It’s been months of uncertainty for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and all those who worry about the future of the city's cultural icon. But after a 14-week labor dispute, the musicians and orchestra management announced a one-year contract Monday.
A fanfare for two trumpets announced the beginning of that year; the season will start Friday, two weeks later than previously scheduled. But it will begin, and that, said Music Director Marin Alsop showed a willingness for all parties to "roll up their sleeves" and "collaboratively move forward."
The new agreement came after philanthropists from the Baltimore and DC metro area donated $1.6 million--raising most of what’s needed to pay the musicians’ fulltime salaries for a 40 week season and through 10 weeks of the summer season, as well as paid vacation time and benefits. With this money, the BSO will also hire additional musicians.
The musicians had been working without a contract since January, when the musicians and management couldn’t reach an agreement on cost of living increases, benefits and how long the season would run. Symphony management cited a $16 million deficit over 10 years.
The General Assembly approved funds to keep the orchestra afloat, but Governor Larry Hogan refused to release the money at the beginning of the summer.
Then BSO management abruptly canceled its summer season over Memorial Day weekend and the musicians were locked out from June 17 until early September.
Brian Pretchl, Co-Chair of the BSO Players Committee, said the donors who contributed the $1.6 million wanted to see fiscal responsibility.
"Along with this money, these folks demanded a committee be formed to hold the organization accountable," he said.
Many touted what they called the “vision committee” as a way to not only bring musicians into the monetary decision-making process but to make it relevant to the next generation of potential ticket holders.