Detroit Symphony Orchestra shares plan to support employees during COVID-19 crisis

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) today shared its plan to support all full-time employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. While retaining full health insurance benefits, all musicians, stage crew, and staff will take salary reductions to help alleviate the significant loss of revenue from concert and event cancellations. This necessary step, together with a new board-led campaign – the DSO Resilience Fund – is part of the DSO’s plan to navigate the financial pressures of the coronavirus pandemic. See below for more details.

“Thanks to the collaborative culture and deepened relationships built over the past decade between the orchestra, board, staff, and the communities we are so grateful to serve, the DSO is in a much stronger position to face the challenges of this time,” said DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons, who is taking a 20 percent salary reduction. “I am so proud of the way our musicians and staff have creatively engaged each other and our community online to bring joy and comfort to our world, even while we are all physically separated. Today, we take further steps together to ensure there is an even brighter future for all of us, and we thank our patrons for their understanding, partnership, and support under these unprecedented circumstances.”

“At this challenging time, the DSO musicians are encouraged that our board and administrative leadership have chosen to protect the well-being of the individuals who make up our great institution,” said Jeremy Epp, Principal Timpanist and Orchestra Committee Chair. “We look forward to continuing efforts to keep the DSO and its stage crew, staff, and musicians on firm footing through the present uncertainty. We're eager to resume live performances and are committed to seeking out creative ways to serve our community until we are able to do so.”

I. Joseph Miller of IATSE Local 38 said, “On behalf of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra stage crew, IATSE Local 38 extends its thanks to the DSO’s Board of Directors for the continuing support of your stagehands during this crisis. We look forward to setting the stage for the symphony when it comes time to reopen.”

The full plan calls for:

  • 20 percent salary reductions for musicians, with orchestra work rules adjusted to allow additional summer performances if the public health situation improves, as well as agreement around expansion of media usage
  • 20 percent salary reductions for full-time stage crew
  • Reductions ranging from 2 to 20 percent for full-time staff based on salary level and current job responsibilities
  • All full-time employees (musicians, stage crew, and staff) to retain health insurance benefits
  • Salary reductions to begin in the current pay-period and projected to stay in place through August 31, 2020, the end of the orchestra’s fiscal year
  • Expected financial support through the Paycheck Protection Program of the federal CARES Act, allowing the DSO to avoid further salary reductions or furloughs at this time
  • Ongoing evaluation for the remainder of the fiscal year to determine the ability to operate this summer and fall
  • The creation of the DSO Resilience Fund, led by the Board of Directors, to help keep the music playing and celebrate supporters, patrons, and donors for investing in the future of the orchestra

“I want to thank Anne’s entire team, our musicians and stage crew, and my fellow Directors for our shared belief that we must do all that we can to ensure the DSO’s best days lie ahead,” said Mark Davidoff, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “In its 133-year history, the DSO has weathered crises including pandemics, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and other enormous financial burdens, each time coming back stronger than before. This year’s centennial celebration of Orchestra Hall – built during a flu pandemic 100 years ago – reminds us that we are indeed resilient, and we look forward to coming out of this latest challenge ready and able to keep the music playing for decades to come.”  

Last week the DSO announced cancellations and rescheduled concerts through Sunday, June 21, due to restrictions on gatherings and events as recommended by the State of Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and public health officials. The DSO had previously cancelled or rescheduled concerts through May 10. The cancellations include the remaining concerts in the 2019-2020 Classical and PNC Pops series, as well as the annual Heroes Gala and Benefit Concert on June 20.

To stay connected with its community, the DSO is offering a variety of initiatives that aim to share world-class music with fans in Detroit and around the world. These include:

  • DSO Replay: The on-demand video archive of past Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts, is now free. Access HD video of more than 200 works going back to the 2016-2017 season on any device and set up a free account to unlock playlists and other features.
  • Watch Parties on Facebook: Past DSO concerts streamed on Facebook Live, where fans can comment and interact in real time and connect with DSO musicians (who act as hosts). Three Watch Parties are scheduled for each week – two Classical Series performances and one Educational Concert Series performance.
  • #playonyourporch: At 6 p.m. daily, the DSO invites musicians everywhere to perform from their front porch (or balcony, or backyard, or living room) and tag @detroitsymphony on Instagram. We’ll share the videos on our Instagram Story, where they’re likely to be featured with clips from DSO musicians and fans from around the world!
  • Video lessons from Civic Youth Ensembles instructors help music students keep practicing.
  • A variety of other performance-based projects, starting with the DSO cello section’s joint recording of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 and a web-based version of the popular Om @ The Max yoga series dubbed Om @ Home.

Learn more at

DSO patrons and the entire Detroit community are encouraged to consider the role music plays in their lives and support the DSO with a gift of any amount at Ticket holders for cancelled concerts can donate the cost of their tickets back to the DSO or exchange for a gift card to be used for a future performance; these actions help the DSO – a community-supported orchestra – navigate the ongoing impact of the coronavirus crisis.

About the DSO

The most accessible orchestra on the planet, the acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the organization. In January 2020, Italian conductor Jader Bignamini was named the DSO’s next music director to commence with the 2020-2021 season. Conductor Leonard Slatkin, who concluded a decade-long tenure at the helm in 2018, now serves as the DSO’s Music Director Laureate, endowed by the Kresge Foundation. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while the outstanding trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the DSO offers a performance schedule that features Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of the world’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall celebrates its centennial in 2019-2020. In addition, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in eight metro area venues, as well as a robust schedule of eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings. A dedication to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series, which also reaches tens of thousands of children with the Classroom Edition expansion. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.