Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Musicians Accept Significant Reductions to Position Orchestra for Financial Stability
Board, Musicians, Marin Alsop Appeal to Public for Support of BSO’s Future
March 25, 2010 (Baltimore, Md.)—The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra today announced that it has reached a new labor agreement with its musicians that will position the institution for financial stability and continued artistic innovation under the leadership of Marin Alsop. After several months of negotiations and working closely with the board and management through the prolonged economic crisis, the BSO musicians have agreed to a pivotal two-part contract through September 2013, which will maintain the BSO as one of only seventeen 52-week orchestras in America.
The existing contract has been modified for the 2010-11 season and includes a freeze in salaries from the current season including two furlough weeks. From September 2011, a new two-year agreement takes effect through September 2013; annual salary will be reduced 16.66% from the 2008-09 contract and medical insurance costs will be reduced by 16.5% through employee contributions to premiums and deductible payments. Vacant positions in the orchestra will remain unfilled.
In support of the BSO’s mission to educate and mentor young musicians, the BSO will begin an experimental Fellows program in September 2011 for highly talented post-conservatory musicians to perform with and be mentored by the BSO. The structure and details of the program have yet to be worked out, but will be developed by Marin Alsop and the BSO musicians. Like the Orchestra’s recently announced BSO Academy slated for this summer, the Fellows program is expected to be unprecedented in the industry.
This agreement enables the BSO to emerge from the recent economic downturn with a strong financial foundation and a return to balanced budgets. It follows two years of balanced budgets in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and a projected $5.6 million deficit for the most recent fiscal year (2008-09). 2009’s performance was a direct result of the financial market collapse, which impacted ticket sales and contributions, and the draw from the endowment. (Editor’s Note: Cash reserves covered the 2009 deficit, and the BSO carries no accumulated debt.) The BSO is projecting to balance its budget for the 2009-10 season.
The new agreement allows the organization now to focus on revenue growth fueled by new audience development initiatives, an expanded donor base, and other new revenue sources, including plans to fortify the endowment. BSO Board Chair Michael Bronfein commented, “The musicians of the BSO are to be applauded for their willingness to put music and the community’s love of symphonic music before their own financial benefit. Their sacrifices speak to the profound dedication they have to the art. But no sound business model can rely on concessionary contracts. As the economy starts to recover and we begin to implement an exciting strategic plan, this board is reinvigorated and committed to redoubling its fundraising efforts for this great cultural jewel, at the heart of which are our talented musicians. ”
Reflecting on the agreement, BSO Players’ Committee Chair Robert Barney said, “This particular negotiation has been painful, especially after the orchestra had previously stepped up and agreed to multi-million dollar concessions. While we acknowledge a dramatically changed financial landscape, we want the public to hear the urgency: we need their support now more than ever.”
Jane Marvine, English horn player and spokesperson for the Players’ Committee, added, “The BSO’s artistic reputation and the current level of music-making are of the highest caliber. Our primary goal throughout the negotiations process has been to remain a major American orchestra. Acknowledging the current economic climate, we have a plan going forward that addresses the financial sustainability with balanced budgets. We are committed to working side by side with the board, the staff and the community to secure the support necessary for artistic sustainability and to preserve our great orchestra.”
Paul Meecham, the BSO’s President and CEO, added, “These are painful decisions that have been made. I want to personally thank the musicians for their willingness to do what is necessary in these unprecedented times. All of us, the BSO board, management and the Orchestra are fully committed to operating under sustainable budgets as a firm business practice. Now, with financial stabilization secured, we can focus on being forward-thinking, building on the momentum of Marin Alsop’s early tenure, growing new audiences and revenues, and extending our reach and service to the community. Public support is essential to preserve artistic quality and ensure that the BSO continues as a key contributor to the culture and quality of life in Maryland.”
Music Director Marin Alsop said, “This agreement once again illustrates that the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony are very much invested in the health and prosperity of the institution. They have not only stepped up in these difficult times; they have been a gracious partner for me as we together have redefined and implemented our shared artistic vision. Together with my musicians, I believe our artistic integrity has positioned us among the very best orchestras in the United States.”
Note: The Baltimore Symphony recently announced its 2010-2011 season. For more information on the upcoming concert season, visit www.bsomusic.org/subscribe.
About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra 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 BSO 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 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 that brings small groups of BSO musicians into schools for free and interactive workshops, Side by Side concerts, which allow student musicians to rehearse and perform a full-length concert alongside BSO musicians, and OrchKids, a year-round after-school program designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City's neighborhoods.
In addition to its comprehensive youth outreach initiatives, the BSO serves adult music lovers through audience education programs such as pre-concert lectures, post-concert discussions and adult-performance opportunities with members of the BSO. In February 2010, the BSO invited more than 400 amateur musicians onstage to perform alongside members of the BSO in a two-night “Rusty Musician” event that captured international attention. In June 2010, the BSO will hold its first-ever BSO Academy, an intensive, weeklong program of master classes, lectures and public performances with BSO members led by Music Director Marin Alsop, made initially possible by principal leadership funding of $950,000 over three years from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Under Music Director Marin Alsop’s leadership, the BSO has rapidly added several critically acclaimed albums to its discography. In August 2009, the BSO and Marin Alsop released Bernstein’s Mass. Featuring baritone Jubilant Sykes, the Morgan State University Choir and the Peabody Children’s Chorus, the album was recorded during three sold-out shows in Baltimore. The album rose to number six on the Classical Billboard Charts and received a 2009 Grammy nomination for Best Classical Album. The BSO and Maestra Alsop have partnered with the Naxos label to record a three-disc Dvorák symphony cycle. The first disc, which includes Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” and Symphonic Variations, was released in February 2008. BBC Music Magazine nominated the album as the best new classical CD of the year. The second disc in this cycle features Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8, releasing in June 2010.
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.