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#2080557 - 05/11/13 12:25 AM Report from the Northland, the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Minnesota Orchestra is in deep trouble. Serious and respected commentators are raising the possibility of a total disintegration--meaning the loss of our orchestra in any form or shape is a possibility. It feels like something big is about to happen in this very long lockout--it's gonna come apart, or it's gonna start to come together. At the moment, it seems like it's coming apart. The mood seems extremely tense right now. You can sense it in the air.

I can report that the people of Minneapolis are united in their opinion, and they are totally disgusted and angry with the board, and clearly support the musicians. This unanimity of public opinion has held for many months now. I don't see that changing.

These two links will give you some idea of what's going on. The first, a blog called Adaptistration, spells out the very gloomy situation and recent events. The second, Sticks and Drones, is no less uplifting in its assessment, but does offer a plan.

Surprisingly, the talk about money and endowment drawdown has receded, at least among the general population. The ground has shifted, and everyone now the issues seem to be about governance and decision making: who calls the shots day to day, and who calls the shots in the long term? Who makes artistic decisions?

Personally, I'm heartbroken. The Minnesota is one of the grand old orchestras of this country. It had it's heyday way back in the 1940s under Dmitri Mitropolis when it was called the Minneaolis Symphony Orchestra. And even though it has always had a tremendous potential for greatness, for some reason--maybe something about the chemistry with the people, a bad hall for many years, a very ill advised name change, inability to get a great conductor to commit to the midwest--for some reason, it never reached its potential again.

Until that is, these last three or four years. It has been exciting. It has just been so exciting to go to Orchestra Hall recently, people were excited to talk the music they had heard, it was fun just being in such an excited crowd, and important national and international critics were giving it very, very strong reviews. Alex Ross said in 2010, at the end of a very long article review commenting on many orchestras in succession, that the Minnesota "sounded like the greatest orchestra in the world." We were so proud in Minneapolis. We were so happy with our orchestra. We knew we had a truly great orchestra, and that they were at their peak, playing better than ever, playing better than any orchestra we had ever heard.

And now this . . . and now this . . . as I say, I'm heartbroken . . . anyway, here are the links.


Sticks and Drones

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

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#2080666 - 05/11/13 08:36 AM Re: Report from the Northland, the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout [Re: tomasino]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 2129
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
I hope all sides can be as flexible and creative as possible in showing their love for music by going the extra mile to compromise sensibly.

The past five years have been very, very difficult for most artistic, educational, and charitable institutions, but particularly for orchestras.

Orchestras have much higher personnel costs than many other not-for-profit groups. Top-flight orchestral musicians receive relatively high salaries -- which should be higher still, IMHO -- and traditionally have received decent pension, health, and retirement benefits.

A big part of the problem has been that in this period of prolonged low interest rates, capital market fluctuations, and decreased charitable giving, the asset sides of institutions' balance sheets have shrunk, while the liability sides have grown. (This is because the present value of long-term pension and retirement liabilities grows when interest rates go down.)

It's essentially illegal for any entity to continue to do business if the assets are less than the liabilities, so any organization in a borderline position is forced to make very hard and seemingly unfair decisions. That's where a lot of pro orchestras are right now. With available resources, they can't make their balance sheets and income statements balance without restructuring long-term commitments, and since most of those long-term commitments are to musicians, there's only one place, really, where the belt can be tightened.

That's not to say that funding from OUTSIDE the organization would be impossible. In the case of the wonderful Minnesota Orchestra, I know it's true that many in the community are strong supporters, and in the end I hope they will show that support by contributing to a solution.

I wish the very best for all concerned.

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

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

#2080674 - 05/11/13 08:49 AM Re: Report from the Northland, the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout [Re: tomasino]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 13144
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Some interesting questions are being raised, however. With artistic organizations that rely heavily upon grants and donations, it's often the board members that consist of the donors that end up having a say in artistic decisions. This is a problem, and I've seen how it is affecting these organizations. Money may talk, but it doesn't necessarily make art. Very sad.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#2080678 - 05/11/13 08:54 AM Re: Report from the Northland, the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout [Re: tomasino]
bennevis Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 6843
The Minnesota Orchestra's ongoing cycle of Sibelius symphonies recordings for BIS, with Osmo Vänska conducting, has attracted great reviews and most consider it to surpass his previous cycle with the Lahti SO (which I mostly agree with).

It would be a pity if they parted company. The situation with orchestras in the UK is not quite so dire because most receive a lot of government subsidy, but from what I gather, they make a loss on every domestic concert they give. (Musicians have to justify their existence to the higher powers by doing educational/out-reach programs to schools, institutions etc.) Only foreign tours bring profits.
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

#2081838 - 05/13/13 11:03 AM Re: Report from the Northland, the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout [Re: tomasino]
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Please read this very important article in today’s New York Times about the Minnesota and the lockout. The reporter, James R. Oestreich, makes real efforts to be fair and balanced.


Here is the link to the the full review in the New Yorker, by Alex Ross, that the article refers to:


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


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