Thanks in part to a $100,000 grant from the San Antonio Symphony League, the striking Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony (MOSAS) will perform eight public concerts in April, May and June at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio.
The all-volunteer nonprofit Symphony League was founded in 1950 to support the San Antonio Symphony, primarily in its music education efforts. In a statement announcing the concerts, league President Vickie Kinder said, “The San Antonio Symphony League is committed to supporting symphonic music in San Antonio. These concerts are consistent with our mission statement and will provide inspiring music for our entire community.”
The new independently produced concerts follow two concerts in early March organized by two San Antonio residents for the First Baptist Church of San Antonio’s First Fine Arts series. The concerts were intended to raise funds for the musicians, who have not received wages since going on strike Sept. 27, and to return to the stage what Aaron Hufty, First Baptist’s associate pastor of worship, called the city’s “cultural treasure.”
Those concerts were well attended, according to Brian Petkovich, president of the new MOSAS Performance Fund, a nonprofit organization created to support independent events for San Antonio Symphony musicians while the strike continues.
Petkovich said the first concert began with a standing ovation. “That’s not the way concerts usually start,” he said. “Hopefully, they end that way.”
Guest conductors will lead the orchestra through the three two-day concert programs at 7:30 p.m. April 21-22, May 12-13 and June 2-3 and two free “Family Concerts” at 10 a.m. April 23 and June 4. Each guest conductor has experience with the San Antonio Symphony.
Stefan Sanders, music director of the Central Texas Philharmonic orchestra and the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, will lead the April 21-22 program. Sanders conducted a series of young people’s concerts for the San Antonio Symphony in 2014.
Music Director Emeritus Sebastian Lang-Lessing will conduct the May 12-13 concerts, returning from conducting gigs in Korea, Sweden, Germany and Hungary. Lang-Lessing served as music director of the symphony from 2010 to 2020.
Former San Antonio Symphony Music Director Christopher Wilkins, now music director emeritus along with Lang-Lessing, will conduct the June 2-3 concerts. This will be the first time Wilkins has returned to San Antonio since his departure in 2001.
Sanders and Wilkins will conduct the two daytime free concerts following their evening performances.
Before the strike upended the season, Lang-Lessing had been scheduled to lead the San Antonio Symphony through two programs in May, the long-awaited Beethoven Symphony No. 7 which had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the “Romantic Chopin” program originally scheduled for May 20-21.
The announcement of the upcoming MOSAS concerts includes the caveat that Lang-Lessing will conduct “if an agreement is not reached to resume [previously scheduled San Antonio Symphony] performances before then.”
The American Federation of Musicians Local 23, which is representing the musicians in contract negotiations, has met with representatives of the Symphony Society of San Antonio and federal mediators three times in February and March, with a fourth negotiating session yet to be scheduled. Each side has made contract proposals but both report little progress. Petkovich said the new concerts in no way suggest that the musicians wouldn’t return to perform as the San Antonio Symphony if negotiations succeed in reaching an agreement.
Tickets for the Thursday-Friday evening concerts are $20 each, available through the MOSAS Performance Fund.
This article has been updated to remove incorrect information that ticket purchases are tax-deductible donations. The MOSAS Performance Fund accepts donations that are tax-deductible.