July 4, 2019
Baltimore Symphony CEO and President Peter Kjome has cited the St. Louis
Symphony as an example of US symphony orchestras that have found success by
cutting their seasons. Yes, the St. Louis Symphony has endured cuts. But if
our orchestra has maintained artistic stature and relevance, it is not
because of cuts, but in spite of them. Our success is the result of
I can say “our success” because the investment has come from all
stakeholders in the St. Louis Symphony. The SLSO board is engaged as never
before. From its challenged state of twenty years ago, the SLSO endowment
now stands strong at over $200 million. Meanwhile, the SLSO’s Annual Fund
has grown substantially. For three years and counting, the St. Louis
Symphony has ended its fiscal year in cash positive territory. This
disciplined approach has been sustained over several management teams.
SLSO musicians have also participated in the culture of investment. We have
continued to invest our time and sweat in upholding our high standard of
music making. Our participation rate in our volunteer Community Partnership
Program is high. Standards in our audition process have remained stringent,
which keeps the quality of the music making high. One reason for this,
frankly, is that we have insisted on progressive labor agreements.
The BSO musicians have likewise invested in the quality of their music
making and in the health and well-being of their community, while tolerating
the uncertainty of shaky finances. Now Mr. Kjome has decided that the answer
to the BSO’s challenges is to cut weeks from the BSO’s season; to cut
musicians’ compensation; to cut out programming; to cut off audiences from
music that feeds the soul. Why threaten the future quality of the orchestra?
Why throw away the momentum of the BSO’s recent artistic achievements? Why
perpetuate a culture of disinvestment?
Why not include the orchestra in making a positive strategy for the future?
Why not build on the BSO’s increasing artistic success? Why not take the
steps to create a culture of investment?
The musicians of the St. Louis Symphony stand with the musicians of the
Baltimore Symphony. This world-class ensemble, and the city of Baltimore,
Principal Trombone, Saint Louis Symphony
Co-chair, St. Louis Symphony Musicians’ Council