Monday, September 9, 2013

If I Were in Charge....

Just read a Facebook post by Manny Laureano, principal trumpet of the MN Orchestra.  He described the immature behavior of an MOA Board member toward him.  The Board member was in the skyway over Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis and Manny stood on the street below.  The Board member scowled at him, then gestured with his hand as if he was pushing Manny into the ground.  This is an example of the kind of treatment the musicians have had to endure from members of the Board and executive management.  They have disrespected the musicians, publicly denigrated them, been derisive and dismissive.  There's a word for this type of behavior: arrogance.  We don't need that from anyone, especially and MOA Board member.

If I were in charge.....

The developments in the last week and the Board's behavior have made me frustrated, angry, disdainful, and shocked:

  • Regarding the proposal the Board made to the musicians and that the musicians rejected last Thursday.  This proposal was identical to one presented to the musicians almost a month prior, and the musicians rejected it that time, too.  Does the Board think they'd get a different response?  Why?  Even I understand that doing the same thing repeatedly does not garner anything but the same response.  Duh!  If I were in charge:  This proposal would not have been presented again expecting a different result.  There's a reasonable, workable proposal already on the table, already approved by the musicians -- the mediator's proposal.  I would not be wasting time on any other moves or tactics.  I'd name a date for the negotiating committees to sit down and talk about the mediator's proposal.
  • Michael Henson, once again, has shown how adept he is at walking on his bum with his feet in his mouth up to his knees.  Was it his idea to hold a donor fundraising event with Board members in the Orchestra Hall lobby a few evenings ago?  You have a party (how much did it cost?) to raise money which is good, I suppose.  But why do you need a party with its accompanying expenses to raise money?  Instead of focusing on the musical assets the MN Orchestra has to offer possible candidates for the empty orchestra chairs, Mr. Henson believes that they'll want to play here because it's such a nice city.  Does he say that because he actually works for the city tourism agency or because he knows that after the Board has decimated the orchestra and let Osmo go, there are really few musical reasons to play here, and those are the musicians who are still here.  If I were in charge: I would ask for and require Mr. Henson's resignation.  He's been more interested in the lobby renovation than the orchestra since he arrived here.  His leadership style, from what I've heard and read, is lead by fear, i.e. browbeat and threaten everyone into obedience.  He clearly holds no love for the musicians, or classical music, what he's supposed to serve.  The MOA needs to recognize his inability to provide a straight answer when asked as an extreme liability.  I don't know if Mr. Henson wants to be famous, but he'll certainly be famous for being President and facilitating the demise of a state arts gem.
  • The Board of Directors.  We are in this mess because of their stewardship of the organization.  Robert Levine at Polyphonic reveals the discrepancies and weaknesses of the "financial review" done by AKA Strategy and released three months after the Board received it.  He calls the post "Bought and paid for."  Song of the Lark has revealed the truth about the MOA's Strategic Plan "Summary" and that there's no detailed Strategic Plan the summary is based on.  There have been two full-page (expensive) ads in Sunday issues of the Minneapolis Star Tribune calling for the musicians to come to the negotiating table in order to "save" the 2013-14 season, Osmo Vanska as Music Director, and the November Carnegie Hall concerts by accepting the proposal the musicians rejected twice.  No mention of the esteemed mediator or mediation in these two ads.  No trace of being accountable for the lockout, for the financial mess that exists, or for their immature behavior (see first paragraph at top).  If I were in charge: I would dissolve the current Board and call for a smaller Board with more experience in non-profit management and classical music.  I would create an advisory "Board" and I'd invite business leaders to join to advise the voting Board.  They would not have voting power or any other power.  I would recognize and celebrate the musicians as the organization's most valuable assets and partners in restoring the organization to health.  I would ask for the help I'd need, not isolate myself from the community, musicians, and arts administration specialist consultants who could help me.  I'd want to spend money on these consultants, not on parties for donors (until after the MOA is back on sturdy financial footing) or on an outside PR firm.  I would encourage ideas from all sides and encourage creative and innovative thinking.  
 I have wondered if there is a procedure for dissolving the Board of Directors of the MOA.  Would Attorney General Lori Swanson know?  I have also been appalled by the attitude Board members have toward musicians, a patronizingly ugly one.  Musicians must be entrepreneurs in order to be able to pursue a career in music.  They must know the business side of the art, understand contracts, be able to read a balance sheet, etc.  They are not stupid regarding business.  They understand the MOA has serious financial challenges.  They've not been credited with what they've done in the past to help and have not been included the last six years in any process that might overcome those challenges.  As hurt as the musicians are -- the MN Orchestra is their professional priority, so of course they're hurt -- they have not behaved in kind toward Board members and have consistently sought the high road.  I think it's fairly clear by now that this Board planned the lockout years before last October first.  They have proven themselves to be untrustworthy time and time again.  This Board needs to be restructured -- I'm sure those who work in corporate America that sit on the Board know full well what I mean by "restructured."

Could this situation be resolved in some way before September 15?  Sure.  How?  The Board needs to work with the mediator and accept mediation.  They need to be willing to negotiate in good faith (not in the media) with the musicians about the mediator's proposal.  And they need to resume operating under the mediator's requested silence.  The proposal is there, the musicians have approved it, so how much work is left to do on it?  It's time for the Board to put their money where their mouth is and go to the negotiating table and talk with the musicians about the mediator's proposal.

Of course, if I were in charge we would never have made it to this point....

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