In consequence of the cancellation of more than 130 events between March 12th and mid-June, including the last seven weeks of its 2019-20 subscription season, and the 2020 Pops season, BSO management has furloughed personnel and reduced musician and staff salaries to remediate for $10 million in forgone revenues. These numbers do not include the possible effect to the bottom line of a complete Tanglewood cancellation. That decision comes in the middle of May.
BSO musicians have unanimously agreed to take a 25% pay reduction through the end of August, to restructure their vacation time allotment over the next two years, and to allow expanded digital performance sharing during the live performance hiatus. According to the BSO PLayers’ Committee, “There’s no doubt that this is an unprecedented time in the history of the BSO. The changes that we’ve needed to undertake across the organization have affected (and will affect) so many people: musicians, staff and board alike. As we continue to foster and grow our relationship with our audiences in an online-only format, our hearts go out to our many colleagues involved in all facets of our work, whether concert production or elsewhere in our organization, who find themselves furloughed. We look forward to the time when we can get back to performing live, working together again to bring music to life.”
Management also announced the furlough of 70 of the organization’s 200 full-time employees as of April 20th. Furloughs and salary reductions will strike 80% of the BSO’s full-time employees. More than 400 part-time personnel had previously been furloughed in connection with the concert cancellations. Workers will retain healthcare coverage and can apply for unemployment insurance and supplemental income under the terms of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Employees who are enrolled in health, dental, life, Long Term Disability (LTD), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HAS), will maintain these benefits during the period of their furloughs.
The organization has also implemented a 5%-15% sliding scale salary reduction policy for a significant portion of the staff; depending on salary level, some employees will not experience any reduction in their compensation.
Mark Volpe, BSO President and CEO, will take a 50% reduction in his base salary. BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will not receive compensation for all canceled performances. Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart will also take a substantial cut in his compensation. Volpe writes:
It is deeply heartening to see so many members of the BSO Family—musicians, staff, and artistic and board leadership—express such deep concern and desire to help with the programmatic and financial challenges we are facing as a result of the concert cancellations due to COVID-19.
I am forever grateful to everyone here at the BSO who has expressed such grace and understanding regarding the difficult measures we’ve needed to take, though I don’t underestimate in the least the hardship and challenges these cutbacks will create for many of my colleagues. I want to assure everyone that we are doing everything in our power to evaluate strategically the impact of the pandemic and develop the solutions needed to get the orchestra on track after this crisis has passed.
Though these are very difficult times, we are determined to continue to nurture what is at the heart of the orchestra’s core mission—to present live concerts of great works of music and bring tremendous joy and inspiration to our wonderful audiences.
To everyone affected by COVID-19, we extend our most sincere wish that this period of health crisis passes soon. We look towards a brighter future and returning to our cherished experiences of music’s power to unite us again as the BSO community.”
According to Susan Paine, Chair of the BSO Board of Trustees, “All of us on the Board of Trustees of the BSO, along with our extraordinary musicians, management, and staff are confronting this unprecedented challenge with great determination and strength. We are fully united in our goal to navigate this once-in-a-generation crisis head-on and to returning the BSO to equilibrium as soon as reasonably possible.
With each day that passes the BSO’s collective strength is demonstrated by the tough but necessary strategic choices we are making including cost reductions and, at the same time, sharing new creative forms of programming with our audiences through digital platforms – this shared commitment to preserving our core capabilities reflects our love for the BSO. Together, we will get through this extraordinary crisis and will move forward and continue to share the special gift of musical performance at the highest level.
We are incredibly grateful to all of our deeply devoted patrons, so many of whom have donated the value of their unused tickets back to the BSO. It is this kind of exceptional generosity which inspires us and that will help make a difference as we emerge from this crisis. It is our intention that through our actions now, we will be better positioned to create a vibrant future for our orchestra and its audiences. We look forward to once again sharing with the world the brilliant music-making of our Boston Symphony Orchestra.
BSO at Home and Boston Pops at Home
BSO at Home—a wide variety of audio and video offerings—has been made available to the Boston Symphony’s music community at www.bso.org/athome during the orchestra’s recently announced performance/event hiatus (click here to view March concert cancellation announcement). A Boston Pops at Home online initiative will be modeled in part on BSO at Home and is scheduled to be released in early May