News & Politics

The Kennedy Center Has Reached a New Contract Agreement With the NSO

Musicians will take a pay cut but will now be paid while the Center is closed.

Photograph by Jeff Elkins
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The Kennedy Center and the musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra have reached a new contract agreement for the ensemble.

The musicians have agreed to an overall contract restructuring that will cut over $2.5 million in current salaries through early September. They have also agreed to a wage freeze in the 2020-2021 season and delayed salary increases for the duration of the new contract, which will extend through September 2024. The Kennedy Center will save roughly $4 million in payroll costs with this new agreement.

Originally, the Kennedy Center furloughed all NSO musicians with one week notice in late March, and said their healthcare benefits would stop if the Center was still closed in May. Lawyers for the musicians’ union called the move “baseless,” as the union’s contract requires a six-week notice to each member before stopping pay. The Kennedy Center reversed its initial decision about the provision of healthcare benefits, but union lawyers still asserted that ceasing musicians’ pay was in violation of federal law.

The Kennedy Center has also furloughed roughly 60 percent of its staff, despite receiving $25 million in relief from the most recent stimulus bill. In defense of the furloughs, President Deborah Rutter explained that even with the $25 million of funding, the Kennedy Center would run out of cash as early as July if payroll continued as usual. NSO musicians have pledged to provide at least $50,000 of their own money for the next 10 weeks to provide relief for other furloughed workers.


Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.