Monday, December 9, 2013

A Community Meeting by the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra

Openness.  Transparency.  Inclusiveness.  Responsiveness.  All these things contribute to the building of trust between a community and an organization.  They also demonstrate the honesty and integrity of the organization and its leaders.  Businesses do not operate in a vacuum.  They are members of a community that supports them through business, providing employees, and services. 

A business that remains closed, secretive, exclusive, and unresponsive is a business that doesn't care about its position within the community, and doesn't care about the community.  Which may be just as well because the community regards the business as most likely dishonest, without integrity, and definitely not trustworthy.  This business will not be successful. 

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, in stark contrast to the Board of Directors and executive management at the Minnesota Orchestral Association, demonstrated their honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, and staunch community membership this morning in the Duluth Room of the downtown Hilton Hotel.  They held a "Community Meeting" at which they informed a standing-room only crowd of attendees of the money they have raised, how it's been spent, the money they need to raise, and their new mission statement which buttresses and illuminates their activities since the lockout by MOA management began October 1, 2012. 

Community Meeting Dec. 9 at Hilton/Credit: Musicians of the MN Orchestra

First and foremost, the musicians want to settle the contract dispute in a way that will preserve their world-class status and the level of artistic excellence they have achieved, as well as continuing with policies that will rebuild the orchestra with the same dedication to artistic excellence.  They are ready to partner with management to get it done.  They re-dedicated their membership to presenting symphony concerts and working with children in music education and community outreach programs.  They reviewed their activities in the last 14 months and announced 8-10 new concerts after January 1, 2014, including a January concert with the Minnesota Chorale and conductor Hugh Wolff performing Mozart's Requiem.  They also shared that the best of the best of soloists in the classical music world want to perform with them, and mentioned that Joshua Bell was one of them.

The musicians have every reason to be proud of themselves.  By sharing important information with their community, including how they are using the money people have given to them, they have affirmed their place in their community, their integrity, honesty, dedication and trustworthiness.  They also showed their deep gratitude to their community for the support given to them in all aspects of life, and to the community of American and international orchestras and musicians who have rallied to support them.  When a musician looked me in the eye this morning and thanked me for attending their meeting, I knew that his gratitude was real.  Their combined intelligence, business savvy, fundraising experience, and concert presentation and promotion expertise that they've demonstrated in the last 14 months belies MOA management's dehumanizing treatment of them as if they have no business sense or intelligence.

This Wednesday, in two days, the MOA holds its annual meeting.  They did not invite the community to attend.  In fact, they have not even announced it to the media.  I know about it only because I attended the musicians' meeting this morning, and I heard about it there.  Of course the musicians know when the Board of Directors meets.  The musicians' knowledge extends well beyond what the Board seems to believe it does.....

I've made no secret of where my sympathies lie in this contract dispute.  Time and time again, the musicians re-affirm my faith in and support of them.  They are good people, decent people with families, mortgages, and the desire to work.  They are grateful, genuinely grateful for the support they've received and for the opportunity to continue to serve their community with concerts.  This is not an insignificant thing.

On the other hand, MOA management for the last 14 months has made itself completely unavailable to the community except to denigrate the musicians in the media and try to sell their own case in the media, and to raise money through pricey fundraisers (The Symphony Ball, for example) they try to pass off as music performances.  They have put down bloggers, community activism, and "talked out of both sides of the mouth," as my grandmother used to say, and she was not endorsing it as a good thing to do.  The MOA Board locked out the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.  They also locked out the community, the audience, music students, composers, businesses in downtown Minneapolis, and their donors.  They have done everything possible to demonstrate their secretiveness, lack of transparency, exclusiveness, unresponsiveness, and lack of judgement and experience in the governance -- not management -- of a non-profit performing arts organization.  They do not know it, which is the truly amazing part, but they have effectively destroyed the Minnesota Orchestral Association.  Why?  For what?  And they think they're doing a good thing? 

It certainly wasn't for the orchestra or world class symphony music performance or artistic excellence.....

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