Two Maryland orchestras, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the National Philharmonic, dominated headlines this summer. Musicians had been playing without a contract since January 2019 at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which reported persistent deficits, but months of negotiations failed to produce a new agreement. A key issue for musicians was a proposed reduction in season length from 52 weeks to 40 weeks. A three-month work stoppage began in late May. On September 23, a one-year musicians contract was announced in a joint news conference at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The contract, through September 6, 2020, guarantees a 38-week regular season, with two weeks of summer programming, and includes a 2.4 percent pay increase. Musicians will receive bonus compensation of $1.6 million from a fund established by local philanthropists. The contract mandates the formation of a new Vision Committee, to include musician participation. The season began on September 27, after a two-week delay. The National Philharmonic, based in North Bethesda, announced in July that it was short of funds and might cease operations. A two-week fundraising campaign by the orchestra raised more than $150,000, and a separate fundraising campaign led by Jim Kelly, a violinist in the orchestra, was also successful. The 2019-20 season will go on, under new leadership: Kelly becomes the orchestra’s president and will work in the position unpaid for a year.
Several orchestras recently reported new, multi-year contract agreements with annual salary increases for musicians, among them the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, California Symphony, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Las Vegas Philharmonic, San Antonio Symphony, and Toledo Symphony.