Musicians vote 'no confidence' in Minnesota Orchestra president

  • Article by: CLAUDE PECK and KRISTIN TILLOTSON , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: November 27, 2012 - 8:27 PM

Board counters with assurance that Michael Henson has its "full confidence."

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grameebabsNov. 27, 12 5:44 PM

So the Board spokesman says Henson has their full confidence (what else could he say; the Board is complicit in the orchestra's problems), and labels the musicians' honest frustrated statement of no confidence a publicity tactic. Seriously? I'm curious to know whether the musicians are legally tethered to the MN Orchestra, or if they have the latitude to lock out management and start fresh, perhaps with a musician-owned orchestra or ??? It's time for a whole new model for these stellar musicians. Why? Because the Minnesota Orchestra's Board and CEO have become tedious obstructors. Seriously!

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tcarlsenNov. 27, 12 6:30 PM

As a classical music enthusiast and a long-time subscriber to both the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra, I think it would be best for everyone if the reasonable and generous pay offers were accepted by the musicians. The contract is not for eternity, and rates can be negotiated in a few years when the economy is stronger. In the mean time, the players are losing money that will not be made up. Also, as an arts enthusiast, I have much concern for the thousands of outstanding and talented classical music musicians in this nation who have the skills to play at the highest levels but cannot find jobs. They would love those jobs at the offered rates with the Minnesota orchestra. I would love to see them be able to compete for those jobs at competitive rates the same way that union football players compete for jobs. The United States currently has a phenomenal system of outstanding conservatories training exceptional musicians as never before. They would love those jobs and would do a fantastic job, I'm sure. As an arts enthusiast, I am also troubled by the numerous orchestras and opera companies that have gone out of business due to declining interest in supporting classical music and other economic stressors, including the shrinkage of donation dollars and skyrocketing benefits costs. To the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, I think the jobs being offered are reasonable (including the add-ons you earn in lessons and other perks), especially when there are so many other great young players that would love to have those jobs. (Think of supply and demand, the most powerful rule of economics). Think of you families and be flexible. Do the right thing. Fight for the return of six figure wages again in a few years when finances are better and maybe demand for musicians has perked up.

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jabuyerNov. 27, 12 6:35 PM

So let me get this straight, the employees vote no confidence in thier boss and he gets fired? That's so cool! I'm going to try that tomorrow. Wish me luck and I'll see you guys on the street tomorrow when I get fired.

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swschradNov. 27, 12 6:50 PM

the Orchestra is building a shiny new building that will be empty in 2014. they could play in the old digs, but $80 million went out the door for concrete and steel. time for the Orchestra members to pass the tin cup and reform independently, and play where they can fit... O'Shaugnessey, Convention Center, wherever. it's schism time!

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biffpoloNov. 27, 12 7:34 PM

More classic union thugging here. Let the market dictate rates for the musicians. Not some group of fancy-aristocrats who want to pick their buddies to play at 400% of the market rate. Please don't ask the tax payer to continue to carry these people who want to make a living at their hobby. I like to paint, but I don't ask the tax payer to give a 150K plus salary because I am an 'artist'!

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northstars91Nov. 27, 12 8:45 PM

Typical... Boards always have their own agenda's to worry about while always showing little concern whatsoever for the people that probably matter most (musicians in this case).

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tcarlsenNov. 27, 12 9:16 PM

The Minnesota Orchestra could easily bring in bus loads of excellent players to audition for those jobs if open competition was allowed like the NFL for union players. The Minnesota Orchestra could be staffed five times over with first-rate players. America right now has a huge oversupply of virtuoso musicians wanting jobs, with declining demand in the economy for classical music players. (The renovation of the Orchestra Hall dump, with it's awful entrance to the hall and weird gathering areas, was designed to improve patron demand.) It's shocking that the Minnesota Orchestra musicians do not want to come down from their $100,000+ wages when those rates are way over what the market supports. Just here in our region we have good music schools with several fine orchestras, like St Olaf, Lawrence and Concordia, that are not even considered in the first, second or third tiers of U.S. conservatories -- that's how good the schools and musicians are in the US. I have compassion for all those talented young musicians wanting jobs, some of whom are the sons and daughters of our neighbors, who would love those jobs with the Minnesota Orchestra. Yes, maybe there should be a schism so that some of the current players form a new local orchestra where they can sell their skills in the market at market wages (supplemented with work at Starbucks or other places) and then all those great young players wanting jobs can quit their evening restaurant jobs and snap up immediately those MN Orchestra jobs offered at "an average annual salary of $89,000, a guaranteed pension benefit that includes an annual contribution by the Orchestral Association of 7.63% of base salary, 10 weeks paid vacation and up to 26 weeks of paid sick leave." Osmo Vanska turned an average MN Orchestra (for many years) into arguable the best in the world, and he could do that with another group of talented musicians, too. To the current musicians, I have compassion for you and am urging you to do the sensible thing. Do not succumb to greed or false pride. Think of your family and get to work for what is a darn good wage. If you don't want to work, step aside with honor and let other good people snap up those jobs. The music industry is in crisis and you need to be flexible for now. I will buy season tickets to whoever is playing for them. I'd like it to be you. Think about it...

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56stanNov. 27, 12 9:24 PM

Locked out by the management are the consumers, those who buy the tickets, are subscribers, donors on perhaps modest standards by the wealthier members of the board, but willing to do what they can to support what they love--a first class orchestra. That we are locked out is the responsibility of this management, not the players, who are offering concerts during the lockout as a "publicity stunt"? If so, then the CEO, Mr. Henson, and the board supporting him could use a bit of favorable "publicity." But they have no tricks in their bag and, if anything, are contemptuous of the consumers of "their" organization meaning the audience who buy the tickets and filled the seats. If this was not enough to sustain the orchestra, then why did the CEO, the Board and the Orchestra's publicity staff not find a way to communicate what in political terms would be considered their "base"?

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dflleftNov. 27, 12 9:25 PM

ALWAYS INTERESTING how unions react when the money runs dry; who cares about a tuba player who refuses to accept $50,000 per year? then go get a real job. There is NO conspiracy by the board to trick union members into accepting less than they are worth...money has dried up. Life is tough, go back to work as you wil never make up what you have already lost.

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la55122Nov. 27, 12 9:38 PM

I think we are approaching the time when the situation will be irreversible. The Minnesota Orchestra can hire prevailing wage musicians and spend 20 years to achieve what they threw away. Meanwhile, who will buy tickets or donate to see third rate musicians learning to become first rate? The board needs to throw someone under the bus to even hope for reconciliation. Meanwhile, the locked-out musicians should see if "Minneapolis Symphony" is still trademarked. Now that would be a fitting end to this story!

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