Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Vänskä threatens to resign if Orchestra lockout lingers

Maybe this will help … Graydon Royce of the Strib reports: “Osmo Vänskä says he will resign as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra if the ensemble loses a prestigious engagement at New York’s Carnegie Hall because of the current musician lockout. In a letter to board chairman Jon Campbell and chief executive Michael Henson, Vänskä said he believes the orchestra needs to be playing by late May or, at the very latest, early September to achieve the proficiency needed for the Carnegie appearance — which he called one of the most significant goals of his tenure. ‘I must make it clear, that in the case Carnegie Hall chooses to cancel the Minnesota Orchestra’s concerts this November, i.e. if they lose confidence in our ability to perform … then I will be forced to resign,’ Vänskä wrote.”

Flip Saunders has a new job with significant influence over the Timberwolves. At ESPN, Brian Windhorst writes: “Flip Saunders confirmed to ESPN on Thursday night that he has signed a long-term deal to become the Minnesota Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations and will hold a minority ownership stake in the team. With Saunders as a part-owner, longtime owner Glen Taylor is expected to take the team off the market, sources said. He had been looking for a buyer who would keep the team in Minneapolis. The ‘godfather’-style deal with Saunders, who coached the Wolves from 1995 to 2006, is similar to the arrangement Pat Riley has with the Miami Heat.”

Jeremy Olson of the Strib has new details about two previously reported infant deaths at day-care providers. “An infant who died in January at a Hastings home day care had been placed face down on a blanket on a carpeted floor after the provider couldn’t get him to fall asleep in a crib, according to a state investigation released Thursday. … After discovering the unresponsive baby, [provider Ann] Quigley attempted CPR and called 911. She then gave authorities “conflicting information” about whether the baby had been placed in a crib, the report said. When law enforcement and social services personnel in Dakota County tried to reach her to clear up that question, she did respond.” Olson and others won a Pulitzer for their work on those earlier stories.

It was pretty much party line again as the Senate pushed forward the bill requiring public reporting of nurse staffing standards. Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress says: “Backed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor majority in the Senate, the bill passed on a 36-25 vote that fell largely along party lines. The compromise measure between unionized nurses and hospital administrators addresses an issue that in 2010 prompted a one-day strike by 10,000 nurses against 12 hospitals in the Twin Cities. In addition to requiring public information about staffing standards, the bill would spend $250,000 on a study that investigates possible correlations between nurse-to-patient staffing levels and patient outcomes.”

True tech nerds are already hip to graphene. For the rest, Richard Chin of the PiPress provides some valuable info: “Graphene is the thinnest material in the world, basically a sheet or layer of carbon only one atom in thickness, which has led it to be described as the world’s first two-dimensional material. It’s transparent, yet it’s a superb conductor of heat and electricity. It’s stretchy and flexible, yet it’s harder than a diamond and hundreds of times stronger than steel. And it’s so cheap and easy to make that a smart high school student probably could create a sample of graphene. Among the few ideas being suggested for potential uses of graphene are flexible electronics, such as a cellphone that you could fold or roll up into a tube or a piece of clothing or a even a potato chip bag that could function as a digital device. Rust-proof metal coatings, medical sensors, seawater desalination, even a potential replacement for silicon in semiconductors are among the ideas being considered as graphene applications.” Add cold fusion and our problems are solved …

The GleanOf course we don’t want to be anything like Colorado or Washington … Jennifer Brooks of the Strib says: “It’s too late to push a bill through this session, but about 40 legislators in both parties, including more than a dozen committee chairmen, sent a strong signal that they want to add Minnesota to the 18 states where marijuana can be legally prescribed. Legislators passed the legalization of medical marijuana in 2009, but were stopped by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who vetoed the bill. … The marijuana would be available through licensed dispensaries that would grow the drug on site in locked greenhouses. Patients in remote areas could be licensed by the state to grow a small number of marijuana plants for their own use. But is a state that doesn’t allow wine sales in grocery stores ready to legalize marijuana dispensaries?” Is that a trick question?

How powerful is the gun lobby? In his “Reality Check” segment for WCCO-TV, Pat Kessler says: “Minnesota, like many states, made a push for stricter gun laws after the murders in December 2012 of 20 children at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school. After Newtown, many states introduced strict gun measures, like assault weapons bans, background checks and magazine limits, but only four states passed them: Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and New York. Many more, however, went the opposite direction, loosening gun laws. It’s TRUE. Fifteen states made it easier to get a gun, carry it or use it, including Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.” Or … pretty much the same pack that won’t allow you to buy beer on Sunday.

Obviously there will be some consideration of the source … But John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune says: “A poll conducted for the Sierra Club shows most Minnesota Power customers surveyed support a “fundamental change” in electrical generation to focus on efficiency, solar- and wind-generated electricity and a move away from coal. … The poll, conducted as the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission reviews the Duluth-based utility’s long-term energy plan, found that eight out of 10 Minnesota Power customers agreed with the statement that ‘we need to fundamentally change the way we get our energy in Minnesota by modernizing the electric grid to maximize energy efficiency and wind and solar energy use.’ ” And if power costs more?

Curtis Gilbert at MPR says St. Paul is willing to pay full union wages in return for a no-strike agreement on the new Saints ballpark: “The city council last night agreed to negotiate a project labor agreement (PLA), which will serve as a master contract with the unions representing the various building trades. Such agreements are required to include a no-strike clause. … Project labor agreements have become commonplace for publicly funded developments in the Twin Cities. The Twins ballpark was subject to one and the Vikings stadium will be, too. A 2009 city council resolution requires St. Paul to consider such a contract when it spends more than $250,000 on a building project. But critics say the agreements constitute a giveaway to labor interests.” And after you’ve given away pretty much all you’ve got to league and ownership interests, there isn’t all that much left …

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/03/2013 - 12:31 pm.


    Are we allowing the Minnesota Orchestra to be dismantled?

    I’m not wealthy. I don’t live in the metro area. I’m powerless in this situation, but I’m left with the lingering question –

    is there NOTHING anyone can do to pull the rug out from under the current executives in the central offices of the MN Orchestra…

    executives who seem determined to have things THEIR way, even if it means total functional destruction of the organization they’re trying to “save” (in a strictly financial sense)?

    IF we do NOT subvert their plans, it’s clear the MN Orchestra will no longer exist in a year,…

    or will only exist as a “faster, cheaper, (far inferior) fake-Rolex-sold-on-the-street knockoff of its formerly-excellent self,…

    with current management convinced that no one will notice the difference because they’ll have a shiny new building.

    • Submitted by Andrew VanZ on 05/03/2013 - 11:51 am.

      The board

      …and lots of board members congratulating themselves on putting all this “unpleasantness” behind them, so they can move forward. “Hear, hear! A TOAST….To US!”
      I heard a board member say to a musician this year “We’re still friends, aren’t we?” The musician replied: “I don’t know: are we? I don’t have a job. I don’t have insurance.”
      Board members were given the chance, prior to the lockout, to take a year’s leave from the board (oh! we still want your money, rest assured!) if they did not unanimously agree with management’s position.
      An intimidating offer, to be sure…but SURELY this unpleasantness will only last a week or two and those musicians will come to understand it’s all for the best, right?

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/03/2013 - 10:04 am.


    Vanska’s statement ramps up the pressure on management, but it’s impact on the problem or at least management’s perception of the problem, remains to be determined. Vanska’s departure would make the orchestra’s situation worse, but it doesn’t address any issue that would make things better.

    It’s management’s position that the orchestra doesn’t have the money to continue on it’s current path. In their view at least, that isn’t “THEIR way”, that is simply the way things are. It’s the continuation of the status quo, that is destroying the orchestra, not their attempts to move the orchestra in a fiscally responsible direction.

    Quite frankly, I have no idea if management is right or wrong in their assessment. But I am pretty sure that they genuinely believe that their assessment is correct, and that there are three ways to move the discussion forward. First, prove the assessment wrong, in a way management finds convincing. Second, bring to the table ideas for additional revenue which would change the assessment. And third, get rid of this management, and hope that their successors will see things differently.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/03/2013 - 10:16 am.

    The future of the Minnesota Orchestra

    It’s clear that the Orchestra’s current management really doesn’t care about the music, or having a top-ranked orchestra in the state. It’s the money. In that case, I suggest getting some pop “superstar” to act as music director.

    Consider the benefits of a business model that replaced Osmo Vänskä with, say, Taylor Swift. There would be no containing the national and international publicity, and attendance at concerts would skyrocket. Ms. Swift (or whoever) would get the gravitas that came with association with a major orchestra. The board would have the financial woes of the institution solved, perhaps for all time.

    Of course, that would be the end of the Minnesota Orchestra as a serious company, but hey, we have fiscal goals to meet. The time to act is now.

    • Submitted by Stephen Dent on 05/03/2013 - 11:43 am.

      We do have a superstar with Osmo Vanska…

      management just doesn’t know it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the strike will be over close to the time the newly re-modeled Orchestra Hall is finished. It kills two birds with one stone: No paying out for the convention center for space and better yet, no paying salaries to production people – the musicans. Ahhh…capitalism as we know it. British management has ruined other orchestras world-wide, why would we be any different?

  4. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/03/2013 - 10:32 am.

    It’s the musicians stupid..

    So Burt Hara may leave for LA.

    And Osmo may be outta here?

    I’ve heard the Minnorch play in Northrop, at St. Catherine, and in Ted Mann. Since 1970.

    And it has always been the musicians and the conductors that drew me. Stan, Sir Nev, Edo, Eiji, and Osmo. Soloists, concert masters and mistresses, and very solid musicians such as Burt.

    The current hall has outstanding acoustics.

    The bazillion dollar lobby is a fiasco. The board was dishonest about their financial position when they flew this up the flagpole.

    We have gone from the enviable position of having two world class orchestras to God knows what.

    Simply pathetic.

  5. Submitted by James Hamilton on 05/03/2013 - 12:33 pm.


    There is so little data on the claimed correlation between between nurse-to-patient staffing levels and patient outcomes that we need to spend $250k to look at it some more? Dozens of studies have been performed, with no clear consensus.

    See, e.g.,

    I’d prefer the legislature leave individual hospitals to establish standards, while requiring that hospitals publish their stats on events which the research indicates may be linked to staffing ratios, overtime, etc.

    Consider this:

    The premise behind mandatory nurse-patient ratios is
    that minimum, specific, guaranteed nurse staffing will
    produce better patient outcomes and alleviate nurse
    workloads and increase job satisfaction. However, this has
    not been proven (DeVandry & Cooper, 2009). The
    American Nurses Association advocates legislation that
    will empower nurses to create valid, reliable unit and
    patient-specific staffing plans, and require public reporting
    as outlined in The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act
    (ANA, 2010a). Passage of this bill would promote the
    value of the nursing profession and facilitate evidencebased
    practice. In addition, it would limit governmental
    involvement and allow nurses to utilize their knowledge,
    expertise, and skills to provide effective care.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/03/2013 - 09:40 pm.

      I Suspect the Legislature is Seeking RELIABLE Information

      As opposed to the self-serving, largely bogus statistics the bean counters who currently run most of our hospitals can come up with regarding how adequate staffing of nurses has no relationship to patient outcomes.

      As to leaving all this up to the financial people who control staffing levels (regardless of the desires of the medical staff),…

      as we see with the MN Orchestra, a dead patient or two is, to these cretins, just a blip on the balance sheet as compared to the higher profits that inadequate staffing provides.

      Dead patients are only a problem, after all, if your hospital begins to get a bad reputation, at which point you unleash the lawyers to threaten to sue anyone who speaks ill of you (even if it’s the gospel truth), and the hire the P.R. people necessary to polish your image,…

      lather, rinse, repeat:

      Impossibly overworked staff leading to dead patients. NO PROBLEM!

  6. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 05/03/2013 - 01:50 pm.

    Orchestra board

    I have long since concluded that the orchestra board has no real interest in an outstanding symphony orchestra here. Their only goal seems to be money. They do not seem to have any sense of civic responsibility (although I think they are in general the wealthiest of Minnesotans) or that they need to pay anything back to the community for their success. Philistines, is my conclusion.
    If we can subsidize all these sports stadiums why cannot we subsidize the orchestra which gives us so much national and international standing? I don’t know that the stadiums are such money makers or such a draw for businesses. I do know that the orchestra does make the Twin Cities a more ideal place to situate themselves.
    If the board really wanted good music in our community, why aren’t they trying to promote a state-subsidy to maintain or keep our wonderful cultural center.

  7. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 05/03/2013 - 02:22 pm.

    MN Orchestra

    Ok, somebody has to do it. I support the management of the MN Orchestra. I know, I know, I am just a philistine who really doesn’t understand, right? If Osmo goes, all the great musicians will leave and we will be forced to listen to our local girl and boy scout troops serenading us with wax paper wrapped around combs and supplemented by the kazoo section.

    • Submitted by Amy Adams on 05/03/2013 - 06:34 pm.

      Wow, you nailed it.

      You are indeed the very model of a philistine.
      They’ve been locked out, without salary or medical coverage and denied the privilege of playing together under Osmo…and you think the thing to do is to post a boorish bit of sarcasm.
      Please continue to throw your support behind the board…it suits, perfectly.

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/03/2013 - 03:54 pm.

    Yeah, I guess you are a philistine. Management can come and go and nothing much happens to the quality of the music. It’s the musicians and their leader who matter, and their audience.

    I was appalled by the response the Board chair gave to the Vänskä letter, saying rather huffily that he should have sent it to the musicians. That chair doesn’t understand what he’s got. Or the faintest idea of how to deal with it.

    The musicians have, several months ago, begun to leave. The Maestro referred to specifics of rehearsal schedules and upcoming recording and concert commitments. Not just the season, which was killed by the Board. He’s leaving if the orchestra doesn’t have a future, which it doesn’t if it can’t perform to his standards.

    I can’t believe that Twin Cities business leaders on that Board would let this situation brew to this point. Their active destruction of one of our treasures is simply unbearable to watch.

Leave a Reply