Since 1916, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has offered Maryland residents high-quality classical music performances. Heading into their 90th year, the BSO has gone through some bumpy times--from serious financial difficulties, a turnover in all of the management positions within a couple of seasons, and now the announcement of a new music director that hit a sour note with the members of the orchestra.
All of this should be irrelevant--the orchestra continues to play better than ever and so the drama behind the scenes should be so much background noise. If this were the case, I would have given the BSO five stars. And to be fair, you certainly can't do much better in Baltimore than the BSO if you're looking for a classical performance. But as the leader in the area, and even in the world, the BSO could and should be doing much better in so many areas. Their community outreach programs (once recognized nationally with an NEA grant) have diminished to near non-existence. They have cut education programs back dramatically--schoolchildren can no longer even see the whole orchestra play during class field trips. Evening performances, while well-executed, are poorly attended and seem stagnant as a result. Musical choices are equally stagnant. Even the once ground-breaking Symphony With a Twist series seems no different than the usual fare, which the BSO tries to mask with window decorations.
An evening at the symphony is certainly enjoyable for classical music lovers. But classical music lovers are a dying breed and the BSO is only trying half-heartedly to stem the tide. For many years now, the BSO's focus has been external--trying to prove their status as a world-class orchestra. They would do better to remember their roots as a municipal orchestra and turn back to their community.