Classical Music

Minnesota Orchestra Musicians: Let Them Play!

Last week I posted a lot of links about the Minnesota Orchestra in order to help myself better organize my thoughts about the entire situation, namely management’s seemingly never ending lockout of the orchestra musicians.

Minnesota Orchestra: Links

While, last week, I concentrated on articles, letters and blog entries posted about the lockout – as well as the site of the musicians themselves and the management (which is using the official website of the Minnesota Orchestra for its own message) I’ve since learned of one more – that of a website put together by patrons and donors who are trying to save their orchestra.

They have a very active facebook page as well.

The Minnesota Orchestra gave its inaugural performance back in 1903. This is an orchestra that is in its 2nd – yes, second – century of performing.

Only, it’s not performing, is it?

They’ve been locked out by a management that doesn’t want to start negotiating, or even sit at the same table, until the musicians agree to a ridiculously huge (about 35-40%) pay cut.  Heck, management even agreed to use former US Senator George Mitchell as a mediator, but then proffered up something to the musicians (which they rejected) outside of the mediation process. Of course, it’s my understanding that the folks in management are still collecting their pay checks. (I’ll be honest – I’m not 100% sure there, so if you’re reading this and know for sure one way or the other, please confirm that for me!)

I buy tickets to concerts.  I’m a season ticket holder to my orchestra here in central Ohio, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.  It’s a damn good orchestra and I happily pay my hard-earned money to hear the musicians perform and create amazingly good music.

I don’t pay to see management.  I pay to hear the musicians perform. I’ve only met 1-2 members of the CSO management team and they were quite friendly, but they’re not the ones I pay to see.  I want to pay to hear those who play an instrument or sing.  I’m lucky.  The Columbus Symphony Orchestra was locked out for only about six months back in 2008.  They’re still recovering from that lockout, sure.  It’s been a long road and there’s still plenty of recovering yet to do, especially in terms of ticket sales, reputation repair and general knowledge of their existence, but they’re going in the right direction and oh man – are they ever good! They’re also essentially the same orchestra (albeit a slightly smaller version) as what they were in 2008 when the lockout occurred. They still have the majority of the same musicians.

Minnesota has already lost nearly a quarter of its musicians.  This picture from their website depicts the already-lost musical brain drain. Here’s a link naming all the musicians who have resigned / moved on / retired.

cropped-Ghostcolor4And here’s a link I especially like.  It names all the orchestras around the world that have hired Minnesota Orchestra musicians to perform with them. Bravo to all of them for their support!

Musicians want to play.  Patrons want to hear them play.

Come on management.  Put your desire for leverage aside and LET THEM PLAY!

To the reader, if you’re interested to see how management has most recently responded, I invite you to check out Does This Qualify as False Advertising? on Mask of the Flower Prince by Scott Chamberlain.  Wow.  Just – wow.

Other Minnesota Orchestra blog posts from today’s cross-blog event (actual links to be added / corrected as they go live / are posted today)

The Minnesota Orchestra cross-blog event is a collection of more than a dozen bloggers, musicians, patrons, and administrators writing about the orchestra’s devastating work stoppage. You can find all of the contributions in the following list and the authors encourage everyone to participate by sharing, commenting, or publishing something at your own culture blog.

8 thoughts on “Minnesota Orchestra Musicians: Let Them Play!

  1. Not to minimize the horrible musical crime that is occurring in Minnesota, but I can’t help but think that all of this wouldn’t be happening if we (meaning the Columbus Symphony) hadn’t agreed to our own 40% pay cut back in 2008. After all we had the honor of being the first orchestra to accept such a draconian cut. I think managements in other orchestras (Detroit, and now Minnesota) saw how well that worked and said,”we’ve gotta try that!”

    • Sadly, I think it would still be happening. Austerity measures have been used in a variety of situations the last few years. If you weren’t an example, then there’s always Greece or other countries that have imposed harsh, austerity measures. Unfortunately such measures there haven’t always worked or been met with straight agreement. People have fought back there, too.

  2. I think you are correct that management’s priorities are skewed. This sort of thing always happens when the board and the staff forget what the product is that they are selling. They are not selling the patrons a beautiful hall where they can buy drinks at intermission or a really glossy brochure created by a crackerjack marketing director. They are selling the experience of music that you describe. Yet in Minnesota, they have a multimillion dollar hall with a gorgeous lobby renovation…..and no music playing in that hall. This is apparently because music matters less than carpet and chandeliers? I think this whole situation begs the question: what are patrons buying when they purchase tickets to the symphony?

    • I agree. Running a non-profit organization is a whole different ballgame than selling widgets around the globe. While Corporate America and the private sector have great ideas about marketing (seriously – orchestras are not great at marketing their products), they’re not so great about blindly imposing strict cuts and strict measures about costs / spending. It’s important, of course, but hard when you’re not selling “things”. You’re selling intangible art. It’s hard.

  3. Yes, that could be quite true, as the managements of organizations would be definitely looking for ways to make things ‘better’ by observing the efforts of other Symphony Organizations. I think it might be encouragement of a sort to see other organizations try something drastic, yet I felt this grew out of our own situation with the large wage increase and the economy faltering. I wonder what the books revealed about how well the management had responded to shifting economic fortunes before the contract expired. I don’t enough of that and wonder if it’s really been made publice at all with the recent looks. Not much seemed to be commented upon by any articles I had read that were in the newspapers.

    • I’m not local, so I can’t comment on what’s been reported up in the Twin Cities, but without their opening up their books for all to see, that’s probably something we’ll never know. What’s telling though, is that in one of today’s posts by Maestro Eddins, ( he printed a transcript of two long-time patrons who were making revisions to remove the Minnesota Orchestra from their wills. In that discussion they talked about how the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wasn’t writing about this whole dispute, but also that the Publisher / CEO of the Star-Tribune was also on the MOA Board. Conflict of interest?

  4. Links on your page are yellow, and they are EXTREMELY hard to read on a white background. Please consider either changing the color of your links or changing your white backgrounds.

    • Yikes! Thanks, Curt! Didn’t realize – but it’s fall now, so I’m due for a color change. These colors should be better – thanks so much for letting me know!
      – Heather

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