The Philadelphia Orchestra walked out of a black tie gala on strike

The Philadelphia Orchestra performs with Aretha Franklin and Condoleezza Rice
(Image credit: Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

Friday evening was supposed to mark the beginning of a new season for the Philadelphia Orchestra, an occasion celebrated with a black tie gala featuring an orchestral performance of works by Bernstein, Gershwin, Ravel, and Respighi for a crowd of about 1,000. But after 20 minutes ticked past curtain time, attendees discovered the orchestra's 96 musicians had walked out on strike.

At issue are the musicians' salaries, which have been subject to fewer raises than usual since the orchestra went into bankruptcy in 2012 and maintains an operating deficit to this day thanks to sluggish fundraising numbers. On Friday, the musicians were offered a minimum annual salary of $128,544 with a 2 percent raise in the first year of a two-year contract, but they insist on a 3 percent raise and object to having a lower base pay than the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which starts players at $152,672.

The Philadelphia musicians called an earlier deal they were offered — which, even with fewer raises, would give each player a salary roughly four times the median individual income in America — "regressive" and marched with signs calling on orchestra management to "retain the artistry." The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra are also on strike for similar reasons.

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.