

The base weekly pay will remain at $1,844 for the first six months of the new agreement (retroactive to September), rising to $2,077 by the last year. (This is a minimum, with many musicians making considerably more; the orchestra's concertmaster, Nurit Bar-Josef, earns more than $300,000 a year.) NSO musicians agreed to assume greater responsibility for health insurance costs.

As concertmaster, Nurit Bar-Josef earns more than $300,000 a year.

The news comes two days after the announcement that Music Director Leonard Slatkin would leave the orchestra at the end of the 2007-08 season, an event that all parties agreed was unrelated to yesterday's agreement.

"From the outset, there was an atmosphere of mutual respect, which set the tone for the entire negotiation," Executive Director Rita Shapiro said in a statement. "Many topics were raised and thoughtfully explored. All of us were unified in our desire to see the negotiations through to a successful conclusion. We all recognize that this process takes an enormous amount of time and energy, and I want to express my thanks to all members of the team."

William Foster, the NSO's assistant principal violist and the negotiating chair of the orchestra committee, added a statement of his own: "Negotiations are never an easy time for an orchestra, but the smoothness of the talks here reflects the long-standing positive working relationship among the musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra, our management, our board, and also the leadership of the Kennedy Center. It was a good feeling that in this process we were all 'playing from the same score' and were able to craft a four-year agreement that will maintain this orchestra's place as one of the country's best."

Parties to the contract include the National Symphony Orchestra Association and the District of Columbia Federation of Musicians, Local 161-710.

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