The concertmaster who married the maestro: how they make it work

In a rare feature interview with the Star-Tribune, Minnesota Orchestra concertmaster Erin Keefe discusses how she balances her relationship with her husband, music director Osmo Vänskä, and her colleagues in the orchestra.

Simple, she says.

“I haven’t felt any awkwardness,” Keefe said. “He’s here only 12 weeks a year; I’m here 28 weeks. When we are here together, we don’t bring anything inappropriate to rehearsal.”

Read on here.

erin keefe

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  • The journalist seems a bit enthralled by Mrs. Keefe (from the linked article):

    “Her shiny auburn hair matches the burnished tones of her 1732 Gagliano violin so perfectly that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.”

    The last time I’ve heard of anyone seeing sounds and hearing colours, it was over the course of a presentation on the dangers of the prolonged consumption of psychotropics.

    • Even a 52-week orchestra doesn’t play all those weeks – probably has at least 8 weeks off over the course of a season. And it’s not uncommon for concertmasters to take a few more weeks off beyond that, to give them time for solo/chamber work, or just to deal with the other time-consuming aspects of a CM’s job (bowings, etc). Some don’t play much beyond the subscription programs.

      • 52 – 8 = 44. Working 28 weeks, that leaves 16 weeks that the orchestra is in season that Mrs Keefe is off. Seems like an awful lot even for a concertmaster. Does anyone know of any other full-time concertmaster in a 52 week orchestra that is off 16 weeks out of the year on top of orchestra vacations?

        • The current season, based on the Minnesota Orchestra’s season brochure, is ~36 weeks (September 11th 2015 to June 10th 2016)….36 – 8 = 28.

          • Well, if Max Grimm is correct, and out of a 36 week season, they get 8 of those off as vacation, that means everyone in the orchestra is getting paid 52 weeks out of the year for working 28 weeks? This does not sound correct to me. More likely, they work 36 weeks in the regular season, have some type of summer season and tours, and so the total working weeks come to around 44 plus the 8 weeks vacation which all add up to 52 weeks. But that still doesn’t answer my query about the concertmaster working only 28 weeks out of the year. That leaves 16 weeks of the orchestra working period unaccounted for.

          • It was Macrov who mused about the 8 weeks off. I only found their season brochure with the first respectively final concert dates. I have no idea as to time off, vacation, special projects/tours or the salary structure of a Minnesota Orchestra musician.

  • This should not be allowed at the work place. It is a potential conflict of interest and thus avoidable. Many companies have rules, that forbid husband and wife working in the same department on different levels of hierarchy. It’s unprofessional.

    • The employer of both individuals is well aware of the situation, and prefers this to losing one or both. Most audience members probably feel the same way. Your opinion of the appropriateness of such a workplace relationship, coming as it does from someone who is almost certainly not an employee of the institution and almost as certainly not a ticket buyer either, well, it’s about as important as my opinion of the color of your socks.

    • In case it matters, a music director is generally not considered an employee of the organization, but an independent contractor, so technically may not count as a supervisor over any particular player (though music directors do have say over hiring and retention of musicians, esp. concertmasters).

  • If the Board is concerned, as the journalist suggests, that the MD, because of his marriage to the concertmaster, might side with the musicians in a dispute with management or Board, it needs to be noted–or better remembered–that this particular MD–Osmo Vanska–has ALREADY and most courageously sided with musicians during the management-imposed lockout. He is not only one of the world’s greatest, most interesting conductors, he is a man of tremendous integrity and principle.

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