Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Musicians Ratify New Three-Year Contract
Early Settlement Achieved After Pivotal 2007-2008 Season and Renewed Financial Stability
Baltimore, Md. (August 4, 2008) - The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and its musicians jointly announced today the settlement of a new three-year contract between the Association and members of Local 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians following a month of negotiations. The new collective bargaining agreement will go into effect on September 14, 2008 and extend through September 11, 2011 and replaces the previous two-year contract, which was due to expire in mid-September. The early and successful settlement of the contract, the terms of which were ratified by both the musicians and the Board of Directors, is a significant capstone for the Orchestra which has exercised fiscal responsibility and artistic innovation to balance its budget for the first time in five years.
BSO President & CEO Paul Meecham characterized the discussions as "highly collaborative and open" and remarked that "everyone at the table shared a common goal of achieving artistic excellence and fiscal stability for the Orchestra's future. Once again, our musicians deserve credit for their hard work and commitment to making this contract possible. With this settlement, I'm happy to say that we are finally in a position to address the gap in musicians' compensation resulting from necessary concessions in the previous four contract discussions. Over the past two seasons, the BSO has proven fiscal stability, increased ticket sales and attendance, and institution-wide we have adhered to a business model that enforces accountability and responsibility. Our most remarkable achievement, however, is that throughout this process we maintained the Orchestra's high standards for artistic excellence. A solid three-year contract keeps us competitive, allowing the BSO to attract the very best orchestra players, and ensures a bright future for this world-class institution."
Under the new contract, musicians are entitled to guaranteed compensation of $1,560 in the first year (annual base salary of $81,120), or a 5.8% increase above the current pay scale. The weekly scale rises to $1,640 in the 2009-10 season, and to $1,731 in the 2010-11 season, the third year of the contract (annual base salary of $90,012). This final year salary achieves the salary level negotiated to be reached in the 2004-05 season in the 2000-05 contract. The new contract also calls for a restoration of the full complement of 96 full-time musicians by the end of the third year of the contract. (The size of the orchestra is currently at 92 full-time musicians). Changes were also made to the contractual scheduling provisions contained in the agreement.
The settlement preserves a portion of the musicians' weekly pay in the form of an electronic media guarantee (EMG), to be allocated to costs associated with recordings. This will enable the centerpiece of the BSO's 2008-2009 season, Leonard Bernstein's Mass, performed on October 16-18, 2008 and conducted by Music Director Marin Alsop, to be recorded for the Naxos label for future release.
The BSO has just concluded a highly successful 2007-2008 concert season, which began with the arrival of dynamic music director Marin Alsop and saw the launch of a groundbreaking new $25 subscription ticket initiative. Under new board and executive leadership, led by board chair Michael Bronfein and President & CEO Paul Meecham since 2006, the BSO is poised to achieve a second consecutive balanced budget for fiscal year 2008.
BSO Players' Committee Chair and English horn player Jane Marvine said, "Since his arrival, Paul Meecham has assembled a dynamic senior staff, whose expertise has supported fiscal recovery over the past two years. We are also grateful for Michael Bronfein's leadership and our dedicated board. The turnaround of this fine Orchestra began with our mutual recognition of the need for financial stability and balanced budgets, as well as the necessity to address the disparity of compensation for the BSO musicians as compared to the other major American orchestras.
Much credit goes to Paul and his staff who led the negotiations with a respectful desire to find a winning agreement for the entire organization. The new contract is the fourth contract in five years and will allow the BSO musicians to move forward for the first time since 2003. The musicians have ratified the agreement with a sense of relief and optimism for the future. Under the leadership of Maestra Marin Alsop, the BSO is engaging deeply with our audiences and earning the acclaim of the international orchestral world with recordings, broadcasts and innovative programming. In addition, the BSO is committed to broadening our connections and uplifting the community around us. We are very proud to be part of this dynamic organization at such an exciting time."
Michael Bronfein, BSO Board Chairman since 2006, commented, "All parties worked diligently over the past two years - and under challenging economic times, I might add - to make real progress both artistically and financially. The unusually strong spirit of cooperation and openness amongst the board, staff and musicians has contributed to the organization's newfound vitality and has certainly helped pave the way for a respectable and well-deserved contract for our musicians. Now we hope the communities here in Baltimore and at our second home in Montgomery County will continue to support the orchestra as we develop new audiences for symphonic music."
News of the ratified three-year contract comes as the Orchestra projects a strong subscription season in 2008-2009. For the 2008-2009 season, the second year of Music Director Marin Alsop's tenure and the BSO's $25 subscription pricing initiative, subscription revenues to-date have increased nearly $700,000, or 20%. Projected average attendance next season, including single ticket sales, is expected to reach 74% at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (compared to 70% in 2007-2008) and 83% at the Orchestra's second year-round home, The Music Center at Strathmore (compared to 80% this season). Fundraising capacity has also increased over the past two seasons: in Fiscal Year 2007, the organization reached an unprecedented fundraising goal of $12.3 million, or a 35% increase over the prior year. In January 2008, the BSO announced its first balanced budget in five years for the 2006-2007 season.
About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Grammy Award-winning Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is internationally recognized as having achieved a preeminent place among the world's most important orchestras. Acclaimed for its uncompromising pursuit of artistic excellence, the Baltimore Symphony has attracted a devoted national and international following while maintaining deep bonds throughout Maryland through education and community outreach initiatives. The BSO is the only orchestra in the country to perform year-round at venues in two metropolitan areas: Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall where it has performed since 1982, and the state-of-the-art 1,976-seat concert hall at The Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Md., which opened in 2005.
The BSO made musical history at the start of the 2007-2008 season when Maestra Marin Alsop led her inaugural concerts as the Orchestra's 12th music director, making her the first woman to head a major American orchestra. Maestra Alsop's arrival marks the dawn of a new era for the BSO, as she brings her highly praised artistic vision, her dynamic musicianship and her commitment to accessibility in classical music to BSO audiences.
For more than 80 years, the BSO has maintained a vibrant educational presence throughout the state of Maryland, supporting the local community through its commitment to actively "giving back" with its education, outreach and mentorship programs.
The BSO performs approximately 30 education concerts and open rehearsals each year for more than 70,000 area students in pre-school through 12th grade. Cornerstone initiatives include BSO on the Go, a program which brings small groups of BSO musicians into schools for free and interactive music education workshops, and "Side by Side" concerts, which allow student musicians to rehearse and perform a full-length concert alongside BSO musicians. September 2008 will witness the launch of the BSO's OrchKids program, an after-school education initiative designed to use music to affect systemic change in Baltimore's neediest schools.