Baltimore musicians issue an SOS

The following statement from the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony illustrates their parlous situation after their bosses cancelled the rest of the season without pay. The orchestra, deep in debt, is run by a hardline board and manager. The musicians can neither strike nor make a public protest without risking further loss of jobs. One-fifth are about to be cut. All they can do is appeal to the public conscience. Here’s what they sent out today:

Musicians’ Statement on Summer Season Cancellation

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra management abruptly cancelled the 2019 summer season yesterday without consulting the BSO musicians and will not pay the musicians past June 16, 2019. This decision defies the good will of the Maryland legislature, Governor Hogan, the citizens of Maryland, and our patrons and donors. The musicians were caught completely off-guard that their paychecks will end in less than a month. These draconian cuts are even more shocking, as they come on the heels of the BSO receiving a $3.2 million allocation in state funding just last week.

The Baltimore Symphony has been a cornerstone of the arts community for over one hundred years. Generations of Baltimore families have been entertained and educated at our performances. It is a hallmark of truly great cities to have institutions that enrich the cultural landscape and keep the arts alive and flourishing for generations to come. A vital orchestra is just as essential to a
thriving metropolitan area as museums, aquariums, theaters and stadiums. Maryland has shown that it wants a great orchestra. The State of Maryland has been incredibly generous in supporting the BSO historically. Just this summer, the State of Maryland was one of the largest supporters of our recent
tour to the United Kingdom and Ireland. After BSO management first proposed reducing the scope of the organization, including musicians’ salaries by 20% on October 30, 2018, the musicians led an appeal to the State legislature to restore public funding to pre-recession levels. We generated over 15,000 letters to elected officials to bring this initiative to fruition. Delegate Maggie McIntosh and her colleagues in the House of Delegates responded by forging HB 1404 to bring $3.2 million in additional funding over the next two fiscal years to the BSO, and to establish a “work group” to take a
comprehensive look at how the organization functions, serves diverse audiences and meets the needs of Baltimore and Maryland communities. The Senate passed it almost unanimously and the bill became law on May 24, 2019.

The timing of this decision to cut the orchestra by 20% by BSO board and management is the most disturbing aspect of this development. The summer season had just recently been announced. HB 1404 had just become law. Musicians have turned down work in other places so we could stay in Baltimore and play for the city and state we love. Now we will be unemployed while the management that caused this debacle will go on collecting their paychecks. The BSO’s president and CEO Peter Kjome and board chair Barbara Bozzuto have done all of this after stating publicly that they would not lock out the musicians. We find this disingenuous, unconscionable and irresponsible.

We urge Governor Hogan to release the funds allocated in HB 1404 with a provision that the BSO cannot lockout or impose cuts on the musicians and that senior management will not be paid if the musicians are not paid. The musicians on the stage are the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This is evident to all who sit in our audiences and hear the magnificent sounds of this civic treasure. This vital institution has been built by musicians, patrons and civic leaders over the last 103 years. We have worked tirelessly to maintain what has been built here through our legislative efforts, and we will continue working to preserve this gem for the City of Baltimore, the citizens of Montgomery County, and the State of Maryland.

No word yet from the music director.