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Don’t blame Barbara Bozzuto for BSO’s financial woes

From left, Shona Goldberg-Leopold, Matt Barker, Rene Shapiro and John Vance perform music by Benedetto Marcello at the conclusion of a press conference held on Sept. 23 at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to announce the end to the musician's strike.
From left, Shona Goldberg-Leopold, Matt Barker, Rene Shapiro and John Vance perform music by Benedetto Marcello at the conclusion of a press conference held on Sept. 23 at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to announce the end to the musician's strike. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

I have served on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra board under three chairmen. For at least 20 years, we have recognized that the BSO has a structural deficit. Year after year, we kicked the can down the road and engaged in last-minute heroic fundraising to mitigate the deficit.

Barbara Bozzuto is the first chairman with the support of the board to initiate serious cost-cutting moves (“Baltimore Symphony names new board chair to replace Bozzuto, calls timing after labor dispute coincidental,” Sept. 26). First, she eliminated $2 million from the administrative budget, then she agreed, at the urging of many of us on the board, to begin a serious look at how we might reduce our overall budget.

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Put simply, we have never had enough cash, and most years we projected a deficit budget but continued on the same path. When we learned that Gov. Larry Hogan had agreed to a $1.6 million grant, we were relieved and thought we could get through the year. Sadly, the grant did not materialize and we knew we simply didn’t have enough money to fulfill the summer season.

None of this was Barbara’s fault, and she tried valiantly to raise additional funds. My brother and I tried to raise several million dollars last fall and could never get more than a $250,000 donation from a few donors when the need is in the millions.

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Barb should be congratulated for her heroic leadership over the last five years. We are at a tipping point. Baltimoreans need to decide that the symphony is important to Baltimore, whether they attend or not. The BSO is another major league anchor for this city. We need to grow our endowment significantly and we need in the range of $3-5 million more annually. The time is now.

Terry Meyerhoff Rubenstein, Towson

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