November 6, 2018
We are grateful for your support of the Baltimore Symphony and would like to share with you some information regarding contract negotiations with our musicians.
Despite significant achievements, including most recently the release of three recordings and a superb UK and Ireland concert tour, the BSO has faced financial challenges over the course of many years, including $16 million in losses over the past decade alone. There have been intensive efforts to increase revenues and manage costs, but despite these efforts, we have experienced consistent deficits. Extremely generous gifts to support general operations, along with support designated for special projects such as the tour, have not enabled us to overcome annual losses. Our business model needs to change.
As a result, the Board and management of the BSO have been conducting a careful analysis of our current financial situation, considering ticket sales trends, the capacity for increased philanthropic giving in our community, as well as the vitally important mission of maintaining an exceptional orchestra. Independent audits are conducted each year by outside auditors and provide an examination of our financial statements. Our Finance Committee includes musician representatives and reviews financial results on a monthly basis during each season.
On November 1, the BSO and Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543, signed an extension to the collective bargaining agreement through January 15, 2019. The extension includes a continuation of the current pay and benefits structure while negotiations continue regarding a longer-term agreement.
In our view, it is not feasible to maintain our current business model as a 52-week orchestra.
We must align the length of our season to market demand and philanthropic opportunity. There have been discussions about season length 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 less than 52 weeks. We will maintain the BSO’s status as a major orchestra, committed to touring, recording and broadcasting.
During negotiations on October 30 with the Musicians’ Association, the BSO presented a proposal that included a reduction in season length. During the summer, we have historically presented comparatively few concerts, and the summer season has not proven to be financially viable. The proposed reduction of our season from 52 to 40 weeks is primarily through fewer paid weeks during the summer, including a reduction from 9 weeks to 4 weeks of paid vacation. Our proposal includes increasing the weekly base compensation of our 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.
We would like to reassure our subscribers that we will maintain a robust schedule of classical and pops concerts, education programming, holiday concerts and special events. We do not anticipate changes in our subscription series as a result of the adjustment, so our subscribers will not experience a reduction in their concert schedule. The Music Center at Strathmore will remain vital to our presence in Montgomery County, and the BSO will continue to invest in generating increased audience and philanthropic support in both markets.
We greatly appreciate and value the members of our orchestra and admire their superb musicianship. Creating a strong financial position and creating a sustainable business model will help ensure that Baltimore and Maryland are home to a fine orchestra for many years to come, while also developing a vision for the future that is brighter and better able to serve our family of audience members and donors, and the broader community.
Please accept our sincere thanks for your continued support of the BSO.
Peter T. Kjome
President and CEO