Minnestota Orch blows $1m on Cuba trip

Minnestota Orch blows $1m on Cuba trip


norman lebrecht

May 11, 2015

This week’s ice-breaking Cuba trip by the Minnesota Orchestra will cost close to $1 million, it has been disclosed. 

The expense is being met by a single donor.

The average monthly salary in Cuba is $20.

Funny old world.

musicians for minn


  • Petros LInardos says:

    If only that 1 million dollar was efficiently invested in music education…

  • Travis Davies says:

    I think that this will be an important trip in smoothing this transition period between American-Cuban relations.

    • Blane Harford says:

      Absolutely! I was just thinking the same thing. There is nothing that would further heal the diplomatic strain left by the cold war than… a flute player from Minnesota?

      Uff da.

      • Sarah says:

        Where did that appear in the article? And as for music – “In Cuba, he said, music touches everything.” Funny how crony capitalism (and the banksters who tried to destroy the orchestra) don’t seem to feel music is a priority.

      • William Safford says:

        But if the orchestra wants to exacerbate the tensions, they can just bring the Cubans some lutefisk….

  • herrera says:

    The NY Philharmonic’s historic trip to Pyongyang was a turning point for North Korea. It is now a full democracy, whose standard of living matches that of any Western European country, with a robust freedom of expression and the best human rights record in Asia. Thank you New York Philharmonic for a performance of the New World Symphony that changed minds and hearts and souls and the course of human history.

    The Minnesotans will accomplish no less.

    • CDH says:

      Any comparison between North Korea and Cuba can only be made by someone who knows nothing of either.

      Minnesota will be welcomed by a community that has one of the world’s finest ballet companies, a grand conservatory, a national symphony orchestra, a vibrant tradition in many art forms and a healthy system of educating artists. Tickets will be cheap and audiences will be enthusiastic, for Cubans have never lost their taste for all things American (alas).

      It should be a wonderful visit for hosts and visitors alike.

    • Doug says:

      ROTFLMAO! Your garden variety UK (and USA) communist bootlicker will take you at your word.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    It never ceases to amaze me, Norman, how you are first to criticize an individual or institution that does not meet your cultural and/or political agenda. The MO isn’t “blowing” $1 million; a donor is picking up the cost. Sharing one’s culture has always been a stepping stone toward at least salving relations among nations. The University of Michigan Symphony Band made a groundbreaking tour of the Soviet Union in the late 1950s. Nixon went to China (and spurred an opera!) There are many more instances and I won’t cast aspersions on the NY Phil’s decision to visit North Korea.

    We have to put this in context of all the U.S. orchestras that “blow” their millions (or at least 100s of thousands) choosing to make yearly appearances at the BBC proms. Doesn’t Great Britain have enough culture of its own?

  • Daniel Farber says:

    “Any comparison between North Korea and Cuba can only be made by someone who knows nothing of either.”

    I wouldn’t try to convince the many Cuban families that lost loved ones to the murderous Castro brothers of the lack of validity in the comparison!

    • CDH says:

      A lot more Cubans are eating enough to stay alive than did under the Batista regime. More — many, many more — are healthy, literate, educated. Relations are thawing between the US and Cuba, which is a mixed blessing, but it is inexorable, and will turn around quite quickly — and unlike the poor North Koreans, the Cubans are ready for what is coming.

      I am no proponent of communism or any other totalitarian states. But if the US had not been so paranoid in the late 50s, Cuba probably would not have gone communist. As it is, they have been less repressive than many other regimes the US has smiled on, even supported, over the years. I doubt Allende would have killed as many as Pinochet did, the latter being practically a US invention.

      • Daniel Farber says:

        If you are literate, which seems unlikely, I suggest you read Orwell and Koestler and totalitarian government. They were there and knew first hand.

        • Sarah says:

          And if you were literate, you would know that Daddy Koch built the family fortune on oil deals with the Soviets in the 1930s – the same decade when the government killed millions of people either through starvation or gulags. Do you ever bring that up? No, I thought not.

  • hector diaz says:

    It’s expensive to take an orchestra on tour. If the Minnesota Orchestra found a way to go to Cuba and achieve what that tour can and will accomplish (for them and for Cuba-American re-connection) without it negatively affecting their bottom line at all, then it’s hardly representative to say they “blew $1m.”

    • Barbara Kim says:

      I agree — to take 160+ people on an international tour costs a LOT. I would assume this is about average for a short tour of that magnitude. Perhaps someone at Slippedisc could dig up some numbers there, it’s a subject I’ve never seen explored. I’ve always wondered about mission statements of non-profit orchestras though. They have 501c3 status, loosely meaning their tax break is dependent on providing a public service to Americans. But in many of their mission statements (on 990 forms) the mission involves bringing culture to foreign countries. In this case, it seems like an excellent mission.

      • Sarah says:

        The trip is being underwritten by a single donor, who with her family has given generously to local and/or arts-related organizations for many years. She was also instrumental in bringing some of the parties back to the table and helped ensure that the lockout was ended and the orchestra saved.