The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and its musicians have agreed to a new five-year contract to begin on Sept. 7, marking the orchestra’s first multi-year agreement in four years.
The contract includes provisions for gradually increasing musicians’ salaries and the number of full-time musicians, as well as the establishment of a task force focused on fostering diversity, equity and inclusion.
After a three-year contract expired in 2016, the orchestra has been subsisting on a series of one-year extensions.
In 2019, BSO management locked out players through the summer after the two sides found themselves at odds in a labor dispute.
At the time, BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome proposed reducing the band’s concert calendar from 52 weeks to 40 weeks and cutting musicians’ pay, citing revenue losses of $16 million over the last decade.
Management and musicians eventually agreed to a one-year contract in September 2019.
Now, Kjome said the new contract will provide “unprecedented stability” for the orchestra over the next five years.
The bargaining process for the new contract began in March as Maryland was beginning to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The fact that this has happened in such trying times is all the more remarkable,” Kjome said. “It’s a testament to our wonderful BSO family: our superb staff, our exceptional musicians and our wonderful board of directors.”
Board Chairman Barry Rosen said that the board of directors, management and musicians are jointly responsible for the BSO.
“The musicians want to present great music and they want to be paid appropriately. For that to happen, the BSO needs to be a success,” he said.
The BSO and its musicians have agreed to “shared sacrifices” for the first year of the contract in response to the financial challenges of COVID-19, with progress down the line, Kjome said.
The first year of the agreement includes a 26 percent reduction in base scale salaries and a 75 percent reduction in overscale and seniority salaries.
After that, the second year will include a 1 percent increase in base scale salaries from before the pandemic. There will be another 1 percent increase in the third year, 1.75 percent increase in the fourth year, and 2.5 percent increase in the fifth year at which point the orchestra will reach a minimum annual wage of $90,100.
“The salary increases in the later part of this contract will allow us to attract world class musicians, and the five-year agreement will help to retain the world class musicians that are already here and encourage them to put roots down now that we have the promise of stability,” BSO Players’ Committee Chair Brian Prechtl said.
Prechtl added that they are on the “cusp of what to me looks like the next golden age of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.”
The agreement includes gradual increases in the number of full-time musicians as the orchestra moves from 75 full-time musicians during the 2020-21 season to 85 full-time musicians, including librarians, by the 2024-25 season.
The contract also establishes a task force to support diversity, equity and inclusion by creating professional development opportunities, examining the orchestra’s hiring practices, and establishing new fellowship programs.
With the new contract going into effect in just over a week, Prechtl said the musicians will have “the freedom to concentrate on what we do best: making sublime music that nurtures and uplifts hearts, minds and spirits.”
Musicians will be returning to the stage at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where crews have installed robotic cameras and are developing new ways for audiences to experience the orchestra, Prechtl said.
In the coming weeks, the BSO will be announcing new artistic partners, a fall series with “inspirational, educational and entertaining music,” and a continuation of at-home content through BSO Offstage, Prechtl said.
“With this forward-thinking contract, it’s even clearer that the BSO will be your hometown orchestra for generations to come,” he said.