Along with almost every other arts organization in the country, Seattle Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has instituted temporary layoffs, leaving a 58-person staff from its usual roster of 250 employees.
Its 88 musicians, whose salaries make up roughly 60 percent of SSO’s payroll budget, have agreed to go on temporary furlough between April 13 and June 1.
The decision was reached in negotiation with the musicians’ union — “a joint resolution,” said SSO CEO Krishna Thiagarajan. “That’s really important — we want musicians to get the credit.”
Around 100 other non-musician employees are also on standby. SSO is maintaining health insurance for all staff, musician and otherwise.
To maintain the organization’s liquidity, SSO spokesperson Dinah Lu said, monthly expenses have been reduced by 53 percent, or $1.3 million per month, until June 1.
Aside from notification that it would receive a $17,500 stabilization grant from the city, SSO has not yet seen any relief funding, either from the federal government or local, arts-specific measures — and, Thiagarajan added, they probably wouldn’t have come fast enough to alleviate the organization’s immediate needs.
Thiagarajan compared SSO’s retrenchment to the severe and sudden cutbacks from airlines.
“We have a similar kind of situation, in that we need people in our seats,” he said. “Airlines take you from San Francisco to New York in a few hours, and we can take you around the world in a concert — but we need 2,000 people in the seats to make that happen.”