Symphony of Destruction
The Baltimore Symphony Endowment Trust exists to provide assistance and funding to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. But as reported by the Sun, it appears the Endowment Trust has reached the same conclusions that I reached in my previous column asking if it was time to start the whole thing over:
Will the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra survive in its current form?
Until recently, that question would have been unthinkable about a 103-year-old arts group described as one of Baltimore’s crown jewels. But the BSO’s finances arguably are so unstable that members of the endowment trust supporting the symphony balk at lending or giving it even one penny more than the $6 million it has received this fiscal year.
Some trustees worry that releasing more funds to an organization they say is in dire financial straits would be tantamount to pouring money down a drain. They point to two loans totaling $7.3 million — a $5 million loan from 2017 and a $2.3 million loan from earlier this year — that haven’t been repaid. (The 2019 loan was in addition to the BSO’s annual draw this year of $3.75 million.)
Some trustees are pointing out the Endowment Trust does not necessarily have to be linked to the current orchestra:
Some trustees say that prudence requires them to hold onto the $60 million endowment in case it’s needed to bankroll a future replacement orchestra.
“The endowment trust was created to support the BSO or its accredited successor,” Chris Bartlett, chairman of the Baltimore Symphony Endowment Trust, wrote in an email…… “Trustees have consistently assisted when the organization is in trouble, but we have a greater fiduciary responsibility to our donors to … remain financially viable over the long term.”
I don’t bring this up to pile onto the Symphony, but to again make a point about Maryland Democrats.
This entire issue about additional state funding for the Symphony started back during the General Assembly session when Delegate Maggie McIntosh introduced legislation to give the Symphony and an additional $3.2 million over two years. That bill passed the General Assembly with Republican support. However, Governor Larry Hogan rightly withheld the funding, partially because of budget concerns but also due to the BSO’s fiscal mismanagement. Democrats have continued to pillory the Governor for not just giving the BSO the money, continuing the Democrats proud history of wanting to spend money without requiring any accountability measures.
So I ask this question for Democrats; if the Baltimore Symphony Endowment Trust, an organization that literally exists to provide funding and support to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, refuses to provide additional funding to the organization than why should state taxpayers be forced to pick up the tab?
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra needs to be disbanded and they need to start fresh with a new organization. But the fact remains that taxpayer funding of music is not a government function and steps should be taken to ensure that no taxpayer dollars go to fund the current BSO, it’s successor or any other private arts groups anywhere in Maryland. While BSO management is problematic in this particular instance, it is still a waste of taxpayer dollars to be subsidizing any symphony at all.