The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) military band is to have its annual budget cut in half, with the bulk of its workforce – which itself will be downsized – to work part-time rather than full-time. The announcement follows speculation about the orchestra's future after removing it altogether or placing it under another authority was suggested as an austerity measure.
The EDF military band will be placed under the auspices of the Estonian war museum (Eesti sõjamuuseum), ERR reports.
War museum director Hellar Lill said that there would be: "A structural change in the way we create the EDF orchestra, or the name isn't quite certain yet, department."
Under the current set-up, the EDF provides the band with its uniforms and covers the rental of its premises on Tatari in central Tallinn, as well as providing members with instruments, which they then maintain and play.
The Estonian War Museum itself is in Viimsi, just outside Tallinn.
The band had been honed in on as a possible target for defense cuts back in May, following publication of the Reform/Center coalition's state budget strategy, which called for a total of €10 million in cuts to be found from the defense forces as a whole.
Suggestions had included merging the orchestra, which is a mainstay of national events such as February's independence day of June's victory day, with the police equivalent, or even disbanding it altogether – a proposal which met with plenty of opposition.
Under the new policy, the band's budget, currently at €1.15 million, would be cut in half and the majority of musicians retained only as part-time employees; the overall number of band members would be reduced from 42, to 33, including two conductors.
Hellar Lill said that this was the minimum number required for major and significant ceremonies at, for instance, the war of independence monument in Vabaduse väljak, or at Kadriorg, seat of the head of state.
The band would continue to be headquartered on Tatari, but would now be under the war museum's remit.
The orchestra would in this way continue to exist, and even have enhanced revenue-earning capabilities, Lill claimed; while this would not mean state ceremonies such as on independence day would charge an entrance fee, he said: "But museums can earn their own income, and so the orchestra of the Defense Forces can earn its own income in the future," adding that public interest in the organization had been growing in recent months.
The defense ministry, foreign affairs ministry and president's office are liaising on how the new-look EDF band would work and how to apportion its funding.
The band had in recent years seen an increase in its workload. Whereas in 2018 it performed 214 times, 139 of these at EDF events, a year later the figure was 276 and 175 respectively.
In 2018 the band played 46 times for the foreign ministry or president's office, while in 2019 this number had risen slightly to 48, though the number of performances at the defense ministry's request fell, from four to one between those two years.
On the other hand the number of other "civil" appearances more than doubled, from 25 to 52, between 2018 and 2019.
Lill said that the band had identified 10 key and essential performances in an average year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte