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Baltimore Symphony Orchestra cancels summer concerts, restructures to 40-week year

Posted at 3:06 PM, May 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 15:06:30-04

BALTIMORE — As part of its fiscal restructuring, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced it has canceled its entire 2019 summer concert series.

The BSO announced the reform, intended to improve the fiscal operations of the organization, in a statement released Thursday. Beginning with the New Music Festival on June 19, all other summer performances have been canceled as the BSO adjusts its season from a 52-week, year-round schedule to a 40-week year. The symphony’s ticket office will contact patrons who hold tickets to these summer performances within three weeks to process refunds or exchanges.

The BSO will also cancel its summer Academy week, originally scheduled from July 14 to 20, the symphony said. Already registered participants will be notified.

The organization is trying to navigate financial challenges, including more than $16 million in losses in just the past decade. During the 2019 General Assembly session, legislators passed a bill to provide immediate funding that could address the BSO’s fiscal issues in the short term, but decisions about how to utilize these resources have not yet been made, the symphony said. Even with the financial help, the BSO said it “has no choice but to confront immediately its very serious financial issues,” and renew the schedule changes proposed to the musicians' union, Local 40-543, at the end of October.

“These decisions were extremely difficult to make and were not entered into lightly, but they are the right ones if the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is going to continue to exist as a nationally renowned organization,” said BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome. “If the BSO is going to survive, our business model needs to change, and that change begins in earnest today. In our view, moving from 52 weeks to 40 weeks is necessary. We look forward to working with our musicians as we navigate this change and prepare for a future that is strong and vibrant.”

Included in the financial restructuring and schedule changes is paid vacation for BSO members being cut from 14 weeks to nine weeks, but weekly base pay for musicians will be increased, auditions will be held to fill open positions, and a comprehensive benefits package will also be maintained.

The BSO will perform the remainder of its subscription season, the symphony said, including the following events:

  • Beethoven Emperor Concerto – May 30-June 2, 2019
  • Mahler Symphony No. 9 – June 7-9, 2019
  • Movie with Orchestra: West Side Story – June 13-16, 2019

The canceled summer concerts are as follows:

  • New Music Festival - June 20-22, 2019
  • Oregon Ridge Star-Spangled Spectacular – July 3, 2019
  • Leslie Odom, Jr. – July 5, 2019
  • Harry Potter film with orchestra – July 11-13, 2019
  • BSO performance at Artscape – July 19, 2019
  • Cirque Dances – July 26-27, 2019

The symphony will resume the 2019-2020 concert season in September, with a full season of Classical, Pops, and family concert program, the BSO said.