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Skrowaczewski to lead Minnesota Orchestra musicians in opening night concert

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will lead the Oct. 18 concert
Photo by Toshiyuki Urano
The news that Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will lead the Oct. 18 concert is loaded with symbolism.

Minnesota Orchestra clarinetist Tim Zavadil dropped a bomb on Friday’s “Almanac,” announcing that the musicians will hold a concert on Oct. 18 at the Convention Center – and that Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will conduct.

Zavadil, lead negotiator for the musicians, appeared on “Almanac” with Doug Kelley, vice chair of the management negotiating committee. It was the first meeting between Minnesota Orchestra management and musicians since the lockout, and it was tense, with each side standing firm.

Kelley called the musicians’ request for an independent financial analysis a “delaying tactic.” Zavadil termed the fundraising for Orchestra Hall’s extensive renovations a “bait-and-switch.” “Were those donors told when they gave money for the hall that the budget for the musicians would be slashed 30-50 percent?” he asked. Kelley countered, “The rest of the country has had to retool [due to the recession]. That’s what we need to do for the orchestra.” 

Kelly pointed out something that few people seem to understand and (to our knowledge) the musicians have chosen not to include in their public statements: Money raised for the renovations must by law be spent on the renovations and cannot be diverted to musicians’ salaries. A capital campaign is not an operating budget. On the other hand, no one expected draconian salary cuts. There’s no way around the fact that out-of-work musicians carrying hand-written signs in front of a costly construction site make management look bad.

The news that Skrowaczewski will lead the Oct. 18 concert is loaded with symbolism.  The 89-year-old conductor laureate was here in mid-June for the triumphant season finale concerts, leading Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor. Host Brian Newhouse reminded us that the Bach was the first piece the orchestra played when Orchestra Hall opened in 1974. Skrowaczewski was 51 then, and the new hall was his dream. That the maestro is now siding with the musicians while his hall is being rebuilt cannot be ignored. Also, Oct. 18 was the original opening night for the 2012-13 season, one of several concerts canceled by management. That the show will go on under Skrowaczewski’s baton turns up the heat. 

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Comments (8)

Mixing Funds

While true that funds raised for renovation must be used for renovation, the criticism from the musicians still stands: Would donors have given so generously for renovation if they had known that the musicians were going to be expected to take such a drastic pay cut?

In other words, did management, in their capital campaign, divert (intentionally or otherwise) money which might otherwise have gone toward maintaining the quality of the organization's musicianship? Were donors aware of the trade-off into which they were entering?

As is often the case, worker wages appear to make up a relatively small portion of the orchestra's operating budget. The musicians are therefore certainly within their rights to seek additional information on how the budget is being managed before agreeing to such drastic salary reductions.

The long run

At 89, Skrowaczewski is obviously not worried about whether the orchestra will be bankrupt in five years. That given, I do agree that the musicians deserve a look at the books to get some outside expert opinions on the orchestra's fiscal position.

<ahem> On the longevity of conductors....

Would you like personally to tell Skrowaczevski he needn't be concerned about the future in five years?? As a conductor, he stands quite likely to outlive those of us who get our exercise on a computer keyboard... :-)

Let's hope the musicians get a look at those numbers, and they can come to a dignified agreement.

Funds

What seems to bother the musicians is that somewhere along the line, orchestra management decided to put money into the building instead of what's inside it. In retrospect, that was a mistake, but it's hard to see how that choice can be undone now.

Management has created a practical problem for itself by implementing misplaced priorities. It was their choice to put themselves in the legal difficulties they currently find themselves. And I think it's up to management to find a creative solution, or at the very least, take a meaningful first step to the problems that originated with them.

250 Contract Changes

Let's not forget that the new "offer" by management includes 250 changes to work rules which would set the musicians back about 30-40 years in their contract negotiations. Management (if you can call it that; more likely, it's the bankers and corporate types on the board) is attempting to undo everything the musicians have worked for and won over the years. It's not just about the money; it's about respecting the players who make the entire enterprise possible.

Donors

I think if you polled donors or the Minneapolis Orchestra audience, both the folks who attend the concerts themselves, and those who listen to the Orchestra in other media, you would find pretty much overwhelming support for investing in the orchestra rather than the building. I don't think anyone ever has or ever will attend concerts at Orchestra Hall because the lobby is nice or nicer. That said, the Orchestra management needs to find a way of reworking it's fund raising priority, put funding for lobby improvements on the back burner and steer the bulk of new money to what actually matters, the orchestra that actually does bring people to the building. No doubt, orchestra management has access to a lot of smart lawyers who can find ways to make that happen so people don't go to jail.

bait and switch

I'd like some of the fine people and institutions who pledged the big bucks for the lobby renovation to be asked this question: would you have done so, had you known that orchestra management intended to immediately reduce the orchestra to second-tier status once that money was in hand?

Even more than that, I'd like to see some of these people back out of their commitments and stop this project until an agreement is reached with the musicians.

I've been an audience member for many years and I second what Hiram Foster said above: we could care less about a new lobby at this point, the orchestra is what's important. And it's amazing that we even have to say this.

Don't miss their concert on October 18!!

From the musician website:

"This concert replaces the opening night concerts that were cancelled by the Minnesota Orchestral Association along with the majority of the fall season. The concert will be a celebration of the 110-year legacy of world-class artistry our community has built and supported in the Minnesota Orchestra.", Opus 47

Program:
Antonin Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B Minor, Opus 104
Intermission
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D Minor

We highly recommend ordering your tickets online, but you may also call to order tickets at 1-800-514-ETIX (3849) extension 2. Tickets may be purchased at the door at the night of the concert.
http://www.minnesotaorchestramusicians.org/