Proposed MnOrch talks next week now unlikely


The locked out musicians of the Minnesota claimed today that management refuses to give them information requested in advance of possible negotiation dates at the end of the month. Meanwhile a letter from management attorney Paul Zech says the lack of a response by 5pm today from the musicians to dates offered for negotiations will be taken as a rejection of the offer.

In a release from the musicians lead negotiator Tim Zavadil says “The lack of transparency from management is troubling to the Musicians, the public, and Minnesota’s legislative auditor, Basic artistic and financial information about the Orchestra is being withheld to seemingly to stall negotiations.”

The musicians sent a list of questions last week saying that getting them answered would make talks productive.

The musicians say they have received some of the financial information requested, but no response to some of the other questions including what management proposes to do about the threatened resignation of Music Director Osmo Vanska and the possible departures of Concertmaster Erin Keefe and star player Burt Hara.

A representative of the musicians say they are still likely to meet with management.

However a release from the orchestra management states many of the questions were not germaine to the negotiations, and seemed to be part of a pattern to avoid serious negotiations.

Now that the deadline is passed, the release continues, “the Board will proceed with other options for resuming negotiations.”.

Meanwhile the Minnesota Chorale, which derives most of its income from performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, says the current lock out is forcing it to cut its staff pay and hours in half. Executive director Bob Peskin says the Chorale’s board made the cuts reluctantly.

“With no resolution to the impasse between the Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians, we have to be able to make the plans that will keep the Minnesota Chorale a viable and vital organization,” Peskin said today.

He says the lockout threatens the Chorale’s future and describes it as “A really painful and almost impossible situation, but the reality is we have no indication as to how things might get resolved at the ochestra and we have to proceed.”

Peskin says the cuts will go into effect July 1st, and will apply to six chorale employees. He says despite the financial stress the Chorale is continuing with its 40th anniversary season using grant funds for the performances.

  • Elizabeth Erickson

    I’ve tried to write something in regards to this article. Usually, I’m not at a loss for words. Today, I am. I don’t know what to say to people who make their living helping companies destroy families, destroy decades long friendships, destroy world class orchestras. I just don’t know what I can say. The hostile and unbelievably apathetic actions of the MOA and their lawyers will be written about in the future and will be found under the “How Not to Negotiate” chapter

  • Bill Slobotski

    The questions that the musicians are asking seem quite reasonable and it is shameful that the board is not mature enough to give straight honest answers.

    To the board: If Vanska leaves, donations to this organization will plummet precipitously and there will be no one willing to pay to see traveling orchestras in your beloved new hall. Your name will forever be associated with the disaster your stubbornness thrust upon this city.

  • Emily E Hogstad

    I’m confused why the MOA won’t answer these questions, if only for the sake of the concerned public…which is, after all, the reason the Minnesota Orchestra exists.

  • Andrew Vanz

    Why is the Minnesota Orchestra management and Board stonewalling negotiations?! Release the financial documents! This is a non-profit business that belongs to us, the citizens of Minnesota! I am absolutely baffled that the management continues to draw full salary to sit in an office and do….what? Are they in there practicing with musical instruments? Oh, right – the MUSICIANS are the reason we attend the Minnesota Orchestra!

  • Andrew Vanz

    Euan Kerr: “n In a release from the musicians”, “and semed to be part of a pattern” — Really MPR?

  • Maryann Goldstein

    It’s not surprising anymore that the MOA ignores and then blames the musicians when there are 1) requests to see the actual numbers supporting their financial health claims and 2) serious questions about their artistic plan/goals for the organization. This is what the MOA has done since the lockout began. Nevertheless, direct questions, such as those presented by the Musicians (donors, patrons,public, legislators) require direct answers. Why indeed wouldn’t the MOA answer them? There are many clues.

    With regard to finances, we know that there is at least a four year history of MOA fudging the facts, strategically manipulating the endowment, and misleading the public. Re: artistic vision, their goals became clear when they originally took out the words “Minnesota Orchestra” from the MOA mission statement.

    The sad and incredible truth seems to be that having a world-class orchestra with Osmo Vanska at the helm is not a priority. In the MOA”s view, this type of quality is not remotely needed in the Twin Cities — instead it looks like the MOA would rather have pop concerts and a pick-up orchestra for their own private parties in the new lobby. Oh yes, and at the same time bust the Musician’s Union. How else to explain everything that has transpired?

    Vanska and our fine musicians were too successful in their goals. For this we all MUST be punished—not only because we are ‘spoiled’ and aren’t important enough “stakeholders” (read financial contributors) but also because this does not fit into the MOA’s long standing plans.

    I’d be willing to bet that the MOA powers-that-be are unconcerned and maybe even happy to see Vanska leave, the best musicians go, the orchestra’s “scope” (one of Mr. Henson’s favorite words) down-sized in quality and quantity. As horrible as this sounds, these results must have been their goal all along–the contract dispute is about much more than the finances. But as we all know, financial control is the quickest route to artistic control. Destroying this particular orchestra will only make it easier now for all artistic decisions to go to Michael Henson (who I understand has had his contract renewed for another four years) and for the next conductor/group of musicians (if any do decide to work for these people) to be under the Board’s thumb.

    The MOA Board and Management’s strategy is very risky. The public is highly unlikely to respond with enthusiasm, leaving MOA with an underutilized expensive facility. They had better not come back to the State at a later date for a bail-out.

  • Cynthia Ahlgren

    I agree with Maryann Goldstein that it seems the unthinkable is true: the MOA has intended all along to diminish the orchestra and even get out of the contract with Osmo Vanska. This orchestra is too good and too big (in all respects) for their plans. Here is my letter in response to the most recent email from the MOA:

    Mr. Campbell and Mr. Henson:

    I was heartened by your subject line: “It’s Time to Negotiate.” However, the text of your letter is drearily the same and leads to failure.

    For a start, refer to the orchestra players as “musicians,” not “the Union.” Your deliberate choice of the collective noun diminishes the individualism and value of these accomplished musicians. They are not faceless, fungible, replaceable units of an evil collective. The use of the word “union” also seems calculated to evoke a primal antipathy in those who tend to right-wing reaction. I am sure it works on some, but I am not one of them.

    The prerequisites of the musicians seem to be a reasonable foundation for restarting negotiations. Not only the musicians, but we the public, have a right to see your books! I cannot imagine on what grounds you can continue to hide your financial history. Transparency should be the basis for trust and respect.

    As the orchestra bleeds talent and is even threatened with the possible loss of Osmo Vanska, I cannot help but feel that your plan all along has been to shrink the great Minnesota Orchestra until you could drown it in a bathtub. Either that or you have unwittingly led us to this tragic and unnecessary situation. Either way, the outcome is on your heads.

    Please recognize your responsibility to the public as well as the orchestra and begin treating the musicians with respect and deal with them in good faith.


    Cynthia Ahlgren

    P.S. Why was Richard Davis not a signatory to your letter?

  • Amy

    Believing in the value of “sustainability” over all other values, this board will probably get what it apparently wants: a smaller, less renowned orchestra that relies on management’s 17-member marketing team to sell tickets. Confident that their money has brought them aptitude for artistic management, they blithely march down the path to erosion of the ensemble they should be championing.

  • Jonathan Doeman

    At first when the lockout began, I thought that maybe there was a real conflict between being fiscally responsible and keeping the musician’s lifestyles up to par with other top orchestras.

    Now, it seems very obvious that the orchestra’s management seems intent on destroying the quality of the orchestra. Refusing to allow an independent audit and avoiding compromise has not been beneficial to the orchestra.

    Very unfortunate.

  • Lindsay Groves

    Any non-profit in the US should have mandatory open books, in return for tax exemption.

  • Regina

    My husband is a colleague of one of the MO board members…apparently, there is a bit of dissent within it. Several members are now embarrassed and annoyed by their association with this disastrous lockout, and resent the negative attention it’s brought them. (I guess that means the rest still have their heads in the sand…)

    • Alec

      I see there are new board members listed, having apparently joined quite recently. Honestly…Who Would Want To Join This Dysfunctional Board Now??
      Do they not read? Have they no clue how little esteem they’re held in by lovers of the arts? Listen, philanthropists: The money is nice, but if it accompanies a philosophy of Lock-Out-The-Labor-Till-They-Cave…perhaps we’d rather struggle along without you. Enjoy your breathtakingly beautiful Event Hall, though.