Does the Minnesota Orchestra Have a Future?


classicalmusicAs I work on preparing Perceval’s Secret for e-publication, I’ve been watching the recent developments about and surrounding the contract dispute between the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestral Association Board and executive management.  It’ll be 11 months tomorrow since the Board locked out the musicians.  One step in the right direction occurred this past week: a mediator was hired to work with both sides in a mediation process to resolve differences and reach an agreement.

So what’s the first thing MOA management (Board + management) does?  They submit an offer to the musicians outside the mediation process and without the mediator.  This contract proposal, according to the musicians, is exactly the same as the one MOA management offered them earlier in August and the musicians rejected.  Drew McManus calls it a “Trap Door” contract proposal.  Emily Hogstead, at Song of the Lark, has seven reasons why she’s wary of this proposal.  Gina Hunter, at Eyes on Life, wrote before the proposal but is also clearly wary of MOA management.

One, sort of, good thing occurred this week, sort of connected to the contract proposal from MOA management: Osmo Vanska has pushed back his deadline for the orchestra to be in rehearsal by September 30.  This deadline is directly related to the Carnegie Hall concerts early in November.  Mr. Vanska wants the orchestra to have time to play together as much as possible before those concerts.  One month isn’t a lot of time, but even if they’d played a full season during the last year, and a summer season, they would have been off for two months before the new season began.  I was heartened to see Mr. Vanska’s flexibility, Carnegie Hall’s management agreeing with the schedule, and MOA management actually trying to get it done…except they’ve tied it to that onerous contract proposal, so how productive is that?!

Governor Dayton worked to arrange a mediator that the two sides could agree on, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who was instrumental in the talks to achieve peace in Northern Ireland, and he’s been hired.  The community has turned up the volume on their vocal and written responses to MOA management’s tactics.  Orchestrate Excellence organized and held a community forum on August 20 in downtown Minneapolis.  A new community organization has formed in the last month called Save Our Symphony Minnesota.  They have a website, too, and are very active on Facebook.

Disappearing MN Orchestra Musicians

Disappearing MN Orchestra Musicians

As I watch all this activity unfolding, I feel a deep pain.  The musicians have stood strong and united throughout an extremely difficult year, but some have had to leave for financial reasons, or perhaps (this is speculation), they no longer could stomach the thought of having to work for this Board and executive management.  The orchestra is not the same one that ended the 2011-12 season.  That orchestra was in the top 10 of American symphony orchestras and had gained international renown through touring and recordings.  The musicians in that orchestra had accomplished an astonishing amount, and how were they rewarded for it?  At the same time, Osmo Vanska accomplished every single goal he set for himself back in 2003, and more.  We have been so fortunate to have him here conducting this orchestra.  How has MOA management rewarded him for his achievements here?  Is it no surprise that there may be some less than positive feelings toward the Board and executive management right now, especially since the latter has not agreed to any kind of cut in salary and continues to take home what they were taking home before.  It pains me that this is how the Board and management would treat the greatest assets the organization has and its reason for being.

In the Perceval novels, Evan Quinn’s backstory includes being Music Director of the Minneapolis State Symphony, formerly the Minnesota Orchestra.  However, in the novels he lives in Europe and is no longer working for the American Arts Council.  It occurred to me, after reading Gina Hunter’s blog post, that perhaps the Minneapolis State Symphony isn’t formerly the Minnesota Orchestra, but a different orchestra formed by the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra in defiance of management’s attempt to bust the union and gain corporate control of the organization and musicians.  Evan Quinn and his mentor composer and pianist Joseph Caine would have liked that, I think.

As a lover of classical music and the Minnesota Orchestra, it’s obscenely difficult to observe what’s happening and to feel that my voice, as well as other community voices, is ignored…..

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One response to “Does the Minnesota Orchestra Have a Future?

  1. I’m with you. Heartbreaking. I do not understand what the PRIZE can possibly be for our music-hating board.

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