SPCO and MNOrch: two orchestras at the top of their game

As contract negotiations near for both the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO, MPR’s Euan Kerr asked some pointed questions, including whether the Twin Cities can afford to support both organizations.

Bruce Ridge, president of the International Conference of Symphony Orchestra Musicians, or ICSOM, sees it this way.

“The question is not whether or not the Twin Cities can continue to afford to support both organizations,” he said. “I think the question is: how can you afford not to support them?”

The orchestras are part of Minnesota’s cultural legacy, Ridge said, and can’t be simply cast aside.

Orchestras, like sports teams, bring prestige and people, to a city. They are an integral part of a thriving arts community.


Photo by Greg Helgeson, courtesy Minnesota Orchestra

The sports metaphor continues with Dobson West, the SPCO’s interim president, who says the two orchestras don’t necessarily compete for the same audience:

“The Minnesota Wild is a professional sports team,” he said. “The Vikings are a professional sports team, but the game that they play is entirely different. And so there is nothing that says they steal from each other.”

So it is with the orchestras, he said. There is some audience overlap between the two, but not much. Some people prefer the intimacy of the SPCO’s 34-member ensemble, others the majesty of the Minnesota Orchestra with three times as many players. And some cynical classical fans might point out that both orchestras have been at the top of their games for a lot longer than any Minnesota sports team.

You can read the entire story here.

  • Sharon DeMark

    I am a classical music lover, but I would argue that most people in our community do not differentiate between the two orchestras the way they do between hockey and football, two very distinct sports with different equipment, rules, skill-sets and playing fields (to name just a few of the differences). Both orchestras employ musicians who play many of the same instruments and who follow similar conventions. It’s very challenging for the two orchestras to make this case, especially when it seems they are talking only to people who already support them.

  • Norma Hervey

    Each orchestra has contributed so much to my husband who died in 2009 and to me. The death of our eldest son, my husband’s long illness, my own need for support were gifts of each orchestra to us. As long as Bill was able to travel, he always responded to the musicians, waking up in delight after they began to play. I do think each group is unique. I want to add another comment. For the past five years I have taught in Prague, Czech Republic, and I am constantly amazed at the breath and depth of the orchestras performing there on a weekly basis. This does not include the many ensembles and soloists or the Prague Spring Music Festival. Why are the Twin Cities able to use tax funds to build stadiums for private owners of sports teams and unable to retain their legacy as one of the centers of music in the U.S.? This should jolt many people in the Upper Midwest.

    Thank you

  • friendofmusicians

    I think it would be a shame for either of these wonderful orchestras to fold or reduce operations to the point that they are no longer the same. I don’t think the analogy is a good one though – a better one might be could the Twin Cities support both the Vikings and an arena football team. They do play different repertoire in different settings, but in theory, a violinist in one group could play in the other whereas a linebacker or kicker for the Vikings could not play hockey on the level needed for the Wild.