Baltimore, MD (Thursday, May 30, 2019) – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) today announced that it has reaffirmed the plan to reform and improve fiscal operations, including renewal of the contract proposal to adjust the season from 52 weeks to 40 weeks. As a result, the BSO is cancelling its summer 2019 concerts, beginning with its New Music Festival that was scheduled to start June 19. The Board and management of the BSO made these decisions, including the proposed change to 40 weeks, as part of efforts to address financial challenges that have existed for many years, including over $16 million in losses in the past decade alone.
Legislation passed this session in Annapolis sought to provide some immediate funding to address short-term financial issues but final decisions have not yet been made about funding numerous fenced-off budget items, including the BSO grant. Even if funded, in order to achieve a permanent solution, the BSO has no choice but to confront immediately its very serious financial issues and renew its proposal made to Local 40-543 and musicians on October 30, 2018. The legislation did not fully address the long-term, systemic issues or reform the BSO business model – all efforts that must be undertaken in order to continue operating successfully.
“These decisions were extremely difficult to make and were not entered into lightly, but they are the right ones if the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is going to continue to exist as a nationally renowned organization,” said BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome. “If the BSO is going to survive, our business model needs to change, and that change begins in earnest today. In our view, moving from 52 weeks to 40 weeks is necessary. We look forward to working with our musicians as we navigate this change and prepare for a future that is strong and vibrant.”
The proposed reduction from 52 to 40 weeks would be achieved primarily through fewer paid weeks during the summer, including a reduction from 9 weeks to 4 weeks of paid vacation. The proposal includes increasing the weekly base compensation for musicians and holding auditions to fill open positions. A comprehensive benefits package, including health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, long-term disability benefits and pension benefits, will be maintained.
Discussions about season length have taken place for many years, and other major orchestras with shorter seasons maintain a high level of artistic accomplishment. Of the 21 major orchestras across the country as defined by budget size, one third have seasons fewer than 52 weeks. The BSO and its musicians are continuing to negotiate a new contract at this time.
“We greatly appreciate efforts made by legislative leaders and the governor to provide support during this time of transition. Ultimately, we owe it to our musicians, donors, sponsors, subscribers, and our community, to create a financially sound organization that will allow us to continue performances at the very highest level. We are working with our musicians to come to resolution on a new agreement as soon as possible,” Mr. Kjome continued.
Other major orchestras have concluded that reducing the number of paid weeks is one of the key ways to mitigate climbing costs. These orchestras continue to tour, record, broadcast and present an excellent standard of musicianship and art. Reimagining season length and union agreements has led to innovation in broadening audience reach.
The Baltimore Symphony will perform the remainder of its subscription season to include:
Beethoven Emperor Concerto – May 30-June 2, 2019
Mahler Symphony No. 9 – June 7-9, 2019
Movie with Orchestra: West Side Story – June 13-16, 2019
The following summer concerts will be cancelled:
New Music Festival – June 20-22, 2019
Oregon Ridge Star-Spangled Spectacular – July 3, 2019
Leslie Odom, Jr. – July 5, 2019
Harry Potter film with orchestra – July 11-13, 2019
BSO performance at Artscape – July 19, 2019
Cirque Dances – July 26-27, 2019
The Ticket Office will contact patrons with tickets to any of the summer concerts listed above within three weeks to process refunds or exchanges.
In addition to the cancellation of summer concerts, the BSO will also be cancelling its Academy week, scheduled for July 14-20, 2019, and registered participants will be contacted.
The Baltimore Symphony regrets any inconvenience to our patrons regarding these cancellations.
The BSO will resume concerts with the opening of the 2019-20 season in September, highlighted by a full season of Classical, Pops, and Family concert programming.
Linda Moxley, VP of Marketing & Communications | lmoxley@BSOmusic.org