Baltimore Symphony Musicians Donate $1 Million in Salary and Benefit Concessions
Collaborative “Music Matters” Campaign Challenges Community To Raise $2 Million in Matching Gifts
$675,000 Already Raised Towards Extraordinary Fundraising Campaign
Baltimore, Md. (April 29, 2009) – Inspired by an extraordinary act of generosity by its musicians, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) announced an unprecedented fundraising initiative called “Music Matters: Play Your Part” designed to garner additional public support to ensure that the BSO weathers the current economic recession. This historic initiative is spurred by the BSO musicians, who voluntarily donated $1 million in savings through wage and pension rate freezes, unpaid furloughs, deferment of filling certain orchestra vacancies, and $24,000 in annual fund contributions (the latter achieved through 100% participation from all 93 musicians.) These concessions represent an 8% reduction in the salary and benefits package the orchestra players were scheduled to receive in the 2009-2010 season. In response to the musicians’ generosity, the BSO challenges the public to raise 2:1 matching funds, or $2 million in new money (defined as new or increased gifts) in the coming months. A collaborative campaign of this nature is unparalleled at the BSO and has already generated $675,000 in gifts from Baltimore Symphony supporters, including a leadership gift of $50,000 from Music Director Marin Alsop. This extraordinary donor support puts the BSO roughly a third of the way toward its $2 million fundraising goal.
BSO Players Committee Chair and piccolo player Laurie Sokoloff explains the musicians’ motivation, “The Baltimore Symphony is thriving; unfortunately, the economy is not. The musicians are so appreciative of the current BSO leadership, which has done everything possible to steady the BSO’s course. We understand that [President & CEO] Paul Meecham and his team and the board are now dealing with economic pressures not of their making. The musicians proposed this campaign because we want to do our part to help. I feel confident the communities we serve in Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. area will step up to make a statement about the value and joy a professional world-class symphony orchestra brings to their lives.”
Leading up to the launch of this campaign, the BSO underwent two rounds of cost-cutting this season to minimize the economic impact of external factors. Decreased funding from the State of Maryland combined with a diminished endowment necessitated reduced spending in all areas. In recent months, the BSO laid off five staff members (representing 11% of its full-time employees), converted another from full-time to part-time, instituted a two-week furlough for administrative staff and implemented a series of reductions in general administrative and artistic expenses. These cost savings have already netted $1,000,000 in savings and were applied toward the BSO FY09 operating budget of $28.3 million.
Along with these cutbacks, additional funds are needed to reduce a projected deficit in the current fiscal year and to offset potential further shortfalls in earned and contributed support, thus ensuring the BSO can balance its budget in FY10.
President and CEO Paul Meecham remarks, “Earlier this season, we took preemptive and responsible steps toward reducing our expenses, but it’s now clear that in this economy we need to do more. When Laurie [Sokoloff, BSO Players’ Committee Chair] approached me about musicians volunteering these financial sacrifices, I was truly moved. This campaign is a creative way toward resolving our current financial challenges. The orchestra’s proactive steps to secure the continued solvency of the institution is further evidence that the degree of collaboration and harmony between the BSO management, the board and the musicians has never been greater.”
BSO board chair Michael Bronfein emphasizes the urgency of acting now. “Like me, I know many Marylanders who are proud to live in a region that boasts such rich cultural life and I am committed to ensuring that the Baltimore Symphony thrives for future generations. A powerful sense of momentum is propelling the BSO forward and we mustn’t let the recession impede that positive energy. Over the past three years, the Orchestra has erased its accumulated operating deficit, balanced the budget for two consecutive years and welcomed Music Director Marin Alsop, whose tenure has met with unequivocal success. I applaud the musicians for the generosity and foresight they demonstrated by proposing this creative solution. The communities that support the Orchestra are incredibly loyal and generous, so I have every confidence we’ll weather this recession and emerge stronger.”
“For me, during these times of economic crisis, we have a unique opportunity to reassess what we truly value,” Music Director Marin Alsop says. “Music is one of those intangible experiences that are impossible to quantify. But with a small investment, the rewards can be life-changing. It is a matter of urgency that the community-at-large rallies around cultural treasures like the BSO. I am so pleased to join the Musicians of the BSO in taking proactive measures towards securing the Orchestra’s future through this initiative.”
HOW TO PLAY YOUR PART
The Baltimore Symphony encourages the public to participate in this important initiative by making a donation either as a first-time gift or increasing a current commitment. To donate, visit www.BSOmusic.org/MusicMatters or call the BSO Membership Hotline at 410.783.8124.
About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The 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 2009-2010 season marks the fifth full season of the Orchestra's second home, the 1,976-seat Music Center at Strathmore, located in North Bethesda, Maryland. With the opening of the Music Center at Strathmore in February 2005, the Baltimore Symphony became the nation's first orchestra with year-round venues in two metropolitan areas.
The BSO made musical history on in July 2005 when it announced the appointment of Marin Alsop as its next music director, making her the first woman to lead a major American orchestra. This marked 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 throughout Maryland.
For more than 80 years, the BSO has maintained a vibrant educational presence throughout the State of Maryland, supporting the local community not only through concerts, recordings and nationally acclaimed radio programs, but also 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 60,000 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. In addition to its comprehensive youth education programs, the BSO serves adult music lovers through audience education programs such as pre-concert lectures and post-concert discussions.
The 2008-2009 season marked the pilot year of OrchKids. Under Music Director Marin Alsop's artistic leadership and direction, this year-round after-school program is designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City's neighborhoods. Modeled after Venezuela's El Sistema, the music program that in 30 years has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, OrchKids provides music education, instruments and tutoring to Baltimore's neediest youngsters at no cost.
The BSO is committed to the development of talent within the classical music field. To this end, since Fall 2007, the BSO has partnered with the renowned Peabody Institute and the League of American Orchestras to sponsor the BSO-Peabody Conducting Fellowship, a two-year, master's-level program which affords an aspiring young conductor the opportunity to study intensively at Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and with Marin Alsop and the BSO. Ilyich Rivas, a talented young Venezuelan-born conductor will be the program's second recipient. In addition, the BSO also regularly hosts fellows from the League of American Orchestras' prestigious Management Fellowship Program.