What on earth is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s management thinking?
As you all know, I’ve weighed in on my share of classical music labor disputes over the years. I was, obviously, deeply involved in the Minnesota Orchestra’s lockout… and over that year-and-a-half disaster, I pretty much saw it all. I had hoped that the lessons learned in Minneapolis would keep organizations from going down a similar path, but alas that was not to be the case. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, MET Opera, San Diego Opera, and too many other ensembles decided to take a similar path of trying to impose brutal new business models on their organizations in the name of “fiscal responsibility” or “sustainability.” And similar to what happened in Minnesota, they got burned as a result.
And now the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) management has taken up this misbegotten fight. And they did so with gusto; they chose to preemptively cancel the entire summer season, which had only been announced just five weeks ago. More surprisingly, they did so days after the announcement that Maryland’s General Assembly had promised $3.2 million to stabilize the BSO’s finances while all sides worked to build a comprehensive, shared plan to rebuild the organization’s fiscal health.
Based on decades of work as an arts administrator, board member, board president of an arts organization, and a classical performer myself, let me say unequivocally that the BSO’s decision is a disaster. Well, “disaster” hardly covers it—one could argue that it’s a hot mess of a train wreck careening toward a wheel-less bus parked next to a red-flag factory.
In one fell swoop, the BSO administration is threatening to blow up relations with all its key stakeholders… simultaneously. I fear the potential fallout could be immense. Continue reading