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Detroit Symphony member: Learn from us; BSO can't just cut season

Detroit Symphony member: Learn from us; BSO can't just cut season
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians picket outside the Meyerhoff Monday morning after being locked out by management as they continue to negotiate salaries. The BS0 has been struggling with financial problems. (Kevin Richardson)

It has been suggested by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra CEO Peter Kjome and repeated by The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board that several orchestras, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, have stabilized their financial situations by making cuts to the length of their seasons. At best, Mr. Kjome has not done his homework; at worst, his comments are deliberately misleading (“It’s past time for a hard conversation about the BSO,” May 31).

Suggesting that an organization whose primary mission is to perform for, and be accessible to, its community can better serve those goals by performing fewer concerts is contrary to common sense. The notion that individual donors, foundations and government would be willing to provide more support for an orchestra because it is doing less defies logic. And the idea that musicians — who practice and stay in musical shape year-round regardless of an orchestra's season length — would prefer to join or stay in an environment where their efforts are only valued for part of the year doesn't add up.

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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s financial footing has dramatically improved since a painful strike that ended in 2011 with several factors playing a major role in that turnaround. Significant structural changes to staff, board and development efforts took place and, more importantly, the DSO prioritized transparency and built trust: Musicians are in the room for nearly every meaningful discussion about the orchestra's future and have access to the organization's complete financial picture, something that is not the case in Baltimore.

At the DSO, significant and necessary changes to organizational culture have put us on a positive trajectory in spite of a shortened season rather than because of it as has been erroneously suggested. We hope to see similar changes in Baltimore before the current BSO administration does irreparable harm to one of Baltimore's great assets.

Jeremy Epp, Detroit, Mich.

The writer is principal timpanist and Orchestra Committee chairperson of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

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