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January 14, 2009

BSO lays off staffers

The recession — or is it the Great Depression II? — continues to take its toll on the local arts scene.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra laid off five of its 67 administrative employees and changed one full-time position to part-time today in an effort to reduce expenditures. Those moves, along with a decision not to fill select staff positions, will save the BSO about $500,000.

“We can see that the economic downturn is going to be a lot more prolonged than we had expected,” president/CEO Paul Meecham said. “Rather than wait until it is too late to make these expenditure reductions, we wanted to make this decision now.”

The BSO has seen a decline in single ticket sales and government grants this season. Meecham said that smaller gifts to the orchestra, those below $500, are down on average about 30 percent from last year. (Major gifts, those $10,000 and up, are holding steady.) And since Sept. 1, the orchestra’s endowment has dropped 23 percent in value to about $47 million. “We’re trying to do everything we can to cut costs and raise money,” Meecham said, “without cutting quality onstage.”

Posted by Tim Smith at 4:29 PM | | Comments (4)


Slashing arts spending behind the scenes IS going to effect the quality onstage. What if the Ravens decided to show up without Rex Ryan on Sunday against the Steelers? Hmmm? Without Cam? Oh, and oops, can't pay Ray either. Sorry Mr. Meecham. You will lose. And so will the people of Baltimore.

It is sad for me to see how all these great artistic institutions are suffering in Baltimore. While attending Peabody Conservatory I enjoyed and learned so much from going to great concerts at the BSO, Baltimore Opera etc. Baltimore has a truly historic and vibrant musical tradition. I would hate to see it go down because of this economic climate...
I urge Bawlmorians to go to concerts and support music!

I couldn't agree more. Thanks for the comments.Tim

Perhaps lowering ticket prices even further might make concerts more attractive during the Great Recession and increase attendance ($10 for mezzanine and balcony, $20 for rear orchestra, $30 for premium orchestra seats; $5 for seniors and students anywhere in the auditorium; children for free when attending with an adult). And, copying the Orioles' Designated Hitters program, where symphony subscribers recruit new subscribers to the orchestra, might also be helpful to building interest in the BSO.

Robert M. Kaiser
Baltimore, MD

I'm so glad to see someone place the talents and efforts of symphony administrators on equal standing as musicians. Too often we forget (or are not reminded) that without these hard working individuals, there would be no concert performance what-so-ever. As an arts administrator, I've been known to remind my colleagues that the musicians are the key element of the performance but without the staff, they would be playing free concerts in the park!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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