In a recent opinion piece, “Peabody dean: BSO needs to ‘get the business model right’” (June 6) Fred Bronstein makes solving the labor dispute at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra seem so simple. He says that the ongoing discussion has reinforced some “misperceptions.” However, he is guilty of some “misperceptions” of his own.
Mr. Bronstein cites the St. Louis Symphony as an example of an institution that reduced its weeks while maintaining quality and reputation. This is partly true, but what Mr. Bronstein neglects to say is that when St. Louis reduced their number of weeks to 42, they made only minimal cuts to annual salary. Players in that orchestra, one of Baltimore’s peers, will be making over $100,000 by the end of their current contract, while the BSO is currently making 17% less than St. Louis’ salary. BSO management’s current contract proposal of around $70,000 would put the BSO’s wages at 30% less than those of St. Louis.
Mr. Bronstein calls for reasonable concessions from the musicians. The real truth here, and the only consistent solution BSO managements and boards have historically applied, is to ask the musicians who make the music on stage every week to bear the brunt of the organization’s financial struggles. Since 2002, BSO musicians have allowed 22 musician vacancies to go unfilled, which is 20% of our required personnel, and agreed to seven concessionary contracts, ceding millions of dollars back to BSO management. At each negotiation management promised to do better at controlling expenses, and each time they overspent on this or that project. In 2010, after the financial crisis, the musicians gave more than a 20% concession to help the organization, and here we are again being once more asked to sacrifice to save the day.
A 40-week season is not a new business model. It is a vehicle for cuts to the musicians, and it robs the BSO of time to earn revenue and connect with audiences, two vital needs of the organization.
And Governor Hogan, if you’re reading this, please release the $1.6 million provided for in HB 1404 so we can get down to the work at hand with the work group that the legislation creates.
Brian Prechtl and Greg Mulligan, Baltimore
The writers are co-chairs of the Baltimore Symphony Musicians Players’ Committee.