A report last week that the
Only two years ago, the BSO was forced to cut musicians' pay and benefits by 17 percent to balance the books, and that was after performers had already agreed to forgo raises totaling about $1 million in 2009. To meet the current crisis, the symphony will furlough administrative staff for a week in December and substitute a less-costly series of performances for a previously scheduled program. But there's no assurance those measures will be enough to keep it in the black this year, raising the possibility that even deeper cuts may eventually be required.
As one of fewer than 20 cities nationwide to host a world-class orchestra that performs throughout the year, Baltimore has benefited greatly from the presence of the BSO. Coupled with the
Yet the orchestra's intimate connection to Baltimore government and Maryland's corporate community has also added to its vulnerability when the economy takes a nose dive. Over the last five years, municipal, state and private funding for the symphony has dropped by $1.6 million even as ticket sales and subscriptions have increased. The BSO's Music Center at Strathmore in
One can readily sympathize with the frustration of orchestra administrators and musicians who have worked so hard to see the symphony through this rough patch. The pressure on budgets has been unrelenting as the economy continues to struggle, and depending on whom you talk to, the orchestra's problems may well become the new normal for the foreseeable future. That's why symphony administrators must start planning now for all eventualities.
At this point, there's no thought of shortening the season or further cutting back on the orchestra's roster of players. But at some point, the BSO may be forced to look at those possibilities as it seeks to adapt to the new post-recession realities and make the best use of limited resources. Orchestras around the country are experiencing similar challenges. Recently, the Indianapolis Symphony announced a 30 percent pay cut for musicians and a shortened concert season; changes are also afoot at the Minneapolis Symphony and the St. Paul Chamber orchestra.
The BSO plans to make strengthening its endowment, currently valued at about $48 million, a major goal of its centennial fundraising drive. A larger endowment would give it a hedge against future cuts in programs and staff, but it clearly has its work cut for it in seeking to attract new donors at all levels at a time when there are no guarantees the revenue sources it once enjoyed are coming back. Despite the artistic brilliance the orchestra continues to display under the inspired leadership of music director