While Baltimore has been making the front page of most newspapers lately with tales of urban woes and Trump bullying, it might be easy to forget that one of the city’s pride of joy, its world-revered symphony orchestra, has been placed on the endangered species list.
With negotiations bogging down between the city, state and philanthropic interests, the venerable Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Maryland’s beloved BSO, is financially in lockdown mode. This disruption of schedules and performances is a sorry state of affairs for its thousands of devoted fans, but this is bordering on the criminal when it means that over a hundred or so modestly paid professional musicians are going out a paycheck.
It is hard to imagine the extraordinary challenges this kind of financial hardship causes some of this country’s most talented musicians. Already barely reaching middle-class wages through weaving together side gigs as teachers or freelance performances, the loss of their primary source of income is a devastating blow to these artists and their families.
But perhaps one of the hardest things to process for these musicians, who have spent a lifetime and small fortunes reaching the very top of their field’s career ladder, is to find that these iconic metropolitan institutions of culture are not sustainable.
The odds of things improving in the short term for the BSO musicians are not particularly bright, and so, in the meantime, they are hustling to keep afloat simply.
And one person helping them close their financial gaps as they await state relief money is Bill Nerenberg. A retired record producer and jazz musicians, Bill has been one of the BSO’s devoted fans and is one of the BSO’s Governing Members. And lately, he’s been using the same promotion skills that served him well in his career, to organize special concerts for the orchestra’s musicians using the name Baltimore Symphony Musicians.
In fact, he and his team members have already booked twenty concerts statewide, with one of them hosted by the Temple B’nai Israel in Easton, where he and his wife, Dotty, have been members for years.
The Spy talked to Bill before the Saturday performance, as well as pianist Lior Willinger, who joined his colleagues Chelsea Kim, Rene Shapiro and Lukaz Szyrner, in a later afternoon performance of Bach, Brahms, and more modern work.