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FW Phil cancels holiday pops for the weekend, musicians offer free concert while on strike

Photo provided
Members of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic's musicians union protest Saturday evening in front of the Embassy Theatre. One of the season's Holiday Pops concerts was scheduled for the same time. The event was cancelled due to the strike.

Twenty-four hours after a strike was announced by the FW Philharmonic Players Association, the Philharmonic has been canceling popular Holiday Pops concerts.

And refunding tickets.

That's according to language on the website, blaming it entirely on the musicians, saying “musicians have forced us to cancel” the concerts. In an email response to questions about the website language sent at 8 p.m. Friday, Philharmonic officials said they were not blaming anyone for the work stoppage.

The language on the website reads:
"It is with extreme sadness that the musicians have forced us to cancel this weekend’s Holiday Pops performances. If you are holding tickets for one of these performances of Holiday Pops, we ask you to consider exchanging your ticket for another performance this season. Your small gesture of kindness will help the Philharmonic stay committed to our high artistic standards and the integrity of the Philharmonic and our musicians to maintain a quality orchestra that our community deserves."

This is the second heated contract negotiation between the musicians and management in two years. The contract reached during the negotiation last year ended on Sept. 1 and the musicians had been performing without a contract since.

The musicians are asking for a 46 percent wage increase, bringing their base pay up from just over $22,000 to just over $32,000 a year or around $15.40 an hour.

Philharmonic officials have called the request unreasonable and unsustainable, proposing instead to bring the base pay up 11.5 percent, to around $25,000.

On Thursday, after the strike was announced, it was reported that the musicians would not be rehearsing or performing while on strike. However, Friday morning, the players association announced a free holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday Plymouth Congregational Church, 501 W. Berry St. in Fort Wayne.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for Monday.

Rebecca manages the news at WBOI. She joined the staff in December 2017, and brought with her nearly two decades of experience in print journalism, including 15 years as an award-winning reporter for the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne.