The Best Part Of Shooting Yourself In The Foot Is It’s Tough To Miss

While I wish we had brighter Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) news, that’s not in the cards. In fact, things seem to be moving toward a self-fulfilling prophecy stage.

Adaptistration People 126Last week, the BSO announced it was cancelling their season opening gala that would have featured Renee Fleming.

While it’s definitely a good thing to offer patrons plenty of advance notice for cancellations, eight weeks is jumping the gun. Especially for one of the largest fundraising events of the season with a marquee level guest artist.

So, what we end up with is a group locking out musician employees due to lack of funds cancelling their fundraising gala two months in advance.

Having said that, the 7/22/19 edition of the Baltimore Sun ran an article on the cancellation that included a quote from Mary Plaine, Local 40-543 AFM Secretary-Treasurer and retired BSO librarian, indicating the decision wasn’t a surprise.

“We certainly understand management’s decision to postpone the gala,” [said Plaine]. “They keep telling the public the orchestra is coming back to work on Sept. 9. But, I don’t believe the orchestra will go back to work until they have a ratified contract. That’s the way to hold the gala in September — end the lockout.”

The same article reports that BSO CEO Peter Kjome isn’t alarmed over how the cancellation may impact finances.

Kjome said that since the gala will still fall within the symphony’s 2019-20 fiscal year, the delay won’t hurt the orchestra’s bottom line.

While I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath over it, discovering any difference between the planned and actual revenue between the original gala with Fleming and the rescheduled event, that now features Itzhak Perlman, would be fascinating.

One would hope the BSO crunched the numbers and it could be telling to see if there are any expectations for lower revenue along with the supporting rationale.

For now, it seems that even though the BSO has said they plan on cancelling the lockout at the beginning of September, they fully expect the musicians won’t return to work. That type of coincidence takes a great deal of planning.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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