Legislators call for change in leadership at Minnesota Orchestra

With the lockout of Minnesota Orchestra musicians stretching into its 15th month, 10 state legislators have issued a call for the orchestra’s top executives to resign.

Their letter to the Minnesota Orchestral Association, sent Tuesday, comes the same week that musicians held a community meeting to discuss future plans and the Orchestral Association Board is holding its annual meeting.

It was also announced that the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and former Music Director Osmo Vänksä have received their second Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance in as many years for their recording of Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4, produced and recorded by BIS Records.

In their letter, the 10 lawmakers write, “Leadership of the Minnesota Orchestral Association manipulated financial results in a deliberate deception of the public, first to gain public funding for Orchestra Hall, and then to justify locking out the musicians for well over a year.”

The group also accuses the Orchestra Association of fiscal mismanagement.

“It is clear that MOA management and Board leadership is willing to destroy the orchestra in order to ‘reset the business model,’ the lawmakers write.

“Orchestra Hall sits dark and empty. The $14 million of public funding is not being put to public use. The only Minnesota Orchestra concerts that are being performed are those produced by the musicians without any MOA support or funding. MOA’s endowment and other donor contributions are not being used for the purposes for which they were given to MOA.

“The Minnesota Orchestral Association itself sits on the verge of extinction as a meaningful organization that has any legitimate reason to continue its existence.”

The lawmakers called for an immediate end to the lockout, which began Oct. 1, 2012, and the resignation of CEO Michael Henson, Chairman Jon Campbell, past Chair Richard Davis “and any others in MOA leadership involved in the public deception and the financial mismanagement of the organization. To restore public trust in the Orchestral Association, it is time for new leadership.”

Signing the letter were state Senators John Marty and Patricia Torres Ray and state Representatives Jim Davnie, Ray Dehn, Mike Freiburg, Alice Hausman, Phyllis Kahn, John Lesch, Leon Lillie and Jerry Newton.

On Monday, musicians held a community meeting where they announced that, as of Nov. 15, they had raised more than $650,000 in donations from 87 different orchestras and nearly 1,200 individuals in 33 states and four countries.

“Reaching an agreement with the Minnesota Orchestral Association remains our top priority, but in the meantime we will continue to make plans to fulfill our promise of keeping great orchestral music alive here in Minnesota,” the musicians said.

The musicians have indicated they may form a 501(c)(3) organization “to inspire an ever-widening audience to seek a lifelong relationship with great symphonic music. Our plans in the new year will reflect this vision, and we feel energized and appreciative as we move forward, hand-in-hand with our community.”

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra posted the video above to document their response to the lockout and thank people for their support.

  • Why didn't my legislators sign that letter: Susan Allen, Karen Clark and Jeff Hayden? - by Ed Felien on Wed, 12/11/2013 - 10:20pm
  • Friends -- please watch this article and support the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra in their struggle - by David Edwards on Thu, 12/12/2013 - 1:16am