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Orchestra Hall lease may let public officials apply pressure in long-running labor dispute

Photo by John Whiting
The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra played a concert at the Ted Mann under the baton of their 90-year-old conductor laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski last Friday.

There soon could be an opening for Minneapolis and state officials to become actively involved in the long-running labor dispute between the Minnesota Orchestral Association and locked out musicians.

Under terms of its lease with the city, which technically owns Orchestra Hall, the Orchestral Association is obligated to show by Dec. 1 that it has been — and will be — serving “the public interest of the City of Minneapolis to promote and provide for performing arts in the City.”

In a statement, the MOA said that it will file the required report, but all it would say on the subject is:

“The Minnesota Orchestral Association is planning to submit its report by Dec. 1 and we expect to be in compliance with the agreement.”

But given the ongoing lockout and the silence in the hall, how can the MOA meet the requirements of the lease?

Clearly, when $14 million in bonding money moved from the state, through City Hall, to the MOA to help finance the renovation of Orchestra Hall, the state and the city expected the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as other artistic groups, to be performing there.

The lease makes it clear that public money was awarded for “improving the cultural fabric of the State and region and promoting economic development and tourism.”

Lease could open door for changes

There are at least some who believe that this lease may be the crack in the door needed to move the current orchestra away from the Orchestral Association and form an entirely new management structure.

Lee A. Henderson, a music lover and local attorney, is among those who believe that it is time for the musicians to split from the MOA and form a new organization, which he has dubbed the Minnesota Symphony.

Others have made similar suggestions as the lockout has stretched on. But Henderson, who twice has written op-ed pieces for the Star Tribune, recently outlined a difficult but comprehensive approach to what would be needed to make a split from the current management structure possible.

Lee A. Henderson
Courtesy of Hessian & McKasyLee A. Henderson

Under Henderson’s plan, which he unveiled last week, the city, the state’s attorney general, musicians and the public all would be required to act.

In a conversation with MinnPost, Henderson said his own views have “evolved” in recent weeks. Earlier in the lockout, he said, he believed that the MOA and musicians could each compromise and come to an agreement.

But he no longer believes that the MOA “envisions a world-class orchestra.” A vision falling short of “world class’’ should be unacceptable to all, he said.

Although remedies are somewhat muddy in the lease, Henderson believes it is possible for the city to act aggressively and claim that the MOA is not fulfilling its obligations. Theoretically, that could result in Orchestra Hall being taken from MOA control and turned over to a new organization, such as the Minnesota Symphony.

Orchestra Hall ‘landlord’ reviewing options

At this point at least, the Minneapolis Planning and Economic Development Department, which acts as Orchestra Hall’s landlord, is reviewing matters. The department said in a statement regarding the lease:

“Although our folks are reviewing possible next steps, it’s too early to say what, if any, steps the city may need to take once we receive additional information from the Orchestral Association in December. It is the city’s hope that the Orchestral Association will resolve any outstanding issues and continue to run the facility. In December, the city will review the Orchestral Association’s report and look at options for moving forward depending on the situation at the time.”

It should be noted that Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges has been a strong supporter of the musicians both as a member of the City Council and during her mayoral campaign. Mayor R.T. Rybak, meanwhile, has pushed repeatedly for a settlement but hasn’t taken sides. MinnPost has asked both of them for comment on the lease issue.

If the city decided to act aggressively on the lease and if the new symphony organization would end up with the keys to Orchestra Hall, a major hurdle for Henderson’s proposed new orchestra would be cleared. The Minnesota Symphony then would have a beautiful hall in which to perform. (Currently, musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are performing on their own in various halls throughout the metro area.)

If a new organization is formed, Henderson believes that it would be possible for the state’s attorney general to move control of the MOA’s $140 million endowment to the new organization.

Efforts to get comment from the attorney general’s office were not successful.

Attorney general’s role appears limited

But it is true that the state does have considerable leverage in overseeing nonprofit organizations.

Certainly, Mike Hatch, the predecessor and mentor of current Attorney General Lori Swanson, was aggressive in his oversight of nonprofits.

His office, for example, uncovered lavish perks being given to board members and executives of Allina Health Care. Hatch responded swiftly. Board members were replaced, executives hurriedly left and were replaced by administrators who received Hatch’s stamp of approval.

But the key to his actions, Hatch said, were the actions of Allina officials, who had established billing practices that turned out to be illegal, presented each other with lavish gifts and hired consultants at outlandish wages.

Although Hatch said he has not followed the orchestra dispute closely, he isn’t sure that any key issues that would trigger a response from the attorney general have arisen.

“Generally, there needs to be an allegation of illegal conduct,” Hatch said. “In the case of the orchestra, I don’t believe there has been that sort of allegation.”

Henderson, however, believes the MOA might be running into breach-of-trust issues that could land the endowment issue into the courts.

But even if the courts get involved, Henderson believes it’s important to move forward with or without the endowment.

“Certainly, a new structure can be created without the existing endowment,” Henderson said in an email. “The question is really ‘What purpose does the endowment serve if the organization has no music director, no musicians, no concerts, etc.?”

Others in the community are adding pressure to the situation.

One organization, Save Our Symphony Minnesota, is holding an event Wednesday night to outline its review of MOA financial practices. (Save Our Symphony is seen as a pro-musician organization.) Presumably, the group will be attempting to say that the MOA has not been acting responsibly.

Henderson’s plan for new orchestra

Meantime, Henderson keeps pushing for a new structure for an old orchestra.

Here’s what he believes has to happen:

• “One or more” philanthropists need to step forward with major support.

• A CEO “of national stature” needs to be found who believes in “collaboration, not confrontation.”

• A music director — Henderson suggests Osmo Vänskä — needs to be hired.

• Musicians need to “commit to stay and rebuild the orchestra.” These musicians would need to accept a lower pay scale, but with the understanding that they’d be paid on a scale with other “world-class” musicians. In addition, they’d need to perform more often both in concerts at the Hall and throughout the community.

• “We the people” would have to be willing to pay higher ticket prices and make annual contributions. Financial support would need to come from a much broader base — as was the case in the orchestra’s history. 

“None of this is going to be easy,” Henderson said, “but it is worth the effort.”

Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/20/2013 - 10:31 am.

    1st step…

    Cancel the MOA lease, just cancel it. Then you’re left with a well endowed MOA that’s basically an orphan without a location or an orchestra. Seems to me it would then be MOA’s problem to figure out what to do with the $140 million, what are their options? Keep it and do what? Legally can an orchestra organization without an orchestra or a physical location even keep an endowment?

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/20/2013 - 10:35 am.

    Breaking laws

    Apparently MOA management has misled the public regarding their financial condition, maybe that’s illegal?

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/20/2013 - 10:39 am.

    Tonight at Open Book

    Finally, Save our Symphony will be discussing it’s findings regarding their investigation of MOA’s financials at Open Book tonight at 7:00

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/20/2013 - 11:27 am.

    Apparently MOA management has misled the public regarding their financial condition, maybe that’s illegal?

    How have they misled the public?

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/20/2013 - 11:39 am.

    The Hall

    There are all sorts of interesting issues surrounding the hall, but I think the bottom line in the short term is that if the Minnesota Orchestra Association doesn’t have an orchestra, they don’t need a hall in which an orchestra plays. The next, and maybe more pointed issue, is whether by not having concerts, the MOA is defaulting on financial and other obligations to the various owners of Orchestra Hall.

    The idea that control of the endowment fund might be taken away from the MOA is an interesting one. Without getting into the specifics of the legal issues, my question is how would a judge view such an attempt? Has there been a clear violation of the MOA’s fiduciary obligations? Has there been misconduct? Have the actions of management been unreasonable? If what we have here is simply a disagreement of opinion about how the orchestra should operate, I should think a judge would be very reluctant to intervene.

  6. Submitted by Gary Peterson on 11/20/2013 - 12:24 pm.

    Proceed with caution

    Whether – or if – the orchestra mess gets settled within the current corporate structure or something new, it will be easy for proponents of any outcome to overestimate the amount, sources, timing availability, and durability of new and existing philanthropy. Public officials should examine options but not act rashly, if at all.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/20/2013 - 01:22 pm.

    The building

    I don’t know how cancelling the lease on the building gets us anywhere. Presumably, the locked out orchestra would then be free to play there, but there doesn’t seem to be any shortages of venues around town for them to play in now. Indeed, the model of tying themselves down to an expensive to operate and somewhat inaccessible downtown building is an example of the perhaps old fashioned thinking that whatever orchestra management is in place after a settlement, should re-examine.

  8. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/20/2013 - 01:36 pm.

    An interesting thought…

    ” model of tying themselves down to an expensive to operate”

    Perhaps the members of the orchestra could form their own group and rent the Hall on a per performance basis?

    Mayor Hodges…

    Something for the MOA to think about. Perhaps they should rethink the lock-out before they get locked out.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/20/2013 - 02:12 pm.


    “Perhaps the members of the orchestra could form their own group and rent the Hall on a per performance basis?”

    Depends on how the numbers work. And nobody seems to be very free with the numbers. It would be helpful to know how the Orchestra pays for the use of the hall.

    My own operating assumption is that the orchestra loses money putting on concerts, the difference being made up by income from the endowment. If the orchestra were to reorganize itself as a new entity without an endowment, at least to start with, they would have to find a way to at least break even with the concerts. By performing concerts around town, they are at least giving the impression that they are doing that, but they aren’t saying that they are doing that.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/20/2013 - 03:45 pm.

      You are absolutely right

      I didn’t want to go into detail, but it does depend on how the numbers run, or how they are cooked, as the case may be.

      What I was driving at was that the City of Minneapolis might decide to indirectly subsidize the Minnorch – or whatever it is called – by charging a reasonable, or even subsidized, price for use of the hall until the orchestra gets back on its feet under new management.

      This should be interesting and I hope it contributes to bringing the MOA to its senses. Unfortunately I don’t think this likely given their track record.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/20/2013 - 09:37 pm.

      What’s been missing from the discussion so far

      is the financing of a major orchestra.
      Ticket sales are one part; endowment earnings a second, grants and other outside sources a third.
      The fourth is recording contracts.
      For this an orchestra must be clearly in the top ten nationally, if not world wide. You can’t do this with just competent musicians; you need top established musicians and an outstanding conductor. The Minnesota Orchestra has flirted with this status over the years, and appeared to be making another run at it.
      With the loss of their conductor and a number of top musicians, it is not clear that the musicians are capable of being a world class orchestra by themselves. They may be able to get gigs in various venues, but not at the salaries they commanded before. And I don’t think that they’d have the funding to play in Orchestra Hall without a recording contract.
      The only way out would be some sort of public support; I’m not sure that this is possible in these economic times.

      I’ll leave it to the lawyers and courts to decide whether the MOA has abused it’s legal responsibilities; I suspect that it would take years to sort it out in the courts, which would be a death knell.

      Cue the death march from Beethoven’s Seventh — the MSO as we knew it is dead.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/21/2013 - 06:13 am.


        Orchestras don’t record much anymore. In general, the costs of recording are too high, and the demand too low. Changes in the work rules might help with this but given the state of the recording industry generally, I don’t see much help coming from that direction. The Minnesota Orchestra’s recent Grammy nominated recording of Sibelius’ Symphonies 2 & 5 is priced at $21.97, on when you can get it, more than a season of “Breaking Bad” on DVD. Obviously they aren’t interested in selling very many Sibelius CD’s.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/20/2013 - 03:40 pm.

    Ending the lease

    I’m not a lawyer but I think canceling the lease for MOA renders the entity basically unviable. They would no longer have an orchestra or a physical location to perform concerts. Basically that could be a death sentence for the existing MOA because their charter as a non-profit would not longer be viable, at which point disposing of the endowment becomes an immediate concern, and possibly a matter for the AG. The existing management would be disposed of and the assets if any could be captured by the state. Furthermore as result of this process the financials of the orchestra would be rendered transparent thus making it possible to design a viable budget, i.e. one that pays the musicians and the rest of the bills.

    With transparent financials in hand, a fresh start without the current incompetent management, and an end to the lockout, we could make a successful pitch for whatever degree of public funding might be necessary and put that in place as part of the newly reconstitution orchestra.

    As long as the current MOA still holds the lease, I don’t see how you move forward.

  11. Submitted by Arthur Horowitz on 11/20/2013 - 05:19 pm.

    Other Venues

    Mr. Foster in his comments “Presumably, the locked out orchestra would then be free to play there (Orchestra Hall), but there doesn’t seem to be any shortages of venues around town for them to play in now. Indeed, the model of tying themselves down to an expensive to operate and somewhat inaccessible downtown building……”

    Where do you live Mr. Foster on Mars?

    1. Ted Mann Concert Hall at the U is really hard to get to. 2.Parking impossibly difficult and one must allow an extra half hour to get into their ramp if the hall is full.
    3. no restrooms to speak of.
    4. Only seats 1/2 of the number Orchestra Hall accommodates.

    Convention Center: Dreadful acoustics, Unpleasant seating access.

    Ordway: Smaller, no free dates a different city.

    St Kates O’shaunessy Auditorium- smaller, hard too get to.

    Orchestra Hall- quite easy to get to, loads of easily accessible parking, great acoustics(assuming the board didn’t screw that up too). Adequate and now hopefully vastly improved restroom facilities and possibly working coat lockers.

    I had thought the MOA owned Orchestra Hall, given their $50 million renovation (which included substantial public funds). In as much as they don’t own the building and they don’t own OUR orchestra (despite the feeling of many on the board that they do), it may be time for the City to cancel the MOA ‘s lease and take over Orchestra Hall’s management. They could then rent the hall to the musicians, and lease the hall back to a new and responsible orchestra management once it was formed.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/21/2013 - 06:29 am.

      Other places

      They might try high school auditoriums. But my point was that there are alternatives to Orchestra Hall, and that Orchestra Hall is no panacea for the orchestra. Personally, I don’t know why the city or whoever it is who owns the hall just doesn’t declare that the MOA is in substantial breach of the lease, terminate, and then offer the use of the hall to the lockout orchestra.

      I think the focus on the hall is misplaced. While I have often talked about the similarities between the Vikings situation and the orchestra’s, there are also differences, or at least the same factors play out differently. Stadiums are essential for the revenue models of the Vikings and Twins. The stadiums we build for them are virtual cash machines; and they exist for no other purpose. I think the owners of Orchestra Hall didn’t understand that. When they saw various other facilities around town being upgraded, they thought, why not us? In doing this, they made two rather large mistakes. First, they renovated their building without a focus on revenue increases. There are no luxury boxes at the hall, no signage seen on TV’s around the country ,and around the world. The naming rights are worthless for the same reasoning. Oh, suppose the bar space is a bit larger, and they might sell more whiskey sours at intermission, but by and large, in terms of revenue production, we might as well have dug a hole and buried the money we spent on renovation for all the good it does it, in terms of additional revenue. Second, and most amazingly, the labor contract was not tied up. It would never occurred to us to build the Twins Stadium, or the Vikings Stadium without securing long term commitments for the teams to play in them. For some unfathomable reason, this didn’t happen with the orchestra. We should never have agreed to put money in the building, without the assurance at least of a long term commitment for an orchestra to play there.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/21/2013 - 08:02 am.

    The boss

    I saw that a rally was conducted yesterday where the talk was the mismanagement of the orchestra. Whether the orchestra has been mismanaged or not is of course a disputable issue. I have no doubt that mistakes have been made and the orchestra could have been managed better, just as there are times when a member of the orchestra should have played a c sharp instead of a c natural. That said, what’s to be gained by explaining to management it’s many and grievous faults? Next time, when you are discussing your wages with your boss, I suggest you take the opportunity to explain to him or her, how badly your company has been managed in the past year, and how much more money they would have for raises, if they had followed a few simple suggestions you thought of but didn’t actually make. Then tell your manager, that it is really, really unfair that you are being compensated on the basis of how the company did, not how it could have done, had it been managed better. I would like to know how that turns out.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2013 - 10:09 am.

    Check it out…

    Hiram says:

    “Personally, I don’t know why the city or whoever it is who owns the hall just doesn’t declare that the MOA is in substantial breach of the lease, terminate, and then offer the use of the hall to the lockout orchestra.”

    We pretty much agree on something! Now let’s talk about some public funding to stabilize the revenue…

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/21/2013 - 10:31 am.

    Public subsidies

    Now let’s talk about some public funding to stabilize the revenue…

    I, personally, would have no problem with some sort of expanded public subsidy to the orchestra. After all, we gave a half billion dollars to the Vikings, an organization that was actually making tons of money in profits, an organization where we had nothing like the access to information, which we have had with the orchestra, and an organization that essentially run for the benefit of folks living outside the state, who more specifically, pay taxes elsewhere. I don’t have the numbers, and wouldn’t understand them if I did, but I have no doubt at all that the Minnesota Orchestra, dollar for dollar, is a far better investment that an entity which only performs eight Sundays a year..

    All that said, It’s just not in the cards politically. Management doesn’t see the issue that way. Neither does labor, for that matter, or they wouldn’t be conducting rallies making the point that management is totally ineffective, and even borderline corrupt. When asking for money, the orchestra has to come up with a good answer, the Vikings spent tens of millions of dollars deflecting over the course of many years: Why should I pay taxes to support millionaires?

  15. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/21/2013 - 10:45 am.

    One more thing

    I have talked a lot about how the Vikings and the orchestra have similar problems but what I haven’t said as much about is how they play out differently. Consider the planning of a season. The Vikings season management couldn’t be simpler. They play 16 games a year, and the league tells them who to play. It’s literally as simple as that. Planning an orchestra season, in contrast, is immensely complicated with all kinds of moving parts, and a high degree of unpredictably. They have to decide what reportoire to play, balancing commercial appeal with artistic aspirations, the “vision thing”. They have to decide which soloists and conductors to retain. First class orchestras require first class soloists, and they don’t come cheap. They have to decide how many performances to give. Word on the street is that at the rally there were complaints that the schedule had been shrunk. Well, when you lost money per performance, the incentive is indeed to shrink the schedule.

    These are only some of the issues the MOA has to face. They are complicated, and complications always invite second guessing, particularly from the vantage point of hindsight. Two things that it’s worthwhile noting about them are first, making those choices advantageously is vital the financial success, and secondly, they are not choices a pick up orchestra playing concerts around town have to make.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2013 - 11:59 am.

    Now were back to assuming that MGMTs view is all that matters

    Hiram, you always do this…

    You keep saying that managements perspective is all that matters when in fact management at this point is actually irrelevant. WHAT exactly has this management been “managing” for the last 14 months? They’ve virtually liquidated the MOA. The musicians have been having concerts, what has Henson been doing? What exactly did Henson do for $400k last year? Henson’s job is supposed to be managing an orchestra, instead he’s spent 14 months keeping the orchestra from playing any concerts.

    Now apparently the “board” as extensive as it may be, doesn’t care whether or not the orchestra actually plays any music, that fact renders them irrelevant as well.

    Why would we leave our orchestra in the hands of a board and an management team that don’t care whether or not the orchestra plays any music?

    Past incompetence predicts future incompetence, THAT’s why we have to recognize managements mistakes. Look, the revenue is trending down and this management team has had zero success in changing that. Even if they got the concessions they want from the union they’d barely break even for a while and end up back in the red again eventually. And their solution would be what? Have even fewer concerts? You understand the problem with having a board and a management team that don’t believe in concerts right?

    • Submitted by Amy Adams on 11/21/2013 - 06:07 pm.

      Took the words out of my mouth…

      Not only have they had zero success in changing the downward trend…the executive committee (or at the very least the Davis/Campbell/Henson troika) have likely been steering it that way. I seriously believe what is desired is a “competent” band, a non-threatening low-profile conductor (or series of conductors who never really join the community), and a bustling event-facility rental business. Shooting for the stars at the MOA…

      p.s. don’t worry too much about the person who styles himself/herself Hiram…this is someone who will apparently keep commenting regardless of what you say.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2013 - 12:17 pm.

    It’s actually simple, there’s a name for this…

    When you look at data and charts what you see is that MOA management has put the Orchestra into a “death spiral” They’ve cut the expenses that generate revenue which in turn decreases revenue which leads to further cuts and so it goes. Two things to keep in mind:

    1) No organization can survive with a management team that creates a death spiral, no matter what concessions they get from labor. The lock out has merely accelerated the spiral, the lock-out could not have saved the orchestra, and the labor concessions would merely slow the spiral, not reverse it.

    2) You don’t “cut” your way out of death spirals, you either “die” or reverse the trend and you cannot expect the same team that created the spiral will reverse the trend.

    Apparently this board and the management team are more concerned about killing the union than they are about keeping the orchestra alive. We have to ask after 14 months of no performances: Board of what? Management of what?

  18. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/21/2013 - 12:25 pm.

    WHAT exactly has this management been “managing” for the last 14 months?

    The lockout. That’s a question the board needs to ask itself. They need to decide what their goals are, and whether this management is capable of reaching those goals. But that’s between the board and management. Sadly, for the musicians, they have to negotiate with management, not the board. I don’t see how their attempts to get around management and negotiate directly with the board have gotten us anywhere at all.

    “Now apparently the “board” as extensive as it may be, doesn’t care whether or not the orchestra actually plays any music, that fact renders them irrelevant as well.”

    I actually think they do. I think they are more involved with and as distressed at the state of affairs as anyone. These are people who love the orchestra, and have committed time and money too it. Those aren’t the problems. The problem is, that they don’t know what to do. They have heard management’s side of things, and I can tell you, management’s side isn’t unpersuasive. The column dashed off by the board member published in the StarTribune was quite effective. And if they did decide to try to dislodge management, how exactly would they go about doing it? That requires lawyers and money, if not necessarily guns, and even if in the less than likely outcome they do manage to fire management, they would be left, not only with a locked out orchestra, but also without a management to deal with them.

    “Past incompetence predicts future incompetence,”

    I don’t know how these things work, but my guess is that once the dispute is settled, if it ever is, there will be a move within the board not to renew this manager’s contract. But until that contract expires, or until dissident elements of the board get their act together, I would say the MOA is pretty much stuck with this management.

    • Submitted by Michael Wunsch on 11/21/2013 - 06:45 pm.

      Henson’s contract

      Your comments relative to Henson’s future tenure at the MOA are highly disturbing. If I recall correctly, the board recently renewed Henson’s contract for what I believe was a new four-year term. If that is correct, that would mean that he would be the CEO through approximately 2017.

      Henson has presided over policies that, at a glance, appear rational but ultimately have been extraordinarily destructive:
      (1) Henson’s attempt to find the “optimal” number of concerts that maximize revenue on a per-concert basis is intellectually appealing, but it is of fleeting value. Ultimately, that means that you’ll have fewer people attending concerts overall, which reduces your donor base. This was one of the reasons why the New York City Opera ultimately went bankrupt: They sharply reduced the number of performances that they offered, which reduced the total number of tickets sold and thereby reduced their overall pool of potential donors.
      (2) Henson’s concerted effort to court big donors throughout the lockout would appear to be a smart move; after all, the big donors are very important to the organization. However, this effort has come at the extreme expense of the orchestra’s bigger pool of medium and small donors. Henson has cut off these smaller donors, denying them entry from his exclusive meetings with the big donors and even removing them from the Minnesota Orchestra’s e-mail and written communication lists (I know; I was abruptly cut off from the MOA’s mailing lists last March).
      (3) Henson’s adversarial approach to working with the musicians may appear to be a smart way to force concessions, but it is a highly risky strategy that has clearly backfired. It certainly isn’t the only way to achieve salary cuts; the Nashville Symphony obtained sharp concessions from its musicians this year with a collaborative approach based on trust and mutual understanding. His approach is truly tragic; even before the lockout, the work environment at the Minnesota Orchestra had become incredibly toxic under his leadership. It’s hard to believe that the Minnesota Orchestra was famous very recently for the shared vision and harmonious working relationship among the musicians, management, and board; this negative change in the work environment will make it difficult to hire the best conductors and musicians.

      Unfortunately, as long as Henson remains the CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra, I suspect that a settlement between the musicians and the MOA will be impossible. His thinking has created this crisis, and thus it is hard to believe that the crisis can be resolved under his leadership. I understand that removing him and hiring new management is difficult given the current situation, but there really is no other option.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2013 - 02:12 pm.


    Like I said it’s a death spiral. Anyone who’s been persuaded that this management has done anything other than kill the MOA, board member or not, hasn’t been paying attention. We’re fast reaching a point where events will be out of the board and management’s hands entirely. Meanwhile the musicians are still having concerts.

    As for the boards dilemma, I have to say again, this is supposed to be cream of our business community isn’t it? And yeah, the reason they can’t do anything with Henderson is he a CONTRACT. So it’s OK to break labor contracts but they’re stuck the CEO contract? This is the problem with the American executive class.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/21/2013 - 03:37 pm.

    this is supposed to be cream of our business community isn’t it?

    Not really. And even boards that are composed of the cream of the business community are ineffective. As for things getting out of hand, as I see it, one of the problems here is that management is under little pressure to settle. Apparently the lease imposes no financial pressure on them, there seems to be no rent going unpaid. If I have theorized correctly, the MOA loses money when they give concerts, so the fact that they aren’t is a big saving for them. They are simply pocketing the earnings from the endowment fund.

    Getting rid of management in these circumstances is a complicated thing. It involves hiring of lawyer and may involve very expensive legal actions which have very uncertain outcomes. Management isn’t stupid, and they are in a very strong position for a number of reasons. Who on the board is willing to invest ten, even hundreds of thousand of dollars of their own money, along with untold aggravation in order to oust this management, when the result if successful will be a bitterly divided board, without a management in place, with an orchestra still in crisis, and which by the way has not advanced one step toward an agreement with the musicians?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2013 - 06:41 pm.


      “If I have theorized correctly, the MOA loses money when they give concerts, so the fact that they aren’t is a big saving for them. They are simply pocketing the earnings from the endowment fund.”

      Too bad an endowment without an orchestra isn’t an orchestra, if it were you’d never have to have a concert at all and think of all the money you’d save! Sooner or later MOA has to explain what their doing with all their revenue, if they have no plans to put on concerts it’s going to be hard to explain why they call themselves the Minnesota Orchestra.

      No one has to hire a lawyer. Just cancel the lease, they’re not using the space. With no space and no musicians they are defunct entity. See what happens to their revenue when THAT happens. Now long can a defunct entity sit on an endowment? What happens to the endowments of defunct entities? Given the public financing can the city or state take over a defunct symphony?

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