Musicians shouldn't be the only ones sacrificing for symphony's budget shortfalls
Feb 13, 2019 at 1:55 PM
Baltimore Symphony's send-off concert with music director Marin Alsop, an event for subscribers before the orchestra heads to the U.K. on tour. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
After more than two decades of purchasing season’s tickets to Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts, I have been more than perplexed with what I have been reading in the newspaper about the symphony over the past months (“Wanted: Maryland millionaires to keep the BSO world-class,” Feb. 1). While I fully comprehend financial imperatives of remaining within annual budgets during ordinary times, I find it incomprehensible that the symphony has found itself in a state of indebtedness. It seems to me creative steps on the part of management should be possible to maintain the status of the world class orchestra Baltimore has grown accustomed to over the years and has a right to continue to enjoy.
I am not privy to steps management may have taken to recoup the losses beginning a number of years ago, or to reduce ongoing expenditures to stay within current anticipated earnings. I cannot help but wonder, however, how annual orchestra budgets have been formulated over the past 10 years, leading to over a $16 million dollar debt. With today’s strong economy, such a debt should be manageable. It is difficult to understand why the endowment cannot be used to assist in erasing the debt. What are endowments for if not to provide resources during difficult times for the very organizations they have been created to support? Reasonable changes in management practices must also take place.
It is appalling to think the orchestra players are being asked to make what appear to be the biggest sacrifices to deal with the financial shortfalls. Are there not other ways operating expenses can be controlled without reducing the number of weeks in the annual schedule? This would surely have serious consequences throughout the organization, including the potential loss of Marin Alsop. How about fewer soloists, fewer guest conductors, fewer costly events such as overseas tours? I suspect increases in the price of tickets is possible with little effect on attendance. Modest as some of the savings might be, would they not represent a genuine effort on the part of management to bring expenses more in line with income?
Finally, how about increased fundraising efforts in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.?