Musicians Refuse To Let Their Orchestra Die

By Michael Vincent on August 29, 2022

San Antonio Symphony
Sebastian Lang-Lessing conducts the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony (MOSAS) at First Baptist Church.

While some might call this an orchestra born of spite, it is really about classical musicians fighting to keep their orchestra alive.

It all started after a long labour dispute between musicians and the leadership of the now-defunct San Antonio Symphony. The two sides disagreed on crucial issues, ultimately leading to the board deciding to shut down the orchestra in June 2022.

Refusing to give up, the musicians set out on their own to create a new orchestra.

The San Antonio Philharmonic will make its professional debut on September 16, 2022, with Ken-David Masur conducting works by Prokofiev, Ravel, Brahms, and Wickman.

The inaugural season includes 13 concerts featuring guest artists such as Jon Kimura Parker, William Wolfram and Vanessa Becerra.

What they’re saying

“When the San Antonio Symphony management ceased operations in June 2022, the musicians – some of whom won their seats in the 1970s and ‘80s — were determined to preserve world-class music in San Antonio”

“We all have a historical chance to reinvent what an orchestra can be in the twenty-first century with the founding of the San Antonio Philharmonic. one that embodies the spirit of the moment. All are welcome to participate and experience the pride.”

Why this matters

The San Antonio Symphony has a long history that can be traced back to 1887 when a young German immigrant Carl Beck created a new series of four concerts by a 49-piece orchestra.

The orchestra had a few false starts until Max Reiter, a German-Italian conductor became its first Music Director in 1939.

The orchestra quickly grew to 75 professional musicians backed by a $100K budget, the only one in Texas.

All went well until 2017, when the orchestra was turned over to Symphonic Music for San Antonio, a small non-profit organization. Unfortunately, the not-for-profit pulled out of a deal at the last minute,  causing the orchestra to shut down temporarily.

After reopening, the orchestra was hit by a devastating global pandemic and subsequent labour dispute.

On June 16, 2022, the board of the San Antonio Symphony voted unanimously to initiate Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings to effect the dissolution of the orchestra.

New beginnings

While shutting down a historic orchestra is never good news, creating a new orchestra could offer San Antonio the fresh start it needs.

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