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.”