Musicians Lock-out Hits a Sour Note with This Orchestra Lover

Description and comments on the locked out SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra musicians. What can you do to help?

I have tried to write this eloquently, but I am so distraught and angry, I can barely keep a civil tongue.

“Without music, life is a journey through a desert.” – Pat Conroy

The Twin Cities is blessed with two internationally renowned orchestras:  the
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) and the Minnesota Orchestra.  Currently, both orchestras are fighting for their lives, literally. I am watching efforts to systematically dismantle each orchestra, monitoring postings from orchestra members and management on several websites, in addition to reading commentaries, newspaper articles and blogs, listening to radio programs, etc.

The arguments are complex, so I will not attempt to reiterate them here.  Rather,
you can follow these on the following websites:

Management perspectives:http://updates.thespco.org/ http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/about/contract-talks/about-the-negotiations

Musicians and supporter perspectives:

http://musiciansspco.org/claim-reality-truth/  http://musiciansspco.org/category/negotiations/  http://sospco.org/about/  http://sospco.org/uncategorized/musicians-publish-facts-about-spco-negotiations http://www.minnesotaorchestramusicians.org/?page_id=3469  http://www.OrchestrateExcellence.org

Several facts:
The musicians of each orchestra have been locked out of their concert halls, and their concerts cancelled by their managements. 

  • MN Orchestra musicians have been locked out since Oct. 1, 2012. The orchestral concert season is cancelled through Dec. 31, 2012.
  • SPCO musicians have been locked out since Oct. 21, 2012. Concerts
    are cancelled through Feb. 8, 2013.
  • The Parker Quartet, which has a concert series in partnership with the SPCO, has had to cancel its November concerts in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Management proposals for both orchestras call for permanent reductions in the size of the orchestras and significant cuts in salary and benefits.

 “…When any financial problem emerges, the first reaction of most boards and staff is to reduce expenditures. The easiest expenses to cut are the most discretionary areas of spending: artistic ventures and marketing….However, when arts organizations cancel artistic and marketing initiatives, they begin to lose the
interest of their supporters, both donors and audience members. As a result,
less revenue is received and further cutbacks are made. This begins a vicious
spiral that cripples arts organizations.” 
Michael M. Kaiser, President, the Kennedy Center, in The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations.

During the lockouts, both orchestras have repeatedly played sold out benefit concerts. Musical superstars, who all have wonderful histories with the orchestras, have donated their services to support the musicians.

  • Jorja Fleezanis (concertmaster Minnesota Orchestra, 1989-2009)
  • Pinchas Zuckerman (Music Director SPCO, 1980 – 87)
  • Edo de Waart (SPCO Artistic Partner 2010 – present; Music Director Minnesota
    Orchestra, 1986 - 1995)
  • Hugh Wolff (Principal Conductor SPCO, 1988 – 92; Music Director SPCO, 1992 – 2000)
  • Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (Music Director Minnesota Orchestra 1960 to 1979; Interim Music Advisor SPCO, 1987 – 88; Minnesota Orchestra’s artistic staff 2011-2012)

For those of you who are not classical music aficionados, think Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Miles Davis, etc.

What can one person do?

Attend as many benefit concerts as possible.

  • Handel's "Messiah" - Musicians of The SPCO, MN
    Opera Soloists, MN Chorale, Hugh Wolff 
    • http://sospco.org/ ticket information and link
    • December 20, 2012, December 21, 2012
    • Location: Central Lutheran Church - 333 S 12th St, Minneapolis

Write your Governor, your legislators, the management of each orchestra, your newspapers:

Find your State Senator and Representative at:  http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/
Contact Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman: Phone: 651-266-8510
Online posting: http://www.stpaul.gov/FormCenter/Mayor-Forms-2-2/Contact-Mayor-Coleman-37-37
Snail mail: Mayor Chris Coleman, 390 City Hall, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55102  Contact Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak: Phone: 612-201-3400
Online posting: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/mayor/contact/index.htm
Snail mail: Mayor R.T. Rybak, 350 S. 5th St., Room 331, Minneapolis, MN Contact Governor Mark Dayton: Phone: 651-201-3400
Online posting: http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form/
Snail mail: Office of the Governor, 130 State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155

Write letters expressing your opinion to members of the SPCO Board and staff. http://www.thespco.org/about-us/governancehttp://www.thespco.org/about-us/staff
Write letters expressing your opinion to members of the Minnesota Orchestra Board, Management and Administration. http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/about/board-management-and-administration/board-of-directors

Subscribe to email alerts. http://sospco.org/get-involved/
and http://www.orchestrateexcellence.org/

Sign the online audience petition addressed to the SPCO

Donate money to the musicians' funds.

And  please, consider the following:

  1. Calls to merge the two orchestras demonstrate ignorance of the enormous differences in the composition of the orchestras, their repertoires, and their functions within the universe of classical music. Loss of either of these orchestras will have repercussions that significantly impoverish the Twin Cities and the entire international audience.  You would never merge a bandy team with an ice hockey team, even though they are both played by skating on ice.
  2. Professional musicians spend years learning and honing their musical skills.  Musicians also have made significant financial investments to purchase their instruments.  Salaries paid to musicians are relatively paltry, considering the effort and investments they exert to be professional musicians. 
  3. As taxpayers, through our legislators, we have funded stadiums for football, baseball, basketball, hockey.  If we are willing and able to fund venues for sports teams, isn’t it appropriate to explore state-sponsored funding of venues for the arts:  concert halls, theaters, etc.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Randy Neprash December 20, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I agree with this blogger completely. Our local orchestra are real treasures. The managements of both orchestra are trying to resolve thier budget problems with excessive and unreasonable cuts to the musicians' salaries. There must be other options. Management should be working hard to open their books, seek creative alternatives, and discuss options with the musicians and the community. None of this seems to be happening. This needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Randy Neprash
Lauren Stringer December 20, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Thank you for all of this information on how I can support efforts to maintain both orchestras. I completely share your sentiments!
Willard B. Shapira December 20, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I think a delegation of musicians from each orchestra needs to meet ASAP with Gov. Dayton and the leaders of the 2013 session of the Legislature and convince them that unless they get involved now, we are going to lose two of the greatest orchestras in the world and two of our most valuable cultural amenities. The governor and legislators must be asked: why did they allow Zygi Wilf to extort a billion-dollar Vikings stadium from the taxpayers but haven't lifted a finger to save these orchestras? No, they're not going to move as a team would but actually some of the many in-demand musicians already have moved to other orchestras and if this keeps up, our music "teams" will be gone or so diminished that there is no way to restore them. There are no taxi-squad musicians of equal calibre, no minor leaguers who can fill the positions qualitatively. In my opinion, the governor and Legislative leaders must ASAP sit down with the officials of each orchestra, the musicians' negotiating teams and their union reps and tell them all they have an obligation to the people of Minnesota to return to the bargaining table now, accept binding arbitration, and get this done now before we lose both orchestras. Professional sports have contingency plans to replace teams that fold or move; the classical music world does not. Let's get this done now, before it's too late! Will Shapira Roseville 651-493-7473 wshapira@comcast.net Will Shapira 651-493-747
Deborah Dillaway December 21, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Deborah Dillaway December 21, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Well said!
Margo Sundberg December 21, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Because of poor management, the musicians -- and even more so the public -- have been hit hard. It's so ironic that as Orchestra Hall is having a multi-million dollar renovation, the orchestra is locked out, and the season is running dry as time ticks on.
Sara Barsel December 21, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Last night, my family and I attended the SPCO benefit Messiah conducted by Hugh Wolff at Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis. Two additional benefit concerts for/by SPCO were announced for January 26 and 27, 2013. The orchestra will play Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Details to be announced and posted on http://sospco.org/events/http://sospco.org/events/ .
Elizabeth Erickson December 21, 2012 at 02:00 PM
This was all part of the "grand plan" The more you read, the more your heart breaks when you realize how long this has been orchestrated my the management and board of the MInnesota Orchestra. The top management has to go in order to recover from this mess
Julie Printz December 21, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I got the call from the SPCO fundraisers last night asking me to renew my support. I asked them when the the lockout was going to be resolved and they started blaming the musicians. I said, "Resolve this. Get it done and then we can talk about support." I completely agree with Mr. Shapira's comments. Thanks for the reminder to contact my politicians. Consider it done!
Linda Williams December 21, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I am the mother and mother-in-law of two of the orchestra musicians. They are surviving this crisis financially, but the stress and heartbreak are another matter. Our son has wanted to be an orchestra musician since he was 12 years old. He worked very hard to achieve his goal--in college, graduate school, summer festivals, competitions etc. Many instruments were evaluated and several purchased. As many have mentioned, this aspiration is a costly one. We encouraged him from the get-go, because of the pride he exuded when performing. How can we explain to the youngsters of today that their dreams just won't pan out? Do we tell them that what makes them unique isn't enough? I am hoping the people of Minnesota will not allow my son's dream to die, and that of all the other dedicated musicians who love and live what they do. Write, call, text, support!!! Thank you.
Sara Barsel December 21, 2012 at 08:41 PM
See today's StarTribune Hot Dish Politics section: "Legislators have questions for Minnesota Orchestra officials" posted by: Baird Helgeson under Minnesota legislature: http://www.startribune.com/politics/blogs/184354131.html . This contains the text of a letter from DGL legistlaors to Jon Campbell, Chair of the MInneosta Orchestra Association and Michael Henson, President of the Minnesota Orchestra Association. The legislators demand that the orchestra turn over financial documents to musicians and get back to the bargaining table.
Sara Barsel December 21, 2012 at 08:42 PM
DFL legislators - pardon my typing.
Randy Marsh December 21, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Clearly the financial model doesn't work and I don't understand why these musicians should be treated like other employees at businesses across the state when market forces change and require adjustments. It's all about greed and I think the orchestras and their facilities have been subsidized enough by tax payers and paying public. It's time to restore some order and the musicians may need to live a little lower on the hog to ensure they have jobs and places to play in the future.
Scott Carlson December 22, 2012 at 08:44 AM
Will, your comments are well put. It is a disgrace that these orchestras are being left in the lurch. Our local and state government has done so much to keep professional sports here, why isn't maintaining great culture just as important? It's an important part of metro area's attractiveness as play to live and work. Meanwhile, it's really easy to blame the musicians for the lock-out (something that management did) and call them greedy. So, if a pay cut is needed, is management leading by example and sharing in the pain?
Sarah Nagle December 22, 2012 at 03:40 PM
It's all about greed - on the part of the administration. It is NOT about musician salaries. Get rid of the corporate impresarios.
B. Martin December 22, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Comparison to professional sports is not completely appropriate. There is considerable discussion about the income generated by having sports in area. Unlikely professional music leads to same levels of spending on "game-day" compared to sports. The question remains: do music organization deserve support or not?
Chris Steller (Editor) December 23, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Semi-related: There is an effort to preserve Peavey Plaza next to Orchestra Hall as it is. (Lobby expansion would encroach on park, other changes planned.) A woman carrying a "Save Peavey Plaza" sign was arrested at the Dec. 22, 2012 Holidazzle parade. Read more here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=486781064699054&set=a.278206252223204.67549.277097142334115&type=1


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