Minnesota gave its president a $116,550 bonus during lockout year

Minnesota gave its president a $116,550 bonus during lockout year


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2014

Song of the Lark has been taking a fine toothcomb to the Minnesota Orchestra tax returns.


Among the small print she finds that the organisation carried on selling concert tickets during the notorious lockout year (to whom? the Martians?) and that it paid the president, Michael Henson, a handsome bonus for running the orchestra without any musicians.

It’s an Alice in Wonderland story. Read here.

mad hatter2

Reader’s question: Why do you publish only half of Henson’s face?

Slipped Disc: For his own protection.


  • V.Lind says:

    I am ever reminded of the Yes Minister, where Hacker tours a hospital with hundreds of “very busy” administrators, service staff, maintenance, cleaners, etc. all busily operating a hospital — “and, Minister, these people are seriously overworked — we are under-staffed” — that has no patients, and no plans to get any (no money for beds and nurses and doctors). “It’s the most efficient hospital in Britain!”

    The British saw the humour, black as it was, in that. The Americans seem to think its analogous situation is business as usual. Look at what Henson saved them in musicians’ salaries and benefits! Worth every penny of his, let’s face it, reduced bonus.

    • MWnyc says:

      The Americans? No. We do not think like that.

      The former leaders of the Minnesota Orchestra board of directors are the ones who thought it was business as usual.

  • Pamela Brown says:

    A fine example of Minnesota insanity. F. Scott Fitzgerald, originally from St. Paul, MN, said ‘the rich are different than you and me.” He certainly must have meant the remark to include the way they think.

    And, of course, had Mr. Henson the tiniest attack of conscience, he could have refused to take the bonus or returned it…or even donated it to those he locked out to help tide them over until he came to his senses…

  • Sarah says:

    . . . and during that fiscal year they “only” had a $1 mil. deficit, which as Board prez Jon Campbell pointed out is “moving in the right direction”. But they somehow managed to spend $13 million without producing any concerts. British efficiency, perhaps?

    • Amy says:

      Yeah, that’s my favorite bit there: Jon Campbell trumping the 1.1 million dollar deficit.
      “We have a deficit of $983,450…!!!” just doesn’t have the same punch as the ol’ M-word.

      By all accounts, Kevin Smith is setting an amazingly different tone at Orchestra Hall. Imagine the mess he’s had to clean up, following Henson’s tenure, to say nothing of the MOA board’s banksters who were doing their best to gut the orchestra. Good riddance.

  • NYMike says:

    Thankfully, Henson was relieved of his duties? in an effort to keep conductor Osmo Vänskä who wouldn’t return if Henson stayed. There is still much to be done returning the MN Orchestra to its former excellence. There is an Atlanta echo with Romanstein also leaving.

  • Bob Smith says:

    This appears to be severance. Accounting knowledge comes in handy.

    Hopefully Kevin Smith comes with a magical bag of money, cause the little stunt the union pulled drove off the corporate money and corporate board members, and unless classical music attendance is going to have an awaken along with the opening of the wallets, he now has the same hole to dig out of along with less corporate money. But hey the union got to feast on the endowment and that is what counts right?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The payment was made long before he was fired.

    • MWnyc says:

      The union pulled off no stunt. The Minnesota Orchestra’s board and management locked the musicians out. And they got no money during that time, so they did not get to feast on the endowment; if anyone did, it was the management during the lockout.

  • Nick says:

    The bonus to Henson is an absolute disgrace! Sadly it is yet another instance of US orchestra Boards’ misplaced loyalties allied to their inability to provide CEOs with contracts curbing emoluments during times of strikes and lockouts, or when the orchestra for whatever reason is not earning revenue. Henson should return it all.