The concert will go on despite firing, says now-former SA Symphony music director

Sebastian Lang-Lessing says supporting Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony may have cost him his job

SAN ANTONIO – Sebastian Lang-Lessing, the now-former San Antonio Symphony music director, says he will still perform in a scheduled concert with the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony in May despite losing his job.

Lang-Lessing was fired in what the board says was a breach of contract by agreeing to perform in a competing concert on the same day as a scheduled San Antonio Symphony concert.

Lang-Lessing said the planned concert was a replacement concert in case the initially planned show was canceled, like most others this season have been.

“This is semantics in a contract that is used as a vindictive effort against the initiative of the musicians, and that’s my situation. I’m just collateral damage in something that has been going on for six months,” he said.

Corey Cowart, CEO of the SA Symphony, issued the following statement regarding the ongoing strike and the termination of Lang-Lessing:

“At the San Antonio Symphony Society, we are wholly focused on coming to an agreement with the Musicians, and doing all we can to preserve our remaining season, including:

  • Involving three Federal mediators in the bargaining process,
  • Our 12th proposal to the musicians (link) with average salary offer of $35,400 for 30 weeks of work and full 52 weeks of medical benefits in addition to personal leave and other benefits
  • Offering six different meeting times in the coming weeks, none of which have been accepted
  • Continuing to be open to binding arbitration.

“We enter each and every negotiation with the intention to reach an agreement. It is why we do not cancel concerts unless we are forced to due to the lack of an agreement in the days leading up to the performance date. We have asked and continue to ask everyone associated with the Symphony to stand united with us in this effort to enable us to return to live orchestral music for the San Antonio community in a way that is sustainable and repeatable year after year.

“While the breach of contract with Sebastian Lang-Lessing due to his announcement of concerts on the days he is contracted to perform with the Symphony was unfortunate, it was not a decision we could simply ignore. It is a contract for a reason; and one we had been honoring for years.”

Mary Ellen Goree, a member of the symphony and chair of the negotiating committee, said Lang-Lessing’s firing was short-sighted.

“It was very obvious to all sides that those (SA Symphony) concerts were not going to take place and that, therefore, there was no conflict with the concerts that Maestro Lang-Lessing has agreed to conduct at First Baptist Church,” Goree said.

The concerts hosted by the musicians are fundraisers. Goree said losing a full professional orchestra in San Antonio would impact the city’s economy.

“The thing is that the presence of the San Antonio Symphony does not just benefit those people in San Antonio who are interested in classical orchestra concerts,” she said. “We benefit everybody in the city. We’re part of the quality of life. We’re part of the economy.”

Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony (MOSAS) will be conducting concerts starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church on McCullough Avenue. Click here for schedules and to purchase tickets.

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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.