Wednesday, August 28, 2013

LOCKED OUT: Month Eleven

How can it be eleven months since the Minnesota Orchestral Association Board of Directors locked out the musicians that make up the Minnesota Orchestra?  I never imagined that we'd be here, but time waits for no one.  We are approaching Osmo Vanska's September 9 deadline to resolve the dispute enough to return the musicians to work.  Right now, I'd say that the MOA management team is not going to make that deadline.  I point to the management team because the musicians have been ready and willing to work, but not under the terms of management's "final" contract proposal.

Osmo Vanska Conducting the Minnesota Orchestra

I fear we will be saying good-bye to Osmo Vanska as Music Director.  I fear that management will not ask him to reconsider.  In fact, I believe it's highly likely that they want him to leave and if he goes of his own accord then they won't be blamed for it.  Why?  If you take a look at Drew McManus' post at his Adaptistration blog about music director compensation, you'll see that Mr. Vanska makes over $1 million.  He's worth every penny artistically, but MOA management and the Board are not taking into consideration artistic concerns.  They only care about that $1 million.  I suspect that they would love to be able to hire a much, much cheaper music director/conductor and someone they can control.  Clearly, they really don't know anything about conductors!

Mr. Vanska has every right to leave, of course.  His orchestra, the instrument that he plays as a musician, is being decimated.  I personally have a dream: the musicians resign en masse and form a separate, independent orchestra that could perform in either Northrop Auditorium (where the Minnesota Orchestra had its home before Orchestra Hall was built) or in the Ted Mann Auditorium.  Then I would love to see them invite all the musicians who have had to leave due to financial considerations to return and join them.  I would love to see them invite Mr. Vanska to be their "first" Music Director and Principal Conductor.  And I'm sure they'd welcome any staff from the MOA who'd want to be involved in creating a new orchestral association.  But what to call this new orchestra?

It's not George Mitchell's or Governor Dayton's fault that MOA management rejected the proposal to "play and talk" for four months -- at least I'd thought, from all the reports I saw, that they'd rejected it.  The full Board was to meet today to consider the proposal, so maybe there's hope yet.  However, I won't be surprised if the Board rejects it and makes it official.  It will demonstrate conclusively that the musicians have been right all along not to offer a counter-proposal.  Anything reasonable will be rejected.  MOA management will not accept anything but their "final" proposal made 11 months ago.  It certainly looks now like they have not now, never have, nor will have any intention of negotiating with the musicians.   I find their entrenchment, their rigid thinking, and their lack of taking responsibility for the situation (their most recent example of this: the fundraising e-mail sent out earlier this month that had the theme of "does this community really want and to pay for a world-class symphony orchestra?"  They had a much cleverer wording that really turned up the guilt.  You can see it at the Song of the Lark.)  The worst, though, is their disregard for the accomplishments of the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vanska.  They do not care. 

I've heard the comment that the Board and executive management at the MOA are greedy.  They care only about money.  If they were greedy, they would want the money for themselves.  But they seem to genuinely want the money for the organization.  In fact, their rigid thinking does not allow them to broaden their perspective to see that there are other ways to accomplish the same goals without destroying a world-class orchestra and losing a world-class conductor in the process.  The sad thing is, they made serious mistakes in their financial management of the MOA, and they are compounding those financial mistakes by disregarding what the Minnesota Orchestral Association is all about, i.e. the Minnesota Orchestra.  Or to put it another way, the artistic goals, performance and excellence achieved and sustained by the musicians and their Music Director.

Orchestrate Excellence organized a community forum that was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis, across the street from Orchestra Hall.  For a complete report, check here.  There is also now an organization on Facebook called Save our Symphony Minnesota that has garnered 6414 likes, which means that 6414 people are following them.  Their website is here.  These are two excellent community resources and opportunities to support the musicians and classical music in Minnesota.  You can also support the musicians at their website.

How do I feel?  Frankly, I didn't think that anything the MOA could do would surprise me, but then along came "Domaingate."  What surprised me about this was how it demonstrated management's paranoia and planning for a long, difficult lockout.  Didn't they consider that if the community wants to take action, they will find a way to organize whether those domain names are available or not?  While the money management spent on buying 13 domain names will not drain the endowment, it was a totally unnecessary move. 

And now this just in -- Mr. Vanska has moved his Sept. 9 deadline back to Sept. 30, which means that the orchestra will need to be in rehearsal by then in order to be ready for their Carnegie Hall concerts.  That means a settlement will need to be reached by Sept. 15.  He's being generous (which is far more than I can say for the Board) and giving them more time.  Notice, it was Mr. Vanska who made the move, not MOA management, although the MOA sent out the press release about it.

I hope this is the last post that I'll be writing about the lockout.....

The Minnesota Orchestra in Orchestra Hall



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