Politicians demand heads as Minnesota Orch holds annual meeting

Politicians demand heads as Minnesota Orch holds annual meeting


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2013

Hours before its annual meeting,  the Minnesota Orchestral Association has received a letter from ten state legislators demanding the resignations of CEO Michael Henson (pictured), chairman Jon Campbell and past chairman Richard Davis. It accuses them of, among other faults, ‘a deliberate deception of the public.’

The legislators have all been critical before of the board’s performance during the 14-month lockout, but this is the first time they have called for heads to roll.



  • PK Miller says:

    If there’s state funding involved that would be far greater leverage than calls for resignations. Those are utterly ineffective without a “stick” to make them work. Cut the purse strings and state that funding will only be restored when Henson & the entire Board resign. Then they can start all over again. Probably a greater chance of the Pope establishing an abortion clinic in the Vatican tomorrow morning and NY’s Cardinal Dolan making a million $ contribution to National Gay./Lesbian Task Force. Talk is cheap–and however millennia later, actions still speak louder than words. I say again, I just do not see a “Happily ever after” here.

  • State funding is involved. MN Public Radio published the whole letter here: http://blogs.mprnews.org/state-of-the-arts/2013/12/lawmakers-call-for-resignation-of-minnesota-orchestral-association-leaders/ In the final paragraphs the legislators more than hint that additional actions will be taken if the MOA Board doesn’t replace the leadership and end the lockout.

  • Mark T. Lundholm says:

    Shouldn’t the entire MOA Board resign? Aren’t they are all a disgrace? A further question I have is why has it taken this long for the legislature to act on this? This action should have been taken months ago and it should be followed through now with a vengeance. In addition, their salaries should have to be repaid!

    • Kyle says:

      Mark, the board members actually contribute money to be on the board. Collectively they give more money than ticket sales raise. That’s why it is hard to imagine an orchestra without them and all other parties coming together.

  • Steve Foster says:

    In other words, politicians are bored in Minnesota. Now THERE’S a story. o_O

  • Performing Artist52 says:

    There are always things the politicians get into here in Minnesota, such as making the tax payers pay for a new stadium for a losing football team and coming up with a brilliant idea that online gambling would contribute to the funding for said stadium. And there is of course the Twins Stadium as well.

  • David says:

    American Arts institutions (and maybe elsewhere) need some solidarity here. In no case should Henson be hired to work in any aspect of the arts.

    It’s happened to me (as an orchestra member) twice before, albeit when the Internet was in it’s infancy. 2 CEO-types got national attention as poor stewards of the arts, to the point that the consensus was “They will never work in the biz again”. Next thing I knew, they were my boss and the same behavior continued.

    It’s entirely possible that Henson ends up with a similar position elsewhere. Speculation that he ends up working for one of the board members doesn’t make much sense: corporate types don’t like “Yes Men”, they only use them to suit their purposes and then discard them. It’s imperative that the arts world bonds together and says “No Thanks”.

    • MWnyc says:

      Campbell could probably make a few calls and secure for Henson some cushy sinecure at a conservative think tank. At least there he could do relatively little direct damage.

  • Stereo says:

    Been saying get rid of Henson for months. Here’s hoping!

  • Wayne A. Benjamin says:

    Henson and his entire bloated staff should have all of their pay and benefits during the lockout clawed back and distributed to the musicians of the MO.

  • Stephen says:

    It seems that if Public funds have been appropriated for a specific purpose, and those funds have been mis-applied, there is at the least a cause for an independent accounting.

    But after 14 months of no, music and no expenditures on an Orchestra that can’t even sit on stage en tacet, there is a need for a criminal investigation by the state attorney general.

    To the legislators who hold a fiduciary repsonsibility- don’t broadcast your disgust as a political posture, Start gathering records under subpoena and get the independent audit done at the same time you inform the individuals that they can be considered persons of interest in a criminal investigation. Then, get on with it.

  • ed says:

    You’re right. Unfortunately, a Legislative audit was conducted in June that allowed the MOA to slip through without a slap on its hand, though not all issues were resolved. The Board is also crowing that they saved money and are in better financial condition as a result of the one-year hiatus (aka lock-out) and that this justifies their business model. Now that’s chutzpah for which the Board needs to be knocked on its collective ass.

    The State needs to take the next step to take back the hall and take over the organization so the symphony can get up and running again. The locked-out orchestra performed to an audience of over 7,000 last September, so it seems clear that Minnesotans want their jewel of a symphony orchestra up and playing again.

  • Performing Artist52 says:

    You are correct Kyle, the board members to give money and it is very much appreciated! However it is the board and managements job to raise money. The musicians have done theit job extremely well. Now the board and management need to come up with better and more creative ways to raise funds. The musicians are willing to help with the budget although it is not to say the budget should be balanced on the backs of the musicians alone. The musicians have made counter offers to decrease the percentage of their salary but the management has rejected it every time.