Baltimore Symphony Musicians Donate $1 Million in Salary and Benefit Concessions

Collaborative “Music Matters” Campaign Challenges Community to Raise $2 Million in Matching Gifts

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.

“For me, during these times of economic crisis, we have a unique opportunity to reassess what we truly value. 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.” - Marin Alsop, Music Director

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.

“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.” - President and CEO Paul Meecham

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.

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.”

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 or call the BSO Membership Hotline at 410.783.8124.


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