Morihiko Nakahara is celebrating 20 years with the Spokane Symphony. He’s pictured here backstage during one of the many Nutcracker performances he has conducted with us. To read our interview with Morihiko, subscribe to our newsletter!

Morihiko Nakahara

In a unionized workplace like ours, anything that falls under wages, hours, and working conditions is subject to bargaining, and can be up for debate when it comes time to negotiate a new contract. We work together with our management and board to come to agreements on all kinds of issues beyond wages. There are a vast range of topics addressed in our contract that are specific to the nature of our work as performers. We’d like to take a moment to share a few of those with you today. All of these topics are routine components of symphony contracts around the country.


We have defined an acceptable temperature range for indoor and outdoor work. This is essential for musician and instrument health. Just like athletes, our muscles are less likely to be injured in a warm environment. The same goes for delicate wood instruments like piccolos, clarinets, oboes, and bassoons. These instruments can be destroyed or require expensive repairs if they are exposed to extreme temperatures and the wood cracks as it contracts and expands.

Cracked piccolo A sad cracked piccolo headjoint, which must now be replaced.


All of us living in the Spokane area are no stranger to air quality concerns as we’ve had smokier summers plagued by wildfires. This is unfortunately a major concern for our outdoor parks concerts during the summer and fall. While clean air is important for everyone’s health, for wind players, our livelihood depends on our ability to take very deep breaths to play! We were able to negotiate AQI limits in 2018 based on the guidelines followed by the City of Spokane Parks & Recreation and Spokane Public Schools at that time.

Outdoor concert Thankful for clean air at our free outdoor performance on July 4th.

Breaks, service length, and weekly caps

Our jobs are physically demanding and can lead to muscle fatigue and repetitive stress injuries like tendonitis and carpal tunnel. We have limits on the amount of time we can be required to play without a break so that we can stretch, use the bathroom, and rest. Because of our low wages, most of us balance symphony work with other performance gigs and teaching, placing further demands on our bodies. Therefore, we have a limit on the number of services we can be required to play in a given week.

Music availability

As we discussed in a previous post, most of our preparation happens long before the first rehearsal for a concert. We have to get our music well in advance to be able to do that work. We have a provision in our contract that requires music to be available at least two weeks before a Masterworks week so that we have plenty of time to learn the music and be prepared to perform fantastic concerts for you.

Music folder on stand Several concerts' worth of music.

We hope this post gives you a taste of the complexity of our workplace and the many details that have to be considered for great music-making to take place week after week.