Evan in Minnesota, 2013 to 2048

Photo by Jeff Wheeler

Osmo Vanska and Emanuel Ax in Farewell Concert (Photo by Jeff Wheeler)

As I continue to work on revisions to Perceval’s Secret, I also continue to think about Evan’s life in Minnesota and specifically with the Minnesota Orchestra.  The contract dispute continues between the musicians and management, now in its 14th month.  I know Evan would have stood strong with Osmo Vanska and his decision to resign after management pulled the rug out from under him by cancelling the Carnegie Hall concerts that were scheduled for early November.  I attended Mr. Vanska’s farewell concert — the pain and sorrow were palpable in the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota — there was not a dry eye in the hall, including the musicians.  Management has not budged, nor, I believe, will they.  Their offer of September 25, 2012 was their “final” offer, after all.  What’s there to talk about?  Their claims of willingness to compromise is for public consumption only.

During my work on the first draft of Perceval’s Secret, I imagined America in the near future to have succumbed to the New Economic Party and their promises for security from terrorism and economic prosperity.  My model for the NEP was the Communist Party in the Soviet Union of the 1930’s, when the iron fist of communism came down particularly hard on artists in all the arts.  The

My excellence resource on music in the USSR

My excellence resource on music in the USSR

Ministry of Culture (the American version = the Arts Council) set policy and established Socialist Realism as the only kind of art it would allow.  In music, Goskonzert and the various musicians’ unions enforced policy as well as the Ministry.  In the USSR, the goal was control to maintain power, and to show the world the success of communism.  In America 2048, the goal of the Arts Council is profit, and if a composer or musician couldn’t deliver, that person could find herself out on the street, destitute and alone.

I had imagined the Arts Council as a federal government agency with branches in each state.  Their destructive influence touched every state, every music organization and school in the country.  The good news is that music does make a lot of money for the Arts Council in its various forms, although classical music tends to struggle.  Movie and game soundtracks are the most popular forms of classical music.  Evan, as a conductor and violinist, must prove himself to the Arts Council as a musician who can make money for them.  He does from the beginning of his career while he’s still studying at Juilliard.  The Arts Council eventually returns him to Minneapolis where he leads the Minneapolis State Symphony Orchestra (former Minnesota Orchestra), and performs as first violinist in the Hartleben String Quartet.

Today’s reality has jolted me in many ways, but none more than the realization that the Arts Council I envisioned is the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Orchestral Association and executive management.  They want to take over management of the Minnesota Orchestra in all aspects, but especially financially, to insure “financial sustainability” into the future and their control.  To that end, they have inserted themselves into artistic activities for which they are not qualified (according to the September 2012 proposal), taking much of what the Music Director does away from him/her.

They are not interested in the artistic excellence of the Minnesota Orchestra and sustaining it.  If they were, we would not be where we are today in the contract dispute.  There would have been no “final” offer and negotiations would have progressed in a “play and talk” period.  Mr. Vanska would not have resigned.  Alex Ross of The New Yorker would not have needed to devote a portion of his column to castigating the Board of Directors for cancelling the Carnegie Hall concerts because those concerts would have occurred and Mr. Ross would have reviewed them.  I think the atmosphere would not be one of animosity because the two sides would be working together to find solutions and ways to move forward while paying down the debt gradually over time.

The policy of the Board of Directors is grounded in finances, not music, exactly like the Arts Council in Evan’s world.

I am not pleased by this realization.  At least the MOA Board’s policy is not one accepted by the rest of the country.  You’d think a couple of bankers would have been open to all kinds of possible ways to pay down the debt, but no, that’s not been the case at all.  They have adopted the policy of “it’s my way or the highway.”

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, at their community meeting this past Monday morning, re-affirmed their intent and goal to resolve the contract dispute and return to the MOA and the Orchestra Hall stage.  In the meantime, they have chosen their own road by producing their own concerts, and an entire 2013-14 season…..


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