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#1993582 - 12/02/12 10:13 AM The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
The management "lock outs" of both the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) have not received much national attention, and as far as I know, have not been discussed on Piano World.

So if you're interested, spend 45 minutes or an hour with this blog, and make a comment.

http://songofthelark.wordpress.com

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1993680 - 12/02/12 02:29 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13773
Loc: Iowa City, IA
It's been a big topic on Adaptistration and the ArtsJournal blogs for some time, and a lot of people here in the upper midwest are pretty concerned. The per-service orchestras here in Iowa seem to be doing okay, but there's no denying that the arts are having some serious trouble these days. People just aren't willing to pay for it, and there seems to be a lack of interest among donors and other community leaders.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1993741 - 12/02/12 03:59 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
Could someone please provide a brief summary of the situation? I can't read the article at the moment.

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#1993751 - 12/02/12 04:18 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13773
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Same old thing. They're out of money and can't pay the players and haven't been able to renegotiate a contract. Lots of blame. Concerts cancelled. Players claim management misrepresented the financial situation of the orchestra. Management says players are unrealistic about their business model.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1993753 - 12/02/12 04:23 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5240
Loc: Europe
Unions to blame? LA musicians are having meetings after meetings to deal with this issue. Almost all computer game music is being done outside of the US (Prague, Bulgaria, etc) and I can see why: Not so great sight reading abilities, but brilliant musicianship and very cheap prices (no unions there)... The marvels of the 'free market'!

Now, on to art, I just can't wrap my head around the fact that while it CAN be commercial, still a large part is being sponsored and cared for from community leaders, etc... :-/
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1993799 - 12/02/12 05:43 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: debrucey]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Could someone please provide a brief summary of the situation? I can't read the article at the moment.


Here's a 2000 word piece that summarizes the situation to the end of October. It was about a 7 or 8 minute read for me. Given that I'm familiar with the situation, I realize that it may take longer for those unfamiliar. It's written from the musician's point of view, but it is quite complete, as well as factual.

Click here: http://songofthelark.wordpress.com/2012/10/27/a-laymans-guide-to-the-minnesota-orchestra-lockout/

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1994127 - 12/03/12 12:29 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: Kreisler]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5294
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Same old thing. They're out of money and can't pay the players and haven't been able to renegotiate a contract. Lots of blame. Concerts cancelled. Players claim management misrepresented the financial situation of the orchestra. Management says players are unrealistic about their business model.

It's probably a little of both. The Philly orchestra went through chapter 11, only to emerge this past July. I was amazed by the compensation packages of the performers. Reminded me a lot of Congress, except my tax dollars weren't supporting the orchestra as much as Congress. I'm surprised they're not taking the "Lowe's" approach, firing everyone, and then hiring young, eager musicians at half the cost.

It's tough in a down economy to want to spend $35 or more on a performance of a piece you've heard before, and quite often by musicians you liked better. (Case: Rach 3 and Horowitz.. for some people, no one will ever play it better, so when money is tight, why go listen to anyone else attempt it?) The community needs "newness" now more so than ever. Something new, young and fresh. But by nature, the community largely looks backwards to what is old, renowned, and standard.

What I see a lot of is an attempt to explain why "what exists" is so great, when most failing businesses would be told that "what exists" isn't working, so it's time to start thinking about how to do things differently. The venues are failing in price and product. If the product isn't what the people want, or if the price is too high for the perceived benefit, the business will fail, no matter how "great" it is.

Lots of short-hand in there. Hope it made sense. smile
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#1994166 - 12/03/12 02:03 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Online   content

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1742
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
I sympathize with the blogger's concern for the musicians, as I do for anyone whose livelihood is threatened by tough times.

Focusing almost exclusively, though, on how "revered" the musicians are doesn't help locate a solution. In musical organizations, in businesses, and in government, when funds available for operations, salaries, and benefits are constrained, something has to give.

Almost all of our important current and future policy challenges are going to be, in essence, math problems. We're all going to have to do the math to be able to comment usefully.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#1994194 - 12/03/12 03:28 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
Where are the discussions of superb musical standards and performance excellence? Both of the orchestras being discussed are world class ensembles and not just good local orchestras.

I'm surprised that in a music oriented forum, the assumption is being made that you just dump a bunch of instrumentalists on a stage and the product will be of the highest quality. It just doesn't work that way. Ensembles of this quality take years to develop and the maintenance is ongoing. Yes, it is an expensive proposition. Yes, it is also a source of community pride.

The home of the MSO is currently being renovated following an extensive fund raising drive. The image of the orchestra was that there was no dire financial situation apparent. It was made public that negotiatons we beginning on a new contract and were begun in good faith. The big surprise was that the musicians were locked out, their contract proposals rejected out of hand, and the concerts were cancelled. The orchestra members had preferred to continue with performances as scheduled while negotiations were under way.

The MSO will probably continue in some form after the disputes are settled. The question is whether it will retain its quality and stature of musicianship which it has established for itself.

It is the players who provide the product of any orchestra, not the management. Running an arts organization cannot be compared to managing a manufacturing plant. The "products" simply do not equate.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#1994212 - 12/03/12 03:58 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Online   content

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1742
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
And yet, in the end, the key differences are monetized, as the differences cared about both by management and by labor usually are preceded by dollar signs.

I know both of these orchestras. The musicians are indeed superb. (I hasten to note that there are also a lot of teachers, machinists, pilots, and workers in many other fields who do great work and who have fallen afoul of the recession of the past four years.)

The math still has to work for a compromise to be reached, in this case as in the others.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#1994367 - 12/03/12 10:31 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: Kreisler]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
There is a huge difference between what is going on with the Minnesota, and what is happening to a number of other orchestras around the country.

The difference is:

The lobby of Orchestra Hall is being remodeled to the tune of 52 million dollars.

Meanwhile, the MOA (the Minnesota Orchestra Board), is demanding that the orchestra members take a cut of 30 to 50%, according to the musicians, or 20 to 40%, according to the MOA. The Minnesota Orchestra has been locked out. This is not a strike. This is a "lock-out."

Such high-handed treatment would severely damage any orchestra in the nation. The best players will leave. New and young players will not choose to come. It will take years to rebuild--if ever.

How can someone like me react to this kind of craziness about my hometown orchestra other than to bang my head on the table. The orchestra itself is the thing. And it's a magnificent orchestra--one of the grand old orchestras of this nation--the Minnesota stands in the shadow of no one.

And the lobby is just fine.

This is not Detroit. This is as healthy an economy as any in the nation. Besides that, the national economy is recovering. No one is talking bankruptcy here. No doubt, the orchestra's endowment took a huge hit during the recession, but if you can believe the MOA, it is still upwards of 170 million dollars. And in the depths of the deepest recession since the great depression, they raised 52 million dollars on top of that for an updated lobby.

This town and state can afford to pay this orchestra what it's worth, and if it's all that important, they can afford a nice new lobby too.

Incidentally, over the past five years, we have built three or four--I've lost count--new sports stadiums in this town, and are about to tear down a fifth, because it's redundant.

What's all this nonsense about a lobby while locking out the Minnesota Orchestra?

Tomasino





Edited by tomasino (12/03/12 10:43 PM)
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1994477 - 12/04/12 05:29 AM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: Kreisler]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7784
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Players claim management misrepresented the financial situation of the orchestra.


Per this interesting article, it seems that some people with a significant role in the orchestra's financial health (i.e., rich donors) may have a few questions on that point, too.

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#1994500 - 12/04/12 07:23 AM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: wr]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Players claim management misrepresented the financial situation of the orchestra.


Per this interesting article, it seems that some people with a significant role in the orchestra's financial health (i.e., rich donors) may have a few questions on that point, too.



Thank you so much, wr, for your post, and for the link to the most important piece of reporting, so far, on the situation here in Minneapolis. Anyone thinking that the musicians are simply not coming to terms with math and monetary reality should read the linked article before thinking any further. Point being, there is good, sound, and well documented reason to distrust the numbers put out by the Minnesota Orchestra Board, (the MOA). The dispute has a lot to do with math and monetary reality, no doubt, and it has a lot to do with artistic standards as well, no doubt.

The artistic standards of the Minnesota Orchestra are beyond dispute. The math and numbers put out by the MOA are highly questionable.

Unconvinced? Click on wr's link above.

Tomasino


Edited by tomasino (12/04/12 07:24 AM)
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1994514 - 12/04/12 08:11 AM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Ridicolosamente Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/08/08
Posts: 1467
Loc: Miami, Florida, USA
Originally Posted By: tomasino
...Incidentally, over the past five years, we have built three or four--I've lost count--new sports stadiums in this town, and are about to tear down a fifth, because it's redundant.
Two in the two years I lived there. That's a pretty good average! Did they build a new Vikings stadium yet?

-Daniel
_________________________
Currently working on:
-Dane Rudhyar's Stars from Pentagrams No 3

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#1994580 - 12/04/12 10:48 AM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Online   content

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1742
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
I'm not seeing what you're seeing in that Star-Tribune article.

First, it appears that management has opened its books and minutes. That is by no means common practice.

Second, as Democratic Farm Labor Senator Dibble notes, lots of organizations were balancing operating budgets in the depths of the recession by dipping into endowments. That's one reason you have an endowment -- to provide a source of emergency capital when current operational revenues and normal fundraising can't cover current operational expenses.

It is not considered good practice to raid an endowment to cover standard operating expenses once the crisis is past, as earlier posts in this thread suggest is now the case.

In other words, the STrib story paints a picture similar in material respects to other orchestra labor/management disputes across the country -- of which, sadly, there are too many: An effort to align current-year revenue with current-year expenses. That, again, is a math problem.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#1994641 - 12/04/12 01:13 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
It is indeed a math problem. However, it is the method of solution which determines the ultimate outcome.

The decision is whether the orchestra management chooses to lessen artistic excellence, or maintain it. If the quality of both ensembles is paramount, then it is the job of the management(s) to secure the funding. It is that simple. The situation is not about holding costs in check, it is about drastically slashing the income of those who "manufacture" the product. The Minnesota Orchestra is already at the bottom end of salaries in comparison with the other great orchestras in the country. The proposed salary cuts will only serve to reduce the quality level of the instrumentalists and will not attract the highest level of players for replacement.

When I attend concerts, I am thrilled to hear truly exquisite performances on par with any of the world's great orchestras. It is an extraordinary experience and has come to be expected. The fact that the season has been suspended, by the management, is certainly noticed by the concert going audience. I congratulate the musicians for "sticking together" and scheduling alternate concerts, especially during the holiday season.

The Twin Cities, and all of the state, is so much more than sports. Our orchestras, all of them, are important to Minnesotans, deserve our support, and the support is forthcoming. We just need to know that the finances are being handled in an appropriate manner.

Management of the MO dug itself in a hole and are trying convoluted verbage to cover its own mismanagement. It was not a satisfactory and wise method of fiscal management. Now they are left with "but, but, but" and "because, because, because." The price of the mismanagement should not be born by the individual musicians. Cut and slash is not a wise solution.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#1994644 - 12/04/12 01:19 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Online   content

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1742
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
I hope the problem is solved. If, as you say, the financial support is there, it will be.

If not, the math won't work.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#1994646 - 12/04/12 01:21 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: ClsscLib]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
I'm not seeing what you're seeing in that Star-Tribune article.

First, it appears that management has opened its books and minutes. That is by no means common practice.

Second, as Democratic Farm Labor Senator Dibble notes, lots of organizations were balancing operating budgets in the depths of the recession by dipping into endowments. That's one reason you have an endowment -- to provide a source of emergency capital when current operational revenues and normal fundraising can't cover current operational expenses.

It is not considered good practice to raid an endowment to cover standard operating expenses once the crisis is past, as earlier posts in this thread suggest is now the case.

In other words, the STrib story paints a picture similar in material respects to other orchestra labor/management disputes across the country -- of which, sadly, there are too many: An effort to align current-year revenue with current-year expenses. That, again, is a math problem.




I’m glad you took the time to read the article that appeared in the state’s largest newspaper, the Minneapolis Tribune. But in your summation of the article, (linked again here-- http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/music/180782151.html?refer=y --) you make no mention that, quoting from the article:

“Balances in 2009 and 2010 would support our state bonding aspirations,” Bryan Ebensteiner, vice president of finance, told the orchestra’s executive committee in September 2009, “while the deficits in 2011 and 2012 would demonstrate the need to reset the business model.”

The above appears to be an outline of a strategic deception--if the Board tells people that they’re doing better than they are, then the Board can get what it wants. And what would that be--a new lobby, perhaps, partially funded by state taxes, a weakened union, a chance to reset the business model. Again, I quote the article:

“Several issues were at stake between 2009 and 2011. The orchestra was in the midst of a capital campaign to remodel Orchestra Hall, launch artistic initiatives and build up its endowment. Showing balanced budgets would enhance the orchestra’s image with individual and corporate donors and with the Minnesota Legislature, which in 2010 was asked to consider a $14 million bonding request for the building project.”

This seems to mean that if the Board is deceptive about its finances, wealthy patrons and corporations will be more likely to donate money, and the state legislature will be more likely to pony up $14,000,000 to help with the lobby redo.

It seems to me we're talking a cover-up here, a cover-up made in testimony before the Minnesota State Legislature. Oh, it may not have been quite illegal, but the fact that, when queried by the reporter, they hardly deny the deception.

“...We spent countless hours with attorneys to make sure we understood the state law about how endowments work...”

And such a concern with attorneys and auditors speaks mvolumes about the very questionable ethics employed, as well as the Board’s knowledge that the ethics were questionable. Legal or not, the Board deceived the legislature. It is also becoming clear that the Board deceived wealthy donars on this question. Were they told that the orchestra was in such dire financial straits when they contributed to building a new lobby? One wealthy couple has already broken ranks, and made public their dissatisfaction.

It may not be as clear to some as to me, but the article clearly establishes that the Board deceived the State of Minnesota over the past four years--the State Legislature, wealthy benefactors, the business community, and the public at large. This is serious. Is this the way business is done at other non-profit arts organizations: the Minnesota Institute of Art?, the Tyrone Guthrie Theater?, all the dance companies around Minneapolis? Do they all behave this way? This is not the Minnesota way. We don't behave this way. This does not square with the ethos of the midwest. Midwesterners think that this kind of behavior is only found in cities that have been infiltrated by the Mafia and other criminal elements. Call us naive, but a line has been crossed, and this state is reacting very badly to it. It's being talked about not only in the confines of the powerful. You can hear about it talked about on the street and on buses. We don't cozy-up to this kind of behavior.

How can the musicians be expected to trust this Board and the audited numbers they put out--audited by auditors of their own choosing? How can anybody? Complete transparency and a thorough analysis of the situation--artistic as well as financial--is needed before the musicians and the state of Minnesota can trust this Board.

I ask the bottom line question one more time: How can the Board cry "poor" and ask the musicians to take cuts of 30 to 50%, when they are currently spending 52 million dollars to redo a rather sparse lobby which is perfectly serviceable? What are the priorities?

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1994670 - 12/04/12 02:02 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Online   content

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1742
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Unless bonding authorities in Minnesota are extraordinarily naive -- and I have too much respect for Minnesota state government to believe that -- the decision to work through the worst part of the recession by increasing the draw from the endowment will have been clearly understood by the bonding authorities and reflected in the audited financial statements of the orchestral association. Auditors who hide that sort of thing go to jail, and I doubt very much that it was hidden in these financials.

Again, I understand your dissatisfaction that management would have drawn from the endowment to get through an emergency while not doing so to cover normal operating expenses. Dissatisfaction aside, it's the textbook response to extraordinary circumstances like what we saw over the past four years (and could continue to see in the future).

If the audience is prepared to support these musicians, they will be supported.

Incidentally, I recall my sainted mother telling me that it's a mighty thin pancake that has only one side. Those who are interested in hearing both sides of the story should review not just what is said by the union and its supporters, but also what is said by the orchestral association, here:

http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/about/contract-talks/misrepresentation-vs-reality

.


Edited by ClsscLib (12/04/12 02:59 PM)
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#1994679 - 12/04/12 03:01 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
The audience supports the musicians, it is management that wants to slash salaries without attempting to garner additional/alternate income. The fact that the endowment was used is a matter of record. It is the purpose of the endowment to guard against financial catastrophe and accomplish the goal of fiscal stability.

However, that time has passed and it is time to move forward. It would be moving backward to solve financial difficulties by lessening the quality of the ensemble. Why has management locked out the musicians when they were willing to continue with performances as negotiations were underway? Management has ended its own income stream which is needed for financial stability. The poor choices continue.

For the viewpoint of the musicians, here is a link for further understanding of the issues at hand:

http://www.minnesotaorchestramusicians.org/

I differ a little on my viewpoint of the Orchestra Hall renovation as I believe that it was needed. The question is whether it was wise to promote the venture while the orchestra was running a deficit. At the time of the fundraising campaign, the management of the orchestra portrayed an organization on secure financial footing. It was after the fact that the true finances were revealed. They even admitted in the minutes of the exec. committee that the image was "created" rather than accurate. It is pure deception foisted upon audience, benefactors, and the state government.

It is appalling that the orchestra members be "punished" for a situation which is not of their creation.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#1994688 - 12/04/12 03:17 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Online   content

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1742
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Virtually all of those points are responded to in the Orchestral Association's FAQs.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#1994825 - 12/05/12 01:13 AM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
JessicaB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/04/09
Posts: 125
These issues are very complex as are the situations preceding them. Representations by the boards of these organizations to the public may have been only partially reported or may have been improperly reported. I don't think without a deep understanding we can comment on the situation.

Also, many people believed the economy would turn around in 2009, 2010. That has not been the case and non-profits, including these organizations, rely on donations from people who have discretionary income. What they forecast in those years may not have come to fruition. So rather than speculate, it is better to let the parties figure it out. Bad public relations won't help either the musicians or the organizations.

FYI, many books and records of 501(c)(3) organizations are open to the public, but labor negotiations are not.


Edited by JessicaB (12/05/12 01:15 AM)

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#1994965 - 12/05/12 10:30 AM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: JessicaB]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7239
Loc: Rochester MN
Originally Posted By: JessicaB
So rather than speculate, it is better to let the parties figure it out. Bad public relations won't help either the musicians or the organizations.

JessicaB,

Though I agree with you in concept, this matter is of great concern to those who support the arts, or are directly involved in the arts community. Just this morning, there was a report on Public Radio concerning the incurred deficits from the canceled seasons, to date, of both orchestras. Again, the membership of both the MO and SPCO have requested an end to the lock-outs and resume negotians while continuing with the remainder of the seasons under a "Talk and Play" agreement.

The matter is in the public eye, as it should be.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/12/05/labor/twin-cities-orchestra-lockout-update/
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#1995080 - 12/05/12 02:52 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: JessicaB]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Originally Posted By: JessicaB
These issues are very complex as are the situations preceding them. Representations by the boards of these organizations to the public may have been only partially reported or may have been improperly reported. I don't think without a deep understanding we can comment on the situation.

Also, many people believed the economy would turn around in 2009, 2010. That has not been the case and non-profits, including these organizations, rely on donations from people who have discretionary income. What they forecast in those years may not have come to fruition. So rather than speculate, it is better to let the parties figure it out. Bad public relations won't help either the musicians or the organizations.

FYI, many books and records of 501(c)(3) organizations are open to the public, but labor negotiations are not.


I cannot agree. You seem to be saying that ordinary music loving individuals should not voice an opinion on the manner in which a non-profit organization is managed. "Rather than speculate," we ought to just trust the integrity and good judgement of the parties.

First of all, some of what we are addressing is direct tax money from the citizens of Minnesota. Secondly, individuals with discretionary income give because it reduces their taxable income. Back in the bad old days, when the economy was good, particularly the 50s and 60s, but in this case, especially the 70s, the decade when the Minnesota Orchestra's endowment was created, wealthy individuals would give to good causes in order to put themselves into a lower tax bracket. Not only were they not taxed on what they gave, the remainder of their income was taxed at a lesser rate. I don't at all mean to impugn their love and dedication to the Minnesota Orchestra, but it must be pointed out that they were forgiven taxes by giving to good causes. In oblique, but certain ways, then, the public has paid pretty much for the whole thing.

I'm a member of that public, and feel duty bound to speak out whenever something seems suspicious or fishy concerning public money and the public good. Those who practice "public relations" will just have to direct their concern over "bad public relations" towards the "public" of "public relations"--that would include me. In that spirit, I will continue to speak out. And something does, indeed, seem "suspicious or fishy" when it comes to the lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra.

First, the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra, knowing a financial crisis was coming, and in the midst of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, chose to, and was able to, raise 52 Million Dollars to redo the lobby of Orchestra Hall. Again, they did this KNOWING A FINANCIAL CRISIS WAS COMING.

Second, in the process of raising the 52 Million Dollars, their reaction to the financial crisis was to demand that the orchestra membership take pay cuts of 30 to 50 percent.

Third, also in the process of raising the 52 Million Dollars, they deliberately deceived the Minnesota State Legislature, and quite likely, some wealthy patrons as well.

What's fishy about all of this? Priorities, priorities, priorities.

I acknowledge that the lobby was in need of an update. It was plain and sparse, and not inviting. But the stairways weren't dangerous, it wasn't a fire hazard, nor was anyone getting sued because they tripped on the carpet. It could have waited--indefinitely, if need be--for a better economic time. But even during a better time, I would question the need to go about it in such an extensive way. 52 Million Dollars, and the kind of construction I see happening downtown on the lobby, seems out of proportion.

Given all of that, the question is still one of priorities. What's more important? The continued artistic integrity of the Minnesota Orchestra, or a redo of a dated and unattractive lobby?

The Board made a very wrong choice on this question. And that is the stumbling block. What can be done at this point? It's a very bad situation. The old lobby is torn down. It's gone. The new one is partially built. We can't go back. We can't rededicate the 52 Million Dollars to the orchestra itself. It's spent.

For starters, I feel the board itself needs to show some contrition for their dishonesty, their royal screw up, and their total lack of good judgement. Perhaps they should resign, or certain members should resign. A new board is needed. At that point, perhaps a deal could be made with the musicians. Take a pay cut of 10 to 25 percent perhaps, and be willing to draw down the endowment one more time to pay that. And then, with fresh and honest faces on the board, they could get to work on rebuilding the endowment. If the current one raised 52 Million Dollars during a recession, they ought to be able to rebuild the endowment if they really try. After all, this state is in better economic shape than is most of the country. The economy overall seems to be improving. There are a few patches of blue sky to be seen. Trust going into the future, and keep your fingers crossed.

The Board has lost credibility with the State Legislature, wealthy donors, and the public at large. The Board is much easier to replace than the unequaled excellence of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Tomasino





Edited by tomasino (12/05/12 05:16 PM)
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1995088 - 12/05/12 03:16 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
I would hope this doesn't turn into a "twinkies" outcome..

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#1995103 - 12/05/12 03:48 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Online   content

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1742
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
This is getting silly.

Warren Buffett didn't know the financial crisis was coming. Neither did anyone else -- including the Orchestral Association trustees. At the time the current contract was adopted and plans for the remodeling were launched, the economy was good.

Second, most of the funds for the remodeling were earmarked and therefor not available for a purpose other than the one for which they were provided: capital improvements of the type specified.

Earmarked funds -- and money appropriated or privately raised for other specific projects -- simply are not available to meet general operating expenses such as salaries. One might wish otherwise, but they aren't.

The truth here is pretty obvious: The business model for the MSO (as for many non-profit institutions) isn't sustainable. The only way to change that is to bring operating revenues in line with operating expenses.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#1995109 - 12/05/12 04:08 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3161
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: tomasino
Not only were they not taxed on what they gave, the remainder of their income was taxed at a lesser rate.

This is not how marginal tax brackets work. The remainder of their income was always being taxed at the lesser rate; it's only that last marginal amount of income above the threshold for the highest bracket that is taxed at the higher rate.

The effect of tax deductible charitable contributions is that a donor can give a certain amount of money at an effectively lower cost to themselves. But it is still a cost. For example, if someone is in a 90% tax bracket, and earning more than $100,000 over the threshold for the tax bracket, then they can give a charitable donation of $100,000 but because of the tax savings, their donation only effectively costs them $10,000. They didn't save money overall: they saved $90,000 on their taxes, and spent $100,000 on the charitable contribution, for a net cost of $10,000.

You're right that that means $90,000 less tax money in the public coffers, but there isn't an add on effect of lesser taxes on the rest of their money. They still pay the same taxes on the rest of that money as they always paid.
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#1995155 - 12/05/12 06:00 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: PianoStudent88]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: tomasino
Not only were they not taxed on what they gave, the remainder of their income was taxed at a lesser rate.

This is not how marginal tax brackets work. The remainder of their income was always being taxed at the lesser rate; it's only that last marginal amount of income above the threshold for the highest bracket that is taxed at the higher rate.

The effect of tax deductible charitable contributions is that a donor can give a certain amount of money at an effectively lower cost to themselves. But it is still a cost. For example, if someone is in a 90% tax bracket, and earning more than $100,000 over the threshold for the tax bracket, then they can give a charitable donation of $100,000 but because of the tax savings, their donation only effectively costs them $10,000. They didn't save money overall: they saved $90,000 on their taxes, and spent $100,000 on the charitable contribution, for a net cost of $10,000.

You're right that that means $90,000 less tax money in the public coffers, but there isn't an add on effect of lesser taxes on the rest of their money. They still pay the same taxes on the rest of that money as they always paid.


Thanks for that, and I accept your correction--it is only the amount above the higher bracket that is taxed a lower rate. I think I got it. Correct me again if I'm wrong.

Am I right, though, in thinking that we often misperceive wealthy donors as contributing much more than really comes out of their pocketbook, and give little or no credit to ourselves for what we are contributing? There is $90.000 less in public coffers, the non-profit has received $100,000, and the patron has effectively put out $10,000. Is this correct? And isn't there a kind of informal and unacknowledged trade-off, where other tax payers--in the aggregate, all of us--kick in that $90,000 which went to the non-profit?

My point is not to challenge the generosity of wealthy patrons and their love of music. Rather, it is to point out that we all make contributions, albeit in a very circuitous way, to non-profit organizations such as symphony orchestras, when the wealthy make contributions. Therefore, (and this was the point I was making to JessicaB above), we all are stakeholders, and have a right and even a duty to speak out if we feel strongly. And not just because we love music, and are a loyal ticket buying public, but because we have sometimes unwittingly, and sometimes unwillingly, contributed more to the non-profit than the price of our ticket.

Tomasino


Edited by tomasino (12/05/12 06:39 PM)
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1995207 - 12/05/12 08:09 PM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: ClsscLib]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
This is getting silly.

Warren Buffett didn't know the financial crisis was coming. Neither did anyone else -- including the Orchestral Association trustees. At the time the current contract was adopted and plans for the remodeling were launched, the economy was good.

Second, most of the funds for the remodeling were earmarked and therefor not available for a purpose other than the one for which they were provided: capital improvements of the type specified.

Earmarked funds -- and money appropriated or privately raised for other specific projects -- simply are not available to meet general operating expenses such as salaries. One might wish otherwise, but they aren't.

The truth here is pretty obvious: The business model for the MSO (as for many non-profit institutions) isn't sustainable. The only way to change that is to bring operating revenues in line with operating expenses.


No, it's not getting silly. It's getting serious.

I agree that not many knew the recession was coming in 2008, and many of the best run endowments lost money.

I also agree that most of the 52 Million Dollars collected for the lobby redo were dedicated, and probably could not have been easily rededicated. Even if it could have been rededicated, at this point it's a dead issue. The old lobby is gone, torn down, the new one is being constructed, and the money is being spent as I type.

Aside from these agreements with you, I still have difficulty with your failure to realize that the prevailing members of the Board were soliciting those dedicated funds for a lobby redo knowing full well that a financial crisis was just over the horizon. Why weren't they soliciting funds with a view to the crisis they knew was coming? Further, these same individuals fudged the books in testimony before the State Legislature to cover up this very unfortunate fact when they were pursuing state money. Two years later, when contract negotiations were on the horizon, they again fudged their books to make it look like the crisis was worse than it was. They planned to commit this double subterfuge in advance, and in the same breath. They knew exactly what they were doing. They knew the ethical and legal implications. They checked it out with lawyers and public relations experts, just to make sure. It's in the Board's minutes.These actions call into serious question both their judgement and their integrity.

As I say, this is not silly. This is serious. A trust has been broken. Trust is important. And how can the musicians, how can the state and city government, the patrons, and the concert going public, ever trust them again. If we are to work our way out of this here in Minnesota, Trust must be reestablished.

I see only one solution. Dissident members of the board, large donors and other influential individuals, must force out the major players of this fiasco, and quickly get in fresh and qualified people to make a deal with the orchestra: cutbacks of say 10 to 25%, an agreement to fund the salaries one more time by drawing on the endowment, and to rededicate themselves to do what boards are supposed to do--to raise money, and to rebuild the endowment.

I believe this can be done in a state like Minnesota. There is a tradition here of business getting along quite amicably with labor unions--a tradition built on generations of trust. Further, it would seem that if we can raise and spend 52 Million Dollars on a lobby redo in the midst of a deep recession, we ought to be able to reestablish the endowment now that times seem to be getting better, and we have a clearer picture of what the real issue is. It's a matter of self-confidence, trust in the future, and keeping our fingers crossed.

This is the only way I can see of ever bringing "operating revenues in line with operating expenses." Attempting to do so in an instant, by fiat, by subterfuge, or by demanding salary cuts of 30 to 50%, is not acceptable. Such a solution, in my opinion, would result in the orchestra eventually being reduced, over time, to a second rate pops orchestra.

Andre Rieu playing the "Beatles Greatest Hits" with the remnants of the once glorious Minnesota Orchestra five or ten years from now is...well...just forget it.

Tomasino



Edited by tomasino (12/05/12 08:54 PM)
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1995345 - 12/06/12 07:57 AM Re: The Lock Outs, the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO [Re: tomasino]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7784
There's a certain amount of irony in the MSO's just-announced nomination for a Grammy in the "Best Orchestral Performance" category. Not that the classical part of the Grammys are taken seriously, but still...

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