SPCO announces list of retiring musicians

One of the remaining shoes to drop in the St Paul Chamber Orchestra contract settlement was just how many musicians would take the retirement package offered to orchestra members aged 55 or older.  Half the SPCO players were eligible and in a letter to SPCO board members and supporters today newly re-appointed President Bruce Coppock revealed the names of the 10 musicians taking the deal.

The departing musicians represent approximately a third of the orchestra, and each of them have played for at least three decades with the SPCO

Here is the text of the letter. Representatives of the SPCO were not immediately available for comment


Dear Members of the SPCO Family,

Many of you have inquired regarding which musicians have chosen to take the special retirement package offered as part of the recent contract settlement. As the deadlines for election and rescission have passed, we are now in a position to be able to share this information with you.

The following is a list of the musicians who elected to retire, along with the number of seasons performed with the SPCO:

Gary Bordner, Principal Trumpet – 31

Fred Bretschger, Assistant Principal Bass – 32

Christopher Brown, Principal Bass – 34

Evelina Chao, Assistant Principal Viola – 33

Thomas Kornacker, Co-principal Second Violin – 36

Brenda Manuel Mickens, Violin – 33

Michal Sobieski, Violin – 34

Paul Straka, Horn – 31

Tamás Strasser, Viola – 38

Thomas Tempel, Oboe – 44


Each of these musicians devoted more than 30 years to making great music with the SPCO, and each is beloved by our long-time audience members. We are extremely grateful for their their many contributions both in the concert hall and beyond, and we wish them our very best as they begin the next chapters in their lives.

The Instrumentation Committee, comprised of Steve Copes, Ruggero Allifranchini, Maiya Papach, Julia Bogorad-Kogan, Kyu-Young Kim, Jean Parish and me, has begun the work of determining the SPCO’s instrumentation needs and will continue this work over the coming months. Kyu has been asked by the Committee to keep people informed of its progress as consensus evolves.

Many thanks.


Bruce Coppock President
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra


The new contract, which cut musicians base pay by $15,000, specified that the size of the SPCO will be reduced to 28 players from the previous complement of 34.  New musicians will be brought in at a lower rate of pay than current players.

 Correction: An earlier version of this post stated new musicians will be hired at a lower rate than current musicians. While a two-tier pay structure was  discussed during contract negotiations, it was not included in the final contract. New musicians will be hired at the same base pay as current musicians.


  • jam6325

    I was under the impression that ALL musicians, new and old, would be receiving the same base pay. Is that not the case anymore? I thought that was one of the main sticking points for the musicians and that they wouldn’t stand for a tiered salary system.

  • Skip James

    My SPCO has died and gone. Too much pain, and too much suffering during the past year. Just like the Twins, they got rid of their most experienced section players except those principals that stayed, losing a measure of respect, (shall we say) among their colleagues who’s musicianship has made the SPCO team a success for many years. Unfortunately, unlike the Twins, they have no farm-team. Hope you like the new SPCO. It won’t be the same orchestra.

  • http://www.homeexchange50plus.com home exchange 50plus com

    I would like to wish all the retirees a long and happy retirement
    and if they have a bucket list of things they want to do I hope they
    are successful in crossing them off and enjoy doing so.
    Brian Luckhurst

  • Brian Brown

    “We are all extremely grateful for their contributions, but they’re just too old and expensive. Sorry about that.”

  • Hoof Hearted

    Last nail in the coffin.

    Art music is dead. A tradition of over two hundred years has been gradually kicked to the curb and then run over by a garbage truck.

    All future auditionees for the orchestra must submit both a semi-clothed and fully unclothed glossy photo for consideration by the marketing committee.

  • Manny Laureano

    This breaks my heart. I love you folks and thank you for your wonderful commitment to creating beautiful music. You are my heroes.