UPDATE Dec. 5, 2013: see end of this post.
This originated as “The Minnesota Orchestra Lock-Out: “Push” coming rapidly to “Shove”, published on August 30, 2013. This will be the “Filing Cabinet” for subsequent information relating to the Minnesota Orchestra situation.
UPDATES and MOST RECENT COMMENTS are always posted at the end of this post, most recent, last. Look for material posted after the most recent date
Other posts about the Minnesota Orchestra Lock-Out
October 18, 2012
December 7, 2012
June 1, 2013
June 5, 2013 to audience
June 21, 2013 to audience
July 26, 2013
August 16, 2013
August 19, 2013
August 21, 2013
August 30, 2013 (this post)
September 4, 2013
September 12, 2013
September 17, 2013
October 1, 2013 A Letter to the Audience
October 2, 2013
October 8, 2013 to the Audience
October 30, 2013 thoughts at 13 months into the Lock Out
November 16, 2013 Skrowaczewski concert Nov 15, 411 days into the Lock Out
November 20, 2013 SOS Mn meeting on “The MOA Debacle”
Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra
Save Our Symphony Minnesota
Song of the Lark blog
Minnesota Orchestra (orchestra management)
Locked Out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra Concert Oct 18, 2012, with Maestro Skrowaczewski
August 30, 2013
I happened to be watching WCCO-TV 5 p.m. news last night (Aug 29 2013) when this report was aired.
Do watch it.
As you know, WCCO is across the street from Orchestra Hall, its nearest neighbor, and is the Twin Cities iconic television station.
Earlier the Minneapolis Star Tribune carried this news article, lower right on the front page of the B section. The Publisher of the Star Tribune is on the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra. The news from 1111 Nicollet Mall was fit to print…. (The address for the Orchestra Board: Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis MN 55403.)
The musicians have updated their web news with an August 30 release, here.
Most citizens, including Union members themselves, are only slightly aware of the realities of bargaining; of how public relations efforts to disrupt and confuse work.
There are facts, of course, well known to the parties closest to any negotiations, and unknown to the rest of us.
News “facts” – for the rest of us – are simply advertisements: carefully managed information. In this now near-year old dispute, it is easy for the only casually informed to believe the “news” as reported on TV or in the paper.
The basic fact known to we subscribers is that the Orchestra, and ourselves, have been Locked Out by Orchestra Management for ten months. The Minnesota Orchestra conflict is not and has never been a “Strike”.
In my opinion, there is a depressing reality we as audience/listeners continue to be faced with, as people who have come to love and support the Orchestra: the future of this Orchestra depends on us.
Except for a core constituency, relatively few people care whether the Minnesota Orchestra lives or dies. As the iconic Big Yellow Taxi song lyric goes, they won’t know what they’ve lost till its gone.
The same public apathy cannot be said about the Twins, Vikings or Wild, etc. They can have the most dismal seasons, never be “winners” (as sports fans define that term) have the shadiest of business practices, and gouge fans for everything to make a larger profit as an “asset”, including locking them out, but they are the tail that wags the dog here.
I tried to watch the news clip last night as if I knew (or cared) nothing about the Orchestra, or the facts about finances there, or about how collective bargaining works.
From that viewpoint, it would be easy to be convinced that the Orchestra members are being unreasonable and should just lower expectations and settle.
As a piece of hate mail to the Dixie Chicks said when that well known and then-hugely popular country-western group protested the Iraq War some years back, “shut up and sing”.
The crucial and unpleasant fact of the matter is, in my opinion, that the only power bloc that can make any difference, now, is that group to which I belong: the Orchestra audience; we, the listeners, those who have also been locked out for a year.
The only power we have is the huge power we do not want to exercise, which is to refuse to darken the door of Orchestra Hall until and unless there is a settlement which the Orchestra Union has ratified.
Not only do we have to express ourselves, individually, when there is still time for a settlement; but we have to be prepared to act on what we say.
There is no law that requires us to accept imposed terms, which is what Orchestra Management has been selling for a year now, and apparently will continue to sell.
Standing up for ourselves is not self-serving.
In a sense, to this community, we are like the bunch of volunteers who protects a vital but little known community resource from damage or destruction. We know its loss will have consequences, even if most of our neighbors don’t know, or care.
If we are sheep, and accept our powerlessness, we will get what we deserve: less and less fine music for more and more money.
The greater community will not know what they’ve lost till its gone; we who paid the bills know what we’re losing, from a year of lock-out.
It is our choice whether or not to make our voice heard. And we will make it by either individual action or inaction.
It won’t be easy. By our very nature we are individuals who’d rather be anonymous.
The musicians website is here.
All previous posts by this writer are linked here.
August 21, 2013
UPDATE Aug 30 2013 9 a.m.: After publishing this post, I picked up the Aug 30 Star Tribune, and a front page story, headlined “Orchestra’s board takes its case to public”, was in lower right. The link is still not available on-line. The Letter of the Day is about the new Orchestra Hall.
The essence of the front page story is typical positioning for bargaining. The Orchestra Board is stuck with one indisputable fact: it is they who began and have continued the Lock Out for the last ten months.
UPDATE Sep 1, 2013:
Todays (Sunday, Sep 1) Minneapolis Star Tribune had a full page ad, posted by the Minnesota Orchestra Board. It is on page A7. Since it is a paid ad, it will most likely not be found anywhere in the on-line edition.
I received several comments about this ad, and have my own, thus far as follows:
from John B: the ad is a kick in the face to the Orchestra musicians, a possible end run around the union and loaded with slippery distortions. It also betrays a bias: the board ad says board members have contributed $60,000,000 in the past 5 years. They think they own the outcome they seek. It isn’t negotiations, it is take it or leave it. I say the board should pony up more $$$; no doubt many could afford to. AND, launch an aggressive long term fund raising campaign including asking the legislature for greater arts funding. Since many board members are likely Republicans, if they would only get their friends in the legislature to raise taxes a bit, a fair resolution should occur.
from Alan S: The only reason for a lockout is to starve the opposition into capitulating and agree to anything to crawl back to the “job”. You don’t lock out anyone that you hope to negotiate with, when you slam that door in their faces. At that time negotiation is out of the question, so what else can the board do now but celebrate their victory of shutting what was a magnificent orchestra down for a whole year, and now they should resign enmasse! A new board should be brought forward that can show these wonderful professional musicians the respect that they deserve.
A day or so earlier, Alan commented: The Orchestra Board has dug themselves as deep a hole as possible, and haven’t figured an honorable way out. The will never admit that they have done anything wrong. They don’t understand shame so they have none.
from John G: Yes, Dick, the lockout remains in place. A vote by the musicians’ Union against this latest Board action would not change the lockout into a strike,
though the Board obviously is trying to lead the public to imagine otherwise. There has never been a strike by the musicians in this matter. They have been, and remain, locked out. The Board has done nothing, so far as I can see, to cooperate with the musicians’ Union. The Board also has not contributed to efforts to retain Osmo Vanska, so far as I can see. From my perspective the message from the musicians needs to be this: “Time is running out. We need the Board’s support now.”
from Kathy L: Like your focus on the groups respective statements to public as being marketing spin. Very aggravating.
from Dick Bernard, personal: This is a typical “it’s their fault” ad. “We’re being very generous”. There is always another side to the story, but the musicians are unlikely to be able to afford a full page ad in response. The matter remains in the hands of the audience, in my opinion. This remains a Lock Out, and not a Strike.
For whatever little it is worth, I’ve “been there, done that” dealing with propaganda, from both sides (deciding what to say, and interpreting what the other side said, and comparing it to reality – usually much different than the “spin”).
In my opinion, there has been a hostile takeover of the Orchestra, which was several years in the making, unknown to those outside a small inner circle (some portion of the Board). The Board is obviously full of wealthy people. Speaking from the level of the audience/listeners, I don’t recall any communication that conveyed alarm about finances. Rather, I would contend, a short-term crisis – and the perceived need for a new lobby – were translated into an opportunity to break the musicians union and take over the business, remade in their desired image.
I have long believed that if you want to judge the real intentions of any organization, you simply have to follow the money: what do they spend their resources, personnel time and otherwise, on?
If there had truly been a financial crisis, due to too little revenue, or too few people in the auditorium, it was never made obvious to me, and I was a loyal audience member and paid attention to such things. For instance, if inded the Orchestra were in dire straits, it would have been as simple as a real, genuine Board member getting out on stage at intermission, and just telling us, “folks, we have a problem”, accompanied with specific information about the situation, supported by others who should know, such as representatives of the Orchestra itself.
I don’t recall any such thing ever happening: just the routine appeals via fancy letter (which we get from endless organizations, since we contribute to many different things), and perhaps an annual phone call asking for a contribution. There was never any sense of urgency conveyed, until the Lock Out actually happened. Pretty obviously, as laid out in the full-page ad, there was an intense campaign going on among the wealthy side of the ledger, seeking money to bulk up the endowment. These folks got lots of attention, doubtless, and qualify for the perks that come with large donations….
In the end analysis, you need to decide who you trust.
For me, the musicians have passed the trust test, since the Lock Out began last October. Orchestra Management has failed, miserably. It would take much more detail to flesh my reasons, and they have nothing to do with loyalty to Union (though that would be a reasonable sounding accusation, given my background.)
The basically invisible Board – a bunch of names without faces or addresses (other than orchestra hall) has a very dark side.
UPDATE Sep 2, 2013
Apparently I have been taken off the Mn Orchestra e-mail distribution list, per this e-mail Mn Orch email 8-29-13002, received this morning, and another sent to me by another friend on August 5, 2013. Memo to the Orchestra Board: it is not quite so simple to quash communications. If my hunch is correct, that I’ve been deleted from your network, it is not to your advantage to do that.
Here is the pdf of the MN Orchestra’s full page ad in the September 1, Minneapolis Star Tribune. Click to enlarge it. Hopefully you can read the contents: Mn Orch ad Sep 1 13001
From Louise P Sep 2, 2013: Thanks for the ad and all your comments. As far as I can see, the ad is a huge pile of B.S. And I grew up on a farm, I know a pile of it when I see it. The Board has done nothing serious about negotiating with the musicians.
from Larry H. Sep 2, 2013: Thank you again for your personal perspective shared in your blog. As a musician, music educator, and subscriber I try to read every printed word of this situation. I also know your blog has been shared with many of the “principals’ and interested parties.
Like most, I have my personal opinion about this labor dispute and long for the return of our orchestra. My hope is that the impact of this struggle is not as devastating as some have suggested.
For you, as a person with a career in labor and negotiations, I suggest you, as I, view the immediate time period as crucial to this season and retention of quality musicians. If one “follows the evidence”, it is increasingly difficult to realistically expect a return to the status quo at Orchestra Hall in the near future.
UPDATE Sep 4, 2013:
from Dick Bernard:
This morning at 10:36 a.m. I received an e-mail from Harvey Mackay of the Minnesota Orchestra Board. Finally, I said to myself, I have at least one Board member who cares enough to write a response, albeit a very brief one.
Here’s what he said, responding to my August 27 e-mail to the Board:
Thank you for taking the time to write. Like you, my fellow Board members and I care deeply about the Minnesota Orchestra. That is why we volunteer, donate, and are committed to getting a contract with our musicians that not only preserves this great art form but also secures the financial health of the Orchestra for decades to come.
I have a 1989 copy of Mackay’s mega-best seller “Swim With The Sharks”, so I took it down and instead of reading the other book I’ve been working on, I tackled his, intending to write him back.
Then, at 3:04 p.m. I received an e-mail from a friend who is also interested in the Minnesota Orchestra Issue. Here was “Harvey Mackay #2, with “Dear _____” as salutation:
Thank you for taking the time to write. Like you, my fellow Board members and I care deeply about the Minnesota Orchestra. That is why we volunteer, donate, and are committed to getting a contract with our musicians that not only preserves this great art form but also secures the financial health of the Orchestra for decades to come.
Both e-mails came from email@example.com, the present day manifestation of Mackay’s firm.
Two identical e-mails does not a pattern make, but my guess is that there are quite a number of other folks out there getting the same chatty greeting from Harvey as the two of us received.
I did spend some time revisiting Mackay’s Swim with the Sharks, a #1 Bestseller from 1989. It’s a salesman and entrepreneurs’s think and grow rich bible, which is why it became a mega-bestseller, doubtless.
The book includes 68 short “Lessons”, and 19 even shorter “Quickies”. I “flagged” 10% of those principles, all promoted by Mackay, as being violated by Minnesota Orchestra management.
Harvey Mackay will hear from me, politely, as an individual, and I’ll not tell him which of his own principles they’re violating. Maybe he can reread his own book.
The game has gotten nasty.
If my hunch is correct, that there is a designated Board responder, Mackay was probably selected because, of the bunch, he has a pretty stellar reputation as a champion of the Orchestra.
As another friend put it a few days ago, “the guy on the board that I cannot understand agreeing to the lockout is Harvey Mackay. From what I know of him, I would have thought that he would have fought this as long as he could have, and then resigned from the board when he couldn’t stop the lockout. I am really shocked that he must have been in favor of it or decided just to go along with it. My opinion of him has certainly crashed!”
The Lock Out is at the down and dirty stage. Be aware.
UPDATE, Sep 5, 2013:
from Louise P, Sep 4: I just want to let you know that I had an email this afternoon from Harvey Mackay in response to the one I sent last week It was a thoughtful response. He clearly had read my email, but did not offer any specifics.
I sent a reply a short time ago, thanking him. I said that I feel the patrons have been left out of the discussion, and that I believe there are creative solutions to the financial issues. Then I asked, How can some of ordinary folk who buy the tickets and love the concerts be involved in some kind of creative dialogue?
I will let you know if I receive another reply.
I am now composing letters to the editor of both papers.
Thanks for your blog. Have you seen “Sticks and Stones” by Bill Eddins? He has an excellent column today.
from Larry H, forwarding an item from another friend, Sep 4:
Got the following from Harvey Mackay. His name is so familiar. Do you know who he is – besides being on the Orchestra Board?
Thank you for taking the time to write. Like you, my fellow Board members and I care deeply about the Minnesota Orchestra. That is why we volunteer, donate, and are committed to getting a contract with our musicians that not only preserves this great art form but also secures the financial health of the Orchestra for decades to come.
Dick: Re Harvey Mackay, he is synonymous with the 1988 #1 Bestseller: “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, and Outnegotiate Your Competition”. He built a very successful business. In sum: he’s a top “Shark” among aspiring Sharks. His bio is easily accessed on the internet. More personal thoughts here: Notes on Orchestra Situation Sep 5, 2013
Sep 5, 2013 noon: visit this Facebook page, and especially note the polyphonic.org article by Robert Levine.
Excellent Commentary in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune Opinion Section, here.
Sep 6, 2013 5 a..m. from Dick. Quite certainly, for some reason, I have been removed from the Mn Orchestra Management e-mail distribution lists. If this is true, it is very odd, because I can and do receive the documents from others.
Today, the Orchestra Management made public its interpretation of the Financial Review Results, including the entire report: Orch Fin News Rel001. It didn’t come to my in-box, though, at least not from the Orchestra management itself.
Here’s a separate, presumably independent, analysis of the same report.
As one who has worked around numbers for an entire career, numbers can and do “sing”, depending on who is playing the music, and in this case, it is worthwhile to give very wide berth to management interpreting the data which it commissioned, paying someone else to do its report, with apparently no equal opportunity given to the musicians to submit the same data to their own experts for independent analysis.
Think of how Management would react if the Musicians Union who had been in position to do the same identical thing as the orchestra management has now done: a unilateral report.
There would be howling of outrage.
As best I understand the situation, denial of musicians access to Orchestra financial data has been a key issue since the very beginning of the negotiations problems at Orchestra Hall. There is apparent fear by management of allowing an open look at the Orchestra’s books.
I have mentioned before that I was directly involved with all aspects of collective bargaining for many years, in a great number of situations. There were about 40 of us who among us were involved in negotiations and administration of, literally, thousands of contracts between professional employees in teacher unions, and their management (school boards). Whether small or large, all bargains are essentially the same, only the number of actors and thus size of the $ numbers differ.
I know how this process works (or doesn’t, which happened quite rarely). It boils down to relationships between the parties to the bargain, usually primarily one side or the other. The Orchestra situation is an off-the-charts failure of relationships.
In my long experience, “money” was often identified as the Issue, but it was, really, rarely the Real Issue.
There was something else going on.
Money was something the Press and the Public THOUGHT they understood. New Releases could be distributed which were about Money.
Other issues may be mentioned, usually down the page, but the focus always seemed to come back to money, even though those of us at the table knew that money was not the crucial issue.
It is interesting to me to note that almost zero attention is publicly focused on the fact that the Musicians themselves are now 10 months off the job without pay or benefits. They have been locked out. In effect, they have been fired without any cause other than their insistence on completing a bargain on terms and conditions of employment, and people don’t seem to notice or care.
And several times in the past year I have heard from assorted persons who work in one capacity or the other for the Orchestra, and it is very clear that they are under orders to keep their mouths shut, or they will be fired. This is a hard-edged war: as one of Harvey Mackay’s chapters, Lesson 44, described, an “Unfinished Symphony”.
I hope you care, as I do, about what is happening at 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis 55403.
Quite likely we’ll be outside the doors this evening at the event in the NEW LOBBY at Orchestra Hall just bearing witness….
A report at this space, tomorrow.
The Musicians Union website is here.
The silent musicians at the Hilton Hotel across the street from the rally for the silenced musicians at Orchestra Hall Sep 7, 2013
UPDATE Sep 6, 2013
from Andy D.
Harvey [Mackay] attended St. Paul Central High School with me. Always had some modicum of respect for him. Until now.
I’ve long believed what you believe – that this is a planned restructuring of the entire organization and most citizens are leaving [it] to those elites who are scrumming among themselves. The orchestra musicians haven’t the sympathy, nay, empathy, they need to force a revolution. The elitist nature of the board (with some silent dissenters, perhaps) means, generally, that they are immune from the opinions and pressures of the few masses in the gathering storm. Most got where they were trampling on underlings, anyway, and this is especially true in the take-every-dime-we-can get ethos of Wall St., of which these ba[n]kers running the show are offspring, if not siblings.
The other reason these board people are not rising up against their leadership is the comfortable isolation of the rich and detached. Most of the true believers have died off. The survivors seem to be at a loss to do anything about this and the public sector remains silent because they need the money these people can dole out when it comes to elections.
Harvey should have emerged from school with a better perspective, but if he feels he got where he is by saying no – smiling like the shark he is – then little will change him. Without identifying with the deeper meaning of the orchestra itself and what it stands for in this pop culture world of ours, the elites will take this outfit right down the tubes – as they’ve long planned.
Mina Fisher’s Op-Ed this morning says it all – for us fans – but the general public? I don’t believe so, and I’m saddened as hell for it.
I will never set foot in Orchestra Hall again if they destroy the orchestra on their way to a new world of commerce.
Vicci J, Sep 6, 2013 2 p.m.: Two of Vicci’s comments are at the end of this commentary “Even Allies think Davis Should Resign from [Minnesota] Orchestra Board”.
UPDATE Sep. 7, 2013:
I participated in the Rally at Orchestra Hall yesterday afternoon. It was not large – maybe a few hundred – but in my opinion just gathering at the Hall was a big success. The photo above, and a few more below are from the Rally. More information will be found at the site of Save Our Symphony MN, which seems to have been the sponsor of the demo. The Facebook page for SOSmn seems their primary communication vehicle. They, and Orchestrate Excellence, seem to be the major players for the audience/listeners/patrons at this moment: the ones worthy of notice.
On the other “side” today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial is about the Orchestra (the Publisher of the STrib is an Orchestra Board member); yesterday’s STrib had a column by Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a life Board member.
The next big event is 5 p.m. on September 15 at the Lake Harriet Bandshell where Mn Orch will present a free concert. It would be my wish that tens of thousands would be there, surrounding the lake, most unable to hear the Orchestra. If you want any opportunity to hear the music, get there very early, secure a place, bring a picnic lunch. But come, rain or shine. Urge others to come.
In my opinion, this is now a matter between the audience and the Board. Period. But the nature of humans, especially patrons of the arts, is to not want conflict.
In this case, I don’t mean physical conflict – that won’t happen. We are gentle people.
But the Board has to understand that its actions are and will be having consequences. They are having consequences already, but don’t expect the Orchestra Board or the powers in the community to admit this. They count on people forgiving and forgetting and just being worn out and quitting. But the Board needs to be called to account, and those of us in the audience are the ones who will have to do it.
It is a typical response: to finally say, “I can’t do anything, so I won’t….”
Feeling defeated is the person in powers friend.
Keep on, keeping on.
Again, a good settlement, to me, will be one which the Orchestra Union ratifies, solidly. Till then, I will never again darken the doors of the Palace at 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.
Check back here from time to time for further updates.
They’ll simply be added to the end, as this update has been.
Some random personal thoughts about what happens when labor relations fails, following the photos.
Sep 7, 2013
Two guys in evening dress, on Orchestra property, watch the goings on. I don’t know who they are, or why they were there, but not all insiders are in concert with the Orchestra Management. That is important to remember.
Musicians of YMM perform. (Right behind their feet you can see the “line” that marks the property of Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall. That line was a big deal, and voluntarily. respected. But it was a line of separation…. DO NOT CROSS.
Why I’m engaged. What’s being taken from the youth of this area…Example, Opportunity.
When bargaining goes badly….
I’m truly “outside the walls”. There is a story about that, going back to the days immediately after my retirement in early 2000. Perhaps for a separate blogpost, at another time.
But there was a time when my daily work was inside collective bargaining and all things related to it: grievances, arbitrations, endless meetings…and about 40 of my staff colleagues did the same thing, year after year, in literally thousands of bargains. (Many elements of this story are told at Sep. 5, above, if you’re interested. The story deserves being told again, with additions.)
As I said to my retired corporate management friend about the Orchestra impasse yesterday, and he agreed, it makes no real difference the size of the unit, or the specific issues involved, every bargain in the end is more about relationships than power or money.
I know more than a little about this topic.
During my entire time as a union staff person, 1972-2000, we bargained contracts.
Except for a single year, 1981, which had quite a number of Strikes, our hundreds of Minnesota bargaining units worked stuff out. (Even in that year, 1981, less than 10% of the bargaining units went out for, mostly, very short periods of time. Every other year, even threatened strikes were very rare.)
We worked stuff out. We settled our differences.
You learn things during a career, and one of my big learnings, which came in the wake of 1981, was that a bargaining unit has power until it strikes: the threat is significant and important.
But once out the door, and a few days on the street, and the dynamics change.
The usually unspoken question on everyone’s mind becomes “how the hell do we get back in those doors we walked out of?”
It’s not easy: The other side is wrestling with exactly the same question: all the bluff and bravado doesn’t mask their own concern: “what the hell do we do now to end this thing?”
But there is a difference between those old conflicts and this one now going on in downtown Minneapolis.
Fast forward to today at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis MN.
Here we have a Lock-Out, which I never experienced in my long career. As I see it, a lock-out is a mirror image of an employee strike, but called by the employer.
On one side we have an Orchestra Board which largely represents big wealth in this community (donors) who own the lock and the chain and the keys. On the other side are the Musicians, with no pay or benefits, for now over ten months.
But there is, as one speaker at the rally said yesterday, a third leg to this Minnesota Orchestra stool: those of us who are loyal to this Orchestra, but have no say, and who largely have been unnoticed and not allowed to participate.
It is as if some cabal took over a towns government, locked out all the workers because the management wanted to change the town model and start fresh, and the residents of the town were not even consulted.
An appointed, unelected dictatorship took over, making changes privately.
But still the tax bills still came: we want you to come see Bill Cosby and others, they said, but don’t mind that we just destroyed your Orchestra. We have the right to determine what you see, and when. And how much you will pay for the privilege.
You can bet that there are plenty of folks on the perpetrator side of this Lock-Out who are now pondering “how the hell do we save face and get the Orchestra back?”
Being successful people, as one of their Board members Harvey Mackay described them, “Sharks”, on top of the power and wealth heap in this town, their thought process likely primarily centers around how can they win this thing (as they describe winning) without admitting that they accepted somebodies stupid idea in the first place.
Money is NOT the issue in this conflict. No amount of wasted newsprint and reports by hired auditors will change that story.
This lock-out is a prime example of why unbridled POWER gained through wealth, position and other similar things is not to be trusted.
The Minnesota Orchestra Management Locked-Out the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, but it really has now locked itself out.
Indeed, this is a strike in reverse, only it is a very, very long strike.
Conflict averse as we might be, we in the Audience are the ones who now need to do the hard work. Most of the community we live in really doesn’t care.
And a large part of this hard work will be in refusing to accept an imposed change in a corporate business plan, quietly made at private meetings, essentially under cover of night.
Check this space tomorrow and following days for any updates, including comments.
September 6, 2013. The Line.
Intriguing to me was the gray line, seen below the demonstration marshall in the foreground. This line separated the sidewalk from Orchestra Hall property, and we were asked to not cross. These demonstrators, plus most I have ever been associated with, are unfailingly polite. Not only were they not disruptive, they seldom crossed the line, and then only for a specific purpose, like taking a photograph.
UPDATE Sep 8, 2013:
This week will be an intense week.
Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had another full-page ad from the MN Orchestra Bd: Mn Orch Ad Sep 8, 2013.001 One can only speculate at the audience the Board is attempting to convince, and whether or not that audience can make, or is even interested in making, the Minnesota Orchestra a success. The audience is certainly not the locked out musicians, nor is it the equally locked out audience – people like myself – (which seems to be blamed, along with the musicians themselves, for the problem management asserts it is facing. Apparently, it certainly seems, it was our obligation to do more, even when we weren’t even aware that there was more that apparently needed to be done….)
Orchestra Management voluntarily locked itself out nearly a year ago. It apparently thought that its musicians would cave. They haven’t, though the pressure on them has to be intense. To me, they are heroes.
Make no mistake: at this point the Orchestra Managements sole objective will be to save itself. Period. It has had many opportunities to save face, going way back. It has rejected these opportunities, and none of these are talked about in its news releases and ads. For some reason, I think of Napoleon’s massive ego, and his Waterloo…. I could use a less savory and even more appropriate example of fighting a futile battle to the death, but won’t utter the name.
Hopefully, the cooler heads inside the bunker at Orchestra headquarters will prevail this week.
Ultimately, the musicians first, then the “base” – the audience – will have to decide, whether to reach an agreement, and on what terms; and whether to return to Orchestra Hall and continue the tradition, which continued for 109 years, until the doors were locked in October, 2012. (There are other, scarier, possibilities. I don’t want to go there.)
In the process of protecting its sacred endowment, the Management of the Orchestra has rendered that endowment useless.
In attempting omnipotence, they have become impotent, reduced to full page ads begging the Orchestra, which they have starved for a year, to settle so that the Management can declare a victory.
I don’t think most of the privileged wealthy few who managed to take control of the Orchestra Board knew what they were getting into. They certainly didn’t understand, and probably are incapable of understanding, the common people, like myself, who have supported this Orchestra for years and would have helped more, if only we’d been asked. But it’s too late for that, now.
With wealth comes responsibility.
With power and control comes responsibility as well.
They may get, but they don’t deserve, a way out where they can declare themselves “winners”.
Maybe these “sharks” have met their match….
Just a note about money, money, money:
We have only the Orchestra Management’s “spin” on the money situation. It would appear, that most of the huge amount of money they’re purporting to protect is an endowment, a bank account strictly used for investment purposes: a massive “rainy day” fund.
It is only a very large version of something I have recently been personally involved with: an effort to get 105 people together to accrue $10,500 to endow a fund that would yield a $500 annual scholarship to a single college student at the college we attended years ago.
Two of us are making an effort to find 105 people to contribute $100 each towards such a fund. In effect, we are keeping the $10,000 “in the bank” (the extra $500 is for setting up the fund), and only the earnings on the investment are used for the scholarship. The $10,000 floor is set by the college. It is quite reasonable. The donation is tax deductible.
It seems that Orchestra Management had bigger fish to fry. Instead of $10,000, it seems they may be looking at $100,000,000 or more – eight zeroes, instead of four. 10,000 times 10,000 = $100,000,000. If you have lots of wealth, and a network, this is doable. If you are ordinary, as the vast majority of us are, such a king’s ransom is unimaginable.
It simply demonstrates, to me, the huge economic gulf between the existing Board and the rest of us.
They are out of our league, so far superior to us in economic wealth, that they cannot imagine not being in total control.
But we vastly outnumber them, and if we do not fill their seats, their unimaginable advantage becomes a disadvantage to them.
We have far more power than we think we have.
We simply have to exercise it.
The Musicians Website: here.
Maryann Goldstein, SOSMn,Sep. 6, 2013, outside Orchestra Hall
UPDATE Sep 10, 2013:
Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune is full of material relating to Mn Orch. The main story on the front page, by Graydon Royce, has a large photo of Osmo Vanska and the headline “Is this goodby for Orchestra’s Vanska?” In the Opinion Section on page A9 is a column by Laurie Greeno and Paula DeCosse, leaders of the group Orchestrate Excellence. There are two letters to the editor on the dispute, by Mary Pattock and Georgia Gustafson. Page A8.
I note with some morbid fascination the Boards continuing preoccupation (obsession?) with the musicians compensation. It is as if these highly skilled and accomplished professional musicians are overpaid. It would be an appropriate full page ad, I would think, to list side by side, the names of all Board members, and all Orchestra members (they are approximately the same in number), and list beside each name the Adjusted Gross Income from line 37 of their 2012 tax return. And see which side does the best.
Of course, this cannot be done; and if it could, the listing for the Board side would likely be complicated by many factors unknown to more common persons. But it is a thought, anyway.
This is not, necessarily, a matter of “Monied Men Governing the Poor”, since the musicians are middle class, and those governing are not all men, but the comparison is apt, nonetheless.
Just a thought.
UPDATE Sep 10, 2013, received overnight:
from Mike R, a long-time fan of the Orchestra and transplanted New York City native who we met for dinner at least annually before one concert or another at Orchestra Hall.
I’m not surprised that the musicians didn’t agree to the management’s proposal in the full-page ad. It called for negotiation for two months and then if there was no agreement, the musicians would go back to work under the terms specified in the ad. If that isn’t a “My Way or the Highway” attitude, what is it?
Management’s initial proposal specified draconian cuts and I wouldn’t blame the musicians for feeling insulted by it. But sitting on their hands for a year, without offering a counter proposal was counter productive.
I think both sides have unrealistic expectations. The musician’s negotiating committee has two labor lawyers from New York. They may not realize the extent of the difference in resources between MNOrch’s patrons and the New York Philharmonic’s patrons. Minneapolis’ blue-haired dowagers may resemble the ones who attend Philharmonic Hall, but I would venture that the depth of their pockets is not nearly that of the New York Philharmonic’s contributors.
Six days left before the deadline.
I think the damage to MNOrch will prove insurmountable. They’ve already lost some key personnel.
Response from Dick: The key fact, difficult to understand, is that the musicians have been Locked Out for almost a year, no pay or benefits. This is not bargaining as usual.
Having come from a collective bargaining background, I think the members of the Orchestra are getting very sound advice from their lawyers. Most people do not understand the realities and the nuances of collective bargaining (of a Lock Out), and the implications of certain actions or inactions. Which of us would voluntarily accept almost an entire year without pay?
I have closely watched this situation from the sidelines ever since I became aware of it at the end of September, 2012. Like everyone else, I am a complete outsider when it comes to access to specific information; on the other hand, I know how this process works.
I agree there has been permanent damage. When (not If, but When) there is a settlement, and those Orchestra members appear on stage for their first concert, I will be there, first one standing, to give them an ovation before they play their first note.
(There is no guarantee that there will be a settlement, but I think there will be…sometime.)
We’ll be at Lake Harriet area Sunday afternoon, September 15, for the 5 p.m. thank you concert.
Manny Laureano, first trumpet for the Minnesota Orchestra, speaks at the rally outside Orchestra Hall on September 6.
UPDATE Sep 11, 2013 9 a.m.
Today’s Star Tribune has a news article by Graydon Royce on page B3 (Metro section). The usual public jockeying in private negotiations.
Yesterday at lunch with three retired colleagues, I was trying to put a frame on the Minnesota Orchestra situation (none of them are as engaged in this dispute as I am – very typical citizens at large in this community.)
I asked them to imagine a small school district in this metropolitan area, and I mentioned one such place. One colleague interrupted: “be careful, two of my grandchildren go there, and it is a great school district.”
I continued: imagine this place has an unelected school board which is larger than the faculty. This board deliberates in private and is unknown to most of the citizens, who have no decision making power, but are expected to go to their kids school programs, and provide all sorts of other support through local taxes. Of course, the taxes is voluntary, since the citizens have chosen to live there.
The place I imagined is the Minnesota Orchestra, and we, the audience, are the disenfranchised citizens.
We far outnumber the unelected Board, and we have lots of power IF we choose to exercise it.
Outside Orchestra Hall, Sep 6, 2013
UPDATE, Sep 12, 2013
Facing Armageddon, and A Man’s Reach
Orchestra Managements full page ad in the Sunday Minneapolis Star Tribune ominously said: “Eight days left….”
Today is Thursday. That must mean there are four days left, which means next Monday is the day.
According to the folks who approved the copy for the ad, anyway.
I wonder how I’d vote, if in the Orchestra, 11 months locked out, having had to subsist with no pay or benefits from the Orchestra, faced with an offer which at this point could only be one to save face for Orchestra Management.
Sharks don’t do deals, other than to win….
There is less question what I’d do as a locked out patron, who didn’t have an opportunity to use any of my 2012-13 season tickets.
Of course, we patrons (aka audience, listeners) appear to not much matter.
For this single listener, the end of the Orchestra as we knew it happened back in January, 2013; but the beginning of the end probably began over a small lunch or dinner at a fancy restaurant somewhere back around the near collapse of our economy in 2008, five Septembers ago, when a few powerful people shared some ideas about making the Big Dreams they had into reality. There is, after all, great profit to be made from adversity, if you know how to play the money game. And there are different definitions of “profit”, too.
There are probably some scribbled ideas on sheets of paper somewhere about
how to exploit a near economic catastrophe as an excuse, in other words.
Or, perhaps there is no definable “ground zero”. It just evolved.
I speak as a single audience member, simply a long term account number at the Minnesota Orchestra (who seems, to my knowledge, to have been ‘disappeared’ from the Orchestra managements ordinary communication network.)
For some time now I have said, including more than once in this and other blogposts, that I’ll return to Orchestra Hall if and only if the Musicians Union ratifies a new contract. (This does not mean a “kick the can down the road” temporary agreement.)
But even if I’m back, the reality remains: without major changes in how business is done at Orchestra Management level, including who is permitted to be on the Board, the new Orchestra Hall will be a monument to failure of management and not to success.
To me, the Minnesota Orchestra of 110 years has been killed.
There are many models (mindsets, I’ll call them) which could have been followed to avoid this pending Armageddon.
Just for perspective, here are a couple of examples, compared against the current apparent model:
A. Alan Fletcher, President and CEO of the Aspen Music School and Festival, said this on June 23, 2013: “Classical music in the United States depends on four groups working together: musicians, donors, administrators, and listeners.” Two months later he said similarly, across the street from Orchestra Hall.
There is at least an implication in his remarks that these four components have essentially equal value.
B. As those of us in the audience now know, the Minnesota Orchestra Management has (and may have always had) a different model:
1) administrators/large donors/Board;
with the administrators/large donors superior; and the listeners (it now appears) essentially irrelevant except to purchase tickets.
This model worked so long as there was a benevolent donor class which believed in great music for the greater community played by a top tier Orchestra conducted by a top tier music director.
Wealthy opportunists who like music but like power and control even more apparently saw their opportunity to take over the Orchestra, and have done so, and here we are.
C. And there’s a third model, which Board member Harvey Mackays “Swim with the Sharks” book caused me to revisit this week.
The alternative is in “A Man’s Reach” by Elmer L. Andersen (edited by Lori Sturdevant, University of Minnesota Press, 2000).
Mr. Andersen would be well known to any of the “players” on the current Orchestra Board: orphan who loved books and learning; well to do and very successful business owner, life-long Republican, MN political and civic leader, including Governor and UofM Board of Regents, philanthropist, on and on.
We were friends the last 12 years of his life.
In his book, pages 96-100, Mr. Andersen describes his “corporate philosophy” which “was built around four priorities in a definite order.”
1) “Our highest priority…should be service to the customer.”
2) “Number two was that the company [H. B. Fuller] should exist deliberately for the benefit of the people associated in it. I never like the word employee. It intimated a difference in class within a plant.”
3) [H.B.] “Fuller’s third priority was to make money.”
4) “Our philosophy did not leave out service to the larger community. We put it in fourth place….”
Mr. Andersen died in 2004. It would be interesting to hear Mr. Andersen and Mr. Mackay et al discuss the word “customer” in context with the Minnesota Orchestra.
There is, in my opinion, a severe distinction and disconnect between Mr. Mackay’s “Shark” approach to business and Andersen’s “A Man’s Reach” philosophy, and the distinction is on display at 1111 Nicollet Avenue now.
Mr. Andersen can’t engage in this conversation, at least directly. I wonder what he and many of his other contemporaries – former pillars of this community – would have to say.
Four days. My best to the parties.
The Listeners will determine the future.
(more updates below the photo”
A Man’s Reach, c. Regents of the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, 2000
Later updates Sep 12, 2013:
Excellent commentary in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune p. 11 by Bruce Ridge of Raleigh NC, chairman, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians: “Paper shouldn’t echo orchestra leadership’s dirge.” click here.
Comment received from Alan S: Many members of the Management Board of the Minnesota Orchestra have in the past or still do run large companies. Most of them deal with unions. Let’s imagine Marilyn Carlson Nelson locking out the union from the Radisson Hotels that the maids belong to, at contract negotiation time. No maids to make the beds, to clean the rooms, etc. Harvey Mackay locking out the workers that make envelopes until his demands are met. All of his customers placing orders for envelopes, but no workers to make them.
MinnPost has picked up my post about Armageddon: here
Comment from John G: Many thanks, Dick, for your sustaining pressure to get this conundrum resolved. Elmer Andersen was “right on,” as I also see it. It would be interesting to see what historians and musicologists will say about this fiasco 15-10 years from now. Likely they will interpret it, as you have, within the context of an Age Against Unions, an Age of Wealth at all costs, an Age Bereft of a Conscience. I agree. There’s a better way to do business. Somehow we listeners have to find a way to restructure the MOA. But if the present MOA needlessly forces Osmo out, I’m out as well…
(click to enlarge)
Dedication of new Minneapolis Convention Center 1927, performances by Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and Apollo Male Chorus. Great thanks to Sean Vogt, current director of Apollo Male Chorus.
Update, Sep 13, 2013
Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune has a front page Metro section piece on the new Orchestra Hall sans musicians, of course. I have not yet seen it in the on-line STrib. It is the paper we receive at home in suburban Woodbury, so it’s area wide news.
Overnight came this comment from Sean V, along with the wonderful photo above, of the opening of the Minneapolis Convention Center in 1927:
I enjoyed your Minnesota Orchestra article in the “Minn Post.” It was very well-written. I enjoyed reading it.
I direct the Apollo Male Chorus which opened the Minneapolis Auditorium with the then Minneapolis Symphony in 1927. Apollo’s ties to the MN Orch stretches back quite a ways. I am attaching the photo from that opening with optimism that the crowds and the orchestra will be alive once again.
As a former horn player, and a current continuo player, I’ve been on the receiving end of incompetent executive management. In any event…
Update Sep 14, 2013
from Vicci J:
What if the orchestra musicians received the same amount as in the past, and knowing the endowment will run out in 2018, plan to close the orchestra in 2018?
At least Minnesota can boast it has had one of the nations best orchestra’s for 100 years. We know the orchestra will not sell enough tickets to pay the musicians salary’s.
There is no audience development in the K-12 schools.
Dick’s response: It is Orchestra Managements claim that it will run out of money, of course. And, of course, this is the absolute worst possible case scenario. Vicci’s last sentence is the crucial one.
Update Sep 15, 2013: Louise Pardee letter to the editor in St. Paul Pioneer Press
The audience: locked out, too
It’s time for the patrons of the Minnesota Orchestra to be heard. The board has not only locked out the musicians for nearly a year, but they have locked out the audience, and have failed to respond to our emails and letters.
This is unconscionable, and I think it is not really about the money. In 2010, the board was bragging that the budget was balanced; they were in the black and the time was right to ask the Legislature for money to help renovate Orchestra Hall. This would bring in more people, because they were certain that patrons would come to see and enjoy a beautiful lobby. Did they forget about the music?
Two years later, the situation was so dire that the orchestra was on the verge of financial collapse. How could it have gotten so bad in such a short time? These board members are bankers and businessmen. Surely, their financial analysis should have been better. Does it have anything to do with manipulating information to suit their own purposes?
But at this point, it became the musicians’ fault. They just make too much money. The board has only one vision of reality. The community cannot afford a world-class orchestra. Did they ask us? The orchestra is a precious legacy, a gift to us from the visionaries who presented the first concert in 1903 and all those who have nurtured it and supported it ever since. Why did they assume that we would not support it as we always have?
Also, they seem to have forgotten that it is those very musicians, who by their hard work and excellence, have put this orchestra on the map of the musical world. Grammy nominations, Carnegie Hall and European tours where they performed in some of the best concert halls in the world garnering high acclaim, all mean nothing.
Now, the deadline is looming, and they are heading for a mighty crash if an agreement is not reached. Why will they not cooperate with their chosen mediator? Who has given them the right to destroy this orchestra with its wonderful 110-year history?
What exactly are they trying to prove? How will they pick up the pieces and what will they put in their beautiful new box?
Louise Pardee, White Bear Lake
From Larry H, Sep 15, 2013, a forwarded item from a friend: “I strongly urge you, if you haven’t already, to read Scott Chamberlain’s “What Does Victory Look Like?“ in his Mask of the Flower Prince blog. Are you buoyed up as I am after that marvelous concert and talk today?”
Dick: This is first time I’ve heard of this blog, but the writer seems very well informed.
Thoughts/Photos after the Lake Harriet Thank You Concert of the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians, Sunday September 15, 2013:
There were thousands there for the concert, a wonderful hour and a half. At least five of us from my own Orchestra list have checked in so far. Other comments will be added as I receive them. There were several important announcements last night (no settlement). Best to check in regularly on the Musicians website, here, or the website of Save Our Symphony MN, here.
The Monday Sep 16 Minneapolis Star Tribune (p A7) has a long article about the Orchestra, including a photo from yesterday afternoon, and a cutline that indicates that more than 4,000 were in the audience. I won’t dispute that. The article emphasizes the warfare issues of bargaining, of course. Personally, I have confidence in the members of the Orchestra; at this point I have no confidence whatsoever in the management. And of course, we in the audience are out in the cold, just waiting. I’ll write more on that at this space tomorrow.
But Sunday evening at Lake Harriet was absolutely marvelous. An historic moment I would say.
Part of the audience September 16
(click to enlarge any photos)
Portion of Lake Harriet Bandshell crowd September 15, 2013
from Madeline S, Sep 16, 2013: What a wonderful way to spend a late afternoon in the early fall! Our great locked-out musicians of the world-class Minnesota Orchestra gave a truly fantastic performance for the large (also locked-out) audience at Lake Harriet Bandshell today under the exceptionally fine conducting of Manny Laureano, principal trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra, co-artistic director of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and who also occupies one of the specifically “endowed chairs” of the Minnesota Orchestra. The sun came out and made what would have been a pretty cool day quite alright. We missed hearing some notes when the occasional plane flew overhead, but the orchestra and conductor kept it together beautifully.
Before the performance, principal cellist, Tony Ross, told the audience that in the event there was no settlement with the orchestra board, the musicians of the orchestra will launch their own self-produced Fall Concert Series which will be partially supported by matching funds they have raised along with donations from their audience. The first such concert would be at Ted Mann Concert Hall (UofM), and acclaimed pianist, Emanuel Ax, who is currently scheduled to perform with them October 4 & 5, has said he will perform with the Minnesota Orchestra musicians wherever THEY are. Also, unbelievably, orchestra management plans to have a Symphony Ball on Sept. 20–with or without a Symphony??? It was suggested that if there is no settlement with the musicians, the green SOS (Save Our Symphony) shirts and signs should come out with supporters of the musicians outside Orchestra Hall at that time!!! Keep in touch for more information at the musicians’ website. (Photo by Madeline at end of this section.)
Louise Pardee, White Bear Lake, (center left, see her letter in Sep 15 Pioneer Press above) and Dr. Joe Schwartzberg at the concert Sep 15.
Manny Laureano conducted his orchestra colleagues with gusto Sep 15. Theirs was a wonderful performance.
At the Harriet Bandshell concert Sep 15, 2013, compliments of Madeline Simon.
Update Sep. 17, 2013
We have our tickets for October 5, 2013 at Ted Mann Concert Hall. Information about tickets, plus information about how to contribute to the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians can be found at the Musicians website, here.
Some of you have no idea what I look like. Someone took a photo of me recently (I’m usually on wrong side of the camera), and I’ve included the photo at the end.
A Personal Letter to the Audience* of the Minnesota Orchestra
On Sunday, September 8, 2013, a full page ad appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, paid for by the Minnesota Orchestra Board, headlined “Eight Days Left. But We CAN Get This Done!”
By my count, “eight days” was yesterday. It’s not yet done.
I’m simply an audience* member. Here are a few thoughts for you, my colleagues, my fellow listeners and patrons of the Minnesota Orchestra.
Yesterday I took time to review the first e-mail from the Orchestra Board announcing what began 50 weeks ago, October 1, 2012. The e-mail was dated October 1, 2012, and in relevant part says: “Today we regret to report that…[w]ith no contract in place, the Minnesota Orchestral Association has suspended salary and benefits for musicians until a new agreement can be reached…we’ve made the decision to cancel concerts through November 25 ….”
The entire e-mail is here: Mn Orch Oct 1, 2012001. It is useful to print it out and read it again, while keeping in mind that it is a perfectly written advocacy document for one side, unencumbered by other facts or opinions which might differ with the official conclusion the document was intended to convey to us: “it’s their fault”. Also remember, it was sent 352 days before today.
At the demonstration outside Orchestra Hall on September 6, one speaker most aptly noted that the organism that is the Minnesota Symphony is like a “three-legged stool”.
Coming from a rural North Dakota background, it caused me to think back to Grandma and Grandpa and Uncles and Aunts sitting on three legged stools milking the family cows. It is a rich memory – we even had occasional opportunities to practice when we visited.
Later this week I’ll be in that very barn. It is now essentially abandoned, awaiting the fate of all old barns.
But I digress.
The speaker noted a particular problem with the three-legged stool that is our Minnesota Orchestra.
1. One leg, the Orchestral Association, is omnipotent with all the benefits of what we traditionally call “power” in this society.
2. A second leg is the Orchestra itself, which is a union, which has sacrificed all, literally, to reach an equitable settlement. And then there is the…
3. …third leg, which includes we listeners in the seats; the “farm team” in youth band programs in schools everywhere; people and little kids who come with their parents to be introduced to great music by great musicians; people who for assorted reasons cannot come to hear the Orchestra in person, but love great music, etc. etc.
This third group, in assorted ways, seems powerless, or so would go conventional wisdom. We’re along for the ride…if invited (best I know, I’ve been dropped from the Orchestral Associations e- and mail list. Stay tuned….)
My ancestors, attempting to sit on a stool of our current model, while milking a cow, would encounter some difficulties. Maybe that powerless leg would fall off; or that dominant leg would demand all the attention…. It just wouldn’t work. Three legs are three equal legs.
So, here we are, Audience*. What to do?
We Audience members are basically invisible (or so it seems).
When I hear talk about the Audience*, the talk is not about those of us in the seats, but the empty seats. There could be an entire essay about this topic. The point is, those of in the seats don’t seem to much matter. Someday, they’ll open the doors, and we will come back….
We are, those of us who make up the Third Leg of the stool, far more powerful than we give ourselves credit for being. All we lack is the resolve to empower ourselves.
For myself, and I speak only for myself, I have resolved never to darken the door of Orchestra Hall again, until the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have ratified an Agreement on all terms and conditions. (This doesn’t count an interim “kick the can down the road” agreement – we know how those work in our Congress in Washington D.C.)
And I choose to be outspoken.
For you? Your choice.
But, please, refuse to be powerless.
* – Audience? Anyone who has ever attended, even a single time, a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, or anywhere else the Orchestra has performed.
So, how do I fit in?
1. Over the years, at bare minimum, we’ve been to 75 concerts by the Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, almost all in Row Four Center. Maybe we qualify as “average” – I don’t know. We saw some memorable ‘side’ events, live, from those seats in Orchestra Hall; the roses on the chair of a violinist who had recently died; Itzhak Perlman’s fall; Eije Oue conducting the Star Spangled banner at the beginning of the program in September, 2001.
2. We have attended other concerts of various kinds at various times, including during Sommerfest, and occasional public events in parks, including Sep 15 at Lake Harriet.
3. We came for the music, not for the Lobby, or the Cookies (though the caterers were certainly good!), or the coffee.
4. Of course, we parked, we ate downtown (usually at the Hilton). Orchestra day for us was usually at least six hours.
5. We supported the minstrel of the evening in the skyway; we occasionally bought tickets for others, including for one program which was cancelled.
6. As my wife would attest, I used intermission to wander around, to just see who was in those seats, out in the lobby. We were certainly not a cookie cutter bunch.
7. The list could go on. What are your memories? Your tradition? Your stand?
Dick Bernard Sep 12, 2013
(This also appears as a separate blog entry at September 17, 2013
The Orchestra Ball
Friday night, the Minnesota Orchestra Ball will take place at Orchestra Hall (see link at end of this segment). We will not be there, we never have been. We wouldn’t qualify for admission. Even if we did, on Friday, I’ll be 320 miles away, in rural North Dakota, visiting my elderly Aunt and Uncle, and in the process, Friday, I’ll walk up into the haymow of the old barn where ‘back in the day’ my Grandpa more than likely did some fiddling: he was a farmhouse fiddler who was good enough to have a small band in his younger days, playing community dances. The story is that he was trained on violin with sheet music back home in Wisconsin, near Dubuque. He did not play by sound alone.
This has been an awful year for the Minnesota Orchestra musicians. It has probably been a horrible week for the Orchestra Board. It was predicted to be a nasty month in the negotiations standoff, and that prophecy has been fulfilled.
Yesterday’s listing of Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans included five Minnesotans, two of whom are on the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra. One, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, has a worth of $3.9 billion, it says; another, Karen Hubbard, is represented by her husband, Stanley E. Hubbard, whose worth is a paltry $2.2 billion.
I would guess they will be at the Ball.
The Orchestra Board is full of other “high net worth” individuals who, simply acknowledging reality, have no way of understanding ordinary people like myself. And they’ve made this lack of understanding even worse by supposedly saving the Orchestra by their own financial largesse, without involving people like me in the process.
The issue of terms and conditions of employment for the Musicians is not, and probably never has been, the issue. It is something else entirely.
The Board made a fatal mistake, and that will never be acknowledged by them; and they’ll continue to demand that people like ourselves rescue them so they can declare victory.
Avoid the temptation.
Friday beginning at 4:30, if you can, find your way to Orchestra Hall, for this program sponsored by Save Our Symphony MN
As I say, I can’t be there. I wish I could….
Sep 16, 2013
from Mary B:
MN Orch concert::::I was there and have never before heard (meticulously brought out) all the gorgeous non- melodic voices in the symphony. Much was found by Edo and harvested by the musicians – respect for the whole of the piece is amazing….and that respects us…..
Memory I played that horn solo with the Babbitt band at MN state contest around 1962 and we earned an A so it was special to me…Tchaikovski
Wasn’t it remarkable how perfectly poised to listen the audience was-so yearning to hear and be blessed by music. Once in Sweden I experienced an outdoor audience with such rapt attention and did not ever believe it possible in our USA’s habit of scattered attention…
Sep 19, 2013
from Val D:
I appreciate your discretion, your insights, and your passion for the MN Orchestra. You have kept me in the loop for many months and I thank you for that. Because of you, I have been able to inform others with regard to the musicians struggle and some of them joined me at the Lake Harriet concert on Sunday. (It was a lovely day.) Others are buying tickets for the Oct 4/5 concert at the Ted Mann Concert Hall.
Just wanted you to know that your efforts ripple on.
UPDATE Sep. 25, 2013
Thoughts at another deadline.
I was out of state Sep 19-21, and very busy on return, and was out of the loop for happenings regarding the Orchestra.
We’re subscribers to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and this mornings paper had an article “Talks intensify as orchestra deadline nears”. You can read the entire article here: Orch Talks Sep 25 STRIB001.
It seems so long ago, and it is, since that e-mail came to me from Mn Orchestra management on October 1, 2012, cancelling the programs through October 25. That, too, you can read for yourself. Mn Orch Oct 1, 2012001
Nothing much seems to have changed in the last 12 months. Power and Control seems dominant, as does the Sacred Endowment, presently worthless (except to the investment bankers). The Audience, people in the seats, like me, are irrelevant while Big People manage what we are allowed to know about the process and the prospects.
On October 1, 2013, regardless of the news between now and then, I will write my third letter to the entire Board. I will expect, as before, no acknowledgement of the letter (Harvey Mackays recent form e-mail doesn’t count as a response).
I will note my August 28, 2013, letter to Mr. Campbell and Mr. Henson, requesting a complete copy of the Business Plan, as well as the Bylaws of the Orchestral Association…a letter to which there has been no response. (We’re subscribers, and we’ve given to the Guaranty Fund 11 of the last 23 years – you’d think we’d qualify for such information.)
I will also note my September 6, 2013, letter to Mr. Henson, where I ask to be re-included on the e-mail and correspondence list of the Orchestra – a list from which I have quite obviously been excised, even though I am a long-time subscriber. There has been no response to that letter either.
I still rely on other untainted people to see what the Orchestra is saying to my colleagues.
Addiction to Power and Control is as deadly as any other addiction, and it is visible within the walls at 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis 55403.
My support is with the Musicians.
Update, September 28, 6 a.m.
Sometime today, so announces the Star Tribune on-line, the Musicians of the Orchestra will vote on some undefined proposal. At the same space, to the right, is a tab including yesterday’s article about the proposed “signing bonus” put together by Marilyn Carlson Nelson and associates.
It is my practice, born of many years and many times sitting in tense meetings with members, or their negotiators, considering whether to take proposals to the membership for a vote, to not predict, comment, suggest or judge the outcome. All is much too complicated inside the process to judge from outside what they should do.
And when the musicians settle, whether today or never, I won’t judge that either.
I know collective bargaining from the inside.
I knew the MnOrch folks only as very fine musicians.
I’m also coming to know them as wonderful examples of standing up for justice.
All best wishes to them all today, and in the future.
Now, speaking from the audience perspective, that’s a whole other story, continuing, later….
Update, Sep 28, 2013, after reading the STrib letters: Today’s Star Tribune includes a letter from Will Shapira, which speaks for itself:
Explaining to do if new offer is rejected
After reading of the Minnesota Orchestra management’s latest offer to the locked-out musicians and the Sept. 30 deadline upon all of us, I think public opinion for a settlement will now swing to management, and the musicians and their representatives had better have really good reasons if they reject this offer.
Of course they’re not going to get everything they want, but to the public, that six-figure salary plus a $20,000 signing bonus places the musicians, rightly or wrongly, in the same class as professional athletes, with their bloated salaries, signing bonuses, performances bonuses and even body weight bonuses. Members of the public may now certainly view the musicians as pulling down incomes far above most of their own.
I hope that Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who is funding the signing bonuses, will proceed to create a new business model for the orchestra based on public-private partnerships for the long term. There could not be a better leader from the private sector, and she needs to get the governor and the Legislature on board with a plan that can be finalized either in a one-day special session — which costs about $25,000 and would help build confidence in the orchestra’s future (read: another reason for Vanska to stay here) — or the next regular session in 2014.
Dick’s Response: I think Mr. Shapira (who I’ve known for a long time) is blinded by his distaste for anything having to do with professional sports in the Twin Cities. The clue here is in his second paragraph.
Rather than very low six figure salaries for orchestra players, even ‘bench-warmer Bob’ professional sports athletes make seven figures. There is no equivalence, except that the Orchestra is world-class, and has long been one of the U.S. five top tier Orchestras. And it has no bench warmers, to my knowledge.
I had a long career, full-time, in labor relations, and virtually all of my professional associates were in the same business. In 27 years, and several thousand contracts between us (and that was just in Minnesota), I constantly observed in labor conflicts that money was portrayed to the public as the issue; but the issue was really never money. The real issue was something else entirely. And never in my experience was there anything that even approached a one year Lock-Out as this one is rapidly becoming. In fact, there was never a Lock-Out in all of those thousands of bargains. This one is without any precedent.
It is pretty clear that the movers and shakers within the Minnesota Orchestra management have money, understand and love money, and think that money will solve all of their problems. I don’t know the final results of this weekend, but I wouldn’t trust the ‘bonus’ as any resolution.
I do agree with Will that “the public” may not understand the significance of this dispute, but this is a hugely significant matter for the public good of this community.
Update 1:30 p.m. Sep 28: A friend called relating this announcement on Minnesota Public Radio.
from Carol T, 2:50 p.m. Sep 28: So let me get this straight. The orchestra hasn’t been paid for a year. The Board wants to cut their salaries dramatically – although less than earlier. Then they want to throw them a $20,000 bone – in payment for a year of no salary/insurance, and which is less than their future salaries would be cut? I don’t blame them for voting “no.”
I guess I don’t know enough about the background of this controversy- If the Board thinks their salaries are so exorbitant, how were they allowed to get to that point? Weren’t they negotiated by the union? And so, how can the Board not honor that?? Also, how can they have the moolah to make such a fancy renovation of Orchestra Hall and then plead that they’re too broke to pay agreed-on salaries? (I realize some of that money came from us – the taxpayers – who weren’t asked about our priorities.)
Yes, they make more than most of us. So what? So do most all the Board members, I’d assume. So does my doctor, my dentist… I cannot do what they do – and neither can I play a cello, or direct an orchestra. You don’t compare with the general public – but with a comparable orchestra in a comparable city.
A very interesting timeline and commentary from SOSMn in the Sep 27, 2013 MinnPost: here.
from Mike R, Sep 28, 2013: More and more, I think the Orchestra personnel are on a track of self-destruction. I agree that the management proposals have been more than a little arrogant, but my impression of the orchestra is that the subtext of their statements has been “We’re a world-class orchestra. Now pay us like a world-class orchestra.
They’re a world-class orchestra largely because Osmo made them one. He gets a response from them that Sir Neville or Eije Oue did not. Given the number of first chair players who have left, are they still world class? If Osmo leaves, they may remain a good group, but they’ll need to work to regain the cachet of “world-class.”
The musicians need to remember also, that it has taken years of volunteer work to build the audience to support the orchestra. The players work hard for years to get some of the benefits other professions now take for granted. Not every orchestra pays its musicians for a full year. I would venture to say that most don’t as they can’t afford to. Remember before MNOrch filled in with a Pops season and Somerfest. The hall was dark from June thru August.
I guess I’ve written enough about it.
Stay well and I hope to see you at a concert, soon. Pat and I attended the SPCO opener at Shepherd of the Valley Church this past Thursday. We missed them, just like we miss MNOrch. They were very good. We were very glad to see them.
Christian Zacharias conducted and soloed in Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto. Listening to a recording just isn’t the same thing as seeing and hearing a great piece played by a first class orchestra and a world-class soloist. There’s a thrill you just don’t get from a recording.
Dick response to Mike (we tried to coordinate concerts with them at least once a season so know them well: It’s interesting the kind of responses that come in. Right before yours came one from A.S. that is very different. He’s submitted it as letter to editor so I won’t include it for awhile.
Of course, I’m not even a musician, so I probably can’t discern good from mediocre. But Osmo couldn’t have made a world class orchestra out of amateurs; and world class musicians don’t conduct themselves! On the other hand, when I listened to them at Lake Harriet earlier this month, conducted by Manny Laureano, one of their own, they did a superb job (even with the plane interference).
And I do a bit more than most about the back story of this mess. I don’t believe the issue was ever really about money at all. They expected they’d have to take a cut. But they wanted to see the Orchestra Association books, and were denied these, the suspicion being that there is information within that would at minimum be embarrassing to the Orchestral Association.
Letter to Editor from Alan S, Sep 28: You [Minneapolis Star Tribune] printed a letter from Willard B. Shapira in which he called the musicians have now been offered “a six figure salary along with a $20,000 signing bonus which would put them in the same class, rightly or wrongly, as professional athletes with their bloated salaries, signing bonuses, performances bonuses, and even body weight bonuses.” He goes on to state that members of the public may now certainly view the musicians as pulling down incomes far above most of their own.
Evidently Mr. Shapira must think that these musicians go from the high school band to the Minnesota Orchestra. However, there is at least anywhere from 4 to 6 years of music college, like Juliard or the Manhattan Music Schools in New York City, and many other wonderful music schools in this country and world wide. To get into these schools, they are forced to do blind auditions, like we see on TV on the program “The Voice” and then after they graduate they again do blind auditions in order to join a major orchestra. They go through the same intensive education as a medical student and that is why they are entitled to a high six figure income.
New blog post by Dick Bernard at October 1, 2013:
NOTES: I wrote previously to the Audience of the Minnesota Orchestra here.
The group Save Our Symphony MN has an excellent chronology of the history of this conflict. You can read it here: chronology2013-09-25 I’m sure it will be updated.
The Musicians website is here. Support the Musicians. Come to the rally today, and one of the concerts this weekend.
Today is the first day of the second year of the Lock-Out of Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.
Late yesterday the Minnesota Orchestra cancelled the arrangements for the concert at Carnegie Hall, and no doubt will blame the Orchestra. I can’t help but see an analogy between the cancellation of the Carnegie Hall Contract, and the Shutdown of the U.S. Government on the same day. But that’s another story.
Rich and Powerful People control public information and most everything else for the Minnesota Orchestra Board; but the members of the Orchestra, on Saturday Sep. 29, rejected 60-0 the last position of the Board. There is a powerful message in that unanimous rejection.
I represented teachers for many years, and I cannot recall, ever, anything near the unanimity of that 60-0 vote. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen. But it did on Saturday.
The third “leg” of this non-functional “stool”, we, the audience, continues to be ignored in the public conversation. But we have all the power, if we choose to exercise that power.
If we want to retain a world-class orchestra in this community, it’s up to us; if we’re satisfied with average and ordinary we’ll get that too. It all depends on whether we now support the locked-out musicians, or admit defeat ourselves.
Yes, we audience members control what we’ll get. But we cannot be passive. We must act. Nobody can do it for us. We are key.
What I plan to do is at the end.
There is limited interest within the community at large about the disaster that has been the Minnesota Orchestra situation for the last 12 months. This isn’t a surprise to me. Most citizens, likely, have never been in Orchestra Hall; they weren’t told what this loss would mean. It will be their permanent loss if the Orchestra is diminished in stature, but they won’t realize it, at least directly, or immediately.
So, we audience members are crucial. We know the implications to this community of this potential loss of a community treasure.
Two contextual hypothetical examples for your consideration.
1. In my town of Woodbury there is an old farm house and farmyard, Heritage House, in a small park at the corner of Lake Road and Radio Drive. This tiny house dates back to 1870, and it exists and continues solely because of a loyal small group of people who think it is significant to local history. A couple of years ago, I took an interest in it. You can see the results here.
WHAT IF the people who lovingly maintain Heritage House lost interest; or new city leaders said we’ve got better use for that property; or we don’t like that dumb old building – let’s replace it with a more modern facility?
Ridding our town of Heritage House would be noticeable and irreplaceable loss for the total community. Only the advocates who appreciate the importance of history could save the place.
Heritage House, Woodbury MN September 6, 2013
2. But there’s a much better example about what this theft of our orchestra from us will mean, in my opinion:
We are part of a very large metropolitan area – over 3,000,000 population. And most of our children and grandchildren go to large schools in large school districts.
But there are small school districts too, high quality ones, which have few students and teachers and are supported by a smaller community…whose relatives and grandparents live elsewhere.
What if one of these small school districts was taken over by a School Board, unelected by and unaccountable to the citizens of the town; a Board which changed the education plan, and in a dispute with the teachers who made the district great simply locked the school house doors for an entire year, completely ignoring the children and the citizens.
Would such an action have ramifications in the community? Would its effects ripple through the surrounding larger community as well? Would it have long-term consequences for future generations, including the children?
We, the audience, are “the community” which has been ignored, now, for a year. The musicians have been our advocate. Now it’s our turn.
We can choose to do nothing, and accept fate as served up to us, or we can act in the many individual ways available to us.
Not only does this Board have to change its ways of doing business, including reforming itself; but it has to feel the heat from us in ways which it best understands.
As for me, I will strongly support the Musicians as they seek a fair agreement; I will not support the management of this Orchestra in its attempts to unilaterally implement a new business plan which it didn’t even ask for my input; nor did it clearly ask for my help when (it appears) help was needed.
The Board of the Minnesota Orchestra locked me out for an entire year. I will not darken the doors of Orchestra Hall until the musicians, by ratification of their contract, say its okay: come back.
It’s time for us all to stand up and be counted for as long as it takes.
That’s my stand.
from John G, Oct 1, 2013:
Could the locked-out musicians of the MO on their own perform at Carnegie Hall at the planned time, and could Osmo on his own (after resigning from the official MO) rejoin them there to conduct the concerts? The musicians would have formed the Minnesota Diaspora Orchestra. (Rehearsal space needs to be donated within the Twin Cities.)
From Larry H, Oct 1, 2013:
Thank you Dick for your continuing posts. As for me, I also will not return as a patron until the audience members are invited to return by the musicians.
Meanwhile, the vision of the MOA led by Mr. Campbell and Mr. Henson seems to be more clear. Public posturing aside, the avenue they have chosen is leading us to a lesser quality product that will be marketed as a “world class orchestra”.
Today we await the fateful decision of our master conductor. Likely, Osmo Vänskä will resign and seek other opportunities. I was in the audience several years ago when Osmo’s contract was extended and the agreement was announced at Orchestra Hall. It was stated by the MOA representative that we were in the midst of the golden era of the Minnesota Orchestra. This golden era ended abruptly one year ago today as the lock-out of the musicians began.
It is difficult to envision an excited ticket base captivated by an orchestra presenting a full-season of concerts led by a substitute conductor. Any artistically literate audience member, who has valued the magnificent interpretations of masterworks conducted by Osmo Vänskä, will quickly notice a different product. The absence of our familiar resident world-class artist-musicians will only augment the MOA’s worst-case scenario.
The legacy of the orchestra has been tainted and compromised. I doubt if the Henson vision of the Minnesota Orchestra will have the same level of patron support in future years, Minnesota’s “destination orchestra” is effectively being disbanded, and after a year void of concerts, a large portion of the audience has turned to other ensembles and venues with their budgeted entertainment dollars.
Looking to the future, it is hard to imagine if a lesser orchestra will command the same level of ticket pricing. Meanwhile, the renovated Orchestra Hall has a reduced seating capacity. It seems reasonable to believe that the audience revenue stream will be reduced as the MOA seeks sustainability after its public relations debacle.. Furthermore, some angered patrons, feeling ignored and disenfranchised, will simply not return to Orchestra Hall.
It is hard to believe that the donor base will be sustained. Reductions in giving seem imminent. Meanwhile, the MOA can offer a sparkling new lobby that leads to an empty concert hall.
The Henson-Campbell vision has now effectively altered the cultural fabric of culture in our community. All of this happened without accountability to the main-stream audience.
The clear solution, with an artistically sustainable future in a stabilized economic environment at Orchestra Hall, needs the locked-out musicians to again be the Minnesota Orchestra’s artists in residence.
Another thought … general public of MN doesn’t much care, nor does WCCO … WCCO is across the street yet has barely covered this story … even under normal circumstances they give the orchestra limited, if any coverage … yet, sports get continuous free advertising.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2, 2013
A Rally at Peavey Plaza
Yesterday afternoon we joined several hundred at the first anniversary of the Lock-Out Rally at Peavey Park, adjoining Orchestra Hall. We saw quite a number of folks we know. The community is growing.
Much of what I have to say about the matter is in today’s blog post about the Shut Down. You can read it here. The portion about the Orchestra Rally and Situation is down the page a-ways. Here is a Facebook album link to some of the photos I took yesterday.
Featured speaker yesterday afternoon was Tony Hair, President of the 90,000 member American Federation of Musicians (AFM). The post rally AFM release is here: MN Orch Board AFM Statement Oct 1, 2013
Tony is a plain-spoken Mississippian born and raised in Texas. When I saw him before the rally began, I wondered who this guy was! Sort of a Willy Nelson in demeanor, down to the cowboy boots. But, no question why he’s AFM President, chosen to lead this nations musician, and invited to support our Minnesota Orchestra.
Tony Hair, President American Federation of Musicians, speaks at Rally for Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Oct 1, 2013. At right, Tony Ross holds a sign held when the Lock-Out began one year earlier, October 1, 2012.
The description of the last futile negotiating session with the Board, from the Unions perspective, was troubling. It is a version that will not be shared by Management in their fancy news releases, that is for certain. I’m a veteran in negotiations rooms so I understand. Perhaps one or more of those I know who were there will give their perceptions of yesterday at this space.
For some reason, when I thought of the Orchestral Associations news release and other similiar ‘spin’, I started to think of that old oft repeated refrain in “he (or she) done me wrong” songs. The all-time favorite is B.J.Thomas version, which is worth watching here.
Each and every one of us, one time or another, have related some a “done me wrong” lament to our best friend.
Of course, we have the perfect story; the perfect audience.
Unfortunately, always creeping in to such a refrain are certain inconvenient truths…. We all know that refrain too.
So, out comes the ultimate “done me wrong” refrain through a polished and refined news release, by whomever.
Somewhere in the ‘spin’ there is the truth. And everyone who has ever negotiated anything knows that.
After a year of being pretty intensely interested in this issue, and trying to learn the issues, it is easy for me to stick with the Musicians. They have much more truth on their side and they’ll continue to have my support. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
They also have given up all pay and benefits and resisted selling out, while their adversary can live in luxury…about as great a contrast as one can imagine.
On we go.
Comment and Link from Madeline S, Oct 2, 2013:
Have you received this? It’s important. Here is a link to a call/ petition for the Mn Orchestra Association board members to resign.
from Dick, Oct 2: The originator of this initiative is apparently a businessman, whose business is described here.
October 1, 2013
SOME THOUGHTS A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER
Oct 3, 2013
(Please note the Oct 2 item from Madeline, above)
Last evening I decided to do a quick review of the tear sheets from the Minneapolis Star Tribune which referred in some way or another to the Minnesota Orchestra lockout. These included articles, editorials, letters, commentaries and four full page ads (three management, one musicians). I’m sure I’m missing some, but likely I have as complete a set as anyone outside the conflict itself.
The first tear sheet: October 11, 2012, 11 days after the Lockout began.
The second, May 3, 2013, nearly six months later.
May, 2013: mentions on 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 28, 29 (in some of these would be a number of references in different forms)
July, 2013: 11, 12, 24, 25, 29
August, 2013: 8, 16, 20, 23
September, 2013: 1, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 20, 25, 27, 28 29, 30
October, 2013: 1, 2, 3 (today, an interesting commentary.)
By my count, that’s 35 papers in which the Lock-Out was mentioned. The Lock-Out was news, but only sporadically.
I know negotiations very well. But I was not a player for either side in this tragedy. I was simply an active bystander, a Listener/Patron/Audience member.
Because of my long experience, I understand what happens behind the doors in bargaining. It is not a big mystery.
I understood exactly what the Musicians Union negotiator was saying at the Rally Oct. 1 when he described the anti-climactic and bitter end of bargaining on Sep. 30, when Management caucused for 1 1/2 hours about a proposal, returned, called off the negotiations, and sent the letter to Carnegie Hall cancelling the Orchestra’s November appearance there: the event that led, a few hours later, to Osmo Vanska’s resignation.
Vanska was a man of his word. Ne resigned. Would anyone have expected otherwise?
As we learn more, and we will, it will increasingly become clear that there was never any intent by Minnesota Orchestra management to bargain at all, from the very beginning. The historians can sort that out at their leisure.
I don’t believe that this same management had any interest in community or listener (small donor) support either. Their end game was to control everything…and they’ve succeeded, at least temporarily.
I hoped that the Musicians would not take the bait on what I considered a bribe from the Marilyn Carlson-Nelson group: the $20,0000 signing bonus. I was glad they rejected it 60-0, and especially appreciative of their reasoning for the rejection: the long term integrity of the Orchestra.
In the moneyed world, the bribe made sense, I suppose. The reason might go like this: after a year without pay or benefits, the Musicians should be delirious with joy at such generosity.
I’ve always supported the Musicians. This singular standing for principal cemented my respect for them forever.
What’s ahead? Who knows. A great deal depends on the commitment of we former audience members. I hope we’re up to the task.
I believe the entire Management of the Orchestra, including the entire Board, those 80+ people listed on the Orchestra website, were marginalized by their colleagues who had the power, lazy or stupid. They dismissed the musicians, and they ignored the base: the audience. They do not deserve their positions, any of them. (Yes, this is a harsh indictment. Yes, there are good Board members in there somewhere, but have we heard them speak out? Not in my hearing.)
The Orchestral Association richly deserves a parade of declined invitations by artistic individuals and groups to perform in their wonderful new space; and for those who sign, they don’t deserve an audience full of locked-out listeners from 2012-13.
Oct 1, 2013
Update, afternoon Oct 3, 2013:
from Pat R: I am so frustrated by the outcome of the Minnesota Orchestra drama, I don’t know that I would ever contribute to them again or go to another one of their concerts.
from Madeline S: Musicians’ website says Vanska to conduct SOLD OUT concerts this weekend! I’ll be there Saturday with a friend, and I’m also certain that there will be people “verklempt” ["choked up" in German] as well as tearful. [Along with the requested definition of verklempt, Madeline added] Beethoven instructs the first violin in one string quartet to play a passage with a sound that is “verklempt.”
from Molly R: Thanks for ALL your work on this, & the regular updates.
I assume you saw the Strib Editorial page article today… interesting, if a bit sky-blue optimistic. [Link is at October 3 within my today's post]
more from Madeline S: More on the MNO. I also listened to MPR this morning, and they played some old recordings of the Minneapolis Symphony/MNO with Skrowaczewski conducting. He’s still at it, and sounded like an engagement conducting in Japan and more coming up. One of their morning programs also had the call-in discussions about the negotiations/hostage issues which included talking about the Government shutdown and Minnesota Orchestra tragedy.
Included in Madeine’s e-mail was this from Trish E: When listening to MN Public Radio this morning, I heard [former MN Gov] Arne Carlson making a plea to the MN Orchestra Board and the musicians’ organizations, asking them to each form a brand new negotiation team and get back to work immediately on negotiations. This immediately prompted me to write to both organizations, asking them to actively support the idea. When I went to the Saveoursymphonymn.org site, I found a really amazing number of well-written, well-thought-out blogs which I found very moving and full of insight. [A particularly good] one by Scott Chamberlain, with the responses to it (including several by Janet Horvath) [is recommended reading].
In addition, I discovered a blog from the World Socialist Web Site, which was featured on the SOSMN site and had some very, very interesting background facts on the whole situation. I’m no Socialist— but found the article quite plausible. It It also adds to the scenario laid out in a Wikipedia article I found recently.
If you’ve already read these articles/ blogs, I apologize for loading up your inboxes. I guess I just need to feel like I’m doing something—-anything!—-to deal with all the sadness and anger that losing our great conductor and possibly losing what remains of our great orchestra has brought us.
From Mike R, Oct. 4: I thought Lilek’s column was generally in bad taste. I realize he meant it as satire but it wasn’t funny. I’ve heard too many people make similar comments about the arts seriously. I view Vanska’s resignation as a tragedy for Minnesota and the Twin Cities. You don’t make jokes about a tragedy, even with satire.
I grew up listening to recordings by the Minneapolis symphony. In NYC, we had no shortage of world class orchestras with the Philharmonic and the NBC symphony (Toscanini’s house band), the Lewisohn Stadium Symphony (originally the NY Philharmonic played the Stadium Concerts, but then the Stadium Concert management spun off their orchestra as a separate and unique unit.
With Vanska leading it, MNOrch became a world class orchestra. And to make the situation worse, He connected with the audience. There’s none of the prima donna about him. I would also guess that he’s not making the same kind of salary that the Music directors of the Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Chicago orchestras make.
I do not play any instrument, but I’ve been a classical music lover from my earliest years.
Radio was our mass media growing up. Classical music filled prime-time network radio. both as concert programs, and as background music for radio drama of all sorts, mysteries, police shows, love stories, soap operas, and high drama.
I bet he’ll land a spot with another world class orchestra before too long.
I apologize for venting, but I really feel badly about this situation.
from Madeline S, Oct 4: Scott Chamberlain’s blog is here;
which is also accessible from On the Blogs on the Musicians website
October 6, 12:27 a.m.
One of you asked, “How was the concert?”.
Here is a very imperfect photo I took at the final bows (click to enlarge)
The final bows, October 5, 2013, Minnesota Orchestra and Maestro Osmo Vanska.
There is much to be said. This space is open to anyone who wishes to comment. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.
Here is your copy of the souvenir program from Oct 4-5, 2013: Mn Orch Prog Oct 4-5 13002. (It was very nice to see the Union “bug” on both the program and the insert recognizing the retirement of Stage Manager Tim Eickholt. These days, stamping out the “bug” is part of the goals and objectives of people who would like to rid the world of Unions of any kind. The Musicians could have opted for just any old printer, but they didn’t…. Several loud “huzzahs”!)
Before the second half of the program began, one of the Orchestra members announced that the special added matinee performance on Saturday went on sale at 8 a.m. Friday, and was sold out by 8:30 a.m. The Ticket Office reported 40,000 hits for tickets on Friday. So…classical music is dead?
The encore for the performances was Sibelius’ Valse Triste. Maestro Vanska specifically asked the audience for no applause to follow this powerful piece on death, and we complied. At the end he and Orchestra exited the stage together and we all were similarly subdued. It was a sad but realistic end.
The performance was covered by three video cameras, so one expects this sad day will live on later.
And doubtless Minnesota Public Radio will have the program available on archive.
Our work as audience must continue and indeed intensify.
This is not over.
Remember the “three-legged stool” so aptly cited by a speaker at the September 6 rally outside Orchestra Hall: in that case, the legs were management, musicians and audience.
Last night, they were musicians, maestro and audience. Take away any one of the three, and you don’t have the potential for brilliance. We audience members are part of the band, an essential part of the synergy that made this Orchestra great. Keep on.
from Alan S., Oct 6: I sent [the below] to the [Star Tribune] during the concert last night. If [my wife] had not suffered a foot injury recently, we would have been at the concert. It was truly beautiful listening to it on our 20 year old Bose radio.
“As my wife and I listen to the final concert on MPR Saturday night that is conducted by Osmo Vanska, it seems that so many of us teary eyed music lovers are so angry at the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra for doing their job so well in managing the personnel of their orchestra that we are forgetting to congratulate them on the 50 plus millions of dollars that they have spent to improve Orchestra Hall. We really should be putting things in their proper perspective, shouldn’t we?”
From Molly R, Oct 6: Thanks for the great post on the event. I enjoyed seeing the program (yup,I was one of those 40,000+ web hits hoping for tickets to the added concert). Am SO glad it was covered on MPR! Will be making a donation in hopes of Fall concerts…
from Louise P, Oct 6: Thanks, Dick. I was unable to go, so was very happy that it was broadcast and I was able to listen at home with my eyes closed part of the time, imagining this amazing concert at Orchestra Hall where it should have been.
What an incredible loss for all of us. But I will support the locked-out musicians and hope something good will happen soon.
sent Oct 7 to his own list by Jim Fuller, retired Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter, reprinted with permission:
Please forgive the length of this note. I hope it will be useful.
I am a retired newspaper journalist with very long experience in covering local, national and international corporations and financial institutions, as well as economists and economics. For more than three decades, I worked with top executives of large corporations and financial organizations, the top tier of corporate executives, bankers and brokers. I know them, dined with them, sometimes partied with them.
Partially because I know those people, I do not believe the orchestra can be saved under its present board, present management or present organizational structure.
The people who control the board have achieved their central goal, though no one will acknowledge that fact. The goal was to put you, the musicians, in “your place,” to establish without doubt that they run things and you are only “the help.” Sounds radical, but it’s time people faced the facts. The rich and powerful are on a roll. They’ve essentially destroyed the labor movement, are close to bringing our once powerful middle class to its knees, now pull the strings on government at all levels. The move against you was just a little skirmish in the big battle to establish full control over our economy and our society.
In the case of the orchestra, however, they can be countered, though not without substantial loss and a very hard struggle.
Several days ago, I wrote a note to 20 or 30 music lovers I know, suggesting that the only way Minnesota can have a first class symphonic orchestra is to abandon the entire structure of what was the Minnesota Orchestra and begin again with a new structure controlled and run by musicians and music lovers from the wider community. I did it mainly to vent my own frustration and express thoughts I figured would not be widely shared or accepted. The day after I sent out that email, the Star Tribune ran an op-ed piece that similar conclusions but suggested that musicians should entirely control the new organization. i got, in response to my note, a few emails that indicated others agreed with me and were thinking along similar lines. But we were all thinking in a vacuum. Thus this note.
It seems impossible to me that a first-rate orchestra can operate ever again under the people who have controlled the Minnesota Orchestra in recent decades and, especially, the past decade. Those people are far more interested in establishing their right to rule and in maintaining their power than they are in music, an orchestra as such or the broader community. The only behavior they will accept from common folks such as yourself is obedience. They expect you to touch your forelocks as they ride by.
That means, among other things, you need for now and probably a long time, to give up any thoughts of returning to the palace the plutocrats built in their own honor. You also must, if you haven’t already done so, establish a new nonprofit corporation. You have to raise money, and find a hall to rent on a regular basis. You need a new formal corporate structure, a new board and a new method of naming board members.
I believe a new organization must protect itself from takeover by the would-be aristocrats who have destroyed the previous organization. Donations should be limited to no more than, say, $2,000 per individual per year, and no more than $5,000 per organization. (Exact numbers are, of course, open to discussion.) As a practical matter, the economic elite should be kept off the board if you don’t want a quick repeat of what you’ve just been through.
Yes, you need people who understand economics, who can help with organizational and legal matters and people who can raise money. They don’t have to, and shouldn’t, come from big financial corporations, big banks or big law firms. As someone who lived close to those fields for about 40 years, I can assure you that there is plenty of talent outside the big-buck playgrounds. (In fact, in all those years of covering big financial institutions, I can recall only one top-level bank executive who actually understood economics. What most understand is how to enrich themselves and their companies, and that’s a quite simple process.)
Also, I urge you to give up any idea of obtaining government financing. It’s possible in the present atmosphere, with public anger high, that you could pick up some state money, but that would lead inevitably to a repeat of what you have experienced. There is no politician of either major party who is not beholden to big-money donors, and the people they look to for advice on all matters involving money are the same people who just worked you over. If you doubt that, take a look at the process that led to the construction, at substantial taxpayer expense, of a new baseball stadium, a new university football stadium and, soon, a new Vikings stadium.
You’ve challenged people who believe they have a divine right to run things. They have not given up the idea of forcing you accept your role as wholly dependent servants. If you get government money, you’ll be handing control back to them through their in-pocket politicians. And almost immediately, the politicians will demand the right to appoint a controlling number of your board members, and those will be the same people who’ve got you where you are now.
Money, obviously, is the main, huge concern. I think raising the money can be done through volunteers, and there will be volunteers. The key will be to get enough of them — literally hundreds — to sign up donors. I, of course, will be one of those, and I know I can raise hundreds, probably a few thousands, of dollars. You’ll need some volunteer public relations people (I can at least make some suggestions there). The thing is, you need an army of volunteers.
With or without my small-time help, I hope you will do this very soon, before the public has given up, forgotten and moved on to other causes.
from Louise P, Oct 8, 2013: That is a very powerful letter from Jim Fuller and he is so right. This can be done and there will be volunteers. I will put my name on the list to do what I can.
from Madeline S, Oct 8, 2013: I think the MNO Board should be told they could be subject to a class action law suit. For years, people donated funds, and specifically endowed chairs for the Minnesota Orchestra. Some people have said they would not have donated millions to the MNO Association at the time of fund raising solicitations that included funds for the orchestra and the lobby expansion/hall renovations had they known the board had already in mind a change in business plan, from orchestra management to building (house) management.
from Larry H, October 8, 2013: I just wonder with the recent events at Ted Mann, and now the Northrup remodel reaching conclusion, If there are discussions. (Northrop Auditorium, a U icon and white elephant, transforming for 21st century | MinnPost)
One has to wonder if somewhere confidential discussions are exploring an orchestral return to Northrup in April. At Northrup. a MNOrch2 could return to its roots at Northrup as a new but re-invented symphonic organization.
Unlikely, but wouldn’t it be an energetic discussion.
from Michael R, Oct 9, 2013: As Violetta sings in the last act of La Traviata: E tarde!
“It’s too late.”
We were blessed with Maestro Vanska for ten years. I think he was very happy here and the orchestra responded to him, making better music than they ever had.
The magic of that partnership is over. Sooner or later, management will end the lockout. The musicians will accept a new contract, but it already is a different orchestra. Management will hire a new music director. It may be a genial director or a stern taskmaster. They’ve had both. But it’s not likely to be another Vanska. It will take a while to build the relationship and for the new director to put his/her imprint on the orchestra. The music will be good, but greatness will take a while to achieve, if it ever will again.
See you again at orchestra hall sooner or later.
from Jim F, Oct 9, 2013: I was able to get to your blog. I find your comments mostly very insightful and on target. (As a union officer, I helped negotiate five contracts with the Strib bosses; you’re especially right about a lockout being a flat declaration of refusal to negotiate. A Ted Cruz move, not the move of someone who wants to reach an equitable settlement in a dispute.)
Have had no response from the musicians, which is not all that surprising, but makes me a little sad. May indicate they have given up, or there simply aren’t enough of them willing to face the truth of the situation. Wouldn’t mind some disagreement, do mind that they apparently haven’t the energy to respond.
A good friend of mine, guy with whom I used to play in jazz bands, was very active in the citizen/audience move to save the SPCO. He became so disgusted, he now won’t go to their concerts. This is the first year in many that he and his wife have not had season tickets. The musicians who are still their caved and crawled, he says, and almost nobody in the save-the-orchestra movement was willing to face the simple, core truth: That the battle over control of the orchestra was part of a class war.
Interesting that my old friend Irwin Jacobs is said to have saved the San Diego orchestra, but we haven’t heard a word from him about this dispute. Too many of his business associates on the orchestra board?
I also know Harvey McKay, have known him for many years. I’ll send him an email and, I hope, take a strip of skin off his ass.
UPDATE October 21, 2013: We were out of state and off-line and thus out of the loop from October 12-19, 2013. There are some items of interest in recent issues of Minneapolis Star Tribune.
We are a society that (in my opinion) places excessive value on “winning” and one day I scribbled some personal notations about this topic as it might relate to certain constituent groups of the Minnesota Orchestra at this moment in time. These are simply my personal opinions as a long-time member of the audience of the Minnesota Orchestra. (The categories are in no particular order.)
Orchestra Management (the entire Board of Directors, including emeritus and honorary). Losers (but you will never hear that descriptor from them). Their individual and collective decisions over a long period of time led to the current result: a fancy building, a big endowment, and no Orchestra for Orchestra Hall.
The Musicians. Winners (but as measured by contemporary society they lost everything: no salary and benefits for over a year. Locked-out.) It is clear that they chose to stand for the 110 year heritage of the Minnesota Orchestra. Of all groups, they could easily have sold out, but they chose to stand for something. I admire them.
Osmo Vanska. Winner. He, too, drew a line in the sand, and when push came down to shove, he resigned, as promised. He was willing to stand with the Orchestra on October 4 and 5 when it wasn’t necessary. There are career risks accompanying what he did (as there are similar risks for the Orchestra members) and he doubtless realized those risks, but he, too, stood for something.
The Audience (variously referred to as “listeners”, “patrons”, students…) We were, it clearly seems, the “little people”, the ones who were overlooked, forgotten, ignored. We were as locked-out as the musicians. We have an immense amount of power if we choose to exercise it. We do not need to accept the status quo. We are the Minnesota Orchestra base, and if Arne Carlsons number is correct, over 300,000 have filled the seats of Orchestra Hall to hear Orchestra music in any particular year, compared with perhaps 500,000 to eight “performances” of the Minnesota Vikings. (This is not 300,000 separate individuals. For instance, the two of us came to six subscription concerts each year. Others came to more, others to less. But we are a great number of people.)
The Community at Large: Big Losers, though many if not most do not yet realize their loss.
The “Bigs”. Big Money, Downtown Big Shots, etc. The Movers and Shakers. Losers. This tight formal and informal network has the resources and the connections to control most anything. Here it failed. Even the proffered “signing bonus” offer (which I would consider a bribe) to get the Orchestra members back to work was unanimously rejected by the Orchestra members.
Unions, generally. Unclear as to Win or Loss. This was very clearly an effort to kill yet another Union, the Orchestra Musicians. I mark this unclear because much will depend on how working people identify this as a major issue relating to their own future. When I learned that the Orchestra management hired the same consultant that recommended Locking Out the American Crystal Sugar workers union in the Red River Valley two years ago, I knew there was trouble ahead. This was a take no prisoners operation from the beginning. There was no interest in “negotiations” as normally defined.
Money. Loser. Warehoused Money (the endowment) is useless. Money unused is of no value whatsoever….
UPDATE Dec. 5, 2013:
This mornings Minneapolis Star Tribune had a long article about the legal status of Orchestra Hall. The article speaks for itself, here.
This is about the time of year when the Minnesota Orchestra Board has its annual meeting which is closed, so far as I know, to the public. It would be interesting to be the “fly on the wall” listening in to the assorted reports, opinions, etc., likely to be expressed behind those closed doors this year. Out in the public, we will likely learn little about what really went on inside the meeting room.
Last years meeting was December 7, 2012. I wrote about that here.
Of course, the public position of the management as presented to the media is as portrayed by its lawyers in their expressed opinion (with emphasis on the word “opinion”). This is certainly no time for any “mea culpa” from the Board, if there will ever be such a time.
What interests me on a continuing basis, however, is not the wording of the legal opinion, which may or may not pass muster in the longer term; but in the far more difficult matter of any restoration of trust towards the current Board of Directors which, likely, as with most Boards, has been following the lead of some dominant characters, and is now mired in a huge mess of its own making.
In my opinion, every single Board member, whether honorary or emeritus, or otherwise, is equally responsible for this mess. Having worked with and served on assorted Boards over many years I know that it is difficult, sometimes, to take difficult positions – the tendency is to rely on power actors to tell you what to do and think. This is probably even more of a problem in a Board like the Orchestra’s, which chooses its own members, has no public or musician membership, and essentially has felt free to do whatever it wishes. It has brought this disaster upon itself.
Meanwhile there is my favorite group – the one of which I am a part – the audience, ignored, not in the Orchestra Hall.
The lawyers don’t speak about we, the audience, except in the most vague terms, but in the long run we are crucial to whether or not there is, ever again, to be a Minnesota Orchestra playing at Orchestra Hall, in cooperation with a Minnesota Orchestral Association Board of Directors.
I remain committed to never returning to Orchestra Hall until the Musicians can reach a bargained agreement that they willingly ratify.