Baltimore Symphony Orchestra receives $1.5M from Maryland government as part of five-year financial support plan

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Image via the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook page.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has received $1.5 million from the state of Maryland in the first year of a five-year financial bridge to support the orchestra.

The funds are earmarked the BSO fiscal year which begins Sept. 1.

The Maryland General Assembly in 2020 passed a bill to provide financial support to the BSO, with funding starting at $1.5 million for FY22 and decreasing by $200,000 yearly during the five-year period.

Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed that bill, along with several other bills last legislative session, as part of a budget freeze due to the coronavirus pandemic. But state lawmakers ultimately overrode the governor’s veto.

Hogan on Tuesday highlighted the importance of arts institutions like the BSO.

“Maryland is home to many cultural treasures, and investing in the arts has been a hallmark of my administration,” Hogan said in a statement. “The BSO has done the hard work, producing a plan and faithfully implementing it. At the same time, it has demonstrated great resilience, reaching more Marylanders than ever before when it mattered the most. The future of the BSO is bright, and the time was right for the State to implement its commitment.”

BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome, who will be stepping down in January, said in a statement that the support of state leaders and community members helped pave a path for the orchestra to “move forward with great resolve and confidence.”

“The BSO is deeply indebted to generous friends who have seeded our transformation to-date, including our expansive outreach in response to the pandemic,” Kjome said. “Thanks to the shared sacrifices of musicians and staff, the generosity of BSO patrons, and extraordinary pandemic relief funds, we anticipate ending the 2021 fiscal year in a financial position that will help us continue to serve the citizens of Maryland.”

BSO management and musicians in 2019 agreed to a one-year contract after a labor dispute and lockout.

The two sides then agreed to a five-year contract in 2020, the orchestra’s first multi-year agreement in four years at the time.

BSO Board Chair Barry Rosen on Tuesday said the orchestra’s success requires investment, not cuts. The $1.5 million from the state will aid the BSO’s restoration and growth, Rosen said.

“The BSO came together in 2019 in an extraordinary way, and while our plans are bold the theme is simple, we cannot cut ourselves to health,” Rosen said in a statement. “The BSO is on a course to energize the institution, to better reflect and serve our diverse community, and to grow audiences and revenues, but these plans require cost management, strategic investment, and time. The State’s multi-year bridge was designed to provide just that – turnaround capital and a runway to realize incremental change.”

The BSO’s board approved a $29.8 million budget for FY2022. The BSO also received a $1.5 million Shuttered Venues Operating Grant, which the orchestra will use to offset a $2 million budget shortfall.

As Music Director Marin Alsop prepares to step down from her position at the end of her contract in August, the BSO is conducting a multi-year, international search for its next music director.

The BSO in September will welcome back full audiences, starting with its Season of Discovery programming. In the meantime, the orchestra has been performing other smaller programs, including a concert series at Oregon Ridge Park throughout July.

The orchestra is also expanding its digital platform to improve the availability of live-streamed concerts.

Marcus Dieterle

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