Amid contract dispute with players, BSO hires four new musicians

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Image via the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook page.

While still locked in a stalemate with players over proposed cuts, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is adding new musicians to its ranks. The orchestra last week announced the appointment of a new assistant principal flutist and three new violinists.

“We are excited to announce that these four superb artists are joining the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra,” BSO president and CEO Peter Kjome said in a statement. “These appointments demonstrate the artistic excellence of our Orchestra, and I join the Board, musicians and staff in welcoming them to the BSO community.”

BSO vice president and general manager Tonya McBride Robles added, “The BSO maintains a rigorous audition process, and after reviewing hundreds of candidates, we are delighted to be joined by these exceptional artists.”

New assistant principal flutist Christine Murphy, a graduate of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, started her assignment last month.

Violinists Jeremías Sergiani-Velázquez and Chelsea Kim, respectively a recent guest concertmaster with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and a graduate of the The Juilliard School, will start in May. The third violinist, Agnes Tse, a performer with the New Jersey-based Symphony in C, will join the BSO at a to-be-determined date during the current season.

The hires come as orchestra management and players are still no closer to agreeing to a new contract, though WYPR reported last week the two sides are still talking.

Last year, management proposed cutting the BSO’s schedule from 52 weeks to 40 weeks in the face of losses Kjome said amounted to $16 million over the last decade.

The player’s committee, Baltimore Symphony Musicians, contends the group is still sustainable, and that a reduction of concerts–the BSO is one of 17 orchestras in the country still playing year-round–would tarnish its reputation.

“If we were to accept these cuts, it would be a significant downgrade of our orchestra that Maryland and Baltimore deserve, and can afford,” violinist Greg Mulligan, co-chair of the committee, told Baltimore Fishbowl in January.

In an email, Mulligan wrote that these new hires do not make the BSO whole. Currently, there are 74 full-time players, he wrote, but there will be at least one upcoming retirement; he declined to name who because the musician has not announced it publicly.

Accounting for that, by the time all the violinists arrive, the BSO roster will remain at 76, barring any additional retirements–a number well short of the minimum of 83 promised in the last contract.

“It is highly objectionable that we are still far from achieving this number,” Mulligan wrote.

Brandon Weigel

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