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March 25, 2009

Great Recession tightens grip on arts groups, locally and nationally

The effects of the Great Recession continue to hit arts groups just about everywhere.

Here, the Baltimore Symphony imposed two-week furloughs on all administrative staff (60 full-time employees), including the president/CEO. The unpaid weeks must be taken by the end of the fiscal year, Aug. 31. "We are looking at every other possibility" to save money, says Eileen Andrews Jackson, BSO VP for marketing and communications. Whether that will mean reopening the musicians' contract remains to be seen. The BSO already went through a round of staff reductions and various cost-cutting measures earlier this year.

It would be easy to start developing an inferiority complex in Baltimore, given all the harsh news on the cultural front --- Baltimore Opera gone; Senator Theatre shuttered; Baltimore Chamber Orchestra in a suspended-operations state; a Verdi Requiem postponed by Concert Artists of Baltimore until next season due to slow ticket sales; reductions, furloughs and a canceled exhibition at the Walters Art Museum; theater groups hanging by a thread; etc. But, if it's any consolation, we're hardly alone.

Today brings news that the Orlando Opera, with more than 50 years behind it, is facing the possibility of canceling next season if $500,000 isn't raised quickly. There's also a report that the Cleveland Orchestra, facing a big deficit, has started salary cuts. Music director Franz Welser-Most is giving up 20 percent of his salary, the executive director 15 percent, the rest of senior management 10 percent. Other tough measures are being taken as well.

The distressing reality is that the economy is sure to harm more arts organizations before things start to turn around.  That said, stay tuned for a little bright news on the Baltimore music scene that I'll post shortly.

Posted by Tim Smith at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)

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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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