Winds and brass
Winds and brass of the San Francisco Symphony | Credit: Brandon Patoc

The San Francisco Symphony has announced the addition of four musicians to the orchestra’s roster, which has been understaffed for much of the pandemic.

They are principal cellist Rainer Eudeikis, violists Katarzyna Bryla-Weiss and Leonid Plashinov-Johnson, and associate principal and E-flat clarinet Matthew Griffith.

— Texas-born Eudeikis has the Philip S. Boone Chair, succeeding Michael Grebanier, who died in 2019. Eudeikis was previously principal cellist of the Atlanta Symphony and Utah Symphony, as well as of the Mainly Mozart Festival and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

Rainer Eudeikis
Newly appointed principal cellist Rainer Eudeikis | Courtesy of SF Symphony

— Bryla-Weiss, joining the viola section, was born into a family of musicians and has earned more than two dozen prizes and awards in the U.S., France, and her native Poland. In 2019, she became a co-principal violist of Orchestra of St. Luke’s and a member of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. She has also been a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and The New York Pops.

— Plashinov-Johnson, also joining the viola section, was previously a member of the St. Louis Symphony and is a laureate of multiple competitions, most recently the Primrose International Viola Competition and the New England Conservatory concerto competition. He has performed as soloist with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the NEC Philharmonic, the Sofia Chamber Orchestra, and the AIMS Festival Orchestra.

— Matthew Griffith, associate principal and E-flat clarinet, previously served as acting assistant principal clarinet with the North Carolina Symphony and the Nashville Symphony and was a member of the training orchestra based at Bard College, The Orchestra Now.

In some ways, the SF Symphony’s changes and problems are just part of the dizzying “musical chairs” around the world, but there is also unstated news in the SFS administration’s revision of its staff list.

As an SFS spokesperson told SFCV, in response to a published article, staff changes were made at the beginning of the month, but no specific information was being released to the press:

“The marketing and communications departments were merged to better support the organization’s work in audience development and concert promotion. The in-house video department was dissolved in a strategic move towards working with independent contractors with specialized skill sets, catered to the bespoke needs of future digital projects. The changes were part of a strategic internal restructure and will not impact the audience experience or any of the organization’s public-facing programs.”

Now that the staff list is updated, these members in the “dissolved” digital-innovation department are no longer listed by the Symphony, and their SFS emails respond with automated messages that they have “left the San Francisco Symphony.” They are:

Oliver Theil
Oliver Theil is one of the administrators no longer with the Symphony

Oliver Theil, Head of Digital Innovation
Elizabeth Dreeson, Project Manager
Krysten Richardson, Post-Production Supervisor
Zach Schimpf, Associate Producer
Jeanette Yu, Director of Curation

Apparently, other personnel changes involve these staff members in marketing and sales, among others:

Jason Koo, Associate Director, Revenue 
Matt McWalters, Digital Marketing Manager
Charles Pickford, Marketing Manager
Alexandra Llamas, Senior Director
Joy Smith, Executive Assistant, Marketing

Meanwhile, negotiations continue in contract talks concerning the players’ labor agreement expiring in November, and the Musicians Union Local 6 will have a general membership meeting on July 25 at 1 p.m.

A year before the pandemic struck, closing down Davies Hall for months, the SF Symphony musicians approved a four-year collective bargaining agreement ahead of schedule. The contract maintained the Symphony’s position as one of the top paid orchestras in its U.S. weekly base salary, previously $3,200, increased to $3,263 under the new agreement, to increase again to $3,570 in the final six months of the contract. Musicians were to start to share in contributing to health insurance premiums, but retirement benefits were to increase.

Davies Hall
An empty Davies Hall as SF Symphony performances made a slow return after the worst of the pandemic | Courtesy of SF Symphony

With Davies Hall closed and performances canceled, the orchestra’s financial situation changed drastically, and the contract was revised, in an unprecedented move, in October 2020. Symphony musicians ratified the 25-month contract modification, from Oct. 18, 2020, through Nov. 26, 2022, reducing salaries retroactive to April 2020 and setting regular wages (differently for such premium pay as principal players receive) at 65 percent of the contracted rate from September 2021.

(As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and city-imposed restrictions on live performances, the Symphony renegotiated all its collective bargaining agreements, reducing compensation during the remaining period of existing respective agreements.)

In fiscal year 2019, the SF Symphony’s revenues were $93.6 million against expenses of $79.7 million. By FY 2020, those figures changed to $65.3 million in revenues, $73.2 million in expenses.

Priscilla B. Geeslin
SF Symphony President Priscilla B. Geeslin

Preliminary figures for FY 2021 showed total revenues of $29.6 million and expenses of $55.3 million. In 2020–2021, federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act programs contributed millions of dollars to the Symphony in the Paycheck Protection Program (up to 2½ times the average monthly payroll expenses), the Employee Retention Tax Credit, and others. In PPP alone, SFS received $7.7 million and $2 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

SFS Endowment totals in 2021 were $14.3 million without restrictions and $364.5 million with restrictions.

As of Aug. 31, 2021, approximately 65 percent of SF Symphony employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements. The collective bargaining agreement with the American Guild of Musical Artists, covering San Francisco chorus members, expires Aug. 31, 2023.

The agreement with the Theatrical Employees Union, Local B18, of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada, covering ticket service employees and ushers, expires on May 31, 2023, and the collective bargaining agreement with the Local 6, American Federation of Musicians, expires on Nov. 26, 2022.