The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Friday that it will lay off a significant portion of the organization’s administrative staff, effective Sept. 1, as a result of massive revenue losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The layoffs will affect 50 out of the orchestra’s 180 current full-time administrative employees.
“It is with a heavy heart that we have made some difficult decisions about reducing the organization’s workforce during this unprecedented time of concert cancellations and revenue loss associated with COVID-19,” BSO president and chief executive Mark Volpe said in a statement. “Through this difficult time and the many challenges ahead, we are determined to re-establish the concert-going experience that has inspired generations of audiences to make the BSO an essential and inspiring part of their lives.”
The layoffs are the latest in a stream of cost-cutting measures designed to help the orchestra weather a prolonged hiatus from live performance, which began in February (with a canceled tour to East Asia) and will extend through at least late November. In April, the BSO announced temporary pay reductions for unionized musicians and furloughs for 70 full-time staffers. The organization also announced a 50 percent pay reduction for Volpe through Aug. 31. According to the BSO’s most recent tax filings, he made $995,320 in the fiscal year ending August 2018.
According to a spokesperson, pay cuts will continue into the fall for Volpe as well as BSO music director Andris Nelsons and Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart. Negotiations are ongoing with the BSO’s 93 musicians, whose salary reductions (averaging 25 percent per player) expire at the end of August.
The orchestra, which has an endowment of $449.6 million — the largest of any American orchestra — has been proactive this year regarding online programming, establishing a BSO At Home channel on its website and creating an entire summer season of virtual concerts and activities to replace its canceled 2020 Tanglewood Festival. Despite millions of visitors to its online platforms, “the revenue model doesn’t quite work,“ Volpe said in a May roundtable with Boston arts leaders, hosted by the Globe. The orchestra has lost $35 million from the 316 concerts and other live events it has canceled so far due to the pandemic.
Zoë Madonna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.