Minnesota musicians beg city to take over the empty hall

Minnesota musicians beg city to take over the empty hall


norman lebrecht

January 03, 2014

A group of supporters of the locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have appealed to the city of Minneapolis to revoke the lease to Orchestral Hall, arguing that the orchestra management has violated the terms by leaving it dark. More here. This ugly conflict has now run into its third calendar year. Please let it be the last.



  • Hey Mr. Lebrecht, I think your headline is misleading. It was an audience group that wrote that letter, not the musicians. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

    • Are there not close links between the musicians and the supporters’ group?

      • Mr. Lebrecht, although SOSMN supports the musicians, they had nothing to do with SOSMN’s letter or any knowledge of it or input beforehand.

        • Pamela Brown says:

          Isn’t that the kind of statement typically made when there is a need for ‘plausible deniability’?

          • Pamela, you seem to be implying that my statement above about SOSMN’s relationship with the Musicians is incorrect. I assure you it is not. I have worked closely with SOSMN since its inception and am familiar with the folks running it.

            More to the point however; the letter Mr. Lebrecht wrote about is signed by the officers of SOSMN, and on the letterhead of SOSMN which presents itself as an audience group, thus my statement that the headline is misleading.

      • Yes, there are close links between the musicians and the supporters. But that doesn’t make them the same thing. SOSMN has done their own research and presented their own findings to the public and state legislators. The locked out musicians were not involved with these undertakings. Given the immense amount of misinformation on the MOA’s part, words do matter.

        • Pamela Brown says:

          DA said, “Pamela, you seem to be implying that my statement above about SOSMN’s relationship with the Musicians is incorrect.”

          If that is the case, you have missed the point I was attempting to make. My point is simply that distancing oneself from something where one wants to have some ‘plausible deniability’ seems a tad political. It makes one wonder if perhaps the public is supposed to perceive these actions as a ‘spontaneous uprising’, when in fact there may be a lot going on behind the scenes.

  • Mike says:

    The musicians have said they are working for a resolution with the Orchestra Association . This request seems to be coming from patrons upset with the misrepresentation of financial information by the orchestra association. Your title is not accurate.

  • Terry says:

    Whether it’s the musicians or the audience advocacy group SOSMN doing the asking, we all want the City of Minneapolis to “Bring the Music Back to Orchestra Hall” — including the new Mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, who was sworn in yesterday and is seen here addressing a musicians’ rally last year:


  • As Chair of SOSMN, I would like to thank you Mr. Lebrecht for continuing to cover this debacle. Our organization, a grassroots community audience advocacy group with now over 8500 followers on Facebook


    is working tirelessly to end the lockout and preserve a world-class Minnesota Orchestra. Thank you again!

    However, a few of points of clarification:

    1. Our letter to the city and opinion about the MOA defaulting on the terms of the Orchestra Hall lease with the City of Minneapolis was done completely independently of any musician (or musician-associated consultant) input or knowledge of content. Moreover, the musicians were notified of the letter and its contents after the press was sent a copy.

    2. Re: our argument in the letter. While SOSMN agrees with the opinion that the MOA is in default of the lease agreement due to the fact that the Hall is dark for classical music in general (and the Minnesota Orchestra musicians playing in it, in particular), SOSMN chose a different tact for our letter to the City. Our argument is that the MOA did not give a truthful and complete accounting of the MOA’s finances to the state and that constitutes a default. Please see the letter for details: http://wp.me/p3PA1R-2U

    Again, we thank you for covering this important issue and its developments.

    MaryAnn Goldstein, Chair SOSMN

  • Tereo says:

    Sack the Henson and the board.

  • Alan Penner says:

    If this turns into a state-run orchestra, be prepared for a fire storm of backlash from the majority of tax payers who are already paying for what they don’t want.

    • NYMike says:

      This was voted on by a majority of MN taxpayers:

      “The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund receives 19.75 percent of the sales tax revenue resulting from the Legacy amendment to support arts, arts education and arts access, and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage. Based on current sales tax revenue, Minnesotans will invest more than $1.2 billion in arts and cultural heritage fund projects and programs over the 25 year life of the tax.”

      So your statement that they’re paying for “what they don’t want” rings hollow. I’m assuming that should the current MOA be divested of its holdings and responsibilities by the city/state, a new management group would be found and put in place.

      • Pamela Brown says:

        I don’t recall a referendum for the citizens to vote on, per se, on the issue of the rebuild of orchestra hall. The MN legislature may have. I wrote to Gov. Pawlenty asking him to allow the uber rich patrons of the MO to take on the burden of the hall rebuild rather than the already overtaxed ordinary taxpayers of MN. Of course, that didn’t happen.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Perhaps, as it winds down operations, the old Minnesota Orchestra Association would sell their music library, assorted fixtures, and other appurtenances used in the presentation of public concerts to the “Musicians of the MInnesota Orchestra,” who are indeed still in the business of putting on concerts. Surely this would help the MOA settle some of its outstanding debts.

  • Amy says:

    They’re hiring part-time phone callers at the Minnesota Orchestra.

    This is…exciting…news, I guess. Right?


  • PK Miller says:

    Maybe the new Mayor can bring about some sort of rapprochement or bring pressure to bear on management to bring about some sort of amicable, fair settlement. I’m not sure Jonah or whatever Old Testament prophet was bargaining with God over finding righteous men in Nineveh or wherever could mediate an equitable settlement. Why are they paying someone to be Executive Director of NOTHING????? If there’s no Orchestra to be Executive Director of….

  • Sarah says:

    I don’t recall being asked about spending $500 million in taxpayer money on a stadium for a lousy football team run by billionaires, but there you have it.

  • Barry says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, I appreciate the attention you’ve given this matter, but I feel the need to chime in about the misleading nature of your headline. One of the fundamental problems, as I see it, is that an insular board has chosen to act in an ownership–rather than stewardship–role in managing a public arts institution. They have locked out the public as much as the musicians (perhaps even more, as there have been no discussions with patrons), while trying to cast the dispute as a classic battle between management and labor (aka, “the greedy union”). Now a group of frustrated patrons is working to have a voice, and exert some leverage, but you implicitly dismiss them as just an extension of the musicians, essentially supporting the board’s view (or claim) that there are only two sides to the issue, and patrons’ views don’t matter.

  • Elizabeth Balay says:

    Given the clarifications above by the letter’s author, SOSMN, it would be proper the change the headline of the article. Leaving it as is creates a false impression.