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Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Musicians Reach New 5-Year Contract

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and its musicians announced Friday that they have agreed to a new five-year contract running through 2025.

The new deal takes effect on September 7 and runs through September 14, 2025. It's the first long-term contract agreement between the two sides since a previous three-year contract expired in 2016.

Last summer, the musicians took to the picket line when the two sides couldn't reach an agreement. Both sides reached a one-year deal in September 2019.


The musicians were represented by the Musicians Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543 American Federation of Musicians.

"It is incredible we are standing here one year later on the cusp of what, to me, looks like the next golden age for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra," board chair Barry Rosen said.

The new contract has musicians taking a salary reduction in the first year due to the significant financial pressures of COVID-19, which has caused the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to remain closed and the musicians to play virtually. In years two through five, the musicians' salaries gradually increase until reaching a minimum annual wage of close to $90,000.

"The salary increases in the later part of this contract will allow us to attract world-class musicians and a five-year agreement will help retain the musicians who are already here and encourage them to put roots down," Rosen said.

That the agreement came amid the hardships brought on by COVID-19, "is all the more remarkable," BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome said.

"It's a testament to our wonderful BSO family," he added.

The terms of the five-year agreement include the following:

  • COVID-19 provisions including reductions during the initial year (2020-21 season) followed by annual increases in base scale. Year 1: (2020-21 season) 26% reduction in base scale and a 75% reduction in overscale and seniority Year 2: (2021-22 season) 1% increase in base scale (from pre-COVID level) Year 3: (2022-23 season) 1% increase Year 4: (2023-24 season) 1.75% increase Year 5: (2024-25 season) 2.5% (reaching a minimum annual wage of $90,100 in the final year)
  • Gradual increases in the number of full-time musicians, including gradual filling of vacancies, moving from 75 full-time musicians (2020-21 season) to 85 full-time musicians, including librarians, in year 5 (2024-25 season).
  • Continuation of a comprehensive year-round benefits package which includes medical, dental, vision, life, long-term disability, and instrument insurance.
  • Formation of a diversity task force to address ways to increase diversity on stage including a new fellowship program to be developed with the Sphinx organization.
  • Increased responsiveness in scheduling and programming to pursue new earned revenue and community engagement opportunities.
  • Maximum visibility of the orchestra in the region, across the state and beyond through digital platforms.
  • Building on the popularity of BSO OffStage, new structures for a continuation of at-home content by musicians as part of COVID-19 provisions.
  • New provisions for the BSO's operations and increased profile in Montgomery County including expanded opportunities for donor and patron engagement.

"We are especially gratified that a long-term agreement has been reached with our musicians. Our collaboration was punctuated by a commitment to the future success of our great orchestra, which success is our joint responsibility," Rosen said in a statement."The tone and content of all of our negotiations were always constructive and cordial. Reaching agreement on a five-year contract is a key ingredient for the BSO to expand upon the extraordinary philanthropic support it received from our community earlier this year, and a key ingredient in the implementation of our five-year strategic plan."

The BSO has found creative ways to engage fans digitally during the pandemic releasing videos on the 4th of July and presenting a digital concert series.

Musicians will return to the hall in two weeks. Meanwhile, cameras are being installed and there will be a new way to experience the orchestra, though further details have not been announced.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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