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The Baltimore Symphony season is set to start Sept. 14. Now, musicians say they won’t play without a contract.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians picket outside the Meyerhoff in June after being locked out by management. The players say they will not return to the stage without a contract.
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians picket outside the Meyerhoff in June after being locked out by management. The players say they will not return to the stage without a contract. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians, embroiled in a labor dispute with management and locked out of their workplace since June, say they won’t return to the stage without a contract and they want a role in the BSO’s future decision-making.

“We have ... made it clear that we must have a new contract to return to the stage,” said a news release from Baltimore Symphony Musicians that was released Wednesday and mentioned that the two sides had met earlier in the day. The orchestra’s 2019-2020 season is set to begin Sept. 14 with a season preview concert at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

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The most recent contract between the BSO and its musicians expired in January. Musicians continued performing throughout the remainder of the 2018-2019 season, which ended with a Father’s Day performance of the soundtrack from “West Side Story.” The lockout was announced after that performance.

The musicians also proposed that they be given a voice in decisions affecting the orchestra. Other orchestras, the release noted, “have achieved a major culture shift by including all of the stakeholders in the decision-making process, including, most notably, the musicians.”

Peter Kjome, president and CEO of the Baltimore Symphony, replied in an emailed statement: “[T]he Baltimore Symphony is committed to continuing to bargain in good faith. There has still been no meaningful counterproposal from our musicians, but we are encouraged that our musicians are finally prepared to bring a proposal to the upcoming meeting. ... The BSO needs our musicians to join us in creating a strong and stable organization and confront immediately the BSO’s very serious financial issues.”

The players are also asking BSO management to extend their health-care coverage through September, an an “act of good faith on management’s part.”

The two sides have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. “The musicians are planning to bring a proposal to management at that time,” Brian Prechtl, co-chair of the BSO Players’ Committee, said in a statement.

He added that Kjome’s comments regarding a “meaningful counterproposal” were “disrespectful,” saying that the musicians have already taken $20,000 cuts in their salaries and have made proposals to management during the course of negotiations.

The BSO plans to lift the lockout Sept. 9, Kjome wrote, “and looks forward to opening its 2019-20 season, resuming our schedule of rehearsals and performances.”

Leaders of the Phoenix, Detroit and Minnesota orchestras have said that including players in the decision-making process is crucial in establishing a positive working relationship between musicians and management.

“Not everyone is always going to like everything we do,” Erik Ronmark, vice president and general manager of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, told The Baltimore Sun this month. “But at least they’ll understand why we are making the decisions we are.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Sameer Rao and Phil Davis contributed to this article.

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