Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More Concerts Cancelled at Minnesota Orchestra

Today, the Minnesota Orchestral Association announced that they have cancelled all concerts through April 27 in the 2012-13 season.  Another punch in my music lover's gut.  That leaves only one month left in the season, plus the summer season which last year was only about three weeks long.  This is appalling.

This past January the musicians met with management and it looked like there would finally be movement toward a resolution.  But since then, nothing.


MO and Osmo Vanska Feb. 1, 2013

Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak and Minnesota Orchestra benefactor Judy Dayton came together at the end of January to invite the musicians and Osmo Vanska to perform a concert celebrating the Grammy nomination for their CD of the Sibelius Second and Fifth Symphonies.  The Mayor and Ms. Dayton made clear that this February 1, 2013, concert was to be an evening of celebration of the Minnesota Orchestra's accomplishment, to celebrate music, and to set aside the labor dispute.  As an opportunity to mend some fences, it was a wide open door.  But the MOA executive management and Board members failed to walk through it.  To my knowledge, none of them attended.  Too bad.  The concert showed the Minnesota Orchestra's artistic excellence and the true artistic partnership they enjoy (and work at) with Music Director Osmo Vanska.

Minnesota State Legislators have begun to question the MOA's financial claims.  Hearings were held to find out the economic impact of the lockout (including the SPCO and St. Paul also) on the city and state, and to find out how state funds given to the MOA were used.  While the musicians who attended the meetings spoke clearly, honestly, and passionately, MOA President Michael Henson stuck to his rigid talking points even when asked about his own salary and if he'd taken a cut in light of the organization's financial ills.  (He has not.)  Now the Legislature has requested that the State Auditor examine the MOA's books.

In the meantime, although the MOA had agreed in January to an independent financial analysis, something the musicians had been requesting for months, that has gone nowhere fast.  This leaves the distinct impression that the MOA has been engaging in foot-dragging in order to put the pressure on the musicians, i.e. financial pressure.  They have felt that pressure since October 1, 2012, when the lockout began.  Posts by the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra on Facebook show photos of member musicians at other orchestras, filling in, getting a paycheck.  I've also heard whisperings that musicians have left for permanent gigs with other orchestras.

But there is another theory about the MOA's intransigence.  The MOA had planned this for the last three to four years, and they pushed back a year the Orchestra Hall lobby construction in order to capitalize on the orchestra being without its regular concert venue.  They planned to scrap the 2012-13 season to save at least $6 million and try to bust the musicians' union, and have had no intention of bending even a little to get talks begun again.  With all the money they have saved so far (and presumably paid against the deficit), they could afford to play and talk for the month of May and during the summer.  In fact, MaryAnn Goldstein, a concerned patron and one smart cookie, has begun a petition to the Minnesota Orchestral Association about that here at Change(dot)org.

I want to give The Song of the Lark and Adaptistration(dot)com shout outs for their exemplary coverage of the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO labor disputes.  If you want to learn more, follow the progression of the labor disputes, or find ways to help, check out these sites.  There's also a community organization, Orchestrate Excellence, that supports the continuance of artistic excellence by the Minnesota Orchestra and wants to insure that it will be funded for the future. 

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