MN Orchestra musicians vote ‘no confidence’ in CEO Henson

Locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today issued a no-confidence vote in Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson.

Management says it needs large salary cuts for the players to keep the orchestra financially viable. Musicians say the cuts will severely damage the Orchestra.

After attempts failed to agree on a new contract management locked out musicians October first and there have been no negotiations since.

A release from the musicians this afternoon says Henson’s removal is key to resolving the current lockout. Musicians negotiation committee member Tim Zavadil says “The lack of partnership between Henson and the Musicians since his arrival has been dysfunctional and adversarial due to his management style and lack of leadership ability.”

Minnesota Orchestra management has not yet responded to the release.

Update as of 4:28pm The Minnesota Orchestra has issued a statement from Board Chair Jon Campbell in response to the no-confidence vote:

“Michael Henson is a perfect leader at this challenging time and has the full confidence of our board. This is simply the latest publicity tactic by musicians to avoid addressing the real issue that is facing our organization: a longstanding structural deficit that we need to alleviate. The only obstacle between musicians and board working out a new contract is the musicians’ perplexing refusal to put forward a single contract proposal after nearly eight months of talks. We hope the musicians will soon dispense with these tactics and invest their energies in producing a substantial counterproposal.”

  • Elizabeth Erickson

    This is NOT a ploy by the musicians. Peter McGuire, a violinist in the orchestra, who will soon leave for Zurich, said it well when he commented that the atmosphere for the past year and a half had the “bully in the lunchroom” feel to it. Long before these negotiations started, there were problems. And now, it is so clear to everyone, that the plan was to throw the musicians over the cliff–after using their world class status to raise $100 million dollars. How could the musicians or patrons possibly trust Michael Henson and the key board members, who cooked up this mess of a plan moving forward.

  • Ed Vogel

    I am getting the impression that the musician’s do not have a member on the board. Mercedes – Benz was able to work through their finances in an orderly manner back in the late 90s and early 00s due in part to union representation on the board. Just a thought.

  • Terry Carlson

    Mr. Henson may have the full confidence of the Board, but I’m afraid that’s not saying very much. The ticket-buying public is quickly losing confidence in both Mr. Henson and the Board that enables him. His managerial style may have worked fine for him in Ireland and England (there are those who will differ about that over there, just ask them in Belfast and Bournemouth), but it certainly does NOT work in Minnesota. Jon Campbell should follow him out the door. Neither one of these men seem to appreciate the Music in Minnesota tradition. It is precious to us and we intend to nurture it, not permit these men to destroy it.

  • Sarah

    I suppose management’s PR firm helped them fashion their snippy little response. “Bully in the lunchroom” is exactly the image they are portraying.

  • Sarah

    Mr. Campbell seems to be getting a little testy here. Perhaps he needs some music therapy? I could suggest some great concerts to attend – oh wait, they’re sold out. Bummer.

    Besides, if he is under the same prohibition as the SPCO Board, he is forbidden to attend such concerts.

  • Max

    The bleeding hearts of the musicians are starting to flood the streets of common sense.

    I recommend those musicians with the offers to leave for other orchestras take them, and live well. The rest will fall back in line, and management will plug in the holes where needed. Osmo will come back and whip them into shape. Bada-boom, bada-bing.

    Unfortunately, a favorite MN pastime is to complicate things just enough to squeeze in a few of their own personal thoughts.

  • Elizabeth T

    1) re: union rep on board of directors

    German law requires union representatives to be on the board of directors; it wasn’t just Mercedes-Benz’s bright idea. My understanding is that they also require the membership of a totally ordinary person who is not otherwise involved in the company. You tell me what the current situation would be if there was both a musician and a public member on the board.

    2) the idea that Mr. Vanska would just ‘bada-bing bada-boom’ return to work is ridiculous. He took the job here based upon the management and musicians of the orchestra, not as a carte blanch “I’ll work for you no matter what”. You can say “let the musicians leave”, but the conductor is equally free to leave. It’s not as if he would have any problem finding another job. Losing him would be as equally devastating as losing the musicians. We’re an at-will employment state – there’s nothing keeping him here.

    3) losing some of the musicians can be as detrimental as losing large numbers of them. An orchestra operates as a collective body, like a sports team. Losing one or two players can gut the ability of the team as a whole. Yes, you can develop a new team style, but you’ve lost what you had before. e.g. Losing your principal instrumentalists has a significant impact on the function of their section as a whole.

  • D. Watkins

    How could the “perfect leader” not support an independent financial analysis, which would enable the musicians to make an informed counter offer, and which could only help the orchestra in the long run? And, in the face of a drawn out impasse, how could the “perfect leader” not agree to arbitration to reach a fair settlement that seeks to maintain artistic integrity while making balanced cuts and holding management accountable? I’m afraid “perfect leader” is synonymous with “bully” in Mr. Campbell’s vocabulary.