Symphony launches campaign to erase $200,000 shortfall


The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is mounting a major mail campaign in an effort to close a $200,000 shortfall in its annual fund by the end of next month.

In letters to donors that began going out last week, BSO executive director John Gidwitz said the fund has "fallen seriously behind this year's projections" of $2.5 million and warned that if the goal was not met, the orchestra "will be forced to make changes that could affect the quality and services of the BSO now and in the future."

Patricia E. Purcell, the BSO's director of development, said in an interview yesterday that the orchestra was not sure what would happen if the money was not raised. But she said cutbacks could occur in broadcasting, touring and/or recording -- activities considered vital to the orchestra's artistic success.

A $50,000 challenge grant has been made to the BSO's annual fund by the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Memorial Trust, contingent upon the orchestra's raising $2.45 million by Aug. 31, the end of its current fiscal year, the orchestra announced.

Last December, the BSO canceled a European tour scheduled for the spring of 1992 because it could not obtain corporate commitments to underwrite expenses.

Other Maryland arts organizations also have been plagued by financial difficulties during the last year because of the recession. In December, the Baltimore Opera Company narrowly averted bankruptcy with an emergency $1 million fund-raising campaign. The Maryland Ballet scratched half of its 1990-'91 subscription series, and Res MusicAmerica, a principal presenter of contemporary music, said it would not present a concert series next season because of difficulties in raising money.

In his letter to the BSO's donors, Mr. Gidwitz pleaded for a "sympathetic, and even heroic" response, but admitted raising more money now "will be no easy task" because of the downturn in the local economy and the fact that many of the orchestra's supporters have already made contributions.

The $2.3 million raised by the annual fund so far this year represents an increase of $150,000 over the amount raised last year. But the amount is short of that required by the BSO's "long-range financial and artistic plan," said Mr. Gidwitz.

The $2.5 million annual fund goal amounts to approximately 16 percent of the symphony's $15.5 million annual operating budget, by far the largest of any Maryland arts organization. The remainder of the orchestra's money comes from ticket sales, endowment income and state, federal and local grants.

In addition to balancing this year's budget, Ms. Purcell said it was vital to meet the annual fund goal to "form a base for next year," when the BSO will no longer receive money from a special six-year, $10-million state bridge grant.

Original projections called for the BSO to raise $3 million in annual fund in 1992, but an official goal has not yet been set, Ms. Purcell said.

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