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Looking beyond the San Antonio Symphony

What lies ahead for Classical music in San Antonio after the Symphony's bankruptcy?

SAN ANTONIO — When the San Antonio Symphony Society announced it is filing for bankruptcy and closing its doors, it was not a surprise to everyone. Some people closely related to the symphony say it doesn’t mean the music is ending.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised that this is the path they took," said Mary Ellen Goree, Chair of the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony Union (MOSAS).

Until yesterday, Goree was the chair of the negotiating committee for the MOSAS.

"With the dissolution of the symphony society, there will be no negotiations with them moving forward,” Goree said. “therefore, the negotiating committee has by default ceased to exist."

Thursday, the San Antonio Symphony Society announced it will be filing for chapter seven bankruptcy citing the lack of a labor contract with its musicians who have been on strike since September, a point that Goree disputes.

"In fact, there is a labor agreement,” she said. “There is a collective bargaining agreement that was properly ratified by both sides in 2019 and has not expired."

Goree is not the only one unsurprised by the announcement. Incoming San Antonio Symphony League President Joan Whitely says her organization has been preparing for something like this for a few years now.

"The league was expecting this could happen,” Whitely said. “And so we have been positioning ourselves for the last few years, so that we could diversify."

With the help of the Symphony League and other donors, MOSAS has been putting on their own performances through their MOSAS Performance Fund and Goree said they don't plan to stop.

"The evidence strongly suggests that our community wants a professional orchestra, our community is willing to support a professional orchestra and our community is most definitely willing to come and listen to a professional orchestra," she said. So, I am optimistic for the future.”

She said she's been in discussions about choosing a new name for the orchestra.

“Well, I think it's time to move on with another name and we're already in discussions about what that name might be. It will not be the San Antonio Symphony. It will be an orchestra of mostly the same musicians and playing at the same artistic level.”

Goree said whatever it’s called, the musicians are focused on the challenges that lie ahead.

“We are aware of the challenges in front of us.” she said. "I don't think anybody is minimizing the nature of the challenges ahead of us. But I believe that there is nothing insurmountable."

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