Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Interim" No Longer: Kevin Smith and the Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra's Board of Directors announced last week that they were appointing Kevin Smith as the new President and CEO of the Association.  But he wasn't that "new" because he'd been serving as the "interim" President and CEO officially since September 1 and unofficially since July.  He had originally said that he had no interest in making his position permanent, but to our great advantage (and happiness), he decided to change his mind about that.

(I'm late with looking at this news because I began a new job on Nov. 3.  My blogging time has shrunken, but I'm determined to not let it disappear completely.)

Kevin Smith (Photo: Minnesota Orchestra)
What does this mean for the organization? Well, first of all, musicians, staff and Board are all happy with Mr. Smith and what he's accomplished so far.  His management style couldn't be more different from Mr. Henson's as Doug Grow describes in his MinnPost article.  Morale has reportedly improved, people are talking to each other again, and Osmo Vanska is back. Cooperation increases the chances for a full recovery.

And the Minnesota Orchestra?  It's hard to hear much difference between its performance now and the pre-lockout performance. The musicians decided early in the lockout to put on their own concerts, and this kept them playing together even if it wasn't every week.  My reaction is one of relief on two levels: 1) that Osmo returned, and 2) that almost all the musicians have returned. My hometown band is back in business in a big way.
Photo: Minnesota Orchestra

Financial issues remain.  But they are being addressed openly and honestly, with people working together on resolving the issues.  This is the opposite of how the issues were addressed in 2012.  The community also continues to support the Minnesota Orchestra and that is crucial.

Governance issues also remain.  I've been told that the Board has formed a special committee to investigate governance and make suggestions and recommendations to the full Board.  I sent everything that I've written about governance reform to them, and my recommendation to return to a membership governance structure.

A year ago, the situation seemed hopeless. Osmo Vanska had resigned, the musicians had been locked out for over a year, no one was talking to each other, and the level of animosity was high. This year, there is hope, lots of it.  The 2014-15 season is one of the most interesting and exciting I've seen in a long time. Staff, musicians, and Board are working together, talking, discussing, resolving problems together.

What a happy difference.....

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