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Pittsburgh Symphony's Vaccine Mandate Prevents Musicians from Playing

The orchestra currently requires all players and audience members to be fully vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption


At least one musician has anonymously complained to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a new policy that requires players in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) to be fully vaccinated. The player claims that the policy gives the orchestra "unprecedented power," and that the mandate will allow the orchestra to put an end to a player's livelihood without due cause.

By contrast, however, the vast majority of PSO players support the mandate. Unions representing every group that works in the PSO's Heinz Hall — including those that represent stagehands, service workers, and orchestra's musicians — were invited to the negotiating table, and broadly endorsed a vaccine mandate. The PSO's policy is also not atypical in the sector: a report by the American League of Orchestras found that 82% of orchestras were requiring their players to be fully vaccinated.

A small portion of the PSO's patrons are upset over the mandate, too. The orchestra's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Marty Bates, estimated that approximately 1% of ticket buyers requested refunds after it became clear that audience members would need to be vaccinated.

“People are being forced to [get the vaccine], not invited,” the anonymous player told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’ve already had COVID, and I had a terrible reaction to a vaccine in my early teens that put me in the hospital. My doctor told me I don’t need this. Now the PSO is taking away my livelihood because I do not want to get a shot that I do not need.”

“We have a single standard for all employees that also extends to all guest performers and contractors,” said Marty Bates in response. “We have an ethical and legal obligation to keep our employees protected from known hazards. The presence of a contagious respiratory virus is a known hazard.”

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