Donations help but Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is still in financial trouble | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
Jan 16, 2020 | 4:10 PM
It’s very generous of those donors to step up again for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (“The BSO will get $7.25 million extra funds from donors. Is it enough to escape financial problems?” Jan. 14). But these donations don’t actually solve any of the BSO’s structural economic issues. The bottom line is that the BSO’s unearned income — a.k.a. donations, endowment, grants and sponsorships — can not keep up with rising expenses, especially while earned income, aka ticket sales, are flat or declining.
The recent donations only allow the orchestra to balance this year’s budget avoiding another lockout. But come next summer, we’ll be back to debating the necessity of summer concerts and the value of a full-time, 52-week orchestra to Baltimore versus a 44-week orchestra. Sadly, absent a demonstrated ability to sell more tickets to existing concert series, the BSO will be forced once again to seek guarantees of greater donations (or government help) or face reducing the number of guaranteed weeks.
Symphonic music is one of our civilization’s greatest achievements and Baltimore is a much better place to live with its great professional orchestra. But getting the murder rate below 300 a year, replacing the water and sewer lines and lowering the property taxes would go much further toward “saving” Baltimore than an orchestra with 52 weeks as opposed to 44 weeks of concerts.