Should Orchestra musicians go independent? Economics won’t work

Photo by John Whiting
Like it or not, the musicians and the board members need each other desperately.

Last weekend, the Minnesota Orchestra played to three successive sellout crowds at the Ted Mann Concert Hall.

At a recent rally, Tony Ross, principal cellist for the orchestra, told musicians’ supporters that the orchestra would continue to play concerts despite the year-long lockout. The music, he said to cheers, “belongs to the community.”

In a recent Star Tribune op-ed piece, music lover Lawrence Perelman offered this advice to the musicians: “Follow Maestro Vänskä’s lead and resign from the Minnesota Orchestra Association. Immediately announce the creation of the Minnesota Symphony, a self-governing orchestra modeled on the Vienna Philharmonic.’’

On the surface, the idea seems intriguing. After all, it is the artists who draw the crowds — and the dollars.

But most who follow the business of large orchestras say the economics of the idea  simply won’t work.

Most of those who responded to questions about the idea of the musicians walking away from the mother organization, asked not to be named, for fear of making a bad labor situation even worse.

Plenty of problems

As idyllic as self-management might seem, here are just a few of the problems:

• It would disrupt whatever is left of the stability of the orchestra, meaning more members would leave for more traditional orchestra structures.

• It would take years for an organization of musicians to build the sort of funding strength the 110-year old Orchestra Association has created. (The Association endowment is in the area of $150 million.)

• There’s a question as to whether the huge patrons of the Association ever would follow revolutionary musicians no matter how talented.

In his piece, Perelman suggests that the musicians would need to play about 100 concerts, with receipts of $100,000 per concert, to generate the $10 million needed to pay 100 musicians $100,000 per year.

But consider: Those three sellout crowds last weekend likely generated ticket revenue of less than $150,000 total. Internationally acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax, who typically would be paid in excess of $30,000 for the concerts, performed for free, an act of solidarity with the musicians. Osmo Vänskä conducted as a farewell gesture to the orchestra  and the community.

In other words, even before such things as the costs of health-care benefits, stagehands, a few administrators and sales people, the numbers don’t come close to adding up for the musicians.

Two sides need each other

Like it or not, the musicians and the board members need each other desperately.

Even as Ross told the crowd at the recent rally that the orchestra would continue to  perform during the lockout, he made it clear that the ultimate goal was to return to Orchestra Hall.

It should be noted that Perelman isn’t alone in his desire to see the musicians work to find a new model.

Rena Kraut, a freelance professional clarinet player, would love to see the musicians move away from the Association.

“But I don’t have to pay their mortgages,’’ said Kraut. “I do think it’s time to find a new model for supporting orchestras. But I don’t think it’s fair to ask these musicians to be guinea pigs, either.’’

Out of frustration with the board, which she believes has taken a one-note stand in the lockout, Kraut has started an online petition drive

Online petition effort

The petition went online on Tuesday, and as of Friday morning, Kraut had collected nearly 2,500 signees.

The petition covers two areas:

• She says that no tryouts for orchestra openings be held until the dispute is resolved.

Her concern is that given the fact that management is being represented by the same law firm (Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon and Vogt) that represented Crystal Sugar in the lockout of its employees, orchestra management might attempt to find replacement musicians to perform. That tactic was employed by Crystal Sugar.

• That leaders of the current board resign. Kraut believes that current leadership so poisoned the atmosphere at the beginning of this dispute that it will be impossible to create the trust needed to end the dispute.

“I don’t have grand ideas that this will change anything,’’ Kraut said. “But I do hope that it helps make it clear to management of other orchestras that this is not the approach they should take.’’

It should be noted that to date, management has shown no inclination to find replacement musicians. Also, there has been no sign of revolt within the board that would be needed to create change at the top.

Back to the initial concept, an independent orchestra.

Sinfonia one small example

There is an example in the Twin Cities. For 36 years, Jay Fishman has managed and conducted the Minnesota Sinfonia. (For the first 11 years, his orchestra was known as the Minneapolis Chamber Orchestra, but a dispute with his own board led to a split and the creation of the Minnesota Sinfonia.)

Fishman has succeeded in survival by finding a niche: linking classical music to education in schools, especially schools in impoverished areas. In addition to performances in elementary school gyms for 10,000 students a year, the Sinfonia presents free concerts for the community throughout the region.

(Its next concerts are at St. Paul Johnson High at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 and at 4 p.m. Oct. 27 at Temple Israel in Minneapolis.)

The idea of carrying classical music to people who might otherwise not have had the opportunity has appealed to funders ranging from the National Endowment for the Arts  to the McKnight Foundation to business such as Target and Ecolab Systems.

But the budget for the 25-member orchestra of union musicians is small: about $500,000 a year.

A great deal is asked of these musicians. They may need to perform at elementary school gyms at 8 in the morning. One member of the orchestra hauls around lighting in the trunk of his car. The musicians are responsible for cleaning up the venues in which they rehearse. All of this, for around $2,000 a year in the early going, with salaries now totaling $6,000 to $7,000. When they go on tour, it’s to rural areas of the state.

But, Fishman said, “We have terrific players who have been with us for years.’’

The payoff for Sinfonia players comes in scores of little ways. A mom and her children who thank players after a free concert. A kid drum player who understands after a school performance/math class that there’s an important relationship between math and music. “I’ll study math,’’ the kid promises. A standing ovation after a particularly strong performance.

Fishman won’t say whether Minnesota orchestra musicians could make it on their own, nor does he take a public position on the dispute. He does talk about how the Sinfonia battles for survival each year.

But then, he is not seeking dates in international concert halls, nor is it an orchestra striving to be among the best in the world.

Comments (48)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/11/2013 - 10:40 am.

    Germany

    There was an article about classical musicians in Germany the other day. I believe the Berlin Philharmonic is a cooperative run by it’s musicians. But in Germany, arts organizations are supported by the government. Berlin has three opera companies and seven symphony orchestras, all of them supported by the German government.

    As always, the problem comes down to money. This managemnt, so well connected within the community, has just not been able to raise enough money to support the orchestra as currently structured. While it may be possible for this management, or a different management to better, the real problem is that the nature of charitable giving has changed, That’s a broad and systemic change that affects all arts organizations to one degree or another, and there is little or nothing a specific organization can do to change it.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/11/2013 - 10:51 am.

    Orchestra

    The idea of an orchestra as a fixed set of musicians who are employed by management is a relatively one history. Beethoven didn’t have a sympohony orchestra to play his works. Orchestras used to be pick up affairs, collections of free lance musicians hired on a concert to concert basis. That’s still a common model in the musical world. A return to that business model is one possibility for a post Minnesota Orchestra era. Another possibility is to use an orchestra like the Minnesota Sinfonia as the foundation of a successor organization. At some point we need to decide whether the Minnesota Orchestra is still viable, and if it is not, to find a way to fill the gap it created in the music marketplace, and by the way, start using that building Minnesota’s taxpayers invested so much in.

    • Submitted by Michael Wunsch on 10/11/2013 - 06:04 pm.

      Hiram, quality would suffer under the model you discuss

      Hiram, the model you discuss – of putting on performances with a flexible orchestra not composed of a fixed set of musicians – is deeply problematic. To produce great music, you not only need talented musicians but you need musicians who know each other well and perform well together. The latter component is only possible when you have a fixed set of musicians in your ensemble. All good orchestras have a fixed set of musicians, and the really great ones (the Orchestra of the 18th Century is an example from the period-music world) are composed of musicians who have played together for many years. Having a flexible orchestra will greatly reduce the quality of the performances, reducing the quality of the performances will lead to a drop in attendance, and the drop in attendance will lead to reduced donations and reduced ticket revenues. In short, the organization will enter a death spiral.

      The pattern of your comments in the MinnPost over the past 6 to 9 months suggests strongly that you are either a MOA board member or a member of the MOA’s management; I say this because you have sometimes provided rationales for decisions made by the MOA with a level of confidence that an outsider could not have made. I deeply value your comments because they help provide insight on what the MOA is thinking; you help me see the dispute from another perspective. I can see the logic behind your thinking; if I place myself in the appropriate mindset, it makes perfect sense.

      In the end, however, the truth remains: The decision by the MOA to sharply change its mission and vision and sharply adjust musician salaries downward was both unnecessary and deeply destructive. The orchestra could have maintained its world-class status through a combination of increasing revenues by leveraging its reputation to establish one or more residencies elsewhere (as Cleveland did), by increasing ticket sales by adopting successful methods pioneered by Cleveland, by cultivating small and medium donors, and by instituting modest pay cuts across all members of the organization (management and musicians).

      Alas, the past is behind us. Looking toward the future, I am deeply concerned that your comments about the use of a flexible orchestra not composed of permanent musicians might represent the thinking of the MOA board and management. If it does, we will never again have high-quality orchestral music performed in Minneapolis and patrons and medium-size donors like myself will forever be lost to the organization.

      • Submitted by Cynthia Ahlgren on 10/12/2013 - 12:42 am.

        Thank you, Mr. Wunsch, for your observations. You have given an astute response to Hiram Foster’s suggestion that all we need is a pick-up orchestra. I appreciate your analysis of the issues as well as your analysis of Mr. Foster’s pattern of commentary. Please continue to contribute to the orchestra conversation, as it is enlightening.

  3. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 10/11/2013 - 11:21 am.

    MN State Orchestra

    The answer does seem to be for the State of Minnesota to take over and make all the muscians, staff, and management state employees if one accepts all Doug Grows reasons why a group without the Orchestra Association won’t work (I don’t). We should own the orchestra and the pro sports teams and reap whatever good comes of them (more from the former and less damage from their activities to their health or business at lake resorts; except perhaps those poor oboeists and perhaps a few string players).

  4. Submitted by Walt McCarthy on 10/11/2013 - 11:44 am.

    Orchestra.

    Why hasn’t the Board of the Orchestra taken any of the responsibility for this mess? A non-profit board’s job is to oversee the actions of management, especially in regard to how money is handled, and this board did a very poor job. They approved a large raise in salary and also ran a deficit of 6 million dollars. Then they couldn’t continue the wages the orchestra members were accustomed to. This does not seem like good fiscal responsibility to me.

  5. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 10/11/2013 - 11:48 am.

    always it is on the board to change

    Rena Kraut follows the well worn path of putting all requirements to change on the board. Fine, the board should change. But a new board negotiating with musicians that refuse to take pay cuts no matter what the economics are leave things as they are now. Why bother changing the board?

    The musicians seem convinced that it is the board’s fault that enough money isn’t raised to pay their salaries at the current level. How would they feel if some banker told them they could play better?

    I heard a Bill Kirchen song recently who’s tag line applies here: “Don’t pay me what I’m worth, I don’t work that cheap.”

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 10/11/2013 - 02:39 pm.

      “Don’t pay me what I’m worth, I don’t work that cheap.”

      Thank you, Bill. That’s one of the best lines I’ve heard.

    • Submitted by EP Barnes on 10/11/2013 - 07:28 pm.

      not quite accurate

      Bill Schletzer, the musicians didn’t “refuse pay cuts no matter what the economics are.” They rejected what MOA labeled their “final offer,” because the cuts to salary were so outrageous (as was the 200 changes to work rules that were carefully crafted over many years). What they refused was to make such a huge change to their work life without having full, accurate, transparent information as to why these were being demanded. The musicians have routinely taken salary cuts, even from contracts that had already been agreed to. The MOA, in turn, has done everything in their powers to NOT provide accurate and complete financial information. One can only surmise that they have something to hide, otherwise they would have been forthcoming with complete and accurate financial information (as other professional orchestras have done during times of actual crisis). With this information the musicians could have made (and still could, theoretically) a sound decision on how to proceed. Salary cuts were/are probably inevitable. But decisions to accept draconian changes to how the ensemble works can’t be made without having information with which to make such an important decision.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/11/2013 - 12:02 pm.

    “Why hasn’t the Board of the Orchestra taken any of the responsibility for this mess?”

    Maybe because it’s a mess. Of course, management bears a lot of responsibility for the mess. They clearly have made mistakes. We can all admit that at the outset. But where does that get us? The mistakes, for the most part, cannot be undone. And the fundamental problem, the lack of revenue, is not really management’s fault. It’s the function of the board to raise money, and while they haven’t raised enough, they have raised a lot and they should be congratulated and thanked for the commitment they have made.

  7. Submitted by jason myron on 10/11/2013 - 01:45 pm.

    Mr. Schletzer

    makes a great point. Yes, the board is doing to the musicians what major record label execs and bean counters have done to talent since the beginning of time. But, the musicians, while extraordinarily talented, are mistakenly clinging to an antiquated business model while ignoring a changing marketplace. The salary that they’re accustomed to is only viable if enough people want to pay to see and hear them, and that demographic is shrinking dramatically, year after year. They have no leverage because there isn’t enough of a fan base to be outraged at their absence. They should have countered with a lower percentage pay cut, found compromise and lived to fight another day.

    If the current trends continue and the demographic that enjoys symphonic music continues to shrink ( and there’s no reason to think it wont as this transition started back in the 90’s) that 17% pay cut is going to look pretty good in five years time

    .

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 10/11/2013 - 02:53 pm.

      Good summary.

      Both parties, musicians and management, have apparently misjudged each other. We have this game of chicken going on at the national level between the president and the tea party. As long as no one bends, everyone loses.

  8. Submitted by jody rooney on 10/11/2013 - 02:46 pm.

    First it’s finance not economics

    They claim their problem is cash flow.

    As for supply and demand I was unable to check the statistical abstract on orchestra trends so there isn’t much of way to look at trends.

    It may be useful to look at why people don’t attend – not the group that really loves classical music or the folks who like to say “Oh we always have orchestra on Thursdays during the season.” but the folks that won’t go for other reasons. For me it is because it’s in Minneapolis because of the hassle of going to Minneapolis. The University of Minnesota is fine because you can still have a mellowing experience on the Campus. The old quarry at Robinson Park in Sandstone even better or Pipestone National Monument.

    If the orchestra becomes a 501 (c) 3 there are a lot of opportunities for money. Perhaps cello concertos in the rotunda at the capital might help draw the legislators attention. I would guess that the acoustics are terrible there. Check with the regional arts councils who receive state funding and see

    The musicians should hit the road and get more support from other metro areas in the state and see what they can do. Check with the regional arts councils who receive state funding and see what they can do to help.

    If the musicians keep hiding in Minneapolis they aren’t going to get anywhere.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/11/2013 - 03:25 pm.

    Leverage

    I suspect one of the miscalculations management had was that they thought they had more leverage than it turned out that they did.

  10. Submitted by Tom Foley on 10/11/2013 - 08:09 pm.

    What good’s an endowment anyway, and maybe we should go regional

    Doug Grow’s case that the finances of an independent orchestra simply won’t work seems strained on two points.

    In a bulleted point, he writes, “It would take years for an organization of musicians to build the sort of funding strength the 110-year old Orchestra Association has created. (The Association endowment is in the area of $150 million.)”

    But what good is an endowment of any size, if it isn’t used to support the orchestra? And it demonstrably has not been used to the benefit of the orchestra, at least in the recent past, and there is no sign of a change in attitude on the MOA board’s part. How does an endowment actually help the orchestra?

    Also, his guess/estimate, whatever it is, that Emanuel Ax would normally receive $30,000 dollars for the three concerts seems quite high, and this puts his other calculations and judgement in question. I’m open to be corrected on this by more informed individuals. Still, 30K seems high.

    But going further, and around the corner, must the orchestra rebuild itself using the same old model of the past–a success built on the international concert stage, a success built on the opinion of others. Maybe something new can be tried.

    Perhaps we should embrace the words, “a regional orchestra,”–not a dumbed down orchestra playing second fiddle to hack casino entertainers at a refurbished Orchestra Hall–but as an orchestra of the highest quality, and with a mission of regularly featuring Minnesota composers, (we have many), and regional performing talent, (we have a deep bench), as well as on the tried and true classics many of us have come to love.

    Minnesota may be in position to take the lead in creating a “new regionalism” around the nation.

    Sound crazy? Maybe. But then the MOA board hopes to find success in renting out Orchestra Hall to the likes of the University of Phoenix for graduation ceremonies, and to Mitch Daniels, a tea bagging former governor of Indiana, to give a pep talk.

    I’ll put my money on the musicians.

  11. Submitted by Bruce Pomerantz on 10/11/2013 - 09:52 pm.

    Minnesosta Orchestra Board Members

    I checked the MOA website to see who these board members are. I realize that a major criteria to be a board member is to donate huge sums to the association. A glance at the titles that the 79 board members have indicate that most of them are the one percenters. Ask them to cut their income in a range between 22% to 40% and they will still live quite well.

    I opine the problem is that the board members cannot empathize with what it means to take such a large salary decrease. Additionally, again judging by their titles, the board members are presidents and chairs of large businesses. They are used to having their orders obeyed. How much of the board’s intransigence is due to taking umbrage at such temerity as refusing to kowtow?

    I thought I heard on an MPR radio report of a board member who has served over 30 years. I cannot verify this. The MOA website lists nine Life Directors and nine Directors Emeriti. If these designations indicate longevity on a board (due to their largesse, no doubt), then the mindset of such long-serving board members is that the orchestra is theirs and they can do with it whatever they want.

    Finally, I would love to ask the board members by a show of hands how many of them ever invited an orchestra member over for lunch or dinner just to socialize and get to know the people they supposedly support with their volunteer board participation.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/12/2013 - 05:23 am.

    Board members

    I suspect that the vast majority of board members have little or no influence on board policy. I suspect they are as heartbroken as the rest of us at what has happened to the Minnesota Orchestra. And like the rest of us, they are looking management to find a way out of a corner in which it has placed itself.

    • Submitted by Bruce Pomerantz on 10/12/2013 - 11:41 pm.

      Vast Majority

      By definition, a majority has total influence on board policy.

      Why do they serve on the board if they do not actively participate in policy making? Additionally, I again point to the positions the “vast majority” of the board members hold. They did not gain their prominence by letting others take charge.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/12/2013 - 10:32 am.

    The long term

    What stakeholders need to think about now is whether management efforts to preserve the orchestra in the long have destroyed it in the short term.

  14. Submitted by Amy Adams on 10/12/2013 - 12:29 pm.

    Ok, Hiram…’fess up.

    Hiram, I agree with the commenter above that the pattern of your MinnPost comments reveals some very close insight to MOA board thinking. Whether that’s based in reality or your own imagination isn’t clear, but you do typically plant at least 4-5 comments on Minnesota Orchestra articles.
    So: exactly what is your relationship to this board? Truth, please, not diversion.

  15. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/13/2013 - 07:30 am.

    Board members

    “Why do they serve on the board if they do not actively participate in policy making?”

    A variety of reasons. With respect to charitable boards, people are invited to join because they have something to offer, and usually that’s money. Board members are either expected to contribute, or provide access to contributions from other entities. In return that get a sense of being part of something, one of the elite institutions of our community. They get to network with the movers and shakers, something that may be good for business. If they are lucky, they might get to meet Yo Yo Ma.

    The Minnesota Orchestra board is very large, and I suspect (although I don’t know) that very few members actually have much impact on orchestra policy. Those who do are members either formally or informally of an executive committee. Those committee members who are most involved in board affairs set policy, and hire management, decisions that are usually rubber stamped by the broader board membership.

    At this point, I expect there is dissatisfaction with management among board members. Management’s goal for this lockout was to secure long term fiscal viability for the orchestra. But it has become increasingly clear that the lockout has damaged the orchestra to such a degree that it’s prospects for survival now, whatever deal they might be able to reach with the players, are worse than if they had caved in to the players demands at the outset of the dispute. Clearly, management has failed to achieve it’s goals and is in desperate need of firing, if not now, certainly after the dispute is resolved. But I also expect that the board members are lost and clueless about how they should proceed. They don’t have the inside information they need to understand the situation, and they don’t know legally what they have a right to do. While it might very well be the case that a majority of the board understands that they are on the wrong path, I suspect that there is no consensus at all what the right path might be. And without a firm alternate policy put together by a majority or at least very strong minority within the board, management’s policy will continue by default.

  16. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/13/2013 - 08:15 am.

    Bunker mentality

    With no inside information whatever, here is the dynamic is see at work now.

    Management strategy has failed. It’s obviously the case that there is no point in protecting the long term interests of the orchestra if you destroy the orchestra in the short term. What needs to happen is that management needs to make the best deal it can to get the players back on the stage, and then go back to the drawing board to figure out alternate solutions to the orchestra’s problems, That’s the solution, the problem is getting there.

    It is probably the case that management and influential members haven’t come to grips with the problem. This is partly the result of denial but also they understand that admission of defeat would be embarrassing, and possibly damaging to their careers. These people have been winners all their lives, and one reason for that is that they are tougher than the other guy. While in most situations, that’s worked for them, when they aren’t tougher than the other guy, things get ugly.

    If management and influential board members are unwilling to acknowledge reality by doing a limited cave in, if the orchestra is to have a future, pressure must be put on them from the outside, either from outside board member or from pressures elsewhere. It’s hard for this to happen, however. With a large, unwieldy board, it’s hard to have any sort of internal debate at all. And in that debate, management has all the cards. They know the situation intimately. They are strong willed people, used to winning disputes through the force of their personality. Their opposition will be weak, not as well informed, divided, and just as repelled as the managers by the necessity of admitting defeat. They also know that in doing so, they might very well be assuming responsibility for making decisions that put the long term fortunes of the orchestra in jeopardy. Those decisions might be need to be made, but it’s always nicer when someone else is in the position of making them.

  17. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/14/2013 - 07:07 am.

    The Lockout

    Here is a question. Why are the musicians hanging so tough? The point of a lockout is to put labor under pressure by denying them a paycheck. Why has that strategy been so spectacularly ineffective with respect to Minnesota Orchestra musicians? Did management miss something?

    Here is a thought. Maybe management’s strategy here has been a failure for the same reason no one ever thought of cutting player wages as a solution to the Vikings financial issues. There is a market for musician services, and the wages management is offering are below market prices.

    • Submitted by Michael Wunsch on 10/14/2013 - 10:50 am.

      Why the musicians have not accepted management’s offers

      Hiram, I suspect that the musicians would have accepted the pay cuts if they believed that their salaries were the primary cause of the financial problems facing the orchestra. They voluntarily accepted pay cuts partially through their previous contract and volunteered to accept additional pay cuts in 2011 (which management refused). It is obvious that a very large part of the orchestra’s budget goes to the salaries of the musicians, but please bear with me.

      The musicians have repeatedly expressed concern over the way that the orchestra has been managed. I cannot speak for the musicians, but I will summarize major concerns that I have heard them express:

      (1) The musicians complain of having “dead weeks” in which they are paid salaries but not asked to perform. Dead weeks are an obvious drain on the finances.

      (2) The musicians assert that patrons who otherwise would have donated to support the orchestra’s operating expenses instead donated to the building fund in 2008 to 2010. Management mislead patrons and donors during this period, telling them that the orchestra was in excellent financial health with balanced budgets, and many patrons have made it clear that they would have donated to the operating fund instead of the building had they known that there were financial problems.

      (3) The musicians do not feel that small to medium-size donors have been properly cultivated. The ability of a few patrons to generate over $850,000 in new pledges to support the orchestra via word-of-mouth on social media over just a few weeks lends support to this concern. I am referring to the “SOS Save Osmo” pledge campaign.

      (4) The musicians have indicated that they do not think that the shift to a more pop-centered programming has been a very successful strategy for increasing ticket sales (see Stephanie Arado’s interview with MPR), and they are concerned that management’s vision for an increased shift away from traditional classical programming as a part of the “reset” will further damage ticket sales.

      (5) The musicians do not believe that the ticket sales have been maximized. Successful strategies pioneered by the Cleveland Orchestra have not been employed by Minnesota; as the orchestra was gaining accolades worldwide, those accolades were put to little use to market the orchestra locally; and, while ticket sales remained steady on a per-concert basis, the Minnesota Orchestra decreased the number of concerts that it produced.

      (6) The musicians also do not believe the numbers that management has given them. In the minutes from one of the MOA’s board meetings in 2009, the management says very clearly that it planned to manipulate the finances to present balanced budgets while fundraising for the building and then to present big deficits ahead of contract negotiations. Accordingly, while most impartial observers believe that the Minnesota Orchestra has financial problems, most also believe that the $6 million deficit reported for 2011 was an overstatement of the problem.

      (7) The musicians have also expressed deep concern over the changes in artistic control proposed by management. In the new contract, management has proposed transferring hiring authority for the musicians from the music director to the CEO; while this may seem reasonable to non-musicians, it has the ability to severely curtail the music director’s ability to create the type of “sound” that he or she seeks to obtain with the ensemble. The best music directors are likely to be unwilling to work under this condition; because the conductor has a huge influence on the artistic vibrancy of the ensemble, this work rule could be hugely damaging to the long-term health of the orchestra. The work rule transferring authority from the musicians to the CEO authority relative to which musicians play together when the orchestra needs a smaller ensemble for outreach activities, etc. is also damaging, as the best music is made by musicians who play well together and who have a similar artistic vision. The CEO will not have the necessary knowledge to put together effective ensembles, and this work rule has a high probability of simultaenously reducing the quality of the music produced and poisoning work relations between management and the musicians.

      In short, the musicians do not believe that revenues are being maximized, and they are concerned that the future path chosen by the management will further reduce revenues.

      In the end, a lack of collaborative problem solving is a huge reason for this stalemate. Neither musicians nor patrons nor small to medium sized donors were given a chance to help resolve the financial problems, and the patrons, musicians, and small to medium-sized donors don’t believe that the approach proposed by management is the best for the long-term health of the ensemble. Until the board permits others to have a voice in resolving the problems facing the ensemble, you should expect that this stalemate will likely continue.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/18/2013 - 01:07 pm.

        Excellent summary

        If the path forward is not viable, why take it? Even the last financial report the Board sent out indicated that the MOAs “solutions” are temporary, at best. And this is a report that was clearly weighted against the musicians. It’s not just money problems that are plaguing the Orchestra, it’s complete mismanagement.

  18. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/14/2013 - 11:38 am.

    Would the musicians be willing tie their compensation at least in part, to the increases in revenue through the revenue maximization suggestions they are making, should management agree to implement them?

    Some specific comments:

    “The musicians complain of having “dead weeks” in which they are paid salaries but not asked to perform. Dead weeks are an obvious drain on the finances.”

    How many concerts to perform during the season is a management choice as is how those concerts are distributed through the year. “Dead weeks” are a scheduling issue. Compensation could easily rearranged so that musicians are paid more on concert weeks and not paid on non concert weeks. The economic effect would be the same.

    “The musicians do not feel that small to medium-size donors have been properly cultivated. The ability of a few patrons to generate over $850,000 in new pledges to support the orchestra via word-of-mouth on social media over just a few weeks lends support to this concern. I am referring to the “SOS Save Osmo” pledge campaign.”

    It would certainly be nice for the orchestra to be able to raise more money. But some of the trends affecting corporate giving also affect small to medium size donors. As the audience for the orchestra gets smaller, so does the pool for potential donors.
    “(2) The musicians assert that patrons who otherwise would have donated to support the orchestra’s operating expenses instead donated to the building fund in 2008 to 2010. Management mislead patrons and donors during this period, telling them that the orchestra was in excellent financial health with balanced budgets, and many patrons have made it clear that they would have donated to the operating fund instead of the building had they known that there were financial problems.”

    Possibly, but that can’t be changed now. That may change the contributions are allocated in the future but management does seem to think the current level of contributions is insufficient to keep the orchestra viable.

    “The musicians have indicated that they do not think that the shift to a more pop-centered programming has been a very successful strategy for increasing ticket sales (see Stephanie Arado’s interview with MPR), and they are concerned that management’s vision for an increased shift away from traditional classical programming as a part of the “reset” will further damage ticket sales.”

    A marketing decision which is being second guessed by the musicians. The fact is, the audience is declining and management needs to try something, and not everything they will try will succeed. Will greater reliance on the standard repertoire of which my iPod would overflow if only it could? I don’t know.

    ” The musicians do not believe that the ticket sales have been maximized.”
    .
    They want to charge more for more concerts (eliminating those dead weeks perhaps). Maybe that would help, but concert tickets are already very expensive. Musicians have to understand that raising ticket prices and adding more concerts may not raise more money if the market is already saturated, especially in a struggling economy.

    “The musicians also do not believe the numbers that management has given them.”

    It’s not in their interest to believe them. It’s enough for management to believe them or some version of them and if they do, they will base their offers on them, a reality the musicians will have to accept.

    • Submitted by Michael Wunsch on 10/15/2013 - 01:07 am.

      Hiram, you have misunderstood me

      Hiram, I think you have misunderstood me.

      You are correct in saying that management has the power to determine how many concerts are performed and when they are scheduled. What many patrons want – and the musicians clearly desire – is that the management, determined to support the salaries of the musicians, is creative in its programming and finds a way to overcome scheduling issues to make full-time use of the musicians. If the MOA is able to rent out Orchestra Hall at top-dollar to another group on a given weekend, perhaps that’s a week that the orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale perform one of the great sacred works – Bruckner’s powerful TeDeum, the immensely popular Mozart Requiem, etc. – in one of the area churches. If some performances were in the suburbs, the orchestra could actually broaden its audience; not everyone wants to drive downtown for concerts.

      Many of us fully understand that the trends surrounding corporate giving are not favorable to the orchestra, but I would challenge you to reconsider your assumption that orchestra’s audience must get smaller. The Cleveland Orchestra has very successfully increased its audience and is routinely selling-out concerts this season. Cleveland accomplished this feat not by raising ticket prices but by filling unsold seats. Cleveland realized that many middle-aged adults with children and teens were not attending concerts; to attract this demographic, Cleveland instituted a policy by which the children and teens could attend free if the parents paid full-price for their tickets. The result was sharp rise in families attending concerts, which meant not only more tickets sold but also increased exposure to classical music among the youth (future patrons). The Cleveland Orchestra also established a vigorous outreach program in the local universities that has paid clear dividends through a sharp increase in attendance by college students (again, future regular patrons and donors).

      I think that everyone fully understands that money donated to the building cannot be redirected to support the musicians; the past is behind us. The concern is that donations have not been maximized. After the money was raised for the building, there should have been an urgent call for donations to avert massive cuts to the orchestra. Unfortunately, there was no such urgent call; most patrons were caught completely surprised when news broke that management was seeking to cut the salaries of musicians by over 30%. Couldn’t the scale of these cuts been averted by a special fundraising effort? Because there was no concerted effort to avert sharp cuts this time, will there be any such call in the future?

      I think we all understand that there is a need to broaden audiences through diverse programming, and that is not the concern. The concern is that core product of classical music – the product which defines the orchestra and which attracts the orchestra’s most loyal patrons – cannot be diluted if the orchestra is to survive.

      Relative to ticket sales, I think that most people would agree that raising ticket prices will likely be counter-productive. Judging by the relatively modest prices that the musicians have set for their own concerts, I doubt that the musicians would suggest raising ticket prices, either. My comment had been relative to selling more tickets – both by filling the hall better (having fewer unsold seats) and by having more performances. In addition to the techniques that I mentioned Cleveland using to attract new audiences and fill their hall, Cleveland has also been very aggressive at conduct crowd-pleasing concerts that generate lots of revenue; note the ten performances of their core Christmas program that they are offering over a 9-day period this December.

      In your closing comment, you stressed that it doesn’t matter whether the musicians believe the numbers provided by management; it only matters that management believe their own numbers and the musicians submit to what management offers. I would offer to you that your approach is neither necessary nor the most effective. Adopting a more collaborative approach based on transparency and trust is more likely to result in a willingness by employees to accept concessions.

  19. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/15/2013 - 08:06 am.

    “What many patrons want – and the musicians clearly desire – is that the management, determined to support the salaries of the musicians, is creative in its programming and finds a way to overcome scheduling issues to make full-time use of the musicians.”

    More concerts, in other words. I think determining the optimum number of performances is a very complicated process, one in which it is very difficult to know whether you have scheduled exactly the right number of performances. One thing to look at is how ticket sales are going at the existing number of performances. Are they selling out every night? Or are tickets going unsold? There are other factors as well. One thing artists must be aware of is that the view from the stage isn’t necessarily the same as the view from the box office. As you have noted, there are ways of filling the building, but those ways don’t necessarily translate into increased revenues, or for that matter, an increased audience in the long term.

    Concerning fund raising, I don’t perceive this management as being all that effective. But that may be because reaching folks like me isn’t all that effective. I am expensive to reach and I don’t give that much. Urgent calls might have helped, but I suspect that management sees that as one time money, and one time money won’t solve the long term systemic problems they believe rightly or wrongly, afflict the organization.

    Generally speaking, I think getting the orchestra out of orchestra hall is a great idea. I do think putting money in the building reflected an old way of thinking that may not have been the best way to respond to these changing times. But that money has already been spent and won’t come back.

    I do not assume the orchestra’s audience is getting smaller. It is getting smaller. I have a sense that this current management was brought in, to increase audience size, but for whatever reason, that management hasn’t had success. One thing to remember is that increasing the audience can also increase costs.

    I do think lack of trust between management and labor is a major stumbling block to a settlement here. Management may well have made mistakes as all managements do. But they can’t change the past, only learn from it. I would certainly like to see a more collaborative approach between labor and management here. But trust is a two way street. Rightly or wrongly, management has presented the musicians with a choice. They can take the deal on the table or some variation of it, and make the decision to try to work collaboratively with management going forward, quite possibly implementing some or all of the suggestions you have made, or they can go elsewhere, an option that management does not have. As always, in any negotiation, each party gets to set it’s own terms of it’s own side, but doesn’t get to set the terms of the other side or define the other side’s priorities. And no on can change the past.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/18/2013 - 01:17 pm.

      Odd

      Hiram–considering that I’ve read and agreed with many of your comments in the past, or at least read and understood if not agreed, this line of argument seems strained. I don’t think it’s terribly difficult to “determine the optimum number of concerts.” I think the problem is that there’s some need coming from the Board to control the Orchestra without any regard for what that control does. For example, the optimum number of concerts is different if the only venue is Orchestra Hall than if the venue is Orchestra Hall and a church. Or two churches. Or a college. Etc. You change the number of potential patrons by varying the venue. You might even change the number of times an individual will patronize the Orchestra. For example, my tolerance for driving to Downtown Minneapolis for an Orchestra concert is low. I might go a time or two a year. On the other hand, I might consider attending a concert at Bethel University in addition to that time or two. Or, where I might have forgone going to see the Orchestra at all, I might go. In addition, if the music is tailored to the location, I might consider going or going more often because I get to hear Handel in a church or a local composer at a local university. The problem isn’t terribly difficult to solve, it mostly requires thought and work. But, instead, I’m seeing politics coming from the Board. I’m getting ideological messages, not glimpses of actual willingness to work things out. I get less information from the musicians–presumably because it’s the MOA that has my email and postal address on their list, and not the musicians. But the info I do hear from the musicians aligns with what makes sense to me, as a patron and fan of the Orchestra.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/16/2013 - 01:27 pm.

    No mystery…

    You can’t increase audience size by locking out the musicians and having no concerts for over a year, that fact is beyond obvious. Management actually seemed to have timed the grand re-opening so that it would occur when there were no musicians to play in the renovated hall. The term “lockout” says it all.

    You can’t move forward with “wrongly”. It matters that mistakes were made, and what those mistakes were, and who made them. It’s not just a matter beating up on management, you have to recognize mistakes before you can generate solutions. False equivalencies that blame “everyone” won’t move this along. As for management, no one expects perfections, but these folks weren’t merely “imperfect”, and without a dramatic change of attitude and strategy this management is killing the orchestra, if it hasn’t already.

    You can’t increase audience without concerts, and you can’t move forward with a management that has a documented history of providing misleading financial information. At the end of the day management wants to brag about raising $50 million for the building but claim they can’t possibly raise another $6 million for the musicians, it’s simply not a credible claim.

    This was a failed to attempt to extract concessions the way banks extract fees and interest rates from customers, that’s what lockouts are, pure and simple. Yes, management overestimated their leverage, but they shouldn’t have been leveraging in the first place, this is a symphony, not a coal mine.

    With new management, transparent financial accounting, and good faith negotiations the orchestra cold be saved. The only question is whether or not it’s too late. End the lockout now. Start making music again. and work out the financials, in that order.

  21. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/16/2013 - 01:51 pm.

    It matters that mistakes were made, and what those mistakes were, and who made them.

    Well, you can’t un renovate the hall.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/16/2013 - 02:49 pm.

      No but…

      Then no one said that recognizing a mistake is the same as erasing it from history… although I can see why there may some people who’d like to pretend that none of this ever happened. Problem is amnesia isn’t going to solve anything either.

  22. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/17/2013 - 08:58 am.

    Pay raises

    My thoughts go back to the last salary discussion I had with my employer who wasn’t coming through the wage package I wanted. The economy was tough back then and the company I worked for was struggling a bit. Being the sort of person I am, I had lots of criticisms about the way they were doing business. They shouldn’t have built that extension to the plant, they should be calling on their customers more. Marketing wasn’t all that it could have been. The product line needed to be improved. On the whole, I didn’t believe my salary was the primary cause of the financial problems facing the business.

    Should I have raised those issues, thoughts and concerns with my boss? Should I have demanded a look at the books. I didn’t, but I wonder now if I should have. I don’t doubt that my boss would have benefited from a thorough and detailed examinations of his various and myriad faults.

    If I had done that, what would have happened?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/17/2013 - 12:13 pm.

      Huh?

      Hiram, for one thing, you obviously don’t belong to a union, your an “at will” employee, or maybe you have an individual contract? It’s called “collective bargaining” and yes, it gives you more leverage than you have as a guy talking to a boss. At any rate, your circumstance doesn’t appear to have any relevance to the orchestra.

      It’s always funny when “at will” employees with no labor contracts complain about union work forces. Instead of aspiring for a better work environment, better wages, and benefits, such people seem to think we should all race to the bottom of the wage ladder on behalf of the executive’s bottom line.

    • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 10/17/2013 - 07:56 pm.

      Stewardship, not ownership

      I suppose your boss either would have laughed at you, begrudgingly given you some of the information you asked for, or perhaps humbly shown you the books. But the key difference is that while you presumably worked for a private company, the orchestra is a non-profit organization. It belongs to the community (just consider all the bequests that have built the endowment over many years), and as such the board should be doing everything in its power to make finances fully transparent. Unfortunately, the board seems to view themselves in an ownership position, and they have tried to run things the way they would run a private company faced with a need to cut costs.

      And I should add that while this mindset is perhaps understandable given the corporate backgrounds of the majority of board members, I am not an advocate of dealing with “labor” in any industry in this way. In fact, the gaping and potentially destructive income inequality in this country makes me think we need to somehow strengthen workers’ rights (however that may be done, not necessarily through the “u” word).

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/18/2013 - 05:26 am.

        Transparency

        One can make the argument that finances should be more transparent. But what matters is how management sees them, not anyone else.

        The fact that the orchestra is a nonprofit cuts several different ways. We have spoken of leverage here. What seems to be clear is that neither side has the leverage to force a deal or anything close to it. On management’s side one reason for that is that they are a nonprofit organization and don’t have stockholders to please. Things public corporations have to be transparent about like earnings, don’t exist at all for the orchestra management. We can speak of some fuzzy obligation to the public, but that isn’t a legal reality and really overestimates the public’s interest in the whole business.

        More broadly, as much as we like to talk about the wonders of corporate governance in America, the practical reality is that for the most part, public corporations are run for the benefit of their managers, not their shareholders.

  23. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/17/2013 - 02:23 pm.

    you obviously don’t belong to a union, your an “at will” employee, or maybe you have an individual contract?

    I don’t belong to a union. But every factor I mentioned has it’s counterpart in the orchestra dispute. What’s the difference? The difference is the union has leverage in negotiations and it would have exactly the same leverage, whether those factors we share in common were present or not. So let’s not persist in the illusion that those are the factors that matter.

    The fact is, the union does have leverage, just not enough leverage to force management to offer a deal the union is willing to accept. Nor, it seems, does the union have enough leverage with management to force it to make an offer the union finds acceptable. That the power reality and the negotiating dynamic that exists. The sooner all parties realize that and begin to explore ways through and around it, and stop reciting their list of ancient grievances at each other, the sooner the musicians will be back at work and the sooner the orchestra will be back in business.

    • Submitted by Michael Wunsch on 10/17/2013 - 06:21 pm.

      Framing this as a union question is counter-productive

      I sincerely believe that discussing this issue within the framework of unionized vs. non-unionized labor is counterproductive; it obscures the fundamental problems that must be addressed for the dispute to be resolved.

      At its heart, this dispute is about a difference in vision. The best I can see it, the management thinks that the audience and corresponding financial support for classical music is in irreversible decline, and the best way to ensure the long-term financial health of the orchestra is to reset the vision and focus of the orchestral association. The plan that they appear to be executing is for the orchestral association to present non-orchestral performances, including comedians (Bill Cosby was scheduled to perform in Sept. 2013), jazz bands and other musical groups, and for orchestra itself to perform more pops performances and fewer performances of traditional classical music. Within this vision, it is no longer necessary to be a world-class orchestra, and thus it is no longer necessary to have high-paid world class musicians or a high-paid world-class conductor.

      The musicians know that they were on the cusp of possibly being the best orchestra in North America and that quality can be marketed very successfully; Cleveland has already shown how to do it. They do not think that classical music is in irreversible decline; indeed, where orchestras are marketed successfully (Houston, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh are representative peer orchestras), donations are strong and ticket sales are rising. Cutting the quality of the orchestra is actually a much bigger risk, as people will know what they’ve lost and will be much less likely to attend or donate.

      The musicians are trying to defend this art form so that not only us but also our children have the ability to hear classical music performed at a very high level. As such, this is very different from a traditional union vs. management question: Much more is at stake than the salaries of the musicians.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/18/2013 - 11:42 am.

        It is what it is

        There’s not getting around the fact that this is labor dispute. By definition a lock-out is a union busting tactic, there’s no other reason to do it. Where it not for the musician’s union management would simply have imposed wage cuts and replaced any musicians who left in protest.

        This management team made a decision that they no longer wanted to deal with labor contracts and collective bargaining, they simply wanted the power to extract wage concessions without negotiations. That decision has probably killed the MN Orchestra as a world class entity and may well have killed any chances at financial viability for the future. It was a stupid decision, and a completely unnecessary course of action, but apparently these are banking executives who didn’t understand the nature of symphony orchestras. They thought they could “manage” an orchestra the way they manage banks and coal mines.

  24. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/18/2013 - 05:18 am.

    The Vision Thing

    Unfortunately for a lot of us, it’s management’s vision that counts.

  25. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/18/2013 - 11:29 am.

    Vision and “thinking”

    It’s funny Hiram, several times across multiple comment threads you keep saying things like all that matters is what management “thinks”, and now their “vision” is the only one that matters. Obviously managements failure to impose their will on the orchestra thus far tells that this simply is not true.

    What we’ve seen for over a year know is proof that “thinking” and “vision” are NOT this management teams strong suits. They have very nearly liquidated the very entity they were supposed to manage, was THAT their “vision”?

    What management “thought” is actually irrelevant. What they did was lock out the symphony and put an end to symphony concerts.

  26. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 10/18/2013 - 11:41 am.

    Thank you

    …for explaining how management must be viewing this. They are keeping within legal requirements while maximizing leverage against the musicians. I must be naive to suggest they actually follow “best management” or “good governance” practices for non-profits, when they are not legally bound to do so. I hope you can at least appreciate the absurdity of the implication that the orchestra, as a public-benefit nonprofit corporation, should be run for the benefit of the managers/board and not the public. This is exactly the wrong-headed thinking that led to this whole mess. And if non-profits are not held to the same transparency requirements as public corporations, then I guess it’s up to all of us to change the laws.

  27. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/18/2013 - 03:01 pm.

    It’s funny Hiram, several times across multiple comment threads you keep saying things like all that matters is what management “thinks”, and now their “vision” is the only one that matters.

    It’s the function of management to manage. Ultimately it sets the terms of employment. Labor can either accept those terms or find employment elsewhere. Management can’t impose it’s will with respect to the musicians decision whether to accept or continue employment, but it can certainly set the terms if musicians do want to work for the orchestra.

    This may be a lousy management. But it’s the only management the orchestra has.

  28. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/18/2013 - 03:17 pm.

    Absurdities

    ” I hope you can at least appreciate the absurdity of the implication that the orchestra, as a public-benefit nonprofit corporation, should be run for the benefit of the managers/board and not the public.”

    Oh sure. It is absurd. And I am not saying that’s the ways things should be, but that’s the way things are. I suppose the reason management is under attack is that the union hopes to get around them and appeal to someone else, someone they feel has the power to give them the deal this management won’t. Perhaps they hope for a rebellion within the board, or the application of outside pressure which might come from a couple of sources.

    I have made comments elsewhere that I think have gone mostly unnoticed. While I do think this management will call the shots, I also think this management has failed in that in it’s concern for the long term fiscal stability of the orchestra, it may well have destroyed the orchestra in the short term, making those long term considerations irrelevant. At this point, with the departure of it’s conductor and critical members of the orchestra, I wonder if the orchestra could survive in the long term even if they orchestra caved in to management’s original demands. And I wonder if this new reality has dawned on board members, that because of this dispute and that the only realistic alternative is to continue on the current bath, allow the endowment to deplete over time, hope that something will change and if it doesn’t, accept that the orchestra will eventually just fade away.

  29. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 10/18/2013 - 04:28 pm.

    Why the Board is under attack

    “..the reason the board is under attack is that the union hopes to get around them and appeal to someone else.”

    As many others have commented here, the board is under attack–by patrons of the orchestra–for many reasons. I actually wouldn’t even know where to begin, but recently SOSMN produced a study comparing the Cleveland Orchestra to Minnesota, and the comparison is startling, showing steady growth in Cleveland (albeit with some operating deficits, actually not much different than Minn.), while Minn. has seen downward revenue trends. At the same time, it’s come out that the CEO received huge bonuses in 2011 and 2012, just before staff were cut and the draconian offer was made to musicians. Who gives their CEO huge bonuses when revenues are down and they are claiming a need for huge cuts?

    Please Mr. Foster, quit sticking the union in the middle of this discussion. As frustrated patrons, we want a board who cares about the mission of the *public-benefit* organization, is transparent with finances, respects its employees, and listens to its stakeholders.

  30. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/19/2013 - 07:09 am.

    The board

    With respect to the patrons, as a friend of mine says in a different context, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” The willingness of the union to accede to higher ticket prices pretty much shows that. The problem patrons have in influencing this discussion is that they don’t bring to the table what the parties need most. Ticket prices are already very high. And the expanded season the players seem to want would raise the cost of orchestra attendance even higher. We are told here that those kinds of policies will result in the net additional revenue that would eliminate or at least reduce the deficit, but management doesn’t seem to think so, and as always management will make it’s decisions based on what it thinks.

    I am all for transparency, but transparency only helps you see things more clearly. It doesn’t change the way things are. When I put my glasses on in the morning the numbers I look at don’t change from negative to positive, and that’s true for orchestra managers as well.

  31. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 10/20/2013 - 08:40 pm.

    Board knowledge

    “I am all for transparency, but transparency only helps you see things more clearly. It doesn’t change the way things are.”

    Mr. Foster, how are you so sure about how “the way things are”? Most of us are not sure at all. We see claims of huge deficits, right after the orchestra raised $100 million and paid the CEO a $200K bonus. We see seasons cut short, ineffective marketing, and management claiming “classical music is dead,” all while other orchestras are flourishing (e.g., Pittsburgh, Houston, National, Cleveland…). And then we hear our voices dismissed–“not at the table, but on the menu”–as if the board fails to understand that it is exactly the patrons who are needed by both sides (although I think the musicians get it).

    Oh wait, you will just say it doesn’t matter how things are, or if management gets it, because of course management calls all the shots based on what they think, and apparently they are not open to input.

  32. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/21/2013 - 07:52 am.

    Patrons

    Mr. Foster, how are you so sure about how “the way things are”?

    Not very, but I did look at the presentation comparing the Minnesota Orchestra’s management results with those of Cleveland, and I came away utterly convinced that Minnesota’s management group is utterly incompetent. Indeed, I think more information would show the state of the orchestra’s finances is worse than we know now, if the orchestra went back to work. So what of it? Management, however incompetent it might be, is still management. Will xplaining to them in excruciating detail how lousy they are at their jobs increase their willingness to change their positions? If not, what’s the point? It’s sort of like Blackberry and it’s layoffs. I am sure in lots of exit interviews, soon to be terminated employees asked their bosses, “Why should I suffer because of wrong choices made by management?” I don’t know if there is a good answer to that question other than that’s the way things are.

    Something that patrons might give some thought to, is the extent to which they are part of the problem as opposed to being part of the solution. I don’t know this, but what I tend to suspect is that in actually giving concerts, the orchestra loses money. The gap is made up by income generated from contributions and income from the endowment. My guess is that while not giving money losing concerts, the orchestra is generating contributions, albeit at a reduced level, and is benefiting from the income from the endowment, money which does not have to be used to pay musicians. Quite literally, the patrons represent an expense the orchestra managment can quite easily do without.

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