By Tatiana Hewitt
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra faces a financial crisis that could shorten its schedule and cut salaries, but the president and CEO remains optimistic that proposed new funding will sustain “Maryland’s largest arts organization.”
“The BSO greatly appreciates the vital help from our state, city and counties for Maryland’s largest arts organization,” BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome said recently.
The city and state were the first to pitch in.
In late February, Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello filed a resolution calling for more state funding for the orchestra.
“Total government funding reached a record level of $4.8 million in 2007, and we recognize that funding levels can necessarily change from year to year,” Kjome explained. “While the BSO’s financial position is such that a restoration of pre-recession funding may not on its own be sufficient to maintain our status as a 52-week orchestra.”
Karen Glenn Hood, director of media relations and public affairs for the Maryland State Commerce, said the Maryland State Arts Council funds the BSO. The funding for the 2015 fiscal year was $1.8 million with 2019 funding at about $2 million.
The orchestra’s budget from state and local dollars, plus the Arts Council, this year totaled $3.3 million.
By developing the resolution and getting it passed, the Baltimore City Council helped jump start a move to increase funding for the orchestra, said Lester Davis, the council’s deputy chief of staff.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, filed a bill to provide $1.6 million to the BSO in each of the next two years. She also included creation of a working group to look at ways to reduce the orchestra costs. The goal is to get the $3.2 million in additional state funds before the Legislature ends, she said, stressing the money would add to, not replace the local and state dollars.
Both supporters and fans insist that the orchestra is vital to the Baltimore community and its children. The BSO provides open rehearsals to schools and programs for children to engage with music.
“We are deeply grateful for the generous public support that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra continues to receive,” Kjome said.