The musicians of the San Antonio Philharmonic have reached their first collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) union Local 23

Texas Observer reporter Gus Bova tweeted about the agreement on Tuesday, and the musicians’ ratification was later confirmed by Brian Petkovich, bassoonist and president of the Philharmonic.

The agreement continues the relationship between AFM and many of the musicians who formerly belonged to the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony and who now constitute the 60-member Philharmonic in the midst of its first formal season performing at First Baptist Church.

The agreement differs from the previous arrangement with the union in that it provides greater flexibility for the fledgling orchestra as it establishes itself and looks to grow as an organization, Petkovich said. 

“We have a very flexible agreement, much more flexible than has been seen in the past,” he said, which “allows us to use more or fewer players as necessary.”

The union sets a minimum wage standard, and the organization has agreed to pay its members at or above the scale for rehearsals and performances, including performances at area schools for the Philharmonic’s growing education program.

“We doubled down on what we were doing in the past, to really reach out across the whole area,” Petkovich said, referring to the former San Antonio Symphony’s education program, which touted serving 35,000 students per year

The Philharmonic education program has served more than 26,000 students so far this year, Petkovich said, with Young People’s Concerts at 200 elementary schools and more concerts scheduled. 

“I’m the most proud of that,” Petkovich said of ranking the education program among the Philharmonic’s successes.

The flexible collective bargaining agreement will accommodate the growth and change that Petkovich anticipates, should the orchestra enjoy community and corporate support. So far, 10 concerts are planned for next season, he said, and how many pops concerts, movie concerts, education concerts, and other activities will depend on how much support the Philharmonic sees. 

“We want to provide more and more weeks” of programming, he said, “and we can only do that with the community’s help.”

Though the musicians are performing for lower wages than they earned with the San Antonio Symphony, “what we’re able to pay the musicians is going to really be determined by how successful we all can be in providing great music to the community,” he said.

“That’s how we’re going to grow into the size orchestra that San Antonio has come to expect. …  What we have now is a good foundation where we can start, but we need to grow quickly,” Petkovich said.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...