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When orchestra players leave, it’s usually for a better post, not a lateral move

Though orchestras may lose a few players to other orchestras, these are usually due to promotions to better-paying jobs and/or title positions. In the case of the Minnesota Orchestra, many of the departures would, in normal times, be seen as lateral moves at best.

Principal Clarinet Burt Hara left for Associate Principal in LA. Principal Second Violin Gina DiBello moved to Section First Violin in Chicago. Acting First Associate Concertmaster Peter McGuire left for a Concertmaster positions in Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra. He’s a Minnesota boy who won his dream job, and never wanted to leave. He contributed to the surrounding community as a chamber musician and educator, and should have been viewed by management as an ideal legacy player. Instead, MPR wrote:

McGuire said he started to feel uneasy long before the orchestra made its first contract offer this past spring. “There was this kind of ‘the bully’s going to meet you at lunchtime’ feeling for at least a year and a half.” … “You say I’m much less valuable than I have been, and what choice do I have but to prove that’s not the case?” he said. “A 42 percent cut — would you not look for work the next day?” … McGuire said he doesn’t want to stay with an orchestra he feels is moving in the wrong direction.

“Leave of absence” is both true and misleading. It is standard in orchestras and other professions to take a year’s leave on accepting another position. This is not indecision about leaving; it is personal insurance. A new job may not work out as planned. The only other reason for these players to want to return to Minnesota is if they hold out hope for drastic changes in MOA management policies, direction, and/or leadership in the coming year.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/23/2013 - 08:39 am.

    The cost

    One of the things this labor dispute seems to be about is whether Minnesota can afford to be a first rank orchestra. Based on some throwaway lines in some reviews, Orchestra members have taken the position, effectively, that the Minnesota Orchestra is on a level with the top five orchestras, the New York Philharmonic, The Boston Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony. It seems to me that the Minnesota Orchestra has been catapulted into those ranks somewhat involuntarily, and that the ambitions of the orchestra members currently exceed the ambitions of orchestra managers. That said, the question is what is our goal, as a community, for our Orchestra? Do we want it to be a front rank orchestra, and end destination for America’s top orchestral musicians? That attracts a top rank musical director like Vanska? Or would we be content if the Minnesota Orchestra slides back to it’s historical second rank status? If we wish to keep first rank status, assuming by the way that there is such a thing, and that it isn’t some sort of artificial creation of music critics, and the musicians who read them, then there are a lot of things we have to take a look at and financing is at that top of that list. We must find a way to bring more money to the table.

  2. Submitted by Amy Adams on 06/24/2013 - 03:16 pm.

    Great points, Rolf

    I noticed in Esther Saarela’s letter on June 11th a marked avoidance of all those unfilled positions, chairs that have been vacant for a long time, which itself contributes to the climate between musicians and management.
    And since she’s highlighting this “average” of three musicians departing every season, what are the real numbers over time, MOA? Did the presence of Michael Henson coincide with an increase in departures? Small wonder they’ve thought it wise to increase their marketing staff to compensate. Now There’s a growing field…

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