Will the absence of both professional orchestras affect the quality of life in the Twin Cities?

It now appears that both professional orchestras in the Twin Cities will have locked out their musicians by late Sunday. Today’s Question: Will the absence of both professional orchestras affect the quality of life in the Twin Cities?

  • Austin

    In case you haven’t seen:

    Dear SPCO Supporter,

    As you are probably aware, the SPCO and its Musicians’ Union have been engaged in contract negotiations for the past 10 months. The contract expired on September 30, but we have continued to “play and talk” in the hope of being able to keep the music going while we come to an agreement. Unfortunately, each day that we operate under the expired contract we are adding to our deficit and exacerbating our already challenged financial situation.

    The SPCO, like many orchestras across the country, faces a major financial challenge due to long-term changes in the arts funding landscape, exacerbated by the economic downturn. We must now make very difficult choices as we work to align our fixed expenses with our sustainable revenues. Over the last four years, we have cut $1.5 million from our budget and reduced the administrative workforce by 17%. Despite this work, we will report a deficit of nearly $1 million for last year, and if we continue to operate under the current Musicians’ contract, this year’s deficit will exceed that number. Continued deficits of this magnitude will threaten the very existence of the SPCO.

    It has been our hope that a collaborative process with our Musicians would result in an agreement that preserves our artistic excellence while meeting our need for financial sustainability. Last week we suggested a “play and talk” plan that would have allowed negotiations to continue and concerts to go on as scheduled under a financial structure that would not add to our deficit. If an agreement was reached that would increase salaries compared to the temporary agreement, those higher salaries would be retroactive. This “play and talk” proposal was rejected by the Union, however, and at the same time, they informed us that they would not be available to meet again until November. After 10 months, we have not received a proposal from the Union that aligns the cost of the contract with our real and predictable revenues, and without the hope of a settlement in the near future, we have determined we must stop deficit spending.

    It is with great sadness and disappointment, therefore, that today we delivered a “voting offer” to the Musicians’ Union and notified them that if it is not accepted prior to this Sunday, October 21, 6:00pm, we will be forced to begin a lockout and cancel concerts through November 4.

    We believe we have made a proposal that provides a framework for ensuring the artistic vibrancy and financial sustainability of the SPCO. Under this proposal, current Musicians would be guaranteed annual minimum compensation of $62,500, which is 15% less than their minimum annual salary last year. This would cover 32 weeks of performances, allowing us to continue to provide the same number of concerts in the community as we do today. New Musicians would receive annual minimum compensation of $50,000. These salaries are only minimums: we would also be able to individually negotiate additional compensation, allowing us the flexibility needed to continue to attract and retain the finest Musicians. All Musicians would continue to receive a full benefits package, including annual pension contributions of 7.63% to 10.9% of compensation. In recognition of the significant contributions made by our many long-time Musicians and the major changes we are proposing, our proposal includes a generous retirement package of up to $200,000 for those Musicians over the age of 55 who want to retire. Our proposal also includes a reduction in the size of the Orchestra, preferably accomplished through voluntary retirements and attrition. However, if position eliminations are necessary, we are proposing a special severance package of $100,000.

    To be clear, no concerts have yet been canceled. If no agreement is reached by this Sunday, October 21 prior to 6:00pm, we will provide information about cancellations on the SPCO website and via email. All ticket holders would be contacted directly about their ticketing options including the opportunity to exchange tickets into another concert or receive a refund. No immediate action would be required by ticket holders, as tickets would automatically be banked in their accounts for future use.

    To learn more about the ongoing negotiations, we invite you to visit our negotiations website at thespco.org/contract. You are also welcome to contact us with any questions.

    During these very difficult times, we want to thank you for your continued support of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Please know that we are all working to solve this challenge today to ensure that there is a vibrant SPCO for years to come.


    Dobson West


  • Snaab

    We are subscribers to MNO, and have been for many years. We use those concerts as our date night, so yes, our quality of life has changed, but we will find a way to muddle thru. Will the entire metro area suffer similar declines in life quality, probably not. I do hope both orchestra’s figure it out and start playing soon however.

  • Jim G

    We will soon be adding a new verse to Pete Seeger’s song: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

    Where have all the players gone?

    Long time passing

    Where have all the players gone?

    Long time ago

    Where have all the players gone?

    Bosses have sacked them every one

    When will they ever learn?

    When will they ever learn?

  • GregX

    In the plutocracy of tomorrow, where all workers, whether artists or manufacturing laborers or attorneys or dentists are “at-will” servants of the top 1% …. in which we will all work for paltry sums and carry massive debt, held by our overlord plutocrats earning further interest on your financial misery – the masses will neither have access nor need for music. All will be paid in peanuts, worked like elephants and parted out for meat and ivory at their demise. Your turn is coming and the horde that has already lost their future and security are the first in line to tear you down. We have been set at each other throats for the entertainment of Mitt Romney and his friends under the mantra – “You workers are too expensive – you must suffer so the machine of your demise continues on … to decimate other worker groups.” Next up …. well … lets that surprise have its own birth.

  • Jim G

    It’s always darkest before the dawn. Take heart my musical brothers, and sisters. When they take the music of our lives away, that’s the darkest they can do to us. There is a resonance building. Can you feel it?

  • Craig

    For us, yes, as subscribers it provided us with periodic family outings and a reminder that the human mind is more remarkable than everyday life sometimes suggests. If management is sacrificing quality in order to hold the line on ticket prices I think they have a poor understanding of why people attend, and will end up with fewer concert goers, not more.

  • georges

    Yes, those greedy Unions are taking away the music from the People………

    Those greedy Unions, Pied Pipers of the almighty Dollar, going to play sweet notes until the music is locked up forever in the Hall of the Mountain King……

    The evil Unions, stealing the music from the common folk, so that the Union Bosses can continue to live in their ill-gotten mansions, like good 1%ers do………..

    Damn, ya gotta love it when the leftists are eating their own…….


  • Paul

    Of course.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Plutocrats calling the unions greedy is like the limburger cheese calling the dirty gymn socks stinky.

  • anna123

    Fully agree with Craig.

  • Regnar James


    Are you assuming everyone that contributes to MPR lives in the Twin Cities?

    PS – I am voting “Yes” on the amendment:-p


  • Leonard

    The quality of life will deteriorate without an orchestra argument is just as valid an argument as the myth of 5 million created jobs under our Pres. CNBC Santelli wrote”If I go back and look at nonfarm — and I have all the data! — actual nonfarm payrolls, the establishment survey, the headcount survey, and I take the 818 minus thousand from January,” he added, referring to the monthly job loss numbers the president encountered when he was inaugurated, “he wasn’t sworn in until the middle of the month. Do the math!”

    “You know what the math is? It’s a push. It’s a push. There’s zero jobs created. It’s a push. If you look at the minuses and the pluses, it’s a push!”

    Can there be life without musicians run by unions and over large administrations? Sure but not with pensions employer contributions of 10%..here comes Greece and riots in the Ordway. (grin)

  • N. Gadda

    In one way or another, yes. However, it’s important to remember that the Twin Cities has a remarkably active cultural scene, so the dollars that are not being spent on “long-hair” music might well turn up at other venues where equally talented and more creative musicians work for far less than orchestra members typically do—for example, the Cedar Cultural Center, the Dakota, the Artist’s Quarter. Maybe we’ll see the return of the Ex Machina Opera! Meanwhile, there are quite a few chamber groups around town that deserve our support, and more are likely to appear like spring daffodils if our major orchestras shelf their season.

    I don’t have the information to make a judgment for or against union or management, and I hope the SPCO in particular gets its issues settled soon, because I signed up for their sustainer program this year; but however the cards fall, it ought to be an interesting winter.

  • david

    Its just another canary in the coal mine that is our race to the bottom.

  • d12

    Having performed with both organizations in a singing capacity, the answer is a resounding YES. That is the leverage each side holds in this debate, however, this is a question of who will flinch first.