Board, Musicians, Marin Alsop Appeal to Public for Support of BSO’s Future
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. ”