Saving The Symphony

Our View: The Bso's Musicians Are Playing Their Part

Music Lovers Must Play Theirs

August 02, 2009

It was both heartwarming and heart-rending to watch the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's musicians voluntarily give back $1 million in pay raises and other previously negotiated benefits last year in order to keep the institution afloat through the current economic downturn.

The players' sacrifice was an expression of the fierce loyalty they felt toward the orchestra and its management, and their generosity was unprecedented. Of the 17 major symphony orchestras in the country, the BSO players were the only ones to give back previously negotiated salaries and benefits on their own, rather than in response to management demands.

Their only condition was that the money be used to create a challenge fund to inspire others to match their generosity; eventually the effort helped raise an extra $750,000.

Unfortunately, that still wasn't enough to stanch the flow of red ink, and now the players have agreed to a 12.5 percent cut in pay on top of what they've already contributed. That will save the orchestra an additional $900,000 next year and, we hope, help get it through its current rough patch.

Baltimore is rare among cities our size to have an orchestra playing a full, 52-week-a-year concert schedule, and we shouldn't give that up, especially since Music Director Marin Alsop has injected such energy into the BSO.

It's encouraging that donors to the orchestra seem to be on the rise, but the entire community should join the musicians in doing their part to keep the BSO alive, through donations or ticket purchases for performances. When this recession is over, Beethoven and Bach will still be there, and whatever we've done to help the symphony survive surely will seem like a small price to have paid to keep great music alive in Baltimore.

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