Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Have We Learned?

Osmo Vanska
Last week, the Minnesota Orchestral Association announced that they'd finally re-hired Osmo Vanska as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra.  While happy about the MOA finally taking this step, the fact that it took them so long raised questions in my mind.  What took them so long?  I understand that there was a lengthy negotiation, but even before that began, the MOA Board seemed to be dithering over the Music Director issue leaving the organization and orchestra without artistic leadership.

Then they announced certain details about the contract that they and Mr. Vanska agreed to.  First of all, it's for only two years.  Why?  Was that time period requested by the Board or Mr. Vanska?  I finally found out yesterday the answer to my next question: is the option for extensions included?  Yes, for both sides.  Well, that's good news.  Under this contract, Mr. Vanska takes a pay cut comparable to the one musicians accepted in their master agreement.  I had hoped he'd do that and was pleased to see he had.  But I still can't say that I'm jumping for joy over this contract.  Why?  Well, the MOA Board has been less than enthusiastic about Mr. Vanska's return, less than enthusiastic regarding the artistic health of the orchestra, and not that concerned about that artistic health going forward.  In short, I don't trust them.  For an interesting take on the situation, read James Oestreich's article, A Conductor, Rehired, Now Must Rebuild.  

Bill Eddins

Another person not jumping up and down about the MOA's announcement last week was conductor Bill Eddins, former associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and now Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.  In his April 25 Sticks and Drones blog post entitled "The Broken Circle," he describes the issues that still face the MOA and a list of the things that have been learned from the last two years at the MOA.  Rehiring Mr. Vanska is just one more step in a long process of rebuilding both the orchestra and the organization that supports the orchestra's activities.

The biggest problem in the rebuilding process is that the MOA Board and executive management that worked to destroy the orchestra and organization to create something entirely different are still running the place.  True, Michael Henson has announced his resignation and will be gone on August 31.  But Bryan Ebensteiner remains as well as the entire Board.

I think Bill Eddins says it in his post: "Oh, and the M.O. needs a really good Executive Director.  STAT."  Whether Executive Director or President and CEO, that person could take charge of rebuilding, changing the office culture (I've heard rumors of staff actually "hating" the musicians), and working with the Board to reform the governance structure.  I'd add to that also encouraging the members of the Development Department to do their jobs.

What a challenge!  Who'd want to take it on?  Who would relish such a challenge and also be able to work with Mr. Vanska?

The membership governance structure is still the best option, I think, for the MOA.  Members would pay annual dues which would go toward operating expenses.  Whoever takes on the challenge of President and CEO of the MOA will need to be open to the community and its ideas (like me and other bloggers) and understand his or her responsibility to the community.  The new President also needs to be passionate about classical music and believe in the Minnesota Orchestra's artistic excellence.....   

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