Minnesota musicians: why we couldn’t save Osmo Vänska

Minnesota musicians: why we couldn’t save Osmo Vänska


norman lebrecht

October 02, 2013

The players wave farewell to their music director after ten years, insisting that there was nothing more they could have done to prevent his departure.


We know that there is dismay, even among some who have supported the musicians throughout this ordeal, that we were unable to avert Osmo’s resignation through some last-minute compromise. We have spent the past several weeks, and this past weekend in particular, in dogged pursuit of just such a compromise, but have found ourselves rebuffed at every turn.

Read on here.

The musicians’ union, meanwhile, has called for a boycott of the companies represented by board members. They include  Wells Fargo Bank, US Bank, General Mills, United Health Care, 3M Company, Land ‘O Lakes, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Read more here.


  • George London says:

    Great next step union, so much for the national union not being the puppet master. Once again you are going to attack the people that give the charity that keeps the business model afloat.

    Brilliant. Send the message to companies that you probably don’t want to sponsor arts events in the future cause an ungrateful union might not think your donation is enough and will then attack your business cause a local non profit with a volunteer board isn’t giving them what they want.

    So in the last year the union has made some of the worst moves for the classical music industry in this country, time to let the rank and file be heard.

    • Amy Adams says:

      Well, George London, you tucked the red-flag word “union” into your comment four times. I’ve read your second paragraph twice and still can’t make sense of it. Would you please post again here at least eight more times, and hopefully we’ll hear from “George Smith” too, and you two can do your thing.

      • Alan Penner says:

        Amy, if you can justify the union’s actions and absolve them of any wrongdoing despite their call for shunning negotiations and insisting on more money that even they know isn’t there, we are all ears.

        • Amy Adams says:

          Alan Penner, this is why debate with you won’t work – I don’t accept your premise at all that the musicians shunned negotiations (stalling happened religiously on management’s side) or insisted on “more money”…if anything, the musicians insisted on clarity, honesty and independently verified numbers. I won’t address at all the silly “absolve” remark.

      • meerkat says:

        So I guess we shoujldn’t use the term “union”? Or when it is used, fasten our red kerchiefs and salute dear leader unquestioningly? What is acceptable, Ms. Adams?

        • Amy Adams says:

          What is acceptable is civil discussion, so I won’t take your bait…I think I was addressing George Smith in the first place. (See, this is one of the reasons people sometimes think that there’s a multiple identity poster hanging out here.)

          • meerkat says:

            “Civil discussion” means two people communicate with each other, without one trying to dictate the language used by the other. Since “union” is not an abusive or profane term, it seems you are the one incapable of “civil discussion”.

    • Frank Post says:

      That charity is tax deductible, that is why the business model works. The arts attract large amounts of money to cities, and aside from aficionados of the orchestra and classical music who donate out of a love for the art form, most donations will help the company that donates. It is not a one way street.

      As for having the words “union” and “charity” prominently placed through your comment, it seems pertinent to remind you that October 3rd is the 5 year anniversary of the biggest hand-out in US history, funded by the US taxpayers. That was charity – there was no reciprocation of classical music or any other benefit – only higher fees, less obtainable loans and an exploration of loopholes that prevented many from receiving needed assistance.

      Odd that the first two companies in that list are banks. Maybe a (shall we say 39.6%?) “quality of life” tax on their hideous profits would solve the business model for non-profits and remove this ridiculous posturing from the argument.

  • MacroV says:

    I would say it is the management and board that have made some of the worst moves. Orchestras in far more dire straits have managed to work out deals with their musicians that involved far less draconian concessions than Minnesota proposed.

    As for the national union, of course they backed the musicians’ resistance – unions are about solidarity. But you suggest the Minnesota musicians have no free will; I’m sure they needed very little pressure from the AFM HQ to take the position they have; you think they’d be foolish enough to turn down a good deal?

    That said, I don’t know that I’d boycott board members’ employers; maybe better that those companies should demand those employees step down from the board.

    • Sarah says:

      In order to get those companies to so demand, pressure would need to be brought to bear on them. We’re talking about two national banks here. Boycotting them would certainly be a start.

  • meerkat says:

    The union is asking people to boycott their health insurer and cereal because the Minnesota musicians aren’t happy with their wages? They are delusional.

    • MWnyc says:

      Finding a different brand of breakfast cereal or butter is easy; finding a different brand of adhesive tape or sticky notes slightly less so. (3M is everywhere.)

      Boycotting their health insurer is not a realistic option for most people. (Though I suppose people buying insurance through Minnesota’s Obamacare insurance exchange could make a point of opting for another company’s plan.) And I’m afraid that switching banks is enough of a pain-in-the-neck that only the people most devoted to this particular cause would actually do it.

      • meerkat says:

        I’m quite sure no one is going to change their cereal over this matter, except maybe the musicians and a handful of supporters. The union needs to get real.

  • George London says:

    So let’s assume the union boycott (whoops i used the term union which i guess is bad)achieves the desired effect and leaves the scars on the hand that feeds them as intended.Those companies in the future are more likely to donate to youth charities and food shelves, cause I don’t think a homeless guy is going to start a media campaign saying I want beef tenderloin an lobster and all you are giving us is chicken and rice and your company Is evil cause you won’t give me what I want.

    So after conducting a recent campagin against each board member via email according to blogs with a number of hostile messages and now attacking the companies, just where do the musicians think the 130k a year is going to come from? Not the ticket sales. At best looking at the financials they would have about 48-53k a year.

    This clearly shows the mindset of the scorched earth policy the union has been negotiating (or one offer in 18 months if you can call this negotiation) from. but hey the destruction of a community non profit is ok since it is for the greater national good of the workers .

  • Nick says:

    I think MO musicians should call on citizens to boycott and protest any event held in the brand-new-lobby-and-restroom-hall until lock out ends. Let it be a tomb.

  • Russell Platt says:

    As an arts professional and former Twin Cities resident, I am deeply sympathetic to the musicians. Criticizing the Star Tribune is one thing. But boycotting Land O’ Lakes? That’s just silly.