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Is the wreck of the elite Minnesota Orchestra now complete?

Photo by Greg Helgeson
The Carnegie cancellation set in motion the resignation of Osmo Vänskä.

Blame whomever you want, but it seems that the wreck of the elite Minnesota Orchestra is now complete.

With a brief statement, Osmo Vänskä is gone. Carnegie Hall is gone. Trust between labor and management is long gone. And more musicians are likely to  go. Update: Composer Aaron Jay Kernis submitted his resignation later in the day as director of the Composer Institute at the Minnesota Orchestra.

The only thing not gone is the bottom line of the Minnesota Orchestra’s board of directors: Musicians must accept large wage cuts now for the long-term viability of the orchestra.

All of this seems a little remindful of the words supposedly uttered by a U.S. Army major during a battle in the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village to save it.”

What’s left to save?

That’s a question that members of the Orchestra’s board of directors and Michael Henson, the CEO and president of the orchestra, will have to answer. According to musicians’ sources, management leaders were going to try to start that process this morning by meeting with orchestra “stakeholders.”

A day of bleak developments

But happenings Monday make the future bleaker than ever. There were all sorts of pressures for settlement — or at least productive negotiations — and nothing positive happened.

Musicians and management met for a little more than two hours, with musicians presenting two offers that called for modest pay cuts. Those pay cuts, however, fell far below what management says is necessary to “save” the orchestra into the future.

According to Tim Zavadil, a clarinetist in the orchestra and the head of the musicians’ negotiating team, no sooner had the meeting ended than he learned that management was announcing cancellation of the Carnegie Hall dates.

“The cancellation was done very quickly,” Zavadil said. “It seemed liked they walked out the door [of the negotiating room] and hit the send button [to announce the cancellation].”

His point, of course, was that management wasn’t serious about negotiating.

Orchestra management responded by saying that musicians offers weren’t serious.  

The Carnegie cancellation set in motion the resignation of Vänskä.

Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota OrchestraPhoto by Ann MarsdenClarinetist Tim Zavadil: “Everyone was buying into [Osmo Vänskä’s] vision.’’

That resignation came as a jolt to musicians, and presumably music lovers in the region. But it probably shouldn’t have.

Long ago, Vänskä had made it clear that if the Carnegie dates had to be scratched, he’d feel forced to leave.

And Henson, in Twin Cities interviews early last month, had made it just as clear that orchestra management was willing to accept the loss of Vänskä. In an interview on Minnesota Public Radio, Henson had said that the Minnesota Orchestra had had “world renown” conductors before Vanska and presumably could find a conductor of great stature to replace him.

But like sports teams, orchestras need a special chemistry to perform at their highest levels. And Vänskä, Zavadil said, was a key for creating just the right mix of “discipline, musicianship and confidence.”  The orchestra had the respect of Vänskä.

“Everyone was buying into his vision,’’ Zavadil said.

But then, Vänskä was able to get that buy-in in part because there was a feeling of good will among board members, musicians, management and patrons.

 Zavadil recalled that when he made the move here from the Louisville Orchestra seven years ago, he received calls and emails from friends and fellow musicians.

“Everyone was saying, ‘You’re going to a place where everyone wants the same thing,’ ” Zavadil recalled.

The goal was greatness.

But that sense, Zavadil said, started to fade in about 2009 and “trust is crushed” now.

What path back to greatness?

It’s hard to imagine how that’s brought back now. The union has unanimously rejected each contract proposal by management. And management has barely listened to proposals made by musicians, or by a plan arranged by mediator George Mitchell.

And now, with the superstar conductor gone, it’s hard to imagine how long it will take for the public to come back to Orchestra Hall, even if the two sides could reach agreement.

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Zavadil compares the situation to that of the Miami baseball team. The city has a dazzling new ballpark, built with public money. But attendance has been poor and ownership of the team slashed payroll for financial sustainability. The team played poorly — even worse than our Twins — and attendance continues to fall.

“A friend of mine tweeted a picture of  the line outside their stadium when they opened season ticket sales this year,” Zavadil said. “There were four people in it.”

That’s the situation Minnesota faces, he said. There’s a beautiful, re-modeled (for $50 million) hall but no aspiration for a great orchestra.

So nothing has changed. And everything has changed.

Orchestra management remains insistent that major economic concessions need to come from musicians and rejects musician proposals. Musicians continue to unanimously reject management cuts.

What’s different now is that Vänskä is gone, as are prestigious dates at Carnegie. Those losses could create disgust and apathy among music lovers.

Comments (68)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/01/2013 - 11:07 am.

    It’s as if the Twins

    were reincarnated as a AAA farm team.
    The name would remain, they’d play in the same venue, and play pretty well (might even be fun to watch), but they’d lose most games to major league teams.
    That’s when the competence gap (subtle but significant) would become apparent.

    Apparently the MSO management is happy with a farm team
    (obligatory horse manure metaphors left to the reader).

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/01/2013 - 01:19 pm.

      No “as if” about it, you’ve described the Twins pretty well…

      …in “they’d lose most games to major league teams.” even though the name & venue remain the same.

      The Orchestra, like the Twins, have jettisoned their best players in chasing lower expenses, and like the Twins, the Orchestra is probably going to see a similar result in the quality of its output.

      The Orchestra, though, will not have 2.5 million seats sold at an average of 30,000 per performance to harvest for revenue despite having an atrocious team. They’re still making money, probably more profit fielding a rotten team than spending what’s necessary to field a competitive team.

      The Orchestra, however, is not likely to find a poor quality team profitable. Also, the Twins management is not giving the public the finger the way the Orchestra’s management is doing. The Orchestra management and Board seem to think the PR disaster they’ve caused will blow over, but it may not for a long, long time. They’ve lost some customers (and patrons) for good.

  2. Submitted by Michael Hess on 10/01/2013 - 11:12 am.

    Who would come here?

    Doug, what world class conductor would consider coming here to work for these people. I think they will hire what they value and that’s not going to mean top talent. What a sad day and sad failure of leadership.

  3. Submitted by Thom Gmeinder on 10/01/2013 - 11:47 am.

    MN Orchestra

    rather than having a world class Orchestra the .01% on the board have decided to take the money away from those that actual do the work. They could have raised the money from contributions from the Board members, without the contributes feeling any change in their lives. It would hardly be a rounding error for most of them. My question to those cheep stakes is do you really believe that you can take it with you. Even Henry Ford ( the great fascist and no fan of workers) knew that he needed to raise his workers salary so that they could buy his cars.

  4. Submitted by Doug Gray on 10/01/2013 - 11:54 am.



  5. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 10/01/2013 - 12:10 pm.

    It is time

    To cooperate.

    The state and local government can use the power of eminent domain to seize Orchestra Hall and lease it out to a new group, say the Minnesota Cooperative Symphony Orchestra, who will gather what is left of classical musicians in town and play us some damn good music again.

  6. Submitted by Jim Berry on 10/01/2013 - 12:10 pm.

    MN Orchestra

    It appears the Orchestra organization, including the musicians, became too large (expensive) for the region it wishes to serve. I understand the perceived need of the Board to embark on the Capital Campaign to upgrade the building and provide some additional revenue sources in order to assist them in generating the income to match their future operating budgets. It was a little surprising that the Musicians Union would take the completing of the project to strike as the Capital Campaign funds cannot be used for payroll or operating costs, strictly the brick & mortar construction. But, I must say, having been raised in a Union family, having personally been an Union employee prior to my current self-employment career, having represented my Union Local within the St. Paul Trades organization, I have a very difficult time identifying with the MN Orchestra Musicians and their perceived predicament. I do not know a single person, union or otherwise, that would not agree to $104,000 to do what I love, to be paid for 100+ days I am not working, to be paid for my own practice time at home to hone my skills, and also have enough time to take side jobs…also doing a job that I love. Plus the benefit package…and they just improved my main work place. I dislike sounding like a management shill, and I understand you are taking a 30,000 pay cut to save your job for now and in the future, but if you feel that you are that elite of a musician, and to support you, ticket prices are going to increase to a point where middle class fans of classical music, such as me, will not buy tickets, then maybe you need to look at Philly, NY City, Boston and compete for work there. I am sure we will still have a great MN Orchestra, and we do not want to loose the musicians we have. But it appears everyone needs a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ with reality in this fantastic arts & performing arts area we call The Twin Cities.

    • Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 10/01/2013 - 12:54 pm.

      It was a LOCKOUT

      Mgmt locked out the musicians and chose the timing – the musicians did not strike. I do hope you know the difference. If not, please “come to Jesus” regarding the facts of this deplorable situation.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/01/2013 - 01:06 pm.

      First of all, money was not the only issue, although the

      Strib never mentioned it. I was at the O’Shaughnessy concert when we were told of some of the changes in work rules that management wanted, including turning artistic control over to a bunch of corporate executives, i.e. the board. That one caused the entire audience to gasp in indignation.

      Furthermore, as the deadline approached, the musicians offered some salary cuts in exchange for removing the worst of the work rules, but the board deemed that “not substantial.”

      As for the financial difficulties of the Orchestra, management appears to be trying to balance the budget on the backs of the musicians all in one year, despite having a $150 million endowment that they had no qualms about dipping into when they were crowing about their excellent financial condition. Then all of a sudden, when it came time to negotiating with the musicians, they pleaded poverty and acted as if they could barely keep the lights on in Orchestra Hall.

      They also took an imperious and disrespectful attitude toward the musicians instead of treating them as partners. It’s worth noting that the locked out musicians have been donating their time to youth music programs, and just this morning, they gave a concert at Hopkins High School. Why didn’t the board come to them, lay the books on the table, and say, “Here’s where we are. Let’s brainstorm about how we can improve this situation”?

      Corporate executives these days are one-trick ponies. If there’s financial difficulty, their immediate response is to penalize the people who do the actual work in the company while retaining all their own cushy compensation. They cut wages and benefits, they lay people off, and they hire cheap replacements, if any. Union-busting is almost a reflex with them.

      It seems never to have occurred to this board to try to grow the audience. Instead, they cut back on marketing and community outreach. It’s as if they decided a priori that classical music was dying and then set out to prove it. Meanwhile, orchestras in other cities have reversed the decline in audiences, and the Minnesota Opera is attracting an all-ages audience.

      The audience is sad and angry. Whatever replacement ensemble the board comes up with, the core audience will not patronize it. Many of us will not set foot in Orchestra Hall until the current board, or at least the chair and vice-chair, one of whom admitted to not liking classical music, and Michael Henson, whose track record is less than stellar, have resigned.

      • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 10/01/2013 - 01:41 pm.

        growing the audience….

        …usually would mean doing more pops concerts and playing the overplayed stuff. Even classical music lovers tend to love a narrow range of music and don’t support the challenging stuff. Maybe commenters on boards like this really care and I’m sure the musicians do but I know that long time supporters like my mom really just wanted to hear the easy stuff. The Twins grew their audience, not with a good team but with a new venue. Maybe that ‘s what the board was shooting for.

        • Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 10/01/2013 - 05:44 pm.

          I’ve been captivated

          by the wonderful, long-term relationship between the MN Orchestra and Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. This is the sort of work that I believe orchestras need to be doing to invigorate music and educate audiences. Each performance of an Aho piece I’ve seen over the years has been received vey well by MN Orch audiences as far as I can tell. Sure, Mozart, Schubert and Brahms must be played. But new works can be well programed in the mix.

          I also felt great excitement when, a few years ago, I attended an 11pm piano recital by Christopher O’Riley who earlier that evening I gather had done a full orchestral concerto. The 11pm audience was quite large, and I at the age of maybe 43 at the time was one of the older in the crowd.

          Orchestras can do much more than pops and standards and grow audiences. But it takes courage and vision. That is departing, at great loss to many of us.

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/01/2013 - 09:33 pm.

          You need to program a variety of music to please everyone

          When I lived in Portland, I volunteered for what is now available over the Internet as, but then it was solely a radio station.

          Every once in a while, the station conducted a listeners’ survey, and the results were always the same. Half the respondents said, “Too many old warhorses.” The other half said, “Too much contemporary music.” Half said, “Can the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts,” while the half said, “More opera.” Half said, “No organ music!” while half said, “More organ music.” Opinions about every variety of classical music were split nearly fifty-fifty. Half wanted more; half wanted less.

          One listener called up ranting about that “horrible modern music” when the station played a Schoenberg piece that was written in 1910, but as a regular at Oregon Symphony concerts, I often saw the audience receive new music warmly–as long as it wasn’t self-indulgent atonal garbage that no one can remember after hearing it. (When I was a concert usher in graduate school, my fellow ushers used to joke that there was really only one atonal string quartet, one that started with a descending seventh and a tritone and ended with the musicians sawing away furiously in parallel fifths and then stopping suddnely, and that different composers paid to put their name on it.)

          It’s not true that the audiences like only the old warhorses. It’s mostly the oldest audience members who feel that way. A lot of younger people don’t know the old standards, so they simply like what they like, no matter when it was written. They’re exposed to a wide variety of music in their everyday lives, far more than people were in the past. If you listen to the Current, you’ll hear not only rock but also jazz, hip-hop, Latin, folk, country-western, reggae, soul, blues, show tunes, and genres that probably don’t have names yet. A new composition in the classical style with influences from any of these genres would most likely appeal to them.

          As Duke Ellington said when asked about genres, “There’s only good music and bad music.”

          I used to attend Portland’s Chamber Music Northwest (kind of a summer camp for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center), and one evening, I ran into an acquaintance who was in her seventies. The program had featured a piano piece by Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, who was still alive at the time, and both of us agreed that it was wonderful. I remarked that the Mozart quartet had been well performed, too, and she shook her head and said, “I’m sick of Mozart. He’s too deedily and predictable.”

          Programming old favorites attracts one crowd, but programming new music attracts another. I like hearing the standard 19th century repertoire performed superbly, but I never would have subscribed to the Minnesota Orchestra if I had seen nothing but Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms on the program. The classical music audience isn’t just one audience. It’s many audiences.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 10/01/2013 - 02:30 pm.

      “… meeting’ with reality…” Great summary, Jim.

      In this situation I’m afraid that “reality” is in the eye of the beholder. I wish the musicians well. Like all of us, they should play/work wherever they can grow professionally and be compensated accordingly. Apparently the Twin Cities community is unable or unwilling to meet the price. But we will have classical music performed by capable musicians.

    • Submitted by Daniel Freese on 10/01/2013 - 02:31 pm.

      You are a management shill!

      Your commentary completely misses the point of having a “World Class Organization”. When a performer strives to be the “Best In the World” they make life long sacrifices to achieve this elite status. Your comments and management tactics proves you/they do not understand that achieving this level of perfection clearly goes beyond “loving your job”.
      What these best of the best performers do is not just a job. These people live their art. They and their families make tremendous sacrifices to achieve the level of World Class status! It shocks me that both you and management do not comprehend or appreciate what efforts define “best in the world”.
      The “take it or leave it” attitude exhibited by your commentary and the management’s tactics marks the death knell of the Minnesota Orchestra. By forcing inferior pay on these musicians, the management cannot expect continued superior performance. The quality of the product declines, patron support will decline causing the revenue to decline “forcing” management to demand further cuts in compensation leading to further declines in quality to further decline in revenues to demands for wage concessions until the Minnesota Orchestra is a group of rank amateurs gathering in a park to perform for their “love of music”. We see this cycle born out in the real world. Why would anyone believe otherwise?
      Frankly, I am shocked that the public cannot see this coming.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/01/2013 - 03:45 pm.


      We will have a pretty good orchestra here in Lake Woebegone.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/01/2013 - 12:18 pm.


    If we are unable to, or refuse to, finance it, greatness for the Minnesota Orchestra is pretty much out of reach. No one on any side of this dispute has offered to explain how we can run a first class orchestra with a second class revenue, one big reason why negotiations have never gone anywhere.

    I compare this situation with that of the Vikings. The Minnesota Vikings had the same problem as the orchestra. Their revenues and costs were out of whack. The solution for the Vikings was simple and obvious. We wrote the Vikings a check disguised as a stadium. Exactly the same solution is possible for the Vikings. Indeed, we can keep a top flight orchestra here with a much smaller check which for a lot of reasons, would have a far more beneficial effect on the community. We simply, out of a blind failure to understand the nature of the problem, have denied ourselves of the opportunity to resolve this dispute, the result being the loss of an enormously valuable community asset.

    • Submitted by Amy Adams on 10/01/2013 - 02:09 pm.

      Enough with this, please.

      “Hiram”…on a heartbreaking day for the musicians, allow me to respond: The premise that there is only “second class revenue” now, or ever, for this organization is specious. The MOA’s revenue numbers are slippery, pessimistic and self-serving, hence the dispute with the musicians, who only want verifiable data before they decide. The MOA has stonewalled, which is a disgusting thing for a banker-led board to do.

      You do no service trying to write your big novel here, though if the Minnpost pattern continues, you will respond on this article at least two or three times more.

  8. Submitted by Walter Anastazievsky on 10/01/2013 - 12:23 pm.


    It looks as though 26 of the 95 members of the MN Orchestra have left. Now that Osmo Vanska has resigned, it’s likely that more will leave. If and when the conflict finally ends, there is no way the orchestra will be on the same artistic level that it was before management and the board locked the musicians out.

    Will it be affordable? What if the diminished orchestra won’t be able to charge as much for tickets, and has trouble filling the seats in Orchestra Hall? That seems like a possibility, given the level of resentment that many concertgoers have expressed. So we may end up with a lesser orchestra that still won’t be financially viable.

  9. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 10/01/2013 - 12:53 pm.


    Just heartbreaking. And the SPCO as well.

  10. Submitted by Rod Loper on 10/01/2013 - 12:56 pm.

    Why not State Legacy Money for the players?

    Seems our politicians ponied up real nicely for a second rate football team to make expenses and enrich a crook but are letting a world class Minnesota treasure disappear. Arne Carlson writes about this elsewhere in these pages.

    • Submitted by frank watson on 10/01/2013 - 04:35 pm.

      Legacy Funds

      I think it would be hard to justify using Legacy funds for people who make $100,000, have 10 weeks of vacation plus several other benefits because they feel they are underpaid. They average WNBA, MN Lynx, makes $72,000. Should we use Legacy Funds because they don’t make as much as their NBA counterparts?

  11. Submitted by Don Berryman on 10/01/2013 - 01:04 pm.

    Musicians did not stike


    The musicians did not go on strike, they were locked out by management. A cold, calculated union-busting move.

  12. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 10/01/2013 - 01:06 pm.

    We are most likely done

    After 15 years of great concerts with MO, we are probably moving on because of this inability to come to terms. Sadly, both sides failed to realize the audience is also a player in this negotiation, and we can register our differences with moving over the river for our dose of classical.

    I am not as concerned with the demise of the orchestra, they will hire a new conductor, hire new musicians to fill the place of those who left, and the new hall will shine for those attending concerts, but we won’t be in attendance.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/01/2013 - 01:08 pm.


    With the sports metaphors running rampant, I thought I would try one of my own. In the Premier League, in Britain, the top three teams in the league below are moved up, and the bottom three teams are moved down. This is called promotion and relegation. It’s as if with the hiring of Vanska, the Minnesota Orchestra moved up to the Premier League, but because of lack of revenues, couldn’t sustain that position. So they are being relegated, and as with soccer, that means the top players in the relegated orchestra are going to find jobs as elsewhere if they can.

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/01/2013 - 01:17 pm.

    “The state and local government can use the power of eminent domain to seize Orchestra Hall and lease it out to a new group, say the Minnesota Cooperative Symphony Orchestra, who will gather what is left of classical musicians in town and play us some damn good music again.”

    Orchestra Hall is worthless, because it’s a single use building not being used. Like the Target Center, Twins Stadium, Gopher Stadium, and the Vikings Stadium when it comes online, it is nothing other than a money pit for whoever opens it. That’s why nobody in the private sector ever wants to build these things.

    To repeat, it’s the board that provides the money. Get rid of the board, and you get rid of the money, and the Minnesota Orchestra members seem unwilling to play for free. Granted, the board hasn’t done enough to maintain the world class status of the orchestra but I say that with some hesitation as someone as someone who has done hardly anything at all. If you want to maintain the orchestra’s first class status, call your legislators and tell them so. Tell them the orchestra is a far better deal for the people of Minnesota than a Vikings Stadium used 8 times a year.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/01/2013 - 02:15 pm.

      “The board provides the money”

      No. The board raises the money, and decides how it is spent. The money comes in because of the efforts and talents of the musicians. No one goes to hear the MO perform because of the board, and no one gives money because they think the board is such a swell gang.

  15. Submitted by jody rooney on 10/01/2013 - 01:19 pm.

    Frankly this is the orchestra

    these folks deserve. There’s money and then there is class it is clear which one the orchestra management has. It is a pity one would have hoped they would have both.

    I suggest a boycott of the businesses of the board members.

    My apologies to the musicians whose ties to the community make it too difficult to leave. You have my sympathies.

  16. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/01/2013 - 01:30 pm.


    I suggest a boycott of the businesses of the board members.

    I have to say, this sort of thing bothers me. The problems the orchestra is facing are not caused by the board members. The board members are good people who signed on to help the orchestra mostly by raising money. It’s a thankless task performed by dedicated, community spirited people who should at all times be applauded. It just so happens that the orchestra business model, neverv robust in it’s heyday, is no longer viable in the age of itunes, and while that’s not anyone’s fault, it’s a fact that every stakeholder in the orchestra is affected by.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/01/2013 - 03:32 pm.

      Mr. Foster, please explain…

      ….how could the Good People of the Board, faced with a “failing business model”, then go out and spend $50 million on renovations? If what you claim is true, then “applause” is the last thing they deserve.

  17. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/01/2013 - 02:00 pm.


    My apologies to the musicians whose ties to the community make it too difficult to leave.

    The musicians can always leave, the orchestra can’t. This basic and obvious fact has an asymmetric impact on negotiations. The musicians can take the risk of an aggressive settlement, one that makes assumptions about future revenues that are speculative, in that if the orchestra fails, the musicians can always go elsewhere. The orchestra can’t.

    Management is bound by any deal, in ways that their negotiating partners, the players, are not.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/01/2013 - 03:55 pm.

      Well, sort of

      The Albuquerque Symphony went through similar problems (most orchestras have) and moved from a traditional home hall to rotating venues in its region (as if the MSO played in Duluth, Sioux Falls and DesMoines as well as Minneapolis. I can even remember a time when it showed up here in Mankato.

  18. Submitted by Carol Logie on 10/01/2013 - 02:59 pm.

    So sick of the salary argument

    If I hear one more person say “I would be happy to show up for $104,000″….. this is not an apples to apples argument, people. Highly trained professionals in highly specialized fields make more than you do… and why? Because they sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into their education and their equipment. And most regular Joes don’t.

    The question is, would you be happy if your boss came in after sinking (squandering) millions of dollars on your building and handed you a 30% pay cut? Meanwhile, all YOUR expenses are the same: your student loans, your equipment, your living expenses. I think the answer is no.

    No one goes into music to make a pile of cash, and no one in the present lineup makes even near what the failed CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra itself makes. If we must cut salaries to save the orchestra, that’s the one to cut: permanently.

    And lastly, if the musicians are just a bunch of money grubbing hacks, why have they hung around for a year, trying to keep the orchestra going on as it should? They stay because they were part of something great, something that has been slowly and willfully strangled by a visionless, nihilistic management.

    I hope they enjoy their pretty building.

    • Submitted by John Ferman on 10/01/2013 - 04:37 pm.

      So sick….

      It might also be said that great musicians are born not made. Only a few are blessed with talent.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/01/2013 - 07:20 pm.

      The classic comparison is:

      Would you go to a physician in the United States who made ‘only’ $100,000 a year?
      Primary care physicians make around $200,000; specialists several times as much.
      Admittedly musicians don’t save lives, but in terms of dedication and training they are comparable (few physicians start their medical training at age 4).

  19. Submitted by John Ferman on 10/01/2013 - 03:18 pm.

    Can there be a claw back

    Part of the orchestra hall refurbishment was paid for with Legacy funds. I heard the grant was some 14 million. Now orchestra management had to have made certain representations – basically obliterating the musicians must certainly refute those “cultural asset” representations. Should the State seek to clawback those dollars. It appears they were obtained by misrepresentations. What are orchestra hall ticket prices – now to listen to less than great performances, unless the remaining few players can perform magic.

    • Submitted by Duke Powell on 10/01/2013 - 06:08 pm.

      The Minnesota Legislature

      should step in to resolve this labor dispute.

      Given that the labor-friendly DFL controls everything, it would be appropriate for them to step into the fray.

      What they should do is dissolve the Board and turn everything over to the musicians. Let them run it. Since the performers have all the answers, and the majority of the posters here seem to agree with them, then it would be a masterful stroke for the DFL to practice what they preach.

      I’m sure it would all work out…..

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/01/2013 - 09:18 pm.

        Better yet….

        Better yet…

        Just have the DFL legislature unionize the board.


        Just call the musicians –“educators.” That way they can get what they want.

  20. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 10/01/2013 - 05:34 pm.

    When big business muscle trumps arts and community.

    I’ll preface by saying that, even though I live walking distance from Orchestra Hall, I’ve now joined the SPCO as a concert member. Its a great package, and I’m looking forward to hearing excellent music again.

    But it is a sad consolation. I mean, I’m thrilled that the SPCO is here, and playing, and attracting new patrons like me. But Minneapolis should have – and did have – a world-class symphonic orchestra. That’s been tossed away in a hard-headed, heard-hearted lockout that this city and this arts community did not want or need.

    Ego rarely solves things, and the lockout strategy was all about ego and power. It might work for MBA-style industrial “relations” like a sugar beet factory, but producing top-notch music is not like milling sweetener in a huge factory. But somehow management and the board felt they could use big business, tough-guy tactics coupled with what I guess they thought was a throw-away season at the Convention Center.

    They played their hand dead wrong, I think, and all of us as patrons and arts lovers lost.

  21. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/01/2013 - 06:51 pm.

    Philistinism lives

    Did Michael Henson really say that the Minnesota Orchestra “could find a conductor of great stature to replace” Osmo Vanska?

    Comments like that, or “one musician is as good as the next” or “you’ve seen one Van Gogh, you’ve seen them all” reveal to me what used to be called “Philistinism” and satirized by Sinclair Lewis in “Babbitt.” There’s been an outbreak of this in recent years even as the 1% who used to support these things gets richer. I suppose if this disease can break out in Philadelphia, where the powers that be there took the venerable orchestra of that town into bankruptcy, it can happen here in Zenith too.

    I wonder if these people on the Board really have any grasp of what they’re dealing with? I only heard recently that the “work rules” demanded by the Board was handing over artistic control to them. And a Board member who doesn’t even care for classical music? These things tell me that the Board not only did not share Osmo’s vision for the orchestra, they had no conception of what this entailed and “my gosh, look at the cost”!

    I’m inclined to believe their end game was to force Osmo to resign so they wouldn’t have to breach his contract or buy him out. They must think”: “If this also costs the orchestra some of its most talented musicians, well, you can’t make an omelet with breaking a few eggs so they say. We’ll just hire a few replacements and the hoi polloi will never notice the difference.”

  22. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 10/01/2013 - 07:28 pm.

    I am so sick of hearing the phrase “World Class”.

    Hey, I’m a world class technician. If my boss cuts my pay 25% I’m in trouble but that is his right just like it would be my right to quit. Someone above said we’ve had a “world class orchestra” for the last 15 years like this orchestra wasn’t around for decades before that serving the state. And why is it a given that Minneapolis, probably not even one of the top ten population centers in the United States should have an orchestra with a top ten pay grade? Weren’t you people listening to this group before all mighty Osmo came along? During this rant I just want to say I think Davis and the board are jerks, but they are the boss. My company can’t run without all the workers but we aren’t driven by thinking we are so special, so “world class”. And the audience who also think they are world class, that only Osmo, that only a “world class” orchestra is worthy of their attention. It sucks, what happened and the abrupt, dictatorial lockout, but the egos and the whining and the refusal to take any responsibility or acknowledge that the other side might have just some justification just looks bad.

    • Submitted by Amy Adams on 10/02/2013 - 11:38 am.

      Bill, you’re world-class, too? Really?

      Did you begin studying for your profession as a child? Did you apply to and audition for all the best schools? Did you get in? If not, did you keep trying? Did you win your job against hundreds of others also applying for it, and do you get public reviews of your performance? Did you win tenure?
      Has any notable critic of your profession called you world-class?

  23. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 10/01/2013 - 10:37 pm.

    Reading this comments

    and knowing what I know about the board I can say with 100% certainty, that Conservatives know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  24. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/02/2013 - 07:37 am.


    I do get a kick out of metaphors, how people use them and the risks that they entail:

    “Zavadil compares the situation to that of the Miami baseball team. The city has a dazzling new ballpark, built with public money. But attendance has been poor and ownership of the team slashed payroll for financial sustainability. The team played poorly — even worse than our Twins — and attendance continues to fall.”

    The problem the orchestra shares with the Miami baseball team is that they don’t have a large enough audience to pay the bills. In each case, the problem isn’t with the quality of what’s being put forward, Miami has won two world championships in recent years, and the Minnesota Orchestra is well liked by “The New Yorker”. I am not sure what the problem is exactly, except that not enough people want to buy what the Marlins and the Minnesota Orchestra have to sell.

  25. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/02/2013 - 07:58 am.

    “I’m inclined to believe their end game was to force Osmo to resign so they wouldn’t have to breach his contract or buy him out.”

    Vanska-wise, I think they were surprised that he took the position that he did, but upon consideration, management reached the conclusion that his departure was a part of the price they were willing to pay. I think they suspected that Vanska wasn’t going to be here for very much longer no matter what they did, and that it didn’t make sense to jeopardize the long term financial prospects of the Orchestra, in order to keep Vanska here in the short term. For Vanska, the point of the Carnegie Hall appearances was to showcase his orchestra and his skill to raise his profile when the next big job opening occurs. Losing that opportunity coupled with the fact that even if the orchestra does reach a settlement at some point in the future, it faces a long term rebuilding phase, and I just don’t think that interests Vanska at this stage in his career.

  26. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/02/2013 - 11:41 am.

    I predict shrinking attendance and revenue

    let’s face it, Classical music isn’t the most popular music on the planet. I say that while listening to Mozart, by the way… really.

    You had three draws before the lock-out:

    1) An established core of support, i.e. those that already go to concerts and supported the Orchestra.

    2) Bragging rights, the promise of world class performances to bring NEW people into the concerts.

    3) The actual existence of a world class Orchestra that attracted numbers one and two.

    We now have an Orchestra that hasn’t played an official concert in over a year, you can’t attract patrons without concerts. It looks like one quarter of the Orchestra is gone, as well as it’s conductor, and you just opened a $50 million renovation WITHOUT ANY MUSIC. The publicity rancor, and spectacle of this lock-out can only hurt the image and attractiveness of the Orchestra. People who like to listen to the Orchestra have not been able to do so for over a year, and new people who might have given it a try have found something else to do.

    Basically management has demolished the three legs that used to support the Orchestra with this lock-out. This episode will drive existing patrons away, and keep new listeners from engaging.

    Hiram may be right about some of the economic problems but this was the same typical short sighted uninspired US corporate response to financial issues that has driven soooo many enterprises out of business in the last decade. The Orchestra may survive this kamakazee board maneuver but attendance will not recover, and it’s unlikely to expand so your $50 million dollar renovation will open to smaller audiences and less revenue. It’s called a death spiral.

    The problem with the sport analogies is that this isn’t sports. People are not going to buy tickets just be in the Orchestra Hall, they will only come to hear the music. The decision to put the money into the building instead of the music was simply stupid, but soooooo typical in terms of American corporate mentalities.

  27. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/02/2013 - 12:25 pm.

    Classical music

    It’s true that the orchestra has never been able to make enough to pay the bills through ticket sales to pay the bills, but they were not alone with that. The Twins, the Vikings, even the hapless football Gophers could never sell enough tickets to make them financially viable in Minnesota. The orchestra doesn’t differ from the sports teams in their need for public subsidies. Where the orchestra does differ from the sports teams is that they didn’t understand their need for public subsidies, and as a result, failed to put together the kind of effort that would have secured them. Where management failed was in their inability to perceive the nature of their problem, and as a result, a failure to discern the obvious solution.

    I think the analogy to sports works well even to the point that they aren’t really analogies. The orchestra and the sports teams are in essentially the same business. The orchestra management’s inability to understand that and consequently their failure to learn from the sport’s teams’ experience tells us most of what we need to know about how things went so dreadfully wrong.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/02/2013 - 08:29 pm.

      Well “yes” and “no”

      The Orchestra is NOT a privately owned Franchise like the sports teams are. The Orchestra is a quasi public institution. None of the teams ever really pleaded financial distress and in fact all were making money, just not as much as the owners wanted. Ticket sales are not the teams only source of revenue. My understanding with the Orchestra is that MGMT actually says the orchestra was actually running out of money. Athletes are not comparable to these musicians. It is all entertainment but very very different venues.

      Maybe the board would have had better luck seeking an outright public subsidy, but I think the just killed their chances for the any future subsidies.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/03/2013 - 05:47 am.


        I have no idea who owns the orchestra. I am pretty sure I haven’t received any dividend checks from them recently. As with other business entities, the orchestra has a product to sell and that product has a price. What it always comes down to is, do I want the product, and if so am I willing to pay the price they are asking for it?

        The internal finances of companies don’t matter to the public except to the extent they affect the product they sell to the public and the price at which they are willing to sell it. The price for a Mercedes starts at 29000 dollars. The price for keeping the Vikings here was a stadium. Do you want the car? Do you want the Vikings? Then you have to pay the respective prices. If not, they will sell their products to someone else if they can.

        Athletes are exactly like musicians. They are both talented sets of people at the top of their professions who perform before the public for pay. The venues are similar in all relevant respects. Tickets are necessary to get in. Seats are provided. Food and beverages are provided. Performances inside the buildings take place.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/03/2013 - 09:31 am.

          Well, yes and no again…

          You DO know that the Orchestra is NOT a privately owned franchise. Near as I can tell it’s a non-profit entity. As far as products and prices are concerned you may as well compare it to Dairy Queen, why sports?

          The difference between a non-profit that is facing an existential financial crises and a privately owned franchise that’s not meeting it’s owners investment target is obvious and significant in most peoples minds. Public subsidies for a symphony enriches the community by preserving live performances of classical music, an art form that has existed for hundreds of years. Public subsidies of professional sports primarily benefit the team owners and players by increasing revenue capability that is captured by the owners and players. These games in most cases have existed for less 150 years.

          We should also stop pretending that huge sports subsidies are the product of some kind of rational cost benefit analysis. They are the product of corrupted political systems that grant billions of public dollare DESPITE a lack of public support, not because of it. By no rational comparison can the public be said to be “buying” sports franchises the way they buy cars.

          Here’s the difference between a classical musician and an athlete: Athletes are talented players but you can take any group of able bodied human beings and play the games that they play within 15 minutes. I think I played my first football game when I was six years old. I’ve played football, baseball, wiffle ball, and basket ball with as few a two players, and then there’s tennis, golf, soccar, etc. I cannot play a piano or a violin. Anyone who can skate can play hockey, and thousands of people ride bikes and jog every day. Ordinary people are not as elegant, but ordinary people can do what athletes do. Not so with Orchestra’s. You cannot grab 50 people off the street, give them some instruments, and hear them playing Beethoven’s 5th within 15 minutes.

          I’m not saying that Orchestra’s deserve public subsidies, I’m just noting the considerable differences between Orchestra’s and sports franchises. Maybe a subsidy strategy would have worked, but if it had, the subsidy would have been a fraction of a fraction of the $2 billion we’ve dumped on sports franchises in the last decade or so.

          I think the financials of subsidized entities are relevant. In the sports franchise world owners can lie to legislators and the public and still get billions of dollars. The Pohlad’s for instance told the public their team was worth $160 million while telling the IRS it was worth $300 million. Such funny business is nearly impossible in the non-profit world, as many of the local health care providers recently discovered. Any attempt to grant a subsidy to the Orchestra would hinge on the credibility of their claim that they actually need the money.

          What we had here was a typical corporate approach based on the current “trend” in branding. The idea is that whatever you’re selling is irrelevant as long as you get the packaging right. So they spent $50 million on the packaging thinking that they were re-branding the Orchestra. What they’ve actually done is pretty effectively destroyed the Orchestra’s brand much the way American auto makers trashed their brand. The board here seemed to realize that they couldn’t get a nicer hall for less money, but for some reason they think they can provide the same music for less money. What they got was a nice hall and no music. The auto makers got a huge subsidy and started making better cars. Can this board make better music with less expensive musicians?

  28. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/02/2013 - 02:35 pm.

    Trumpet all you want about high quality orchestras in other…

    …cities, but they’ll never have what we have here:

    A BANKER’S Orchestra !!

    Under the new rules proposed by the Board, I understand these bankers would be sticking their noses into the artistic decision-making. Brilliant !! But they can go even further to save more money.

    Next up: Henson and Davis can pick up an instrument or two when needed, in case of a shortage of bodies.

    This Orchestra’s sound is going to need a washboard and kazoo anyway !!

  29. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 10/02/2013 - 04:15 pm.

    The corporate philistines have won. And we’ve all lost.

    We were within reach of things we usually don’t get to claim as our own, those of us who live in this part of the country. And now Minnesota is waltzing back to its Lake Wobegon roots.

    The corporate leaders on the MO board have achieved what their abjectness could only inevitably lead them to achieve: severely damaging the greatest cultural institution in the state of MN.

    Don’t we know better? Don’t we know that when corporate hustlers are granted any oversight of a cultural institution whose values, practices, history, and ideals–whose full significance–they don’t understand, we have a potential recipe for disaster?

    How easily our community has been suckered into the prevailing myth that the ability and desire to scratch, sniff and crawl up the corporate ladder is sufficient qualification for anything else.

    (The arrogance and self over-estimate of the top members of the board is nothing less than breathtaking in light of, as one commenter reminds us, the board wanting artistic control of the orchestra. It almost defies belief. Imagine…corporate execs having the slightest say in what music to choose, or harboring the delusion that they have some special insight into the present and future of classical music. The very thought is a joke. And there’s a board member who doesn’t even like classical music all that much? A farce.)

    To put it in the reductive and simplistic terms corporate leaders can understand, the musicians are the only cultural value adders here. Every corporate exec on the board is perfectly fungible, and essentially unnecessary. The opposite is true for the musicians. If we lose the third chair trumpet, we should all regret it. If we lose the CEO of US Bancorp, we either couldn’t care less or we would actually celebrate the occurrence.

    We let ourselves be fooled with an elementary fallacy – that expertise in finance and executive level achievement in large corporations is a sufficient qualification for advancing an arts organization, let alone culture.

    All too often it’s a disqualification.

    The man who spends his days thinking about derivatives and the bond market, is the man who typically wants more Disneys and fewer Schoenbergs. His natural inclination is more dinner theater, and more art on the wall like they have down the hall next to the accounting department. He wants expert classical musicians playing orchestral versions of Nickelback and Britney Spears; Debussy and an orchestral retrospective of disco hits–it’s all the same. He doesn’t want his orders questioned, he doesn’t tolerate disobedience from the help staff. He believes he’s earned his every privilege and expects compliance wherever he goes.

    Except that’s not how it works with this kind of institution, with art, or in this community.

    Musicians are not serfs to be ordered and controlled. Music itself can’t be encompassed within the familiar corporate frame of reference as “product.” Wildly overpaid top management does not benefit arts organizations. (How many thousands of tickets must be sold just to pay Henson?) Artistic values aren’t fostered by stacking boards with those who make a living by having killed off their own creativity and imagination, and who can’t imagine values beyond the instrumental.

    A “banker’s orchestra” indeed, with a $50 million bankers’ facelift to Orchestra Hall (not exactly an embarrassment of architectural design, just a confirmation of Midwest pedestrianism and the desiccated corporate mind), an attempted creation of a banker’s pool of clerks (musicians), and a desire to replace the full bouquet of classical music with a banker’s ‘product line’ of music.

    The current board, with a few exceptions, is inept. It needs to go.

  30. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/03/2013 - 05:57 am.


    “The corporate philistines have won.”

    Philistinism is not the problem here. InTfact, I think the situation might have been improved had one or two philistines who might have had the ability to see the situation more clearly might have helped matters. The problem is really that we had managers who were committed to old ways of thinking, who didn’t fully grasp that orchestras need new and innovative strategies to survive in an internet era. Orchestras are swept up in the same kinds of changes that are affecting so many other businesses these days, and sadly it seems many more businesses have failed rather than succeeded in responding to those changes. What happened to the Minnesota Orchestra isn’t the exception, it’s the rule. And as critical of the managers as I have been, I have no panaceas to offer myself, and the fact is, it’s quite possible that there is no viable strategy going forward, and that orchestras like the Minnesota Orchestra are headed down the path of the buggy whip.

  31. Submitted by Mark Carter on 10/03/2013 - 12:03 pm.

    Honor now demands the board’s resignation

    After afew days reflection since Osmo Vanska’s resignation, I feel he has dealt us a winning hand. The power has now shifted to the subscribers and audience. The Orchestra is locked out, some key musicians have left and we have no music director.

    Whatever one feels about the union and the musicians overplaying their hand, the fact is that the board are ultimately responsible for this catastrophe. Clearly everyone of the board members is honor bound to resign at this time. Their continuing presence heaps embarrassment on embarrassment to their organization and the state of Minnesota. I accept you attestation that some board members have worked to rectify the situation, however they have failed. They are now honor bound to resign. They need to go public and set the record straight and fully disclose their disagreements with the leadership. They also need to call on the leadership to resign.

    I’m really not concerned if they take their money with them. There is far too much unreliable soft money about, that is a root cause of ours and other orchestras problems.

    The Minnesota Orchestra was, and still can be very good, make no mistake. As I pen this I’m listening to a past concert recorded from the radio to my hard drive, of Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem. The best performance of it I ever heard.

    Fortunately most of the musicians are still here. I’m going to travel over 200 miles to hear them at Ted Mann this weekend and hope to find them still at the top of their game.

    So how do we hold the winning cards? We need to organize through SOS Minnesota and Orchestrate excellence. We need to all make a pledge we will not donate or attend any MO concerts while a single current board member remains on the board, and mean it.

    We need to support the musicians through this difficult time. We the paying audience, need to have the casting votes on a new board.

    The first item of business to get the remodeled Orchestra Hall resounding with music. The next step a thorough review of the governance structure, with a view to making the orchestra self governing.
    We have to close the gap between soft and hard money. The only feasible way to do that is through the harnessing of new technologies. The smart organizations are doing so, the Vienna opera just announced this week a streaming deal with Samsung. The smart musical arts organizations are busy making alliances.

    Speed is of the essence here as we have to move while we still have the musicians. Only the best will survive now, and this is the most serious aspect of this catastrophe. We have to rebuild the orchestra fast under new governance and support the musicians in the meantime. This board have demonstrated a total lack of vision and they are incapable of rectifying the destruction in my view.

    Our first step must be a drum beat to hound out all members of the current board.

    We need to join forces with SOS Minnesota and have all our members sign a pledge they will not donate funds or purchase any tickets as long as any of the current board remain at their posts.

    Classical music is not dead or dying. The BBC produced 75 Proms between July 12 and September 7. They say that the average on line attendance for each concert was 12 million world wide. My guess is that a lot of those were in Asia, especially Korea, that has the best Internet infrastructure in the world.

    This year through advances in Internet technology I was able to listen to all the Proms in HD audio and view the three Proms broadcast each week in HD video and audio. It was a wonderful season, with an audience of all ages, mainly young and every color of the rainbow. Nearly all were sell outs. The RAH holds over 6000 people. This has all been going on since 1895. Two world wars did not stop a single concert including the bombing and destruction of Queen’s Hall. They just moved to RAH and have been
    there since.

    The old model is dead. The New York Phil is 24 million behind in pension obligations and still loosing a million a year. This week, all musicians in Germany struck for a day because of declining reimbursement. The BPO did not. They are leading the way in Internet audience building and I’m a season ticket subscriber. Germany is about the only place in Europe with largely salaried musicians. The rest are going freelance fast. The London Philharmonic is now freelance. This freelance trend is not all bad. It has made for a much more exciting if chaotic scene. Musicians are learning new and old instruments and appearing with lots of different groups, with lots of new ones appearing all the time.

    So yes, we need a new board. I have lots of experience on board, with bigger budgets than the MOA. I also have the ability to go about capturing a world wide audience. For the latter, I need an orchestra at the top of their game.

    If needs be, I am prepared to be part of an interim board. I have lots of ideas as to how to go about this and add high paying jobs to the Minnesota economy.

    Now is the time for strong concerted action, or all will be lost, of that I’m certain. All parties here and else where are bankrupt of ideas and how to restructure their organizations. It is long past the time for unseemly hand wringing.

  32. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/04/2013 - 10:43 am.


    “You DO know that the Orchestra is NOT a privately owned franchise.”

    I don’t know who, if anyone, owns the orchestra. I don’t know why it matters. I don’t know who owns the local 7-11 I shop at either.

    “As far as products and prices are concerned you may as well compare it to Dairy Queen, why sports?”

    Because both conduct public performances by talented people to which they sell tickets. But one could make an analogy to Dairy Queen too. Business is business, and it always comes down to having a product that people want to buy at a price the business is willing to sell. Baseball, Mahler’s Ninth, a DQ Blizzard, all of these things are products that someone wants to sell.

    “The difference between a non-profit that is facing an existential financial crises and a privately owned franchise that’s not meeting it’s owners investment target is obvious and significant in most peoples minds.”

    The difference between profit and non-profits is formalistic and hardly ever relevant. People earn their livings working for the orchestra just like they do working for Target. If either can’t sell what they have to sell at an adequate price, both will go out of business.

    “We should also stop pretending that huge sports subsidies are the product of some kind of rational cost benefit analysis.”

    I, for one, never do that. The outcome of cost benefit analyses is always determined by what is determined to be a cost and what is determined to be a benefit. And no on ever agrees on that.

    “Here’s the difference between a classical musician and an athlete”

    They are different in lots of ways. What matters is the way they are the same, they both perform in public for pay, at venues in which tickets are sold. The business model for each is exactly the same.

    “I think the financials of subsidized entities are relevant.”

    I don’t. When I go to Target, I don’t take their annual report with me as an aid to determine how much their profit margin might be on a tube of toothpaste. Target has a product to sell me. I can either choose to buy it, or not. I don’t know the markup and I don’t care.

    ” The idea is that whatever you’re selling is irrelevant as long as you get the packaging right.”

    The argument could be made that it was a mistake to put money in the hall, but in any event that’s a done thing.. Vikings and Twins Stadiums are built not to look pretty but because franchise owners want to sell a certain product to certain customer, that is luxury boxes to corporate clients. Unfortunately that model doesn’t work as well with orchestra halls.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/04/2013 - 05:33 pm.

      Close but no cigar

      Never say “die” Hiram! Nice attempt at deflection, but a little thin in some places. The only one I want to comment on is the Target shopping gambit. If you were a Target employee being asked to take a 18% or so pay cut you would probably be a little more interested in their financials. Likewise, if Target were asking for public subsidy or claiming financial hardship financial’s become relevant. When the board uses the Orchestra’s financial condition as an excuse to lock-out the musicians, the put financials on the table, it’s that simple.

  33. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/04/2013 - 01:10 pm.

    “The power has now shifted to the subscribers and audience.”

    If you want power, put some money on the table.

    I think it’s important to understand what the board does. The Minnesota Orchestra has a large board, but few members of the board have any impact on management decisions. What board members contribute for the most part, is money. Board members are expected to personally contribute or use their influence with whomever to raise money. Getting rid of the board is figuratively getting rid of the goose, because you disappointed with the number of gold eggs she produces. I expect most board members are going though a period of anguish and helplessness right about now. They feel they should be doing something but they can’t. And they are taking heat, totally unjustified, IMO, from the community. What’s happening to the orchestra isn’t there fault, it isn’t anyone’s fault really. It’s the result of larger trends in the economy, that not many people have found ways to overcome.

  34. Submitted by Joseph Smith on 10/04/2013 - 09:05 pm.

    What’s left to save…?!

    All of this seems a little remindful of the words supposedly uttered by a U.S. Army major during a battle in the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village to save it.”

    What’s left to save?


    Are you kidding me? What an asinine question and proposition. An orchestral job that pays over $100,000 per year is an institution that will have no problem being saved, nor any problems attracting high level musicians. Different ones, yes. But there isn’t exactly an abundance of well-paying orchestral jobs these days.

    I am in no way supporting the board or the way things were handled on both sides, but really? Even comparing this situation to the sentiments held by an armed-forces major during a battle in the Vitenam war is absolute nonsense. This is an orchestra–an arts institution. Not a matter of life or death on the battlefield.

  35. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/05/2013 - 05:45 am.

    “If you were a Target employee being asked to take a 18% or so pay cut you would probably be a little more interested in their financials”.

    The financials can be part of the argument but they don’t have to be. The Wilfs were pretty careful not to plead poverty, because they knew if they did, they would have to produce the books. The orchestra is pleading poverty and they have produced the books, just not to the musicians’ satisfaction.

    If Target wanted to cut the wages of their staff, they would simply do it. They might offer some sort of rationale, but then again they might not. They would certainly not be under any obligation to produce the books. Any employee who didn’t like it, is free to pursue employment elsewhere, as are the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

  36. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/05/2013 - 05:52 am.

    Losing money

    In the Minnesota Orchestra dispute, the claim is that the orchestra is losing money, and I believe management has produced reports showing that. Orchestra members haven’t been satisfied with what they have been shown, but in this case I don’t think any amount of disclosure would have satisfied them. Employers have to pay a market wage to hire and retain employees, and if they can’t do that, their employees will go elsewhere, no matter what the financial state of the employer is.

    In the Target example, if the employee who got an 18% cut at Target, can get a better job elsewhere, he will take it. It couldn’t matter less, what rationale Target offered for the cut, that Target was willing to provide financial information supporting that rationalization.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/05/2013 - 01:05 pm.

      Deflections are gettig pretty thin…

      “In the Target example, if the employee who got an 18% cut at Target, can get a better job elsewhere, he will take it.”

      That’s a big “if” in a slow economy and it ignores workers rights to collectively bargain if they’ve unionized. The board is refusing mediation, why?

      My understanding it that this same board was deliberately cooking books in order to qualify for $14 million. I don’t know why we should now accept their financial declarations at face value. The musicians have offered to go to mediation, and they previously offered to take a million dollar hit in their payroll, doesn’t sound like they’re impervious to evidence or reality to me. And remember, this is a lock-out, not a strike.

  37. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/05/2013 - 04:34 pm.

    No one is under the slightest obligation to believe management. But management will make decisions based on what they believe, and they seem to believe the orchestra cannot continue under the current financial structure, and they will act according to that belief.

    Mediation is a non starter where existential issues are concerned. Management will not delegate decisions it feels are critical to the future of the orchestra to a third party nor should they. Remember management has to live with any deal that’s ultimately made; labor does not.

  38. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/05/2013 - 05:13 pm.

    I don’t know why we should

    I don’t know why we should now accept their financial declarations at face value.

    There is no reason why you should. And it’s certainly ok not to subsidize the orchestra for that or any other reason you find persuasive. But subsidizing the orchestra is one way of ensuring that it will continue.

    The musicians aren’t the folks who messed up here. They have already taken one pay cut, and it’s possible under the right circumstances they might take another. It’s management which has failed to raise enough revenue to sustain the orchestra. Mr. Henson was brought here because it was believed he could build an audience. Well he hasn’t built enough of one for the orchestra to succeed financially. That said, the numbers are what they are, and looking forward, this management has made the decision that it will not go forward unless it makes solves or at least makes satisfactory progress in solving it’s financial problems.

    Nowhere is it written in stone that Minnesota has to have an orchestra. Other cities have lost their orchestras. New York, where a lot more money rattles around than we ever see around here, just lost the New York City Opera. It may well be case that when all the number of crunching is done, the conclusion will be reached that the orchestra isn’t willing to play at wages management is willing to play. If that happens, the Minnesota Orchestra will disappear, and life will go on.

  39. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2013 - 09:17 am.

    I’d like us to have an orchestra

    The problem is that the board has really mucked this up. What they needed was a excellent orchestra delivering wonderful concerts and nothing attracts support and patrons like a good orchestra performing entertaining concerts. They also needed good will and a controversy free public persona. They HAD all of that.

    So what do they do? They lock out the musicians, shut down the concerts, spend $50 million on renovations while claiming poverty and demanding pay cuts for the people actually producing the music everyone wants to listen to. They refuse to go to mediation, and refuse to compromise. Do they really need a 25% pay cut from the musicians or is this just typical union busting maneuvers?

    This has created the impression of an typical incompetent group of executives who assume they can climb into the black by cutting labor costs and breaking the union. The problem is that this is not a meat packing plant it’s an orchestra. A can off Spam is a can off Spam but music, especially classical music, is a different animal. The board has mangled the image of the orchestra, and created distrust and suspicion.

    If they need a public subsidy it should be relatively small one, which should make it doable. But I don’t think you can even begin to make the case for subsidies with this management. You have begin by replacing the people who created this mess. Then you have to make a clear case that you’re actually in financial trouble. Finally you have to the orchestra up and running, you have to get the musicians playing again. End the lock-out. Go to mediation, settle the labor dispute, or just accept the concessions the musicians have already offered.

    DON’T compare this to sports subsidies. Sports subsidies are unwarranted, unpopular, and unnecessary. The Vikings stadium is thus far a fiasco on several levels, the last you want to do is compare yourself to the Vikings or even the Twins. If you want to argue for a subsidy of some kind for the symphony, make the case for the symphony, don’t compare the symphony to the Vikings.

  40. Submitted by Konstanze Scheurer on 10/06/2013 - 11:34 pm.

    Shame on the MOA BOARD!!

    Please click on my hyperlink in the other post I am KOELNMUSIK.

    View same of many fotos I inherited by default and family fotos which date back to the 1800’s from our home city of Koeln, Germany.

    It is very personal and heart breaking to many who have suffered and continue to do so!

    I carry the archives by default, you will see a series of fotos at the bottom of my second post. The Internet is difficult here due to high winds and editing for me!

    Please excuse mis-spelled words or other things that occurred in the high winds here! 60 MPH – yet MN is under snow!!! Seattle drenching in rain! Good heavens!

    Everywhere seems to affected.

    The MUSIC of my life is silenced after 110 years of the BEST!. However, I spoke with a dear one today and they hold strong and they were even weeping on stage when Osmo was attempting to speak!

    In the most difficult times of our lives – think back historically ~ the Holocaust – the MUSIC played when the bombs fell in my home city of Koeln, Germany! When the Titanic sank, the band played! When 9-11 took place the MUSIC played worldwide !

    Thank you all never and far – this Continent, and of course Europe for the support of this Orchestra! When I was a child (in diapers); my father “Fritz” flew 45,000 miles all the way to India on the first and ONLY PEACE TOUR! The Orchestra was then The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra! The year 1957!

    Why silence MUSIC – it calms, heals, soothes the soul in our greatest time of grief and uncertainty!

    Please click on the link below and scroll as it is late, and never intended to write a story of this nature.


    Constance Scheurer
    On behalf of “The Scheurer’s of Koeln, Germany”

  41. Submitted by Konstanze Scheurer on 10/06/2013 - 11:56 pm.


    Huge distribution ~

    Sorry to make this not so personal, however, it is very personal and heart breaking to many who have suffered and continue to do so!

    I carry the archives by default, you will see a series of fotos at the bottom of my second post. The Internet is difficult here due to high winds and editing for me!

    Please excuse mis-spelled words or other things that occurred in the high winds here! 60 MPH – yet MN is under snow!!! Seattle drenching in rain! Good heavens!

    Everywhere seems to affected.

    The MUSIC of my life is silenced. However, I spoke with a dear one today and they hold strong and they were even weeping on stage when Osmo was attempting to speak!

    In the most difficult times of our lives – think back historically ~ the Holocaust – the MUSIC played when the bombs fell in my home city of Koeln, Germany! When the Titanic sank, the band played! When 9-11 took place the MUSIC played worldwide !

    Thank you all never and far – this Continent, and of course Europe for the support of this Orchestra! When I was a child (in diapers); my father “Fritz” flew 45,000 miles all the way to India on the first and ONLY PEACE TOUR! The Orchestra was then The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra! The year 1957!

    Why silence MUSIC – it calms, heals, soothes the soul in our greatest time of grief and uncertainty!

    Please click on the link below and scroll as it is late, and never intended to write a story of this nature.


    Constance Scheurer
    On behalf of “The Scheurer’s of Koeln, Germany”

  42. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/07/2013 - 07:37 am.


    I think the board has messed up. I hereby sentence them to Dear Abby’s punishment of of choice, thirty lashes with a wet noodle. But what’s next?

    An orchestra is a business like any other. What successful businesses do is sell a product at an adequate price. The Minnesota Orchestra has not been doing that which is why it is in the fix that it is in. Just like Spam, if they lose money they will go out of business.

    “Then you have to make a clear case that you’re actually in financial trouble. Finally you have to the orchestra up and running, you have to get the musicians playing again. End the lock-out. Go to mediation, settle the labor dispute, or just accept the concessions the musicians have already offered.”

    I think the orchestra has made a pretty clear case they are in financial trouble. In any event, we know they think that, and that they will act on that basis. If the musicians refuse to believe that, well they have to live with the consequences of that disbelief.

    Mediation is nice, and could result in the prevailing of cooler heads, but in this case, that hasn’t happened. George Mitchell was brought in, he made his proposals, they were rejected and that is that. Any management, faced with what it believes is an existential threat, should not delegate it’s managerial responsibilities to a third party.

    “DON’T compare this to sports subsidies.”

    Whether or not, we choose to compare them, the issues are virtually the same. And for some reason we were willing to give the Vikings a half billion dollars, where writing a much smaller check to make the Minnesota Orchestra’s problems go away doesn’t even seem to be on the table. The orchestra can’t afford the zillions of dollars the Vikings spent on lobbyists over the years but here is my modest proposal. Call up Zygi, and ask for all of his lobbying materials to be transmitted to the orchestra electronically. Pick out the ones that talk about the impact of the Viking on the economy, use a word program to substitute “Orchestra” for “Vikings” througout, and ship them off, as edited, to our legislators. We might find they are surprisingly effective.

  43. Submitted by Klas Bergman on 10/07/2013 - 02:17 pm.

    The Minnesota Orchestra

    The Silence of the Minnesota Orchestra is not the Minnesota Way!
    See “Random notes on America” at

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