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File photo / Holly Mulcahy

Regular Chattanooga Symphony & Opera patrons may have noticed the absence of concertmaster and violinist Holly Mulcahy during recent shows.

Usually seated front and center just over the conductor's left shoulder during performances, Mulcahy has not performed with the CSO since April 25, the night she performed "The Rose of Sonora — A Concerto in Five Scenes."

The reason for her absence involves contract negotiations, according to her husband and manager, Drew McManus. He is a Chicago-based arts consultant who negotiates individual agreements for musicians, including concertmasters, principals and other symphonic fixed-chair musicians.

CSO musicians are part of a union, and McManus said musicians are paid per services they perform throughout the year. Services included not only the actual performance but rehearsal time.

He said the dispute stems in large part from the fact that the CSO "wants to give her part-time pay for full-time commitments," which would limit her ability to seek revenue from other places such as other symphony work, something that he said is commonplace in the industry. Mulcahy, for instance, accepted the position of concertmaster with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra in April.

" ... The CSO agreement does not require any minimum commitment from any musician, regardless what tier they are employed," McManus said. "This is something musicians have fought hard to preserve in their [collective bargaining agreement] due to so many of them holding rostered positions in other orchestras."

In a separate matter, Mulcahy, who joined the organization in 2013, is suing the CSO for breach of contract after a solo she was contracted to perform as part of the "All Haydn" concerto on Oct. 6 of this year was canceled. She declined to comment on the lawsuit per the advice of her attorney.

CSO Executive Director Samantha Teter referred all questions to attorney John Konvalinka, who didn't return phone calls made over several days seeking comment for this story.

One CSO board member has resigned over the conflict.

Chattanooga native and noted film composer George S. Clinton, who wrote "The Rose of Sonora," has performed and premiered several new works with the CSO and has been on the CSO board for several years. He says the negotiations have not been handled well.

"Holly Mulcahy is one of the finest musicians and the nicest human beings I've ever had the pleasure of working with," he said, adding that the situation has been "badly mishandled and allowed to deteriorate to the point that now the symphony has lost what I and many others consider to be one of its finest assets."

Mulcahy said when she was hired here, she chose the Chattanooga position over two other offers because of the direction the organization wanted to head, not only through performances but by building community relations through outreach.

"It was greater than the sum of its parts," she said. "I love Chattanooga. I love this orchestra and the people. I have spent a great deal of time here, and I want to be here."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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