Baltimore boss slaps down $1 million donors

Baltimore boss slaps down $1 million donors


norman lebrecht

September 10, 2019

Bleak message from the Baltimore musicians:

At 6:59 pm this evening, BSO management issued a “take it or leave it” offer to the BSO Musicians which will be presented to the orchestra for a vote tomorrow evening. The proposal contained wage and benefit cuts of 20%. The federal mediators proposed an extension of negotiations until close of business Thursday. Management rejected the federal mediators proposal. Musicians then suggested an extension until the close of voting by the membership on
this final offer. Management rejected that proposal as well.

The Baltimore Symphony Musicians negotiated in good faith throughout the summer. We organized prominent donors to assist in this process. These generous donors brought $1 million designated specifically for musician compensation to help secure a contract. We want to express appreciation from the bottom of our hearts, to these donors for their unwavering commitment. It is incredibly disheartening that BSO leadership would fail to embrace this offer of help from some of Baltimore’s leading philanthropists.

Where do we go from here? The musicians will continue the fight to preserve our 103-year old institution, which serves the City of Baltimore, the surrounding counties and the State of Maryland. We stand ready and willing to get back to the negotiating table to achieve an agreement that will enable us to continue to attract and retain the highest quality musicians to perform for our audiences.

This is a dark day in the history of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Over the past three months the musicians have each lost over $20,000 in salary, with more to come. This dispute isn’t just about money. It is also about respect, respect for the quality of the musicians on stage, respect for generations of Marylanders who have built this orchestra and for the thousands of people who have bought tickets and have donated to this venerable institution.

UPDATE The BSO followed up a while later with this smoothie press release:
September 9, 2019 – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Inc. (BSO) met with members of the Orchestra
and the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543 today to further discuss a
proposed agreement to avert a strike and open the Orchestra’s 2019-20 concert season this weekend.
BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome stated, “We urge our musicians to accept the offer of our Board and
management in which we worked to address concerns about compensation and benefits, and the size of
the Orchestra, while helping us to move forward together.” Kjome added, “We are grateful that
members of our community have pledged generous support to help the organization and our
Board and management of the Baltimore Symphony made the following revised proposal for a one-year
agreement, with no strike and no lockout, effective through August 31, 2020, to the musicians at a
bargaining session today. Included in the offer to the musicians:
• An increase in weekly scale on a 40-week concert season and continuation of a comprehensive
benefits package.
• A restricted fund of up to $1.3 million that will be used to provide extra compensation to the
musicians during the twelve weeks of summer, with a guarantee that the fund will equal at least
$1 million.
• An agreement to hire additional musicians this season.
• The formation of a standing Board committee, the Vision Committee, to include musician
participation, with a broad mandate to plan for the future of the BSO.
Significantly, a second option was presented to the musicians: Return to work on September 11 under
the terms and benefit structure of the previous Agreement, with a commitment of no-strike/no-lockout
through December 31, 2019. During this time, the BSO and Musicians would agree to work
collaboratively with the Vision Committee and the Legislative Work Group to resolve outstanding issues
and plan for the future.

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The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has paid health, dental, and vision insurance premiums in full for the
period of the lockout and for the month of September. If musicians choose not to return to work this
week, they will have access to the health insurance benefits through COBRA.


  • sam says:

    The donors, of course, can give the $1 million directly to the musicians. But $1 million is not enough to increase salary or investment, or anything else, to be significant for he musicians on any long term basis. It is a one time gift best to be divided up among the musicians right now to meet immediate expenses.

    If for tax deduction purposes, donors would rather give through the non-profit organization rather than directly to the musicians , then the orchestra should facilitate that movement of funds.

  • John Borstlap says:

    One cannot avoid the impression that this management looks at the orchestra as a means of providing a salary for themselves instead of an institution which they are supposed to serve. Incredible.

  • Karl says:

    This is exactly what happened in Hartford. The conductor agreed to take a pay cut too and I think that’s what convinced the musicians to agree to the cut. If they didn’t the orchestra would be gone because management was serious about shutting them down. I want to know if Marin Alsop will take a pay cut along with her players.