A group of 10 state legislators today called for the resignation of Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson and two members of the orchestra’s board of directors on the grounds that they have poorly led the orchestra.
In a letter sent to members of the Board of the Minnesota Orchestral Association released late this afternoon, the lawmakers accused Henson, Board Chair Jon Campbell, and Past Board Chair Richard Davis of financial mismanagement.
The letter comes just hours before the MOA board is due to gather for its annual meeting.
Citing studies by two groups of orchestra supporters, Save Our Symphony Mn and Orchestrate Excellence, the lawmakers — among them Sen. John Marty, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, and Rep. Alice Hausman — call Henson’s fiscal leadership a disaster. The legislators also said that orchestra officials “manipulated financial results in a deliberate deception of the public, first to gain public funding for Orchestra Hall and then to justify locking out the musicians for well over a year.”
The letter also calls for an immediate end to the musicians lock out, and asks board members to deliver a change in leadership. The letter’s full text is below.
In response Orchestra management issued the following statement:
“The allegations raised by some legislators have been thoroughly reviewed and discredited by credible professional sources including the Office of the Legislative Auditor. This is a complex labor dispute that requires negotiations at the bargaining table in order to come to a contract resolution that the community can afford. As we have emphasized many times, the Board is ready to meet with musicians at any time to negotiate a compromise.”
Director Joe Dowling said the $437,862 shortfall — which amounts to about 1.6 percent of the regional theater’s $27 million budget — comes as a “bit of a blow.”
“We’ve had a difficult year,” said Dowling. “Any year where there’s a deficit is a challenging year for us. Having said that, we’re a very sound financial organization because of the enormous generosity of donors and also because we’ve had the good sense over the years to develop our endowment, which in fact increased substantially this year.”
The news was announced Monday at the theater’s annual meeting.
Dowling blamed the shortfall on a season which included several new works, including “Nice Fish” and “Primrose Path.”
“We made some very conscious choices last year not to do a ‘best of’ but to reach out with some new work,” Dowling said. “We did a number of different things that didn’t have the same name recognition. That’s largely the reason. We were a little more ambitious with our expectations than we realized.”
Dowling said while the deficit is out of the ordinary for the flagship theater, he’s confident the Guthrie’s financial future is secure.
“We’re not going to change course by any means,” he said. “The theater has survived for 50 years and it will be here for another 50 at least – hopefully a lot longer than that. We’re conscious that we didn’t reach the goals we set ourselves. We have different goals this year — and we’ll reach them.”
Dowling said the the theater will continue to adjust its budget in order to ensure it doesn’t have a second deficit.
“Last year we cut $1 million in expenditure and we will do the same this year if we find ourselves in a similar situation,” he said. “We’re keeping our endowment intact, and we’re ensuring the future of the theater is secured.”
Dowling said that while the Guthrie box office saw a shortfall, he’s still proud of the quality of the work.
“Let’s put this in perspective,” he said. “Even though we didn’t reach the goals we set ourselves, we still reached 375,000 people. That’s an enormous number of people to come through our doors in any twelve month period.”
With only a few weeks before St. Paul’s Artists’ Quarter closes its doors, jazz musicians in the Twin Cities plan a benefit this weekend to help raise money for owner Kenny Horst’s closing costs.
Horst, a jazz drummer, announced in October that the club’s nights would come to an end on New Year’s Eve because rent for the basement space in the Hamm Building at 480 St. Peter Street has doubled in the last few years.
But closing a club that has been open for nearly two decades likely won’t come cheap. To help cover expenses, more than 50 musicians in the Twin Cities responded to the call to perform at the benefit, expected to pack the club. Anonymous donors will match up to $10,000 in contributions.
The list of stellar performers who will take the stage on Sunday includes singer Debbie Duncan, bassist Billy Peterson, saxophonist Dave Karr, drummer Dave King, guitarist Dean Magraw, trumpeter Steve Kenny, vibes player Dave Hagedorn, trombonist Dave Graf, pianist Bill Carrothers and Horst.
“We are all sick at heart about the Artists’ Quarter closing, and so this is what all the lovely musicians want to do to support the AQ and our friend Kenny, and to try to thank and repay him for keeping open this great jazz club which has been a haven for us all for many years,” said vocalist Lucia Newell, who is spearheading this event.
“It is our goal that Kenny not go out broke from keeping the AQ open for all of us all these years and giving many musicians a place to really play what’s in our hearts and minds, and a home away from home for all to listen to and hear these dedicated, talented musicians play,” she said.
Newell began singing at the Artists’ Quarter when it was on 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis, and continued to do so when it moved to 5th and Jackson in St. Paul. She also has performed at the current club.
She said the area’s jazz musicians sad and devastated at the closing of the club, a pure jazz venue with a national and international reputation and room for a sizeable but still intimate audience.
Although there are other venues for improvisational music in the Twin Cities – among them the Dakota Jazz Club, Jazz Central and Icehouse restaurant in Minneapolis and Studio Z and the Black Dog Café in St. Paul – only the Artists Quarter offers the combination of a relaxed atmosphere, affordable prices and space for performers and listeners, she said.
“For jazz to live and continue to grow, it needs a place to nurture and present ideas freely and without constraints, and the AQ is one of our last vanguards for this spirit of creativity,” Newell said. “It is also a place where we can hang out with other players socially and exchange ideas. The regulars and fans are feeling the same way as the musicians.”
The benefit starts at 5 p.m. Sunday. Organizers are requesting a $10 donation at the door.
5 p.m. — Joan Griffith, ML Knudtson, Brian Courage, Nathan Norman, Connie Evingson
5:30 p.m. — Zacc Harris, Bryan Nichols, Adam Linz, JT Bates, Lucia Newell
6 p.m. — Jay Young, Ian Young, Peter Schimke, Mac Santiago, Dave Graf, Debbie Duncan
6:30 p.m. — Davis Wilson – Lord Buckley
7 p.m. — Phil Aaron, Billy Peterson, Kenny Horst, Carole Martin, Brian Grivna, Dave Karr,
7:30 p.m. — Dave Hagedorn, Chris Olson, Tom Lewis, Joe Pulice, Steve Kenny, Jeff Rinear, Vicky Mountain, Jim Marentic, Ellen Martin
8 p.m. — Dean Magraw, Peter Schimke, Graydon Peterson, Jay Epstein
8:30 p.m. — Patty Peterson, Linda Peterson, Billy Peterson, Paul Peterson, and friends
9 p.m. — Bill Carrothers, Billy Peterson, Dave King
9:30 p.m. — Tom O’Donnell, Gordy Johnson, Dave Schmalenberger,
10 p.m. — Rick Carlson, Maud Hixson
10:30 p.m. – Jam session featuring Pete Whitman, Keith Boyles, Laura Caviani, Will Kjeer and others.
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