Locked out Mn Orch musicians plan season opening concert

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Locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, Ellen Smith, Doug Wright, Tony Ross, and Burt Hara, standing in front of the Minneapolis Convention Center (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)

“The players want to keep the music going, and we are doing everything we can to make that happen,” said locked out musician Tony Ross.

Ross, principal cello for the Minnesota Orchestra was standing in front of the Minneapolis Convention Center where the Orchestra was meant to open its 2012-2013 season. But that was before management locked out the musicians Monday, and cancelled the fall concerts through November 25th

Ross, along with musicians Tim Zavadil, Ellen Smith, Doug Wright, and Burt Hara, were there to announce their intention of holding a season opener anyway. There are still some logistics to work out, like dates, program, and which hall, but Ross said they are hoping to present a “celebratory program” on October 19th ideally in the Convention Center Theater.

Ross said there could be a series of concerts.

“We are also in discussion with former music directors” he said, “Hoping they will support us and possibly lead us in this and other events.”

He declined to name who that might be for the moment. However he did say the musicians will pay for the concerts, with the help of donations from supporters.

Ross said the hope would be also to honor tickets which people had bought for the cancelled season opener.

When asked what might be an ideal piece for the show, Ross smiled wryly

“Shostakovich 5?” he said “You know there was so much great art that came out of Russia when Stalin was abusing its population. Do we feel abused? Maybe.”

Over the past few days more and more people have become aware of the large cuts being proposed for musicians by Minnesota orchestra management. Those cuts are necessary management says because of the organizations teetering financial situation.

The players dispute this, particularly as the Orchestra just raised almost $100-million in a capital campaign.

The musicians are well-paid, and when a journalist asked Ross how they justified their salaries, Ross shot back.

“Many people equate making it into the Minnesota Orchestra, or a like ensemble, more difficult than making it onto an NFL team,” he said. “So we are not ashamed of our salary, and we need to be compitative so we can keep the great musicians that we have here, and draw new ones.”

Over at the Minnesota Orchestra’s temporary offices where administrative staff is working while Orchestra Hall is undergoing renovation, Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson said he respected the musicians’ right to play concerts.

“However it doesn’t change the fundamental issue that the Minnesota Orchestra is facing at the moment,” he continued. “We need our players to accept the financial realities of 2012, and come to the negotiating table in support of a contract that our community can afford.”

No negotiations are currently scheduled between the two sides.

When asked about the musicians honoring tickets for cancelled concerts, Henson said people remember they still have value for when there is a settlement and the Minnesota orchestra resumes playing.

“We are very keen that our audience is not confused by that,” Henson said. “And keen to very much stress that they can get a full refund for tickets they have purchased, or… they can bank those tickets.”

  • Danna

    Ross is right, this is the most precious gift, the gift of music, and these musicians are breathtaking. You cannot even put a price on what they do, they are keeping history alive and playing music so beautifully that it sends shivers up your spine. They have their hearts in this, and they have no right to lose all benefits when management is sitting on their bottoms, being stubborn all day. Oh yes, they get paid, too? Hmmm. I think its time to rethink a few things here, because this problem is absolutely disgusting. Everyone can thank the leaders that are trying to keep the music going for not giving up. If they turn this around, that would be something to remember, and I have total faith in them to do so. Go play Shosti 5, I’ll be sitting right up front.

  • Karen Sandness

    Orchestra managers are playing “my way or the highway” with the musicians. The musicians made an offer that was risky to themselves: offering to submit to arbitration. Think about it. Under arbitration, they would risk being told, “Management’s offer is the best you can hope for.” Why won’t management agree to arbitration? Is it because they would have to open their books and reveal something they don’t want widely known?

  • Daniel Pinkerton

    We have a case of incompetence here on the part of the orchestra’s administration. They knew they had a shortfall in the operating budget, and went right ahead raising $100 million for a new lobby as if this weren’t true.

    Now that they’ve wasted money on a comparatively unimportant expense (the lobby), what can they do? First, they could realize that locking out the orchestra is a case of the tail wagging the dog. They are clearly trying to assert the primacy of the administartion staff over the orchestra, when they should be supporting the orchestra. Second, they could recognize the importance of the actual orchestra by not asking the musicians to make any sacrifice that the administration is not willing to share equally. Third, they could ask the capital fund donors if the administration could redirect some of the money, and scale back the lobby project if they get the approval.

    An administrative staff is important, an expanded lobby is a luxury when times are good, but the musicians ARE the orchestra: highly trained artists who got their jobs by being better than many other similarly trained artists. We come to listen to THEM. This seems to have been forgotten by the MN Orchestra administrators.

  • Terry Carlson

    If the musicians are successful in planning, organizing, marketing and, obviously, performing their own concert and possibly a series of concerts (time will tell about that), what exactly is it that the upper management does, apart from attempting to destroy a 100+ year cultural legacy in a few months’ time? In my mind, endowment funds should be considered to be “rainy day” funds (at least in part); perhaps someone might inform upper management that it’s pouring rain outside! Now is the precise time to dip into the endowment more than usual. What good will it be tomorrow if all the world-class musicians have left town? Of course, that lobby will be spectacular.

  • sb

    Basically mentioned here: – Without the product, there is probably ‘No need’ for an ‘Office’. Then Everyone is finished.