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Lack of transparency is why BSO board must go

Lack of transparency is why BSO board must go
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians walk the picket line outside the Meyerhoff Monday morning. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

The latest audit that ends in fiscal year 2018 concludes that “there is substantial uncertainty about BSO’s ability to continue as a going concern.” A business does not get to this point in one year (“BSO says 2018 audit raises doubt,” July 16). Surely, previous audits already documented the alarming trend of a steadily mounting deficit including the unpaid bills to contractors now amounting to over $2 million.

Prudence would have dictated an in-depth analysis of the BSO’s business model when the decline was first apparent, and the responsibility residing in the board for musicians, donors and the public should have years ago led toward what Peter Kjome, the BSO president and CEO, now belatedly calls for: “a sustainable business model that helps control costs while expanding revenue." What would happen if the BSO would indeed have to declare bankruptcy, which given its debts now seems likely, even should the musicians agree to yet another cut in their income? A world-class orchestra with an internationally renowned conductor and reputation and strong ties to the Baltimore and Washington community would cease to exist and with it initiatives like OrchKids, joint projects with the Peabody Institute initiated by Marin Alsop and the orchestra, a yearly “boot camp” for musicians from every part of America and many more.

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It is ludicrous to suggest that the endowment trust so jealously defended from use could ensure that another orchestra of like quality could be stamped out of the ground and sustained after such a catastrophe. The whole mess is painfully reminiscent of the sudden demise of the Baltimore Opera Company, and this, but especially the lack of transparency, including the board’s unwillingness to release details of the latest audit to the press even now, does not inspire confidence in public or private donors who are so urgently needed to help get the orchestra back to financial health.

Only the replacement of the president, those board members complicit in obfuscation and a clearer governance of the trust fund will do that. The BSO is a beloved and needed institution. Once this has happened, the community will indubitably step up to keep it going.

Sabine Oishi, Baltimore

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