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November 24, 2014

U.S. Orchestras Downsizing and Relying More on Freelancers

Financial woes and labor battles are shrinking many major American orchestras' complements of full-time musicians, writes The New York Times. Orchestras in Minnesota, Indianapolis, Detroit, Philadelphia, and, most recently, Atlanta have trimmed their ensembles to reduce fixed labor costs, in some cases writing the reductions into new deals with players following contentious contract talks.

The post-recession cutbacks reverse a late-20th-century spurt of orchestral expansion. Many orchestras are augmenting their full-time ensembles with freelance and part-time musicians, but some veteran players warn that relying on freelancers endangers the cohesion among musicians and familiarity with a conductor that produces great performances.