Massive staff clearout at Baltimore Symphony

Massive staff clearout at Baltimore Symphony


norman lebrecht

July 13, 2016

We are hearing of sweeping administrative redundancies at the orchestra, following Paul Meecham’s resignation as president and his departure for Salt Lake City.

The board, saying they were seeking ‘radical change’ conducted a staff-wide audit and sacked anyone whose job they felt duplicated another person’s.

Meecham was already doing two jobs – that of president and general operations manager.

His successor will probably face the same double role.

But he or she will, at least, enter a lean operation and have a chance to hire their own people.

At this point, there is only one senior administrator left – the VP of Development. The Board Chair is acting as interim executive director. And, we hear, has been forced to dip into the endowment to meet the payroll.


marin baltimore chi-chi



  • BaltSym says:

    As a recent employee of this great orchestra, it pains me to see the organization being run into the ground by a foolish board chair who lacks the experience and advisors to make intelligent decisions. May the BSO one day have the leadership it deserves

  • Mozart41 says:

    The BSO already had the smallest staff of any of its peer organizations. Several extremely talented and hard working people were brutally fired with no notice or warning and asked to immediately clean out their desks and leave. No other senior staff were in the loop nor were any of the affected individuals supervisors. It was all done by the Board Chair, Barbara Bozzuto and CFO, John Verdon. No official communication has come from any of the leadership and those remaining are fearful for their jobs and had to learn about what happened from whispers and word of mouth.

    Those looking for how NOT to run an orchestra…take note.

  • John says:

    I hope this doesn’t portend a departure of Marin Alsop.

    • Jan says:

      Actually less accurate. The Sun reports a lower number than what actually happened. It also doesn’t mention the resignation of the CFO following the layoffs.

  • Francis says:

    From the outside and Baltimore resident and donor : This orchestra has people on staff who have withstood an enormous centennial season through an intense transitional time with the CEO and many senior staff’s departures in the last year and longer…and seemingly no replacements yet for those . If the board is smart, they will now reward those who helped put on their concerts behind the scenes and seek to build morale after this year. That should have been the board’s focus and should BE their focus after having Meecham around for six months since the announcement of his departure.( Unheard of!) Musicians are unionized, and have others chomping at the bit to get their positions….staff are not, and obviously they made it through a hard year and are dedicated and deserve to be cherished. Fewer people (who have administrative skills and are willing to make less $$). have a passion and talent for administration in classical music! If anything, the lesson is….be careful and reward those who work hard, do a good job and withstand tough trials. This orchestra and all orchestras need good people on and off the stage who feel supported or else “the show WON’T go on”….

  • Nick says:

    It would seem that yet again it is an incompetent Boatrd driving an orchestra closer to the abyss (although there is no indication that it is yet there). When everyone else in any performing arts organisation has to provide a resume and proof of ability, isn’t it time that Board members have to be vetted and then sign an agreement about how they will conduct their duties? Shouldn’t the management and musicians be permitted to have some sort of influence here since it is always their jobs which are at risk?

    • MWnyc says:

      I see your point, but considering that one has to pay for the privilege of being on the board of directors of a US orchestra (board members are expected to make large donations every year), I don’t see potential members being willing to submit to a vetting as well. They’d take it as an insult and say, in effect, “If my money’s not good enough for you, I’ll take it elsewhere.”

      • BillG says:

        That’s the thing about Dallas, the standard joke about the oil barons, Wife – I think we should donate a couple of million to the Dallas Symphony. Husband – go ahead as long as I don’t have to go to any concerts.

  • Julia Kirchhausen says:

    [redacted] The Baltimore Symphony has issued the following statement:

    The recent departure of President and CEO Paul Meecham, as well as other staff vacancies, has created an opportunity for the organization to re-evaluate its staffing needs to more strategically position itself for the future. The BSO has looked at ways to combine roles and responsibilities and to use outside resources to streamline operations and to meet organization-wide goals.

    It was determined that one area where it would be fiscally prudent to outsource is the organization’s marketing function. The BSO has hired a marketing firm to take a new approach to support ticket sales, resulting in the elimination of four positions in that department. Additionally, two positions in the education department have been eliminated; the responsibilities of those people have been subsumed by existing staff, and other functions will be outsourced to consultants.

    Those leaving are being helped with outplacement, and are receiving compensation packages commensurate with their positions and experience.

    The organization does not anticipate any additional staff reduction, and in fact, is in the process of filling several key positions. Recently, a new executive director for OrchKids and a new General Manager have been hired, bringing the number of senior administrators to six once the new President and CEO is announced and comes on board. In addition to the new hires, the remaining senior leadership consists of the VPs of Finance, Development and Strathmore.

    Finally, to clarify a recent misconception about the BSO’s endowment, no special funds have been drawn to cover staff or musician salaries.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The commenter above should have declared, for the record, that she is the freelance PR for the Baltimore Symphony.

      • Julia Kirchhausen says:

        That’s true–I am doing some work with the BSO, and you’re right, I should have been more clear about my role. That said, I’m not here to complain–just to clarify, as it looks like whomever sent you the original information was misinformed.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          The substance of the information, which came from two good sources, is correct. You have helpfully adjusted some of the detail.

        • BillG says:

          Thank you for the clarification. The BSO has lots of friends across the US, alumni of the academy. We are glad things are no where as bad as the original post and follow on message implied.

    • Jan says:

      I don’t think anyone was given more than 2 weeks severance. And haven’t heard anything about outplacement. Maybe the VP was given something special.

      Numerous people also saying that the CFO is leaving or has already left?

      People still working there say it’s in total disarray, and that many bills haven’t been paid for months, and that even if the endowment is a rumor, it shows the atmosphere of the place.
      If the new President has already been hired, I sure hope they knew what they were getting into. It’s going to be a challenge for sure. Hope they can turn around our symphony

  • Elliot Alderson says:

    From why I have heard from those close to the situation, it should additionally be noted that this statement was not released to the BSO staff, who still remain in the dark due to confusion about the communication and corporate vision surrounding the firings and budgetary constraints of the organization. The Board Chair has addressed the musicians about her catastrophic decisions, but none of the administrative staff, further showcasing a complete lack of professionalism.

  • SaddenedBSOFan says:

    Why in the world would you outsource your marketing to some third party company?! Marketing for an orchestra is not the same as selling a regular product. The people working in that department have to have the same passion and understanding of the product as the people creating it on stage. It is so sad to read of these “corporate” measures which bring nothing but harm to the organization in the long run. Don’t we ever learn from history?!

  • Terry Collier says:

    BSO management has, over the past year, not adhered to several contracts that it was signatory to and owes vendors tens of thousands of dollars for services rendered.
    The Board has to step in and make everything right to save the reputation of the BSO