Tag Archives: bso

Boston Symphony Orchestra Tour to East Asia Canceled Due to Coronavirus Concerns

The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s four-city tour to East Asia (Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, and Hong Kong) with Andris Nelsons, February 6-16, has been canceled due to increasing concerns over widely documented official news and government agency reports assessing the spread of the new coronavirus. These concerns, along with discussions with the Shanghai Oriental Art Center—whose leadership informed the BSO about the official cancellations of their upcoming performances—followed by consultations with the tour’s presenters in Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong, combined to play an influential role in the cancellation of the BSO’s East Asia tour.

“On behalf of Andris Nelsons and the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, we are all deeply disappointed that we will not be able to perform for the wonderful audiences in Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai,”” said BSO President and CEO Mark Volpe.

“Though this was to be the BSO and Andris Nelsons’ first visit to Seoul, and the BSO’s long-awaited returns to Taipei and Hong Kong, it has become clear through recent official reports that concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus have dramatically increased, forcing the orchestra to look seriously at the feasibility of proceeding with the tour,” Volpe added. “With the health and well-being of the musicians and entire tour party, including Yefim Bronfman, always of foremost concern—along with the decision made by the Shanghai presenters to cancel upcoming performances—we have canceled the entire tour. Unfortunately, this includes the BSO’s performances in Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong—areas much less impacted by the virus—as it remains unclear how travel in and out of these regions will be affected in the coming weeks.”

“All of us at the Boston Symphony Orchestra are incredibly sad to have to cancel our tour to East Asia and disappoint our fans in Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai,” said BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons. “But we greatly appreciate everyone’s understanding that we need to put the health and well-being of our musicians first and foremost. … We all feel deep gratitude to the many wonderful people who worked so hard at every level to organize and support this tour. Most importantly, our hearts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by the coronavirus.”

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is currently exploring the possibility of scheduling some concerts and special events in Boston during the next two weeks, the period of time when the orchestra would have been on tour. Among the activities being considered is a BSO concert free for the community of Boston. Further details will be announced by early next week.

The 2020 trip was to be the orchestra’s 29th international tour since the orchestra’s founding in 1881. On other occasions, the BSO has been forced to cancel or significantly alter tour dates and personnel due to external factors. They include the orchestra’s 1960 Asia-Australasia tour when the BSO canceled an appearance in Seoul, South Korea due to political unrest and in 1999 when the BSO canceled performances in Beijing due to the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in former Yugoslavia.

To view a January 27, 2020 report about the new coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, click here.

Baltimore Symphony Management intent on cutting season despite offer of $1 million from generous donors

At 6:59 pm Monday evening, September 9, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) management issued a “take it or leave it” offer to the BSO Musicians which will be presented to the orchestra for a vote this evening, September 10. The proposal contained wage and benefit cuts of 20%. The federal mediators proposed an extension of negotiations until close of business Thursday, September 12. Management rejected the federal mediators’ proposal. Musicians then suggested an extension until the close of voting by the membership on this final offer. Management rejected that proposal as well.

The Baltimore Symphony Musicians negotiated in good faith throughout the summer. We organized prominent donors to assist in this process. These generous donors brought $1 million designated specifically for musician compensation to help secure a contract. We want to express appreciation from the bottom of our hearts to these donors for their unwavering commitment. It is incredibly disheartening that BSO leadership would fail to embrace this offer of help from some of Baltimore’s leading philanthropists.

Where do we go from here? The musicians will continue the fight to preserve our 103-year-old institution, which serves the City of Baltimore, the surrounding counties and the State of Maryland. We stand ready and willing to get back to the negotiating table to achieve an agreement that will enable us to continue to attract and retain the highest quality musicians to perform for our audiences.

This is a dark day in the history of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Over the past three months, the musicians have each lost over $20,000 in salary, with more to come. This dispute isn’t just about money. It is also about respect, respect for the quality of the musicians on stage, respect for generations of Marylanders who have built this orchestra, and for the thousands of people who have bought tickets and have donated to this venerable institution.

BSO Musicians will have a silent picket line up this morning at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. This afternoon, we will have a normal, noisy, picket line from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Management Tries to Influence Governor, Undermine Bargaining Process

As Baltimore Symphony Musicians continued to picket Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, emails released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request revealed Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) management attempted to influence Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to attach to any release of state funds a message supporting the management bargaining position seeking drastic cuts in musician compensation. As reported by the Baltimore Sun on July 16, these messages also show BSO management painting a very dark picture of the organization’s finances to the governor’s office, suggesting that management might have privately undermined public efforts then underway by the musicians and their supporters to get the governor to release to the BSO $1.6 million in funding authorized by the state legislature.

Members of AFT Maryland and UNITE HERE have joined Baltimore Symphony Musicians on the picket line to support the BSO’s fight for a fair contract. Photo: Local 40-453

The emails show that BSO CEO Peter Kjome believed, as early as May 23, that the funds would not be released, although Gov. Hogan did not announce his decision until July 3. On that same day, BSO musicians continued a 40-plus-year tradition of playing a Fourth of July concert at Oregon Ridge Park, having assumed responsibility for the event after BSO management canceled the orchestra’s summer season on May 30. In conjunction with Baltimore County government, the musicians obtained grants from the Music Performance Trust Fund and Film Funds to present this live, free performance. This year’s concert was conducted by Amarillo Symphony Orchestra Music Director Jacomo Bairos.

The musicians, members of Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD), are routinely joined on the picket line by the orchestra’s subscribers and donors, members of other AFM locals, and members of other unions, such as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU), the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), UNITE HERE, the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), National Nurses United (NNU), and the Baltimore and Maryland State AFL-CIO leadership.

On June 24, former BSO Music Director David Zinman and his wife Mary visited the picket line, as did former International Conference of Symphony Musicians (ICSOM) Chair Bruce Ridge. “I was shocked, mortified, and horrified to hear what was happening,” Zinman said. “It pains me to see this.” Among his remarks, Ridge observed, “What happens to one of us happens to all of us.”

A number of BSO musicians have been hired to play in other orchestras’ summer seasons and in summer festivals. The musicians remaining in Baltimore are busy playing home concerts and other types of performances to raise awareness and money for their fight for a fair contract. Baltimore Symphony Musicians took part in a rally on July 20 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in support of nurses engaged in an organizing drive.

Support for the Baltimore Symphony Musicians and the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore continues to flood in from orchestra musicians and AFM locals across the country. ICSOM has announced that over a quarter of a million dollars has been raised since their Call to Action was announced at the AFM Convention in June.

baltimore symphony musicians

Baltimore Symphony Musicians Locked Out, Summer Season Canceled

baltimore symphony musicians

For the first time in three decades, the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) have been locked out. The news became official June 16, when orchestra management announced that it would be canceling the summer season, suspending musicians’ pay and cutting off their health insurance. At a June 21 bargaining session with BSO management, musicians also learned that their Long-Term Disability coverage was canceled as of June 17, and their life insurance policies would be canceled as of September 1.

baltimore symphony musicians

BSO musicians, members of Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD), have played without a contract since January. Previously, the orchestra board proposed cutting the concert season from 52 weeks to 40, amounting to a loss of 20% in income and benefits for musicians. The lockout, which bars musicians from going to work, effectively achieves that goal.

During the winter, musicians mounted a campaign to raise public awareness of the orchestra’s plight, resulting in the passage of House Bill 1404 by the Maryland General Assembly which includes $3.2 million in funding in support of the BSO.

Releasing the first installment of the two-year grant might have averted the lockout. On May 30, at an urgent session of the bargaining committee, management told musicians it was unlikely Gov. Larry Hogan would make funding immediately available. By the end of the meeting, news of the canceled summer season was out to the media, where most musicians first learned of management’s decision. On June 13, the state confirmed it would not release the funds, citing management practices and lack of donor confidence in the organization. According to BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome, the orchestra is scheduled to reconvene in September for the fall season, when he claims the lockout will end.

baltimore symphony musicians

In its more-than-100-year history, the BSO has experienced five prior work stoppages: strikes in 1937, 1968, 1971, and 1988, and a lockout in 1981. The longest work stoppage was a 22-week strike from September 1988 to February 1989. 

Musicians call the lockout a management scare tactic and dispute the severity of the financial crisis. They say that the BSO could pay them for the summer by drawing additional funds from the $72.6 million BSO endowment trust, on top of the $3.838 million annual draw that is part of the operating budget. Brian Prechtl, co-chair of the Players’ Committee, observes that if the lockout continues until September, the orchestra will save $2.5 million on musicians’ wages and health care—which is coming directly out of musicians’ pockets. “Our line of the budget has remained flat for at least 10 years.” Musicians have made several concessions over a decade of negotiations. Their contracts have only recently returned to 2008 compensation levels.

According to longtime BSO subscriber and donor John Warshawsky, who heads the advocacy group Save Our BSO, the lockout emphasizes the importance of growing the endowment to achieve long-term stability. At the same time, it fails to highlight the hardship and unexpected loss of paycheck for the 75 orchestra members.

BSO management and board have failed to maximize donations and income, including a year in which the orchestra operated without a director of development. In addition to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, the orchestra performs at a second venue at Strathmore, in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest parts of the state. Many argue this exclusive area has never been fully tapped for its potential.

baltimore symphony musicians
Former BSO Music Director David Zinman stood with the BSO musicians in their picket lines last week.

As of this writing, Baltimore Symphony Musicians are picketing at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. More negotiations between musicians and management will be scheduled.

The musicians have received strong support from many quarters. Delegates to the 101st AFM Convention, held June 17-20 in Las Vegas, pledged nearly $100,000 in support for the locked-out musicians. The delegates also unanimously adopted an Emergency Resolution condemning the actions of BSO management and calling for an end to the lockout.

How to donate to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians

To send online contributions to the Baltimore Symphony Musicians, visit www.bsomusicians.org/public_html/donate/

To send contributions to the Baltimore Symphony Musicians by check:

Send check to:
Greg Mulligan
Co-Chair, Baltimore Symphony Players Committee
11955 Long Lake Drive
Reisterstown, MD 21136
Make check payable to: Baltimore Symphony Musicians, Inc.

To send contributions to The Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore to help offset the loss of work dues:

Send check to:
The Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore
1055 Taylor Avenue, Suite 218
Baltimore, MD 21286
Make check payable to “Local 40-543, AFM”

The most recent updates about the Baltimore Symphony Musicians can be found on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BaltimoreSymphonyMusicians.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Signs One-Year Contract

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) musicians and management reached an agreement on a new one-year contract, several months ahead of the current contract’s expiration in September. The one-year agreement goes into effect September 11 and extends through September 9, 2018. Key terms of the contract include a 2% increase in weekly salaries—with minimum weekly scale reaching $1,591.20—and language requiring that five auditions take place during the 2017-2018 season.   

“We believe that this settlement is a positive step in maintaining the treasured orchestra we’ve built over a century, and we look forward to building an even stronger institution for the city of Baltimore and the citizens of Maryland,” says Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD) Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine.

Greg Mulligan, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players’ Committee Chair, spoke about the dedication of all involved: “The BSO musicians are glad that we have reached a new agreement, and we thank our board and staff leadership, including our new CEO Peter Kjome, for their constructive and positive approach to these negotiations. We look forward to continuing our work with Marin Alsop, Board Chair Barbara Bozzuto, and Peter as we build our world-class orchestra.”