There has been much written about the value and importance of the musicians who enrich our city through our beloved Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (“BSO endowment trust can no longer make up funding gap,” Jan. 24). As a lifelong Baltimorean and champion of the arts, I couldn’t agree more that our city is made infinitely better through the brilliance and dedication of these hardworking professionals.
Across the country, live arts organizations struggle to balance exponentially rising costs against persistent declines in attendance and ticket sales revenue. Unlike assembly lines, art does not have efficiencies of scale, and slashing operations is merely a slower path to the same result. Complex donor expectations for smaller and more narrowly restricted support, the virtual death of general corporate sponsorship, and greater competition for entertainment attention necessitate robust and experienced operational management. Symphonies legitimately need expensive ticketing systems that work, appropriate financial management, and knowledgeable, professional people to answer the phone. Declining audience numbers and a general distaste for the cost and labor of keeping the lights on create a very real possibility that our musicians will be left in the dark.
I would urge anyone who feels passionately about supporting our musicians to commit to purchasing BSO tickets every year for the next three years. If that expense is understandably out of reach, I would suggest making a general operating contribution of the size that is appropriate to you. Broad unrestricted philanthropic support has the additional benefit of keeping ticket price increases in check, which, in turn, helps to keep tickets accessible to more people.
The work of making art is expensive. Artists deserve a living wage. If Baltimore wants to keep its world-class orchestra, (or any other of its extraordinary performing arts organizations) Baltimore’s audiences can help best by regularly purchasing tickets.
Laura Malkus, Baltimore