Minnesota musicians to press ahead ‘with or without the Minnesota Orchestra’

Minnesota musicians to press ahead ‘with or without the Minnesota Orchestra’


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2013

Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have called a public meeting next Monday at which they will outline a new mission ‘that they will work to fulfill in the years going forward, with or without the Minnesota Orchestral Association.’ The musicians have raised more than $300,000 since August. 

The Minnesota Orchestra has been a musician-free zone for the past 14 months. Its own mission statement is being scrutinised by the public authorities for false promises and accounting.

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  • Performing Artist52 says:

    Scott Chamberlains blog is always right on! Scott’s attention to detail in this fiasco is brilliant. And he speaks the truth unlike the MOA. It is immoral and unethical what this board is trying to do to this fine orchestra!

  • Richard Crampton says:

    What IS the MOA trying to do to that fine orchestra?

  • Performing Artist52 says:

    Richard, the belief is that the MOA would like to reduce an internationally known orchestra to a mediocre one that will not be invited to Carnegie Hall or the BBC Proms. The MOA would like to pay these musicians between 30-50% less than they were making. They want the musicians to play for weddings and Bar Mitzvah’s as part of their 250 new work rules. I could go on, but if you have been following this debacle you would know exactly what the elitist bankers on the MOA negotiating committee are doing.

    • Richard Crampton says:

      ” the belief is that the MOA would like to reduce an internationally known orchestra to a mediocre one that will not be invited to Carnegie Hall or the BBC Proms. ”

      really . . . . . REALLY!!?? . . . . to whose benefit?

      • Performing Artist52 says:

        Yes Mr. Crampton. REALLY! To the boards benefit, so they can pay musicians less than they deserve, to continue to mismanage the finances, to continue to lie to the legislature, to pay the CEO bonuses, to offer less classical music and more pops, to cancel the the Carnegie Hall concerts and BBC Proms concerts and still call the MOA a world class organization. Yes, REALLY!

        • Richard Crampton says:

          Alas it sounds to me like ” bitter fruit “; the consequences of mis-management on both sides of the table. Such excesses are surfacing daily: States such as Wisconsin, cities such as Detroit and Chicago, giant corporations such as General Motors, etc. It’s pure fantasy to expect management and labor to perpetually enjoy the benefits reaped during good times to carry forward when truely bad times descend. Sadly, both management and labor gorge themselves on the seed corn with little regard for the future lean times.

      • MWnyc says:

        To whose benefit? Or, in other words, why?

        Here’s my sense of it.

        In light of the intended slashing of musicians’ salaries, the work rule changes (meant to make the musicians available for profit-making gigs under the Minnesota Orchestra brand), the MOA officers’ public observations that (in their humble opinion) younger and cheaper musicians could do the job just as well, and said officers’ repeated harping on a new business model —

        — I do believe the MOA board leaders think they can create an orchestra that will pay for itself. By now, I think it has gone beyond simply wanting a Minnesota Orchestra that will stop asking them for money; I can’t help but suspect that CEO Michael Hanson and Board chair Jon Campbell have convinced themselves that their plans will revolutionize the entire field of professional orchestral music in the United States.

        That’s why they can’t compromise now: they have a vision to realize!

        • Richard Crampton says:

          ” In light of the intended slashing of musicians’ salaries, the work rule changes (meant to make the musicians available for profit-making gigs under the Minnesota Orchestra brand), ”

          In Louisville, the management viewed the orchestra musicians as their exclusive ” property “, being made available to The Bach Society, The Ballet, and the Ky Opera Assn as contracted players on loan. I’m not sure to what degree this attitude manifesred itself in practice, but it was this basket of services that was necessary for the musicians to approach a living wage ( supplimented with private teaching ).

          The siren call of a comfortable income was fueled by ICSOM through a handful of younger, more militant musicians who over two or three contract periods were able to push for unsustainable wage increases. Well then, of course, management felt that they should also participate in the feeding frenzy at the trough . . . and then came the recession and the ugly truth that the enterprise was going to crash if drastic measures weren’t implemented!

          The hard core militants refused to accept giving up some of their ” hard won ” wages, refused to accept a reduction of the core ensemble ( back to the number of musucians in the founding group ), and refused to sign new contracts. Thus the stalemate and the louckout . . . . . which ultimately resulted in management’s ” demands ” being met.

          Such disruptive acrimony does little to encourage large endowments which are necessary to sustain a ” world class ” orchestra.

    • “Elitist” bankers? More like a bunch of tundra hillbillies.

      • Steve Foster says:

        It’s awfully easy to say that (after all, most do). But I’ve seen no evidence that they want to sabotage the organisation, despite my pleas for proof.

        • Lizzie PB says:

          There’s a difference between sabotaging the organization and destroying the orchestra. MOA “top management” simply wants to protect what is left of the endowment, and maintain control of the endowment. They have already succeeded in decimating the orchestra itself, which is of no real concern to them.

        • Performing Artist52 says:

          What more evidence do you need Mr. Foster? Please educate yourself with the plethora of information that is available in the various newspapers, blogs, facebook pages and websites. The proof is there.

          • Steve Foster says:

            I’m not interested in any blog poetry that claims anything other than the truth. There’s been far too much squawking from the peanut gallery and it has (obviously) done no good.

  • I’ve said they should’ve done this last year. It’s perfect for them to rid themselves of the ‘evil empire’ that is the MOA.

    I hear the musicians have managed on their own to raise $300,000 since the split. According to their demands, that’s enough for 2½ musicians. You’re well on your way!

  • Stereo says:

    The orchestra should go independent like the London orchestras,then sack Henson and the board.

  • Alan Penner says:

    It’s time for the MOA to start building a new group of musicians. Then they can have summer concerts, promotional performances, and have a 2014-15 season on time. That would be exciting!

    • nick says:

      Sorry to discourage you, but it will never happen. It has been attempted by a couple of other professional orchestras recently to solve the labor impass. One orchestra even announced the vacancies on Craigslist. Not single musician auditioned. It is very embarrassing for those to dream of this, because no respectable professional musician or conductor will break the rank to join a “replacement orchestra” like the one you proposed. It would be career suicide for such a person, not to mention the potentially permanent damage to the personal and social life. It’s fool’s fantasy for those to advocate this and just shows how little knowledge these people have about the orchestra world. I actually thought the musicians of MO would have capitulated long time ago by the financial pressure put on them by MOA board. But, they have survived so far, and the situation looks more and more like the current board of MOA will have to be forced to recognize the reality that there is no way out except to negotiate or resign. Otherwise, they could either loose the IRS tax exempt status or having their endowment being taken over by local political forces. I say that would be a good lesson to teach.

    • MWnyc says:

      Except that there’s not a unionized orchestral musician in the country that would work for the MOA, and any non-union musician or recent conservatory graduate that agreed to work for the MOA would sacrifice all hope of ever getting a real professional orchestra job.

      At one point during the Louisville Orchestra lockout in 2012, management tried to recruit replacement musicians – even going so far as to post an ad on Craigslist. The effort was, predictably, a disaster.

    • MacroV says:

      Not gonna happen. There is no way any union musician is going to audition for or play for a MOA-sponsored group unless there is a settlement.

      Also, and this might at some point be more critical: No union musician (and my guess is no union performer of any kind) will likely play at Orchestra Hall until this impasse is resolved, at least as long as the hall is connected to the MOA. And every musician of consequence is either a member of the AFM, AGMA, etc., or certainly their supporting musicians are.

      • Amy says:

        Exactly. For instance, Bill Cosby was scheduled to be the first headlining act in the renovated hall. Not happening.

        If you take a look at the concert program for September 2013 to May 2014 in the documents provided by the MOA to the city of Minneapolis, there are columns of events that simply were cancelled or “re-scheduled” (meaning lost in the netherworld of “I’ll have my people get back to you”). Even lists orchestral concerts to be conducted by Osmo.

        How they have the nerve to print this up is amazing.

  • MacroV says:

    I wonder if there’s an option to sue the MOA to get hold of the endowment, if they can argue that the MOA is failing to fulfill its mission as a nonprofit performing arts organization serving the greater Minnesota area. The city can presumably turn Orchestra Hall over to a musicians organization on the same terms it gives the MOA if it’s not happy with how the MOA is holding up its end of the deal. A musician-run orchestra like the London bands could be tough, but a $150 million (?) nest egg would certainly help.

  • CA says:

    Not to diminish the laudable fundraising efforts done independently by the Minnesota musicians, a whole lot more than $300,000 in 4 months is needed to sustain them in any capacity anywhere close to what they had before as a regular job which provided for most a good living, all things being equal (as another poster has already noted.) Yet let us be thankful that the musicians are resourceful, and that they are rallying as they are–and trying to keep plugging ahead in hopes that a pathway will be found for them that will once again see them doing what they do best.