Tumultuous times for American orchestras

Minnesota Orchestra is not alone in its heated labor negotiations.

As Chris Roberts reports, American orchestras are going through a period of upheaval that may forever alter how they’re run and their relationships to their communities.

Horrible economic conditions and menacing long term trends spawned an orchestral tempest which first reached landfall in Detroit and is now sweeping the rest of the country, according to arts and entertainment reporter for the Detroit Free Press, Mark Stryker.

“This hurricane of rising costs, and the recession, and long-range cultural forces that sort of pushed classical music to the sidelines of civic life, these forces created unsustainable models, economic models in many cities, he said.

The financial meltdown of 2008 and resulting ‘Great Recession’ has also given orchestras an opportunity, said Detroit Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin, He said they are not only trying to restructure financially but are changing their operational model from arts to more of a business model.

“An arts model said, ‘OK, we’ll try not to lose so much money,'” Slatkin said. “A business model is ‘we’re gonna try to make some money.’ And 2008 was a very good way to say, ‘we can’t afford this anymore.’ ”

Lockouts have become more prevalent in many industries in recent years. John Budd, a labor relations expert at the University of Minnesota, refers to the American Crystal Sugar and NHL lockouts as high profile examples. Budd was unsurprised by the Minnesota Orchestra musicians lockout, but with concerts canceled through Thanksgiving, he thinks this lockout could be a lengthy one.

“At this point I think it’s just going to take time for one side or the other to see how serious the other side is in its resolve, and unfortunately have some economic pain imposed on both sides which will eventually bring them back to the bargaining table,” Budd said.

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