The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced Tuesday that its board of directors has adopted a five-year master plan aimed at fixing the longstanding financial problems that resulted in a 12-week lockout of musicians last summer when the organization was unable to meet payroll.
A BSO news release said the plan is the culmination of “a deep analytical dive into the BSO’s recent performance and industry trends."
The release is short on specifics and is silent regarding the key issue of contention between management and the musicians in 2019 — whether the orchestra will continue to perform concerts year-round or will instead operate on a reduced schedule.
These questions are likely to be answered soon; the BSO has a deadline of Feb. 23 deadline to present its blueprint for restoring the orchestra to solvency to the Maryland General Assembly. Symphony officials have declined to immediately release specifics.
“We wanted people to know that we’re rapidly making progress,” said Peter Kjome, the BSO’s president and CEO, “even though we’re not releasing every detail of the multi-year plan today.”
For now, here are five early clues gleaned from the news release and from Kjome:
* The issue of season length will likely be resolved in the next collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations are scheduled to begin in March, and both sides have said they hope to sign a multi-year agreement long before the current one-year contract expires Sept. 7.
* Expect to see splashy, high-profile concerts featuring as-yet unnamed international stars when the 2020-21 season is announced in early March. Next year’s season also is likely to feature mini-festivals organized around a specific theme. Under consideration: gospel and/or hip-hop festivals.
* Earlier this month, a wine bar that also sells a selection of food including hot paninis and warm desserts had a soft launch at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. In the past, customers were limited to alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Patrons who attend BSO concerts at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda already can dine at the Allegro Kitchen cafe located inside the venue. Expect other changes aimed at enhancing patrons’ experience.
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* Beginning next season, the BSO will begin live-streaming at least some concerts — a practice adopted by other highly-ranked orchestras nationwide from Los Angeles to Detroit to New York. Live-streaming makes "BSO performances accessible to audiences around the world,” the release said. It also will potentially create new sources of revenue.
* The BSO will attempt to demonstrate its importance statewide by performing more concerts in rural areas of Maryland and in under-served communities. Earlier this year, the BSO began a“Symphony in the City” series of four free concerts located in Baltimore neighborhoods. The initial concert at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on Jan. 15 was standing room only, Kjome said.
The orchestra will also perform more concerts in rural areas of Maryland. This program will be called “BSO In Your City.”
“We’re already begun to implement parts of the plan,” Kjome said. “Our donors are responding to the intensive turn-around efforts we’ve been making.”
Tuesday’s news release announced a new, $1 million gift from the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds. The monies will be used to bolster operating funds for the BSO, which has an annual budget of around $28 million.