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The Boston Symphony Orchestra Is Furloughing Staff And Cutting Musicians' Salaries

Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra on stage at Symphony Hall. (Courtesy BSO)
Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra on stage at Symphony Hall. (Courtesy BSO)

In another blow to Massachusetts' cultural ecosystem the Boston Symphony Orchestra has announced it will be furloughing staff and cutting salaries. These are among cost-saving solutions the organization's leaders are implementing to get the BSO through to the other side of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

According to a statement issued Friday, 70 of the organization's 300 full-time employees will be furloughed, with health benefits, starting April 20. The BSO's musicians unanimously agreed to take salary cuts through the end of August. The players will also amend their vacation time over the next two years.

Symphony Hall has been shuttered since March 12. The BSO estimates lost revenue of $6.2 million-dollars after having to cancel 130 events — including seven weeks of the orchestra's season and the entire Boston Pops slate of spring concerts. 400 part-time personnel who would have worked in connection with scrapped concerts have already been furloughed. Another $4 million in revenue streams has been wiped out by tour and venue rentals that have or will not happen.

BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will not get paid for the concerts he was scheduled to lead. Pops conductor Keith Lockhart is said to be taking a “substantial cut in his compensation" for the year that marks his 25th anniversary with the Pops.

Management and the BSO's Board of Trustees devised the cost containment strategies over the past few weeks. They also plan to step up fundraising efforts in hopes of staving off future financial hemorrhaging.

Furloughed staff are said to be eligible for unemployment insurance and support through the CARES Act. According to the BSO, a sliding scale has been used to determine how much pay will be reduced from which positions. Per the statement, “some employees will not experience any reduction in their compensation. In all, 80% of the BSO's full-time employees will be impacted by the furlough and salary reductions.”

President and CEO Mark Volpe will take a 50% reduction to his salary.

“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,” he said in the statement, “though I don’t underestimate in the least the hardship and challenges these cutbacks will create for many of my colleagues.”

Volpe also offered assurances “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."

BSO Board of Trustees chair Susan Paine said, “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.”

The BSO is not alone in the orchestral world with having to make drastic, unprecedented changes. The Metropolitan Opera canceled its season last month and furloughed union employees, and the New York Philharmonic made cuts to its musicians' salaries. And the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston just furloughed more than 300 employees.

Related:

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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