BSO fundraising: a challenge but feasible

Terry Meyerhoff Rubenstein and her family have been great supporters of the Baltimore Symphony (“Time has come for BSO to make hard choices,” Nov. 28). Families like hers, who support their hometown orchestra both financially and by attending concerts, are an integral part of the fabric that make our orchestras possible. We are indebted and grateful to the Meyerhoff family, as we are to all our families and supporters across the country who help maintain our orchestras as a vital and indispensable part of their communities.

We are aware that raising money for both operating expenses and the endowment fund is challenging. However, many of our International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians’ orchestras are finding creative solutions to fundraising and rising to the challenge. Here are more than half-a-dozen examples from the past 18 months of orchestras who have a similar annual budget to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra:

In 2018, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra ($24 million annual budget) completed a fundraising campaign that raised $25 million to endow 11 musicians' chairs, filled six vacant positions, and settled a new progressive contract with its musicians that included an 8.7 percent raise over three years.

After four years of balanced budgets, the Detroit Symphony ($28 million) signed a new 3-year contract last year with an 8.2 percent increase in compensation by the end of the contract.

In 2016, the Indianapolis Symphony ($27 million), with ticket sales in double-digit growth and funding up 5 percent, signed a 3-year agreement with 9.3 percent increases over the length of the contract.

The Nashville Symphony ($26 million) recently ratified a 4-year agreement with salary increases of 3.5 percent, 3.75 percent, 4.25 percent and 4.25 percent over the life of the contract.

The Saint Louis Symphony ($29 million) saw an increase of 5.5 percent in ticket sales and ended last season with a surplus of half a million dollars. In 2017, the orchestra agreed to a 5-year contract that increased musician salary from $83,000 to more than $100,000.

In 2016, the Pittsburgh Symphony ($30 million) settled a strike with its musicians that restored musician salaries by the end of the 5-year agreement and maintained both a 52-week season and the number of contractually required musicians.

The San Diego Symphony ($25 million) signed an agreement in 2016 with salary increases of 14 percent over five years.

The Utah Symphony ($22 million) just signed a new contract that raises musician salaries by 11.7 percent over four years and maintains a 52-week season.

While it is true that these successes are hard won, they are the direct result of creative, innovative thought and action on the part of every member of these organizations. The solutions are specific to each city and fueled by the communal desire, including that of their audiences, to foster and maintain a world-class orchestra.

Meredith Snow and Paul Austin, Van Nuys, Calif.

The writers are, respectively, chair and president of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians.

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