Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians reach tentative agreement with management, could perform Friday

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and its musicians announced Saturday that they have reached a tentative agreement on a one-year contract that could return the performers to the stage at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall as early as next week.

No details of the proposed contract will be released before the ratification vote, which is scheduled for Monday.


A brief, joint statement by the BSO and the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore Local 40-543 said that if both the players’ union and the BSO’s board of directors vote to sign the contract “it would enable the Baltimore Symphony to open its concert season“ next weekend.

A marathon bargaining session aimed at ending the 14-week work stoppage wrapped up at about 10 p.m. Friday.


The symphony’s board of trustees voted June 16 to lock the performers out. The lockout was lifted on Sept. 9; two days later, instead of showing up for rehearsal, the musicians were on the picket line.

The players have said repeatedly they would not return to work without a contract.

The labor dispute was exacerbated by the BSO’s dire financial straits, reflected in an audit released this summer that concluded the organization might not have enough money to remain in business for another year.

The biggest stumbling block in contract talks had been management’s demand that the season be shortened from 52 weeks to 40. In management’s initial contract proposal, that shorter season would have been accompanied by a 20% pay cut for the 77 musicians.

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Other knotty issues included the musicians’ contributions for health insurance and the number of performers the BSO must employ. Under the musicians’ most recent contract, which expired in January, the minimum number of violinists, oboists and other players was set at 83.

Before contract talks broke down Sept. 9, management had presented two offers that it said would have guaranteed the musicians’ base pay at somewhere between $81,415 and $85,071 for a 40-week season — or roughly equivalent to the $82,742 base pay the performers received under their most recent contract.

That included more than $1 million in promised donations to the BSO from local philanthropists, on the condition that the funds be used for the musicians’ salaries and to secure a contract.

The musicians “overwhelmingly” rejected both contract proposals one day later. Brian Prechtl, co-chairman of the Players Committee, said later that union members had been advised by their attorney that management’s proposal was phrased in such a way that they couldn’t be certain of receiving more than a base salary of $70,600.


Official negotiations ceased for 10 days, but informal talks continued through back channels. Once both sides returned to the bargaining table on Thursday, they began to make more rapid progress.

If the contract is approved, the BSO will perform Pyotr Tchaikovsky‘s Symphony No. 4 at the Meyerhoff at 8 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday, and at the Music Center at Strathmore at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Also on the program is the overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, “La Forza Del Destino,” featuring the composer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain making his BSO debut. The program is scheduled to be conducted by the BSO’s music director, Marin Alsop.