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Baltimore Symphony Musicians 'Caught Completely Off-Guard' By Abrupt Summer Season Cancellation

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Baltimore Symphony Musicians group said it was caught off-guard by an announcement Thursday from the orchestra that the summer season was canceled amid reforms designed to addresses millions of dollars in losses over the past decade.

The group released a statement saying BSO management canceled the season without consulting the musicians first, some of whom had turned down other jobs to remain in Baltimore. Those musicians will now be left without a paycheck, the group said.

"The timing of this decision to cut the orchestra by 20% by BSO board and management is the most disturbing aspect of this development," the group said in the statement. " ... The BSO's president and CEO Peter Kjome and board chair  Barbara Bozzuto have done all of this after stating publicly that they would not lock out the musicians. We find this disingenuous, unconscionable and irresponsible."

As part of the reform, BSO is adjusting its season from 52 weeks to 40, leading to its summer concerts being canceled.

"It's too bad," said Baltimore County resident Ken MacFadyen.

State funding passed at the Capitol had sought to address the group's financial struggles, but BSO said Thursday even with the funding it was forced to make changes in order to keep operating.

"These decisions were extremely difficult to make and were not entered into lightly, but they are the right ones if the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is going to continue to exist as a nationally renowned organization," said BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome in a statement. "If the BSO is going to survive, our business model needs to change, and that change begins in earnest today. In our view, moving from 52 weeks to 40 weeks is necessary. We look forward to working with our musicians as we navigate this change and prepare for a future that is strong and vibrant."

Over the past decade, BSO has lost more than $16 million.

The canceled concerts include:

  • New Music Festival - June 20-22, 2019
  • Oregon Ridge Star-Spangled Spectacular – July 3, 2019
  • Leslie Odom, Jr. – July 5, 2019
  • Harry Potter film with orchestra – July 11-13, 2019
  • BSO performance at Artscape – July 19, 2019
  • Cirque Dances – July 26-27, 2019

"It's always been such a pleasurable thing," said Phoenix resident Maryann Busse. "We've invited out of town people to come with us and it's always been such a wonderful experience. I'm sad."

The symphony will perform the remainder of its subscription season which goes through June 16.

BSO will contact those who purchased tickets to handle refunds or exchanges within the next three weeks.

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