Time for Baltimoreans to rally around the BSO

As a fan of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for over 45 years, I am dismayed to learn of the current financial situation facing an orchestra that is a jewel in the crown of Baltimore’s cultural scene (“Proposed cuts to BSO season threaten its world-class status,” Nov. 6). As a kid growing up in Baltimore, and later on as a member of the Johns Hopkins faculty, I watched with great pride as the orchestra grew from a regional ensemble to one of North America’s best. I have fond memories of the transition of the orchestra from the Lyric to the Meyerhoff and of unforgettable concerts conducted by Sergiu Comissiona, David Zinman, Yuri Temirkanov and Marin Alsop.

Alas, the current financial situation puts the orchestra at risk of falling off the map as one of America's elites and the proposed cuts would erase a half-century of growth and relegate the BSO to second-class status. Probably the most glaring issue with the BSO's current situation is that non-musician expenses have increased 46 percent since 2010 and musicians' salaries have remained more or less stagnant despite a recent endowment campaign that raised an additional $45 million out of a $65 million goal. The orchestra is also pondering a significant decrease in the length of its season.

The leadership of the BSO must make every effort to retain the BSO’s fine musicians by committing to a full season and to competitive compensation. We did exactly that when I served on the board of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. And Baltimoreans must rally around this venerable institution.

Like Hopkins, the Orioles, the Walters Art Gallery and the Preakness, the BSO is one Baltimore institution that simply must be supported. It’s part of what makes Baltimore, well, Baltimore.

Santa J. Ono, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

The writer is president and vice-chancellor of the University of British Columbia.

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