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San Antonio Symphony and musician's union both asking for financial support amid strike

Union supporters "want to make sure that, if they donate, that their donation goes to benefit the musicians," said a union representative.

SAN ANTONIO — It is giving season, but music lovers in San Antonio and south Texas have a tough decision to make: whether to donate money to the symphony, or to the musicians directly.

As the San Antonio Symphony Society put out appeals for donations for Giving Tuesday, the union representing the musicians put out their own appeal, asking for financial support for the striking musicians through their benevolent fund.

“There’s just not a whole lot of transparency about the situation,” said Elizabeth Herlitz Cortés, an opera singer herself who has performed with the symphony.

Herlitz Cortés was planning on donating to the arts for the first time this year.

“This year, because the arts have suffered so much with the pandemic and artists are at home, they need help and I for one believe that rising tides lift us all,” she said. “My husband thought, ‘yes, we need to budget for this for the sake of the future of the arts in our area.'”

The Symphony Society and the musician’s union each have complaints filed against the other with the National Labor Relations Board. Herlitz Cortés said she was worried that instead of paying the musician’s salaries, it would go to the Symphony Society’s fight against the union.

Mary Ellen Goree, Principle Second Violin and Chair of the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony’s Negotiating Committee, said she’s been hearing that concern from a lot of supporters.

“They are concerned because they want to make sure that, if they donate, that their donation goes to benefit the musicians,” Goree said.

Music Director Emeritus Sebastian Lang-Lessing felt the need to get involved all the way from South Korea, offering to establish a fund people could contribute to in support of the striking musicians.

“I was talking to we were talking to Broadway bank, and we set it all out,” Lang-Lessing said. "We found a lot of support for that. But it didn't need to happen because it already existed,”

Reached for comment, the Symphony Society provided Eyewitness News with the following statement:

“For good or bad, supporters of the symphony are accustomed to these challenges, and they have remained in support of the institution overall. Over the last few months we've seen positive responses to our fundraising efforts. We appreciate the patience and understanding of our supporters who share our confidence that the San Antonio Symphony will return to the stage and will continue to be good stewards of their generosity.”

Goree is encouraging supporters to reach out to the Symphony Society and let them know they’ll pledge to donate money if they reach an agreement that includes a full orchestra.

“It’s not in our best interest to defund the Symphony Society," Goree said. "We just want to make sure that any donations that go to the Symphony Society are going to be used in an appropriate way.”

The Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony Benevolent fund is accepting donations here or through their website. The Symphony Society accepts donations through it's website. Symphony Society donations are tax deductible while Benevolent fund donations are not.

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