Capping an already successful season that included the arrival of popular new music director Yuri Temirkanov, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's board of directors approved a new five-year contract with its musicians yesterdaymorning, four months before the current contract expires.
The contract, ratified by musicians Thursday night, includes gradual salary increases from the present base weekly pay of $1,250 to $1,715 by 2005, plus changes to the players' pension plan.
"A lot of people have been working to establish a collaborative dialogue with our board and management that we never had before," said violist Jeffrey Stewart, chairman of the musicians' negotiating committee. "I feel management has shown a tremendous understanding of our needs."
BSO president John Gidwitz was likewise upbeat. "In the last year, we hit our stride in developing a very positive working relationship between management and musicians," he says. "Of course, it's a lot easier to negotiate when you're not broke."
In 1996, when the last contract was settled, the orchestra had an accumulated debt of about $2.5 million on a $19 million budget. Musicians ended up freezing their wages for three years as part of an effort to get things back on track. Today, that debt is gone and the budget, now $21 million, has been balanced for several years.
"The board felt it was absolutely essential to bring musicians' salaries up to a competitive position," said BSO chairman Calman J. Zamoiski Jr.
The contract also allows more Sunday matinee concerts at the Meyerhoff and allows for performances at Strathmore Hall in Montgomery County, slated to become the BSO's second home in 2004.