Baltimore Symphony disputes info in much-linked Web story about struggling orchestras
A story making its way through cyberspace this week (it started at 247wallst.com and was quickly picked up by other sitesd) offers a snapshot of the "most cash-strapped classical music organizations."
But the writer, Jonathan Berr, used outdated and misleading information, at least when it came to including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on that list.
In case you've come across that article (I rather hate to fuel the buzz, but I guess I should provide a link to it), there are a few details you may want to consider.
The BSO is shown with a deficit of $5.3 million. But, as BSO president/CEO Paul Meecham points out, "that's two-year-old information. We balanced the budget for 2009-2010 and we are on track to balance the budget for '10-'11. We have no accumulated debt. It's unfortunate that the article was written by a journalist who did not make an effort to check the information. A quick call from the writer would have clarified things, but he didn't do that. It's very frustrating."
(Berr could also have checked out my January blog post on the BSO's financial status -- doesn't everybody hang on my every word?)
The story claimed the the BSO "is faced with ...
Even the BSO's move into Strathmore (located in Bethesda, which really is "neighboring" to DC) did not make it a major competitor to the NSO. I'm told that the NSO has seen no discernible drop in ticket sales or donations since the BSO began playing at Strathmore. And the BSO has been developing a substantive support base there.
The story goes on to say that the BSO "has a negative net asset value of $3.3 million." Meecham says that this is "purely a balance sheet item related to the musician's pension. We have to list all liabilities, and that figure is for the musicians' defined benefit plan. We have to fund that plan, but not in any one year. It does not have an impact on the operating budget."
Like most nonprofits these days, the BSO is hardly coasting on tidal waves of cash. But tough cost-cutting measures taken during the 2008-2009 season paid off. That year's deficit was eliminated using. Things have been in the black since. No wonder the unexpected flurry of bad cyber-press did not sit well.
"We've had strong ticket sales for the second half of the season," Meecham said. "Donations have never been higher. It's particularly galling to read stuff like this."
PHOTO (by Dave Harp) COURTESY OF THE BSO