By Keith Waits

Photo courtesy of Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association.
At a press conference held Wednesday on the stage of Whitney Hall, Louisville Orchestra President Chuck Maisch and Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association President Kim Tichenor signed a one-year contract that will put the Orchestra musicians back to work in fall 2012.

Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fisher and Louisville Metro Council President Jim King were present for the long-awaited announcement, which follows 20 months of negotiations that were characterized by acrimony and accusations. The agreement will allow for a shorter 30-week season in which 57 players will be under contract. During this time, an expert (as yet unnamed) will conduct a thorough review of Louisville Orchestra operations and at some point take on the role of binding arbitrator with the goal of fashioning a long-term labor agreement to satisfy both parties.

The protracted negotiations, which broke down repeatedly, had left many observers wondering if the impasse between management and musicians would ever be overcome, especially after management had announced it was ready to begin hiring replacement musicians. Yet just as public statements released by the two sides suggested that all was lost, an initiative engineered by Metro Council President Jim King successfully brought about this limited agreement. Both sides expressed optimism that a new, more realistic financial structure for the organization could be agreed upon within the timeframe allotted.

The last several days of negotiations were kept under wraps, with no formal press release from either the Orchestra management or the Musicians Association until just before the press conference.