Photo by Mark Zastrow (Creative Commons)

COMMUNITY VOICES | “Musicians Exit,” a poem about the Minnesota Orchestra

Did we know what we had?Could we recognize what was growingin our Midwest midst?Greatness may have caught usoff guard. Was this to be ours? a community of musicians—our guys—waking upto this instant, this note, playing it as iffor the first time—hearts exploding with magic and effort, never mindmodesty?Steady, relentless keenness for the work, respondingto a call to beauty, lifeform taking shape in each heartcon brio? Knocking the socksoff the Proms, making them weepat Carnegie— What do we know of birthright? deep-rooted tradition? Continue Reading

Photo by JFXie (Creative Commons)

The wreck of the Minnesota Orchestra: How do we improve the communications among arts boards, artists, and audiences?

It’s been a pretty depressing week, what with the government shutdown and the resignation of Osmo Vänskä from the Minnesota Orchestra. I have to admit that I haven’t exactly been a ticket-buying supporter of the orchestra. I think the last time I went to actually see a live orchestra concert I was in college. It’s not that I don’t like classical music—I actually can’t explain my lack of enthusiasm, other than there were other things that interested me more. Still, I think it’s a shame that such a revered institution is in such dire straits.Over the past six years, I’ve written about numerous catastrophes in the arts nonprofit world, from closings to internal strife to executive director ousters to evictions and financial crisis. Continue Reading

The Minnesota Orchestra performs at Orchestra Hall in 2011. Photo by Nicolas Will (Creative Commons).

COMMUNITY VOICES | We want our Minnesota Orchestra back

The administration of the Minnesota Orchestra should be ashamed of their cold, calculated, and malicious lockout of the musicians. It is quite obvious that the board of directors never intended to engage in open and fair negotiations with the musicians. It is very clear that the goal was to break the musicians’ union on both a local and national level, with the assistance of other gluttonous corporate leaders, who don’t give a damn about the many artists or their communities. It is terribly sad that greed for greater profits outweighs 110 years of steady growth of a tremendously talented orchestra.The Minnesota Orchestra is an exceptional group of talented musicians, built on personal and collective commitment to their artistry. Patrons of all ages have shared in their dedication and love of their music for decades. Continue Reading

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Minnesota Orchestra in crisis: What our commenters are saying

Having recently written posts titled, “Minnesota Orchestra on the rocks: What—if anything—should be done?” and “Does it matter that no one gives a shit about classical music any more?”, I braced myself when I answered the phone last night and the caller identified himself as being with the Minnesota Orchestra.As it turned out, though, he wasn’t a member of the administration calling to ask why I’m being so hard on one of the state’s most venerable cultural institutions; he was calling me as a past ticket buyer, trying to convince me to buy a discount package of ticket vouchers for next season. I declined, but asked the salesman what he was telling people who asked how confident he was that there would be a next season. Very confident, he said. “No one likes this situation, and we’re confident that an agreement will be reached. It’s a matter of when, not if.” He went on to continue trying to sell the tickets, noting that the discount offer would be “only available during the lockout.”After hanging up, I wondered how the musicians would feel if they knew the orchestra management was selling tickets at a special lockout discount, and the understandable frustration of many commenters with the orchestra’s administration became even more understandable.That frustration is by far and away the most frequently and stongly voiced sentiment expressed by commenters on the two posts mentioned above as well as on our poll about what should be done. Continue Reading

Orchestra Hall, pre-renovation. Photo by Linda Beaverson (Creative Commons).

OPINION | In musician lockout, Minnesota Orchestra management employs calculated, callous, and corrosive tactics

If you want to know who’s responsible for the contract stalemates with both major orchestras in town, point your fingers at Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers and every other hand twisting the screwdriver of economic conservatism. They’ve proven that if you devote enough millions in campaign contributions and televised propaganda to the demonization of unions, you can turn whole swaths of working-class Americans into self-bashing misogynists.

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