Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, American Federation of Musicians reach union agreement

December 28, 2020

Symphony performances expected to resume in February 2021

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 546 have reached an agreement that will bring the musicians of the KSO back to the stage from a furlough that began last August because of the pandemic.

The agreement covers the remainder of the 2020-21 season with the musicians returning to work on Feb. 1, 2021. It offers flexibility to the musicians and to the KSO as the organization continues to navigate the ongoing pandemic and its effects on the Symphony’s ability to safely serve the East Tennessee community. Specific plans for performances are expected to be announced in January.

The KSO recognizes the sacrifices of its musicians and appreciates their willingness to work through a very difficult period that has taxed every performing arts organization across the country.

“The pandemic handed the KSO one of the biggest challenges it has ever faced,” KSO Board Chair Bill Riley said. “While we have much work yet to do, I thank the musicians – who are the heart of our organization – for their efforts over the last several weeks as we persevered in reaching an agreement. I am confident that we will emerge from this critical time in our history stronger than ever.”

“We are all looking forward to bringing music back to our patrons and the Knoxville community, especially during this challenging time,” said Stacy Nickell, a cellist for the KSO and Orchestra Committee chair. “I am glad we were able to reach an agreement, as we all need the healing power of music. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra can continue to grow and thrive despite the pandemic, thanks to the collaborative effort of our many talented musicians and creative staff.”

On Aug. 28, the KSO board voted to furlough all musicians and most of the administrative staff as concerts were canceled through Jan. 31, 2021.

“COVID-19 has impacted the performing arts industry in profound ways,” KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford said. “We have greatly missed interacting with our audiences, and for the last several months we have missed the musical gifts of our musicians. Finding a path forward has been challenging, but in the end, the musicians, administrative staff and the board of directors have come together to reach an agreement that allows music to continue and our institution to move forward. I admire and thank the wonderful musicians of the KSO for their work in helping craft this agreement and look forward to seeing them on stage soon.”

Under the agreement, the musicians will return to work on Feb. 1, 2021, and continue through the end of the season on May 23, 2021. The musicians will be paid 80 percent of their weekly pay beginning Jan. 4, 2021.

The Symphony and its musicians look forward to performances – in whatever ways are possible – in February. The KSO currently is revising programming to conform to health guidelines and protocols and will announce programming in January.

The KSO plans to stream programming so that audiences can enjoy the sounds of their talented orchestra from the comfort and safety of their homes.

To receive updates from the Symphony, visit and sign up for the newsletter. Follow the KSO on Twitter and Facebook at and

About the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
Led by Music Director Aram Demirjian, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra consists of 80 professional musicians and performs 300 programs throughout the region each season, reaching audiences of more than 200,000 people. The KSO performs in traditional venues such as the Tennessee Theatre, Bijou Theatre, and Civic Auditorium, as well as non-traditional places like hospitals, schools, city parks and churches. For more information regarding the KSO, please visit or call 865-291-3310.