June 26, 2020
Dear Friends of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra,
It is with a spirit of gratitude that I write to share an update on our work. With your support, the pandemic that we are facing together has brought new urgency to our charge to innovate and collaborate. All of us look forward to the moment when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra can safely return to the stage, and we will continue to keep you informed on our progress towards that goal in the weeks ahead.
As we maintain our commitment to the organizational transformation that began earlier this year, we also recommit ourselves to the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The BSO has stated unequivocally that it stands against racism and injustice. I share this message today following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others. These heartbreaking losses have devastated the lives of countless people and their families across the nation.
We have learned from and been inspired by the voices of youth, including Black musicians and other Black Americans, who are asking important questions such as: "What can classical music institutions do, right now, to start the process of bringing about meaningful and long-term change within our field?" While expressions of solidarity and support are important, I know that words are not enough. Even actions are not enough. We need sustained action, and accountability.
There has been progress to build upon. The BSO has presented composers and performers of color, and Music Director Marin Alsop has been a leading advocate for equity in and through the arts, including founding OrchKids in Baltimore more than a decade ago. While the BSO has taken steps, we know that these are not nearly enough.
Vitally important work lies ahead, and we are committed to listening, to learning, and to taking action. The early steps the BSO is taking now include:
- Investing in Learning and Training
We have begun important conversations to help build the capacity of the BSO – and all key stakeholders, including our Board of Directors, musicians, and staff – to foster increased diversity, equity, and inclusion, with a focus on racial justice. In approaching this work, we also recognize an opportunity to build a diverse and talented administrative team and Board that better represents our community. We cannot do this alone, and must engage leaders, teachers and agencies who can help us pursue this important work authentically and thoughtfully. We have already set an initial cadence of implicit bias training sessions, with more strategic facilitation to come.
- Establishing a New Code of Conduct
When we reopen our venues, it will be with not only increased measures for health and safety, but also a new code of conduct that upholds a standard of respect for everyone who visits our home in the concert hall and interacts with staff, musicians or patrons. This code of conduct will apply to all of us, regardless of position or affiliation. In taking this step, we recognize that we may have tolerated and perpetuated systemic discrimination in our halls and that cannot stand.
- Pursuing Increasingly Diverse Programming
As we plan for a return to the stage as well as expanded digital access, the BSO will renew and pursue collaboration with national leaders driving diversity in the arts. The BSO will join New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program, which fosters collaboration and collective action toward equitable representation of composers in classical music. In addition to performing more music by Black composers, and engaging more artists of color, we will redouble efforts to enrich our community through Symphony in the City and other programs, as we also support the ongoing work of OrchKids.
- Pursuing Greater Diversity on the Stage
Recognizing a need for greater diversity on our own stage, we will work with Maestra Alsop and our musicians to provide greater access, positions, and increased participation of musicians of color in the orchestra, renewing our collaboration with entities like the Sphinx Organization in the process.
These efforts will include our Board, our Orchestra, and our Staff and build on the progress made through the leadership of Marin Alsop and many others. As the BSO family continues this work together, we will measure and track our progress over time. This will help our organization to not only better reflect our community, but also to better serve our community. Your feedback and involvement will be invaluable as we move forward together.
In closing, I also invite you to view an important conversation in our Virtual Governing Members Lounge. While a Baltimore-inspired interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony had long been planned to end this year’s season, Maestra Alsop, Baltimore-based rapper Wordsmith, BSO musicians and BSO OrchKids have come together to share a inspiring new arrangement of the Ode to Joy theme with text inspired by this moment of heightened awareness regarding racial injustice.
Peter T. Kjome
President and CEO