Breaking: Osmo Vanska quits Minnesota

Breaking: Osmo Vanska quits Minnesota


norman lebrecht

October 01, 2013

The music director of the Minnesota Orchestra has resigned. Here’s his statement. You read it here first. (We have been told he will say nothing more on the subject and is not available for interview.)


1 October 2013



Press statement from Osmo Vänskä 



Today I have given notice of my resignation as Music Director and Conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra Association, effective 1 October 2013.


It is a very sad day for me. Over ten years ago I was honoured to be invited to take up this position. I moved from Finland to the Twin Cities. At that time I made clear my belief that the Minnesota Orchestra could become one of the very greatest international ensembles. During the intervening years I have had the privilege of seeing that belief vindicated through the skill, hard work and commitment of this wonderful group of players and with the valued support of the Board of Directors, management and administration team, volunteers, as well as our exceptional community.


I send my deepest thanks to everyone involved for what we have achieved together and I wish the Minnesota Orchestra all the very best for its future.


Osmo Vänskä


UPDATE: See commentary here.

2nd UPDATE: Head of Composers Institute quits here.


  • Dave says:

    I understand leaving things on a positive note, but this vanilla statement is cowardice personified.

    • Margaret says:

      Unfortunately I have to agree. Anyone can see that Osmo was firmly on the side of the musicians. (See their current facebook profile photo of his presence at their Lake Harriet Band Shell concert). Wish the “orchestra builder” would have made a stronger statement.

      • Susan says:

        The man stated his position months ago and then acted on it without delay. Couldn’t be more eloquent.

        • Joel V. says:

          There is a Finnish proverb: “Actions speak louder than words”. That’s what he does: acts.

          • christinechastain says:

            Sisu…ten years of it and I’m sure there is more to come!

          • Erik says:

            Yep, there’s another saying, that an extroverted Finn is one who stares at your shoes while talking to you rather than his own.

            The act of resigning says far more than his words ever will.

    • Steven says:

      Be fair, Dave. If there’s one person who’s NOT to blame in this fiasco, it’s Osmo Vanska. One could make arguments for both the musicians’ and the management’s cases, but Osmo is NOT AT FAULT. He has no responsibility to publicly take a side now, nor would it help the situation. It might make you feel vindicated, but it wouldn’t change the situation one iota.

      • Jim says:

        What arguments could you possibly make, without making people with brains spit out our coffee, for the management’s case?

        • Pamela Brown says:

          Well, let’s try…(this is observation, not my opinion)

          When Mr. Vanska was hired in 2003 it was to take the MO to the next level as a top US orchestra with international status. At about that time the MOA also began borrowing money to make this vision happen. Although the MO received some stellar reviews, and played like champs, this was not enough to hold the attention of donors with money, so there were ongoing losses that threatened to drain the endowment.

          With the rebuilding of the Hall, the MOA realized that this might be their one chance to put the MO back into a fiscally sound position. They probably hoped that the status and recognition already earned by the MO under Mr. Vanska would hold while they trimmed and streamlined everything to make a financially viable model for the long-term future. Having discovered how expensive having a world-class orchestra can be, they decided to err on the side of caution. They hoped everyone would support their new paradigm.

          The players, however, believed their own press more than the MOA, and now, since they were ‘elite’, chose to hold their ground. They then did something, however, that was reminiscent of Diana’s attacks on the monarchy — they demanded full financial disclosure and moved toward demonizing the board, perhaps in hopes that the public would help them. This backfired, however, and MOA only fought back with additional ferocity. When would the players acknowledge the financial crisis the MO is in? When will they live in the real world?

          • SC says:

            So they received stellar reviews and played like champs, but “elite” is in quotes? Sounds to me like they were elite. And are you saying the stellar reviews were wrong? Hey, you’re a real champ yourself!

          • Jim says:

            The public IS behind them. And what the hell is wrong with asking for full financial disclosure?

          • Pamela Brown says:

            SC says, “So they received stellar reviews and played like champs, but “elite” is in quotes?”

            Yes, because that became a stumbling block. That has nothing to do with my opinion about how well they played under Mr. Vanska.

          • Pamela Brown says:

            Jim says, “And what the hell is wrong with asking for full financial disclosure?”

            “Full” in this case seems to mean more than is usually provided. It may be that this was misconstrued as constituting a rebellion, to which the response has been, “off with their heads”.

          • Matt strom says:

            The situation is not as simple as you state it pamela. Take a look at my link.

          • Norman E Bowie says:

            I simply do not understand Pamela Brown’s position. I served as the Elmer L Andersen Chair in Corporate Responsibility for 20 years. The business community has the means to support the world class orchestra the Minnesota symphony became. It became elite as it should be. I always wanted the U of Minnesota to be a first class elite institution rather than a regional university. Unfortunately too many Minnesotans seem to settle for B+ That is part of the reason I retired to the East Coast. New York does not settle for B+ and look at Baltimore for God’s sake. The city of The Wire is supporting a rapidly rising orchestra with a gifted exciting female conductor. You mean Minneapolis and St Paul cannot compete with Baltimore. Come on

          • Pamela Brown says:


            Perhaps you didn’t read the first sentence of my post, where I stated that I would do my best to summarize the situation from MOA’s point of view, for the sake of discussion. You seem to have interpreted my statements as those of my opinion. That is something entirely different.

            If I were to give my opinion, there would be a lot of !%^^*@# in the post. I am devastated by everything that has happened. I am heartbroken at the loss of Mr. Vanska, who was able to give a voice to the MO. I am frustrated and livid at the plight of the players, who have now been left without their leader.

            As there is another situation involving the MO that I was involved in, I reached out to both MOA and Mr. Vanska to do what I could to keep this family together, in the far-off chances that what happened to me was in any tangential way connected to this tragic situation. (I put some information in that regards in my blog.)

            As I, too, was, in effect ‘locked out’ ,I do not have a voice. Those who could, have chosen not to give me a proper introduction. I hope you can come to understand that I am doing the best I can under the circumstances.

      • Dave says:

        I am sure you are right, Jim. His quitting sends obviously a strong message. I was frankly surprised at the vague and upbeat note he struck, and his unwillingness to enter into the fray. It seemed, when I saw it, to have been written in a way calculated to offend no one, and with an eye to being employable in the future.

        However I have no knowledge of Finnish culture or this man at all, and perhaps should have not been so hasty.

        • Well, he has entered into the fray as of today. The orchestra had planned to perform a concert on their own at the University of Minnesota this weekend with Emmanuel Ax as the soloist. This was planned as a fund raiser for the orchestra members. This morning the orchestra announced that Maestro Vanska will conduct the orchestra in the concerts. Since that announcement they have had to add an additional performance. Actions speak louder than words

  • Bonnie West says:

    Too bad he didn’t stick it to the man and make them pay out his full contract…while guest conducting elsewhere. I can say also that Edo and Skowvie also contributed to the GREATNESS of the Minnesota Orchestra. I am sorry it has had to end like this. But it isn’t the END. Keep on fighting for the Musicians! Bonnie West

  • lukasweber2012 says:

    I am so sad to hear this. We have lost one of the great artists of our generation, due solely to the ignorant and arrogant mismanagement of the board of directors. By allowing this to happen, they have damaged this community once again. They should resign in shame. To Maestro Vanska, thank you for sharing your extraordinary musical gifts and your heart with us. To say you will be missed is a gross understatement!

    • Former Minnesotan says:

      I’m sorry, but I have to say this because in all of the public commentary blaming the staff, blaming the board, blaming the musicians, blaming the government, blaming corporations, etc, I almost never see one important constituency – perhaps the MOST important constituency – taking responsibility for its failure: the people of the Twin Cities. You lost one of the great artists of your generation because you were not willing to contribute the funds necessary to support a Great Orchestra. A city gets the orchestra it deserves, and it deserves the orchestra it’s willing to nurture.

      • Odin Rathnam says:

        I agree. The sad thing then is, the situation then does demand a complete re-thinking of what level orchestra the Cities ARE willing to support, while not gutting the orchestra, a HUGE challenge.

      • MWnyc says:

        I get where you’re coming from, Former Minnesotan, but I don’t think that criticism is fair in this particular case.

        I don’t know that the people – and foundations – of the Twin Cities were ever given a good opportunity to step up and save the Minnesota Orchestra.

        Remember that until two years ago, the MOA made a point of telling the world (and the Minnesota legislature) that their finances were quite healthy, thank you, so feel free to contribute money to renovate their lobby.

        This even though the finances were not, in fact, healthy; the MOA manipulated the numbers to make the situation look better than it was (and, notoriously, they engaged a PR firm to coach them on when and how to do the manipulating).

        Then, in 2011-12, the MOA let a deficit show, but didn’t let the community know there were serious financial problems until the late spring – that is, just a few months before they were going to begin the season when they would have to rent venues because Orchestra Hall was under construction.

        And that spring and summer, did they MOA undertake any major fundraising campaign, or even try to raise public awareness that the orchestra needed more in contributions? Did they tell the community that they’d have to cut the musicians’ pay by a third and say goodbye to the maestro that made the orchestra great, unless the community stepped up with support?

        No. The MOA made preparations to lock out its musicians.

        They summarily presented the players with a contract that included those enormous pay cuts plus hundreds of work rule changes, some of them outrageous. (We get to send you guys off to play corporate receptions and bar mitzvahs for no extra pay; we keep the fee as earned income, because this is one of the duties of your salaried position.)

        When the players balked, the MOA locked them out.

        Who’s going to contribute money to an orchestra that’s locking out its musicians instead of getting them onstage to perform?

        The MOA could have begun a fundraising campaign with a message saying, Help us so that we can afford to give our terrific musicians a better contract than this.

        They didn’t. Instead, the MOA appeared – to those who were watching closely – to dodge every chance to reopen negotiations until the season was over and they wouldn’t have to rent any performing venues.

        (Nevertheless, the MOA managed to spend more than $13 million this past season.)

        Even now, the MOA hasn’t done any more than the regularly scheduled year-in-year-out fundraising. It looks like they don’t want to attempt to raise the money to maintain the extraordinary orchestra Osmo and the musicians built; they want a cheaper and not-as-good ensemble.

        Who’s going to give money to an organization that wants to become worse at what it’s supposed to do?

        As a general rule, Former Minnesotan, you’re correct that a community gets the orchestra it’s willing to pay for. But the people of the Twin Cities haven’t been given an opportunity to support the orchestra they thought they had. The powers-that-be at the MOA decided unilaterally to take that option away.

  • MacroV says:

    It’s a real tragedy, at least in the orchestral (rather than humanitarian) sense. The Minnesota Orchestra, in its normal operation, could readily have replaced even a terrific music director like Osmo Vanska with an outstanding conductor. But even if management “wins” on this and gets major pay/work rule concessions from the musicians, what will they have? Yes, they can fill most of the vacancies with excellent Juilliard and Curtis grads – though it’s hard to see Minnesota as being a favorite destination for anyone in this situation. But for years there will be a seriously demoralized core of musicians, with everyone constantly on the lookout for something better. And what self-respecting conductor is going to take the job?

    I can’t believe that the Board’s actions don’t constitute sanctionable negligence of their fiduciary responsibility and a violation of what these bankers should well know as the “Prudent Man” doctrine.

  • ed says:

    Still think the State should put its legal eagles on this one to figure out how to take it all, kick out the bums and put strong management in place.

  • Performing Artist52 says:

    Sad beyond belief and outraged to the core! The MOA is sucking the life out of this classical musical community.

  • Polly says:

    Simple question – Couldn’t the musicians have just said yes to the 25% pay cut/$20K bonus final offer? That would have preserved Osmo as MD and Orchestra Hall as home? As much as I agree that management and board are at fault, isn’t this outcome worse for the musicians?

    • Jim says:

      Take this offer…..and in three years or four, when this contract runs out, what will the triumphant board and president/CEO, flush with success on the unjustified lowballing, come back with?

      The board and the president have refused to make public any financial report to justify the drastic pay cuts. There is no reason for the musicians to trust them.

      • MWnyc says:

        Especially since the MOA has already been caught lying about the finances. Not to mention having broken faith in many small matters over the course of the lockout season.

        If I understood correctly, the musicians were clear that if they could see financial numbers they were sure they could trust, they’d be willing to make the necessary concessions. But they don’t think they can take anything on this Board’s say-so.

    • NKA says:

      It wasn’t just the pay cut. There were drastic work rule changes, ranging from the trivial but insulting (musicians had to be available to play at board member’s homes) to an absolute non-starter: the board, rather than musicians and conductor, would have final say on hiring new orchestra members.

      • violinista says:

        Oh my…didn’t realize that. For crying out loud, we’re musicians, not show ponies.

      • MWnyc says:

        I think that points to one real mistake the musicians made in their PR strategy.

        Just saying “more than 250 work rule changes” doesn’t help; it makes most civilians’ eyes glaze over.

        Tell the public that not only do Michael Henson and this Board want to cut our pay by a third, but for that lower pay they want us to play at their houses, rent us out for receptions and bar mitzvahs, and overrule the music director on who’s good enough to get hired and fired and who isn’t.

        We didn’t work hard for years and get good enough to get into the Minnesota Orchestra – let along have the people of New York and London and Berlin fall at our feet when Osmo conducts us – so we could end up as wedding-band players for one-third less pay.

        That the public would understand.

  • Ueli says:

    Musicians and orchestra managers in the so called “major” US orchestras are greedy people who keep insisting arrogantly to be paid over 6 digits salaries while the reality in many other parts of the world great orchestra players and music administrators receive much much less payments for their works. Look at how much musicians in the leading UK orchestras earn? Look at the salaries of the musicians of the great Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. For God sake stop being greedy and making your own suicide. The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra should be ashamed of themselves if they can’t face the economic reality no matter how bad the management under Michael Henson has been…….

    • Jim says:

      You cannot compare simple monetary figures. To do so is to be ignorant about the major differences in the social philosophies between nations.

      Which country has no national health care (and even a feeble attempt to provide it leads to a government shutdown)? Which country does not care about your childcare costs, or that one child’s college education for one year can easily take away more than 50% of your annual income? Which country has sick leave policies that are free-for-all and all over the place?

      • George Smith says:

        you gotta fix your broke country before you fix your orchestra’s

      • meerkat says:

        Jim, this argument holds no water. Europe is way more expensive than the US in many areas. Ever bought food there? Ever bought gas for your car there? When I lived there 18 years ago, it was the equivalent of $5 a gallon. I can only imagine how much it costs now.

        • Gwen Sanders says:

          So sorry to hear this news, but this happens in UK and Europe as well. Petrol currently around the £1.38 per litre mark.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Jim says:

        October 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        “Which country has no national health care (and even a feeble attempt to provide it leads to a government shutdown)? Which country does not care about your childcare costs, or that one child’s college education for one year can easily take away more than 50% of your annual income? Which country has sick leave policies that are free-for-all and all over the place?”

        That’s a tricky one…that applies to a lot of developing nations. My answer will be…Guatemala?

    • AM says:

      Ueli, this is a ridiculous statement. In no other profession do the people who have managed to join the highest echelon receive so LITTLE compensation. Yes, a six-figure salary is a lot of money, but compared to what people who are extremely successful in other fields make, it’s not impressive at all. Also consider that these people are generally very gifted and go through decades of intensive training and hard work to get to their level. Pick any field of work and look at what the top people make. Pick any field where so much training and dedication is required even just to be qualified, let alone get the job, and look at what those people make. Then ask yourself why you would try to shame people for exercising their free will and for standing up for themselves.

      • Mikko says:

        I don’t think that’s an argument. Being highly skilled and highly trained doesn’t, by itself, entitle anyone to a big salary. It’s just not how the world works, either in the public sector or free markets. There are any number of highly skilled people who are badly paid (e.g. good scientists, teachers), and there are the CEOs and banksters whose enormous compensations don’t seem to be in proportion to anything in particular.

        That said, I don’t think the musicians are wrong in this dispute.

        • AM says:

          Mikko, I didn’t argue that they were entitled to any particular level of pay. I merely argued against those who are passing judgement on the pay some musicians have received in the past and for which they are currently negotiating. Ueli (above) called them “arrogant”, “greedy”, and suicidal; and said they should be “ashamed”. I pointed out the double standard under which other professions with no greater merit are not vilified for seeking and getting salaries that equal or even far exceed the musicians’ salaries.

  • Alex says:

    I agree with Joel V. Grand, bridge-burning exits are not very Finnish. It’s theater that we are accustomed to in the US. But in Finland, if you say you’ll leave and then do so without equivocation, it’s as strong a statement as is needed.

    • meerkat says:

      and it seems to me Vanska’s tacit “statement” applies just as much to the musicians as it does to management, i.e. a pox on both your houses.

      • MWnyc says:

        I suspect Vanska doesn’t agree with you.

        Otherwise he wouldn’t have been willing to be photographed at the musicians’ most recent benefit concert. And there wouldn’t be rumblings about the possibility of him and the Minnesota players performing at Carnegie Hall independent of the MOA.

        • Dave T says:

          Interesting that the players and conductor are considering playing (Carnegie Hall) independently. Why don’t they all just ditch the board and management entirely and quit en masse? They could rename themselves the Minnesota Philharmonic or something, hire their own management, raise their own funds, etc. Then they could see just how easy it is to pull it all together and pay themselves the pretty six-figure salaries they feel they so clearly deserve. Go for it!

  • Janet says:

    Unfortunately what Ueli posted above is so right. There is NO moral anymore with the way classical music business operates. As “TRUE ” examples: if a CEO of an orchestra like the LA Philharmonic is able to negotiate salary above 1,5 million dollar, concertmasters like the NY Phil, the Cleveland Orchestra earn half a million dollar, Music Directors of “major” US orchestras reaching 2 million dollar salaries or at least over 1 million dollar, of course this climate makes the so called “elite” orchestra musicians and managers in the US orchestras feeling they have to be more and more greedy in order to say that’s is the standard to be able to make great music. This is such a pompous argument, no wonder classical music business collapses, greatness is just a thing in the past for many people……there are so many dishonest people controlling the music scene behaving like kings and queens without peers. What a joke!!

    • Jim Wilt says:

      Janet, why are you dragging Deborah Borda into this? You don’t bat an eye at the thought of some CEO of a poorly performing company pulling in tens of million$ in salary and bonuses, but god forbid you pay someone that is the absolute best at what she does, in the world, $1.5M. Borda oversees an orchestra with an annual budget of around $115M, and routinely produces surpluses (deficits are rare). She has been able to do this NOT by cutting musicians’ salaries to the bone; quite the contrary, outside of the Met orchestra, the LAP is the highest paying orchestra in the country. Instead of killing patron and donor support by running around telling everyone the sky is falling, she has built a winning team that the community rallies around and an orchestra in which LA can believe. THIS is the textbook version of how to run an orchestra, not the shameful examples to be found in Minnesota, Detroit or Philadelphia.

      You could triple her salary and I would not complain, because she is getting the job done, and is attracting the best musicians. Just like everyone else, musicians are human and want the things other human do – to feel valued, to have a sense of economic stability, to be able to provide for their families. We do not take vows of poverty, and people like you need to know that, while none of us went into this profession thinking we were going to get rich, and that regardless of compensation, we have truly dedicated our lives to our art, that doesn’t mean you can expect us to play for free. I’m sick of the assumption that we should play just for the pure joy of music making – there is no shortage of opportunists that prey on a musician’s need to perform, and to perform at their highest level regardless of compensation.

      If you had any idea of the level of commitment and skill it takes to be a concertmaster of the NY Phil or the Cleveland Orchestra, you’d realize how utterly stupid your comment was. These people, who again are among a mere handful of people *in the world* that are the absolute best at what they do (the skill level is off the charts), are pulling in way less than what an *average* stockbroker or NYC realtor is making. I can assure you that the stockbroker or realtor didn’t start studying for their profession at age 9, or 6, or 3, didn’t take weekly stockbroking lessons, didn’t go to summer realtor festivals and competitions, didn’t spend 4 or more years at realtor college to enter a profession with very little chance of employment. They didn’t have to pay their own airfare, hotel and food to audition behind a screen (anonymity) against hundreds of other highly skilled realtors and stockbrokers to get their jobs. They don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars of mortgages on their trade tools. You really have no. idea. whatsoever. of your subject.

      • AM says:

        Thank you, Jim Wilt. So many people criticize the salaries of top musicians and call them greedy. They are completely ignorant of the skill level involved and of the degree to which these people have risen to the top of their profession through ability, dedication, and decades of very expensive, full-time training. They don’t complain when a middling businessperson makes six figures or when a professional in another field demands and negotiates for what they feel they are worth. However, they resent the ability of a small number of top musicians to earn enough to have a very comfortable standard of living. Under this argument lies a bigotry against music as a meaningful profession and an assumption that musicians should be limited to low socio-economic status. Ironically, these same people seem to have a sense of entitlement that we should be willing to play music for them and not ask for too much in return; to provide an example in society of what Janet (above) refers to as “greatness” and to do it in self-sacrifice, for their benefit, while we subsist on scraps. Musicians have every right to negotiate for their standard of living and have no obligation to play for a particular orchestra if they don’t accept the rate of pay. That’s a logic that seems obvious to everyone when it is applied to other professions.

        • Odin Rathnam says:

          YOU GO JIM!!! Say it how it IS! I haven’t heard a better set of comparisons to justify Concertmaster salaries in YEARS!

        • meerkat says:

          Of course musicians have every right to negotiate. But if they do so incompetently and with an inflated sense of their own worth, financially and otherwise, they will fail miserably. as has happened here.

          • AM says:

            meercat, your comments as to the musicians’ incompetence, inflated sense of their own worth, and failure are opinions that you don’t support with any facts. The outcome of this situation remains to be seen; the musicians have a right to a sense of self-worth and you ironically inflate your own self-importance by seeing fit to judge their worth; and actual incompetence in negotiation would have been to easily knuckle under to the conditions imposed by union-busting fat-cat bankers who don’t respect the music or the musicians. If the musicians won’t agree to play for less, then they may succeed or they may be forced to find other employment or even other occupations, but in any of these cases you don’t have a right to judge their choices or to question their right to their sense of self-worth.

          • meerkat says:

            At this point the musicians aren’t going to get anywhere near what they originally insisted upon. Meantime they’ve been locked out for what, a year? and lost their music director (so much for the “continuity” argument). Do you dispute those “facts? The proof is in the pudding: they failed at negotiating.

        • MWnyc says:

          @ AM – “They don’t complain when a middling businessperson makes six figures or when a professional in another field demands and negotiates for what they feel they are worth.”

          A good point, of course.

          But there’s one key difference that people on our side tend to forget, and forgetting it can be dangerous.

          Those middling businesspeople and those professionals in other fields do not, as a rule, work for charities. (The main exception being health care professionals.)

          That’s what symphony orchestras and most other arts institutions in the United States are: charities that solicit tax-deductible donations from the general public to support their operations.

          Many members of the general public who are asked by top orchestras for donations don’t earn as much as the musicians do. And most of those people don’t get to work at “dream jobs” like playing in an orchestra; most people in general have to work at jobs they don’t particularly love.

          All this can lead to some resentment, especially in an era when many members of the public have seen their own pay decrease, their health care expenses rise and their retirement plans shrink.

          Go to the website of the Star Tribune, or that of any newspaper whose local orchestra is in a labor dispute or financial trouble, and look at the reader comments. The resentment I’m talking about is all over the place.

          If those of us who love classical music, and who believe that truly excellent musicians deserve good pay, want to win over more of the public, we have to figure out how to address that resentment, or at least finesse it.

      • Janet says:

        Jim, you are a snob like the way you wrote your comment. Here in Europe we too have great concertmasters such as Gordan Nikolic, Daishin Kashimoto, Rainer Honeck, Anton Barakhovsky, Lorenz Nasturica, Philippe Aiche etc….etc….these great musicians too deserve half million Euro salaries per annum for their services but the systems in Europe don’t allow them to make such negotiations with their employers. Bottom line is “elite” US orchestra players are full of greed which in great economic downturn kills their institutions.

        • AM says:

          Janet, it’s a trade-off. The same system that limits the top players in Europe from getting massive salaries also give more support to the arts with public money and delivers living wages to many, many artists. I would rather have that here in the US, but we don’t. Our system is more capitalist and therefore, musicians, like everyone else, have to fight and strive within that free market. Sometimes that means hardball negotiations. It’s the nature of the system and artists shouldn’t be denigrated for doing what they need to to make the living they have worked for. Under this system, they aren’t guaranteed anything, but they have a right to whatever they can get. Artists don’t owe you their art.

        • Jim Wilt says:

          Here in EUROPE, blah, blah, blah. And you call me a snob? Hilarious. I do agree that those concertmasters deserve half million Euro salaries per annum – see, we found some common ground!

          You do not know enough about this industry to make a blanket statement blaming musician greed for taking down American symphonies, and I doubt that you are open to any dissenting opinions. I’ve ridden one orchestra into the ground (Denver), another that was headed that way (Houston), and been around long enough to recognize really bad decision making that led to disastrous financial consequences. None of these decisions were made by the musicians, but in each case, the board and management tried to correct the problem by putting it squarely on the backs of the musicians, because it was the easiest thing to do. It is *way* easier to cut than to build. With the media in your back pocket (hell, these guys populate the board), it is pretty easy to spin the numbers to make the musicians look like spoiled, overpaid brats. And then they wonder why the public is reluctant to throw money into the (self) poisoned well. Case in point – I don’t know from where the MSO pulled the average salary of the MSO musicians. $135k/year? No way. Not even close, yet this is what they quoted in the Minnesota Star Tribune, a figure that was picked up by AP and repeated across the country unchallenged.

          Anyway, I found it interesting that you would attack the LA Phil, which is actually pretty damn healthy, despite the ridiculous amount of money being wasted on its overpaid, greedy musicians. Would you rather hold up the MSO as a model as how best to run an orchestra?

      • MWnyc says:

        Jim, except for the part about calling Janet stupid (insults are rarely effective rhetorical devices), you make a terrific argument.

        • Jim Wilt says:

          MWnyc, I didn’t call her stupid. I said her comment was stupid, which it was. I don’t think Janet is stupid.

      • Nancy D. Sturdevant says:

        Surprising statement from the maestro. He manages to praise all the components of the Minnesota Orchestra community, yet resigns — no reason given. Whatever position is in his future, buyer beware!!!

        My heart breaks for the musicians in this orchestra. They have been abandoned by all but their audience. Shame on the philistines who control this city.

        Nancy Sturdevant

        Ottawa, Ontario

  • Mirek Griba says:

    Well,I think that this news is good for orchestra.New and fresh begining for a change!

  • Important to take a stand in this world of ours sometimes. One of our greatest orchestras that we all want to see and hear back on the concert platform!

  • Roger Kaza says:

    You left out guest artists and their management agencies in this litany. I agree, the tone is set at the top. Go to and download 990s for the full view. BTW, I say all this as a greedy principal player in a midwest orchestra.

  • Terry says:

    My only question today is this: Who is conducting the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra this week (Friday and Saturday nights) at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis? The name of the conductor has never been announced. Is there a nice surprise in store for us (in addition to the amazing playing of Emanuel Ax, of course)?

  • PK Miller says:

    Sadder and sadder… I was convinced weeks ago there would be no happy ending here. Too much mutual distrust & acrimony, Management, it seems to this disinterested reader, artist for almost my entire 70 years, not playing fair. For negotiations to succeed there has to be trust & fairness on BOTH sides. To expect the orchestra to take such a significant pay cut is not fair. Not unless management opens the books & proves it’s in real financial difficulty. And that does not seem to be the case. It seems real miserliness on the part of management. And whoever heard of the BOARD approving engagement of orchestral members? That’s an ARTISTIC matter.

    With the apparent demise of NY City Opera it seems to me the arts in the US should be on the endangered species list. There was genuine financial mismanagement there, vs. unwillingness to bargain in good faith. But there seems to be an epidemic of both around the world.

  • Anonymous Musician says:

    As insulting and damaging as a 30% wage cut is to an orchestra, it wouldn’t have even come close to as much damage as this lockout has done to the organization.

    Yes, it will make it harder to retain musicians, but the lockout has already lead to a mass exodus of musicians and created a toxic environment that young musicians like me are going to avoid. And the musicians have already suffered the equivalent of a 3 year cut by 33%…

    Yes, the management are scumbags, mismanaged funds and treat musicians as non-essential fully replaceable parts of their organization. But the moral high ground of standing up for musicians against bad management isn’t a good enough reason to go all in against someone who clearly isn’t bluffing.

    The end result is the orchestra I grew up with is dead. Too many people have left. The positive, passionate environment that ensured great music making will be gone.

    It’s f***ing depressing, and it was fully preventable.

    • MWnyc says:

      Yes, but preventable by whom?

      Think about those work rule changes we talked about upthread. Now add those to the slow drip-drip-drip exodus of musicians who would gradually depart for better-paying, less acrimonious jobs.

      If the musicians had accepted management’s offer, the orchestra you grew up with would be dead anyway.

      (And even then, I suspect management would have found reasons not to finalize the agreement until the season away from Orchestra Hall was over anyway. They didn’t want to pay rent for other venues.)

      A preventable situation won’t be prevented if the people with their hands on the controls don’t want to prevent it.

      Don’t get depressed. Get furious.

  • Freddy says:

    Anyone know what management’s next step is? Hire a new MD, try to get people to audition, keep negotiating, reorganize altogether, shut it all down? What’s next?

    • MWnyc says:

      Rent out Orchestra Hall to other performers. Collect the income from the endowment.

      Right now management doesn’t have any incentive to negotiate. They can wait for the remaining musicians to cave or go away. And why pay for a music director before the musicians cave?

      They don’t even necessarily have to operate an orchestra. Remember, they removed any reference to operating an orchestra from the MOA mission statement.

  • Larry L. says:

    And every time a step back is taken, those in charge achieve another victory in the name of greed! I will not surrender to greed. I stand with the MN Orchestra!

  • Irene says:

    Asking musicians in a professional orchestra to take a 30% pay cut is unreasonable and downright insulting! It’s a big blow for the state of Minnesota and for the patrons to lose such a wonderful cultural institutional. I support the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. Shame on the Board of Directors and all who did not bring reason and wisdom to the bargaining table.

  • Irene says:

    I meant to write”institution”–typing error.

  • Larry Weinman says:

    There is only one thing that will draw exceptional musicians to an orchestra and that is financial compensation. In my twenty two years of playing with major symphony orchestras I never heard of one musician going to an orchestra because of a conductor. While Vanska’s departure won’t do the orchestra any good it won’t affect the overall ability of the orchestra.

    • MWnyc says:

      Although Osmo’s departure will certainly affect the quality of the performances (if any) the orchestra actually gives.

      Have you not found in your 22 years of playing that not all conductors are equal? I doubt all of us beyond the Twin Cities would be paying quite so much attention to this disaster if Eiji Oue was still music director.

      • Larry Weinman says:

        Quality of performance or quality of interpretation? I don’t mean to minimize the importance of interpretation however it is the musicians who make the actual music. Sometimes an orchestral position will remain open for two or three years before a musician that will fit into a section is hired and then it will be another year or two before the conductor and section musicians give tenure. It is not unusual to have an audition where nobody is hired. So many key musicians have left and more are looking for ways to leave. The cohesiveness of the orchestra assuming there still is an orchestra is gone now. The Minnesota Orchestra has always been a good orchestra but it has taken years of creating a job with compensation and benefits similar to other top orchestras that has brought the orchestra to its recent level of excellence.

  • Chris S. says:

    Super interesting comments here, for someone not familiar with this specific situation but who has worked as freelance musician. I’ll keep visiting this page.

  • Rebecca says:

    I really enjoyed reading the conversations and debates. I grew up with the MO and then I worked for the MOA for over 5 years in ticketing. This is my only statement: Burt Hara, I will miss you so much. As a clarinetist, he fostered my musical development through high school. He is no longer in Minnesota (I believe he’s in LA) and I will greatly miss him, as well as all the wonderful musicians of this great orchestra.

  • Dstockma says:

    I, for one, am wondering if the Orchestra could re-form in a new venue such as Northrup, the St. Paul Cathedral or other. I have often thought that part of the lack of public support for the orchestra was the dismal appearance of the concert hall — a place I never enjoyed. Who owns the rights to the “Minnesota Orchestra”?

  • Terry says:

    Osmo Vanska will conduct the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra this week. “Farewell Concerts”