Monthly Archives: November 2012

Drew McManus’s Latest, and Popcorn

There aren’t many blog entries that I devote blog entries to, but here’s one I will: Drew McManus’s “The Empire Strikes Back.” (This was also the title of Robert Levine’s latest.) (Combine those two entries with my recurring popcorn GIFs, and it appears the Minnesota Orchestra blogosphere is now on a movie kick.) (But who can blame us? With every passing day, the conflict gets more and more theatrical.)

Here’s Mr. McManus:

EXTERIOR PLAIN OF HOTH MINNEAPOLIS – HELICOPTER SHOT – DAY:

A white snowscape races toward camera … the MAIN TITLE quickly recedes, followed by a roll-up. Episode V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK…

Although certainly not science fiction, the recent opinion piece co-authored by Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) board chair Jon Campbell and MOA negotiation chair Richard K. Davis and published in the 11/28/12 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune still managed to contain what some might consider a rather cinematic tone…

And it goes on, very entertainingly, from there.

Mr. McManus brings up an important point that I should have thought of earlier, but didn’t. If the musicians submit a counterproposal, they’re at risk of turning the conflict from a lockout into a strike, and losing unemployment benefits, thereby strengthening management’s position, all while guaranteeing the musicians (and the many patrons who support their cause) nothing. I actually knew all of those piece of information individually, and yet never connected the dots to think of how they might relate to one another. Sooooo, this is proof that you need to read as many media outlets as possible, because I’m not always going to make all the connections that need connecting. I’ll try to keep you as up to speed as possible, but I’m only one woman, going through her first orchestral labor dispute, and learning as I go along. So keep an eye on MNuet’s News & Reviews page. Be well-informed, folks!

Drew McManus is, as I’ve said before, the Nate Silver of the orchestra world. He’s calm, rational, level-headed, professional, uber-careful, always. So when he starts posting snark and parody………………….well. Crap is hitting the fan.

I think at this point the MOA should go on Stephen Colbert’s Absurd-U-Chart, which is reserved for things that are “offensively absurd, like rabbits with pancakes on their heads, and owls.” I think that’s about the level of crazy we’ve reached here. Let’s see how long it takes the MOA to figure that out and come back to earth.

I’d also like to repeat what Mr. McManus says, among other things, in the comment section:

I’ve also offered to travel to Minneapolis at my own expense to conduct a live interview with them which would subsequently be published here in audio format.

I hate to use more popcorn GIFs, but…

http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/popcorn_yes.gif

(Also, in case you were wondering, I have my own response to the Campbell/Davis editorial cooking. So stay tuned.)

Edit 1:30PM: Here Robert Levine discusses Drew McManus’s entry.

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Michael Henson’s Advent Calendar

Well, the two weeks of breathless anticipation have finally passed, and the First Annual (?) Song of the Lark Advent Calendar is now live on Tumblr!

Our primary theme this year is “Michael Henson’s Advent Calendar.” Our secondary theme is “a gaudy chintzy glitter-based aesthetic.” Our tertiary theme is “accountability to patrons and taxpayers.”

For more information on the project, visit

michaelhensonsadventcalendar.tumblr.com

You can get all the sparkly details there. Watch me! In a jerky Youtube video! Adorned in a silky red shirt and a glittery garland! Yammering into a webcam for twelve whole minutes! While giving dramatic readings of three of the Christmas cards I sent this year! And showing off my holiday crafting project! And explaining for the unenlightened what an Advent calendar is, and how generally awesome they are! (There also may or may not be some Alex Ross fangirling.) (Spoiler alert: there’s Alex Ross fangirling.)

As the MOA is fond of saying, we all have a part to play! Jon Campbell, Richard Davis, Michael Henson, every reader of this blog. Let’s all come together in this celebration of the holiday spirit. Bookmark the calendar. Follow michaelhensonsadventcalendar on Tumblr. Check back daily. Answer my questions. It’s a veritable cornucopia of accountability! Yay!

If you have a memory or encouragement to share, you can email me it at songofthelarkchristmasproject [at] gmail.com. We still need more.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season.

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Mr. Henson Goes to St. Paul, Part 2

Click here for part one of my “Mr. Henson Goes to St. Paul” series.

***

Well, after that marathon transcription session, I’m ready to dig into the meat of the matter. Please feel free to join me in the comment section.

Margaret Kellihan: …There’s a wonderful packet that they’ve put together for all of you, including the impact on your own districts of the Orchestra.

Some questions… What specifically did this packet say? Did it include anything about the Orchestra’s financial situation? If so, what? Can a person or organization face consequences for submitting false or misleading information in writing to the state legislature? I highly doubt that anything illegal occurred; I’m assuming the leaders of the MOA were extremely careful to check with their lawyers to make sure that everything was done within the bounds of the law. But just the fact that I have to say “I’m assuming the leaders of the MOA were extremely careful to check with their lawyers to make sure that everything was done within the bounds of the law” leaves a terribly rotten taste. I’d be very interested in seeing what claims were made in that packet, or to the state government in general. How closely did lawmakers look at the financial situation of the Orchestra while deciding whether to entertain the request? What information did they need? What answers were they given? I don’t know how this all works, and I’d be interested in finding out.

MK: Over 900 jobs will be created with this little bit of state money, partnered with a lot of private money.

MH:  Our private fundraising efforts are going very well, but public funding is critical if we are to reach our ultimate goal. Our private donors are keen to hear that the state is a partner in our project.

Of course we already knew about the synergy between public and private money within the Building for the Future campaign, but hearing it here again really underscores how desperately important this bonding request had become to the MOA and their vision of the organization’s future. I doubt the renovation could have even happened without it. So I completely understand what a temptation it must have been to manipulate numbers to, as Mr. Ebensteiner said in 2009, “support our state bonding aspirations.” I don’t agree with that tactic, at all, but I certainly understand it.

MK: The Orchestra has been winning terrific acclaim all around the globe, including the London Daily Telegraph, as well as the New York Times. And you can also know the reach of this Orchestra by the fact that it’s one of the only – it is the only American orchestra with a regular broadcast on the BBC. I think that’s pretty amazing, Madame Chair, and members.

It appears from the Speaker’s words that a major reason this request was entertained was because the Minnesota Orchestra is a world-class ensemble…or, in other words, a destination for world-class orchestral players. Implication: if they were to secure this money for the renovation of Orchestra Hall, Mr. Henson and the board had ethical (if not legal) obligations to do everything they could to maintain the status and the reputation of the Minnesota Orchestra. But I’ve yet to hear anyone in the orchestra business suggesting that the current leadership team is doing that. Indeed, Robert Levine has called for the entire board’s resignation, as well as Henson’s dismissal. We all remember the joint editorial that Marriner, de Waart, and Skrowaczewski published in the Strib in early October, in which they said, “An orchestra does not recover easily, from such drastic cuts, if ever.” And Drew McManus recently wrote in the comment section of his blog:

I would also add that provided everything in Royce’s article is accurate, the public trust is likely damaged beyond repair at this point as well. It’s difficult to separate the accounting decisions vis-a-vis the public bond funding and the corresponding decision to then reverse the policy for the purpose of artificially exacerbated negotiation leverage.

As the situation unfolds, it is depicting an increasingly sad state of affairs for an organization that once held one of the highest reputations in the field.

If we hear from dissenting respected voices from within the orchestra business praising management’s handling of the conflict, I’d be happy to feature them here. But I personally have found none.

On the financial front, we have announced balanced budgets over the last three consecutive years, and we are facing the current economic downturn with stability.

The slickness of that sentence just… It makes me queasy. It’s so terribly upsetting. As a commenter on violinist.com said, “Henson uses an interesting choice of words: ‘…we have announced balanced budgets…’ rather than saying they achieved, attained, or just plain had balanced budgets. I could ‘announce’ tomorrow that I am indeed the Queen of Sheba. Doesn’t make it so.” Well, exactly. He’s allowing himself wiggle room. And listen to the tone of his voice as he says it. He doesn’t stop; he doesn’t hesitate. He’s owning that obfuscation. It’s not troubling him at all, even though he’s clearly constructed the sentence to allow him to backpedal later if necessary.

We could debate whether the “we have announced balanced budgets” line is false or simply misleading, but personally, I consider the bit about “we are facing the current economic downturn with stability” to be a lie. A total fabrication. You might disagree with that assessment; “stability” is a subjective word, and it can mean a lot of things to lots of different people. But personally I can’t begin to conceive of a “stable” fiscal future that involves a 20-40%+ pay-cuts for musicians and endangers the quality of the core product. I wonder why Mr. Henson even included this phrase? He could easily have stopped after the slippery “we have announced” bit. Nobody would have noticed.

In general, the orchestra is musically enjoying a Golden Period with music director Osmo Vänskä.

Sigh.

This is obligatory now

Since I joined the Orchestra, we have tested and re-scaled the scope of the hall project in light of the very challenging economy.

This is a point I would love to hear more about. What did the testing and re-scaling consist of? Did anyone ever consider postponing the project for a few years? Did the public have any input into the decision-making process? If not, why not?

Our private fundraising efforts are going very well, but public funding is critical if we are to reach our ultimate goal.

Yes, fundraising was going so well that, a few weeks after testifying to the legislature, Mr. Henson said to the Strib…

“You recall that the project was downsized from $90 million,” Henson said, referring to a previous plan announced in 2007. “If we can generate more money through our fundraising, then it would make sense to grow the project, but it’s too early to say that, and we’ve made a priority to be fiscally responsible.”…

KPBM was expected to deliver sketches last December, but that likely was delayed to see whether fundraising might be robust enough to expand the project.  - Star Tribune, 15 March 2010

I know I mentioned that point a few days ago, but I think it deserves repetition, especially in light of Graydon Royce’s recent article. Because now we’ve got to wonder: did Mr. Henson really believe he could grow the project, or was he just saying that to manipulate the public? Your guess is as good as mine. This is incredibly disheartening. As Mary recently said in the comment section of Drew McManus’s blog: “A nonprofit’s most precious asset is trust of the community and donors that they are doing the right thing.” And right now we have a major trust deficit. Which will lead to exacerbated financial crisis. And so the downward spiral continues.

In other words:

We’re aiming to maintain the vast majority of that orchestral series, and the object has to be to actually retain that audience, so that when we close the hall and reopen it in a year’s time, we have retained as much of that audience as possible and retained that enthusiasm. So hopefully in the next couple of months we will be announcing that, and we are trying to minimize the amount of disruption.

Hmm. Yeah, about that…

(You know, now would be a fascinating time for minutes to surface in which MOA leaders discuss the possibility and likelihood of a work stoppage. Paper proof that Mr. Henson and his colleagues were anticipating a strike or lockout in January 2010 would add a whole new level of sleaziness to this entire affair.)

(Also, I’m eagerly anticipating the release of the Orchestra’s 2013-2014 schedule. Then we’ll have a much better idea of how many classical concerts the MOA really wants to put on relative to other non-renovation years.)

If I could also supplement that, we’re also aiming to increase our state touring for that year as well.  And we’ll be looking at between two to four weeks of activity. So I think we’re going to see a smaller main season, but we’re also going to take that in terms of increasing our presence across the whole state.

Great idea! Unfortunately, it never happened. Most (if not all; I’m not sure) of the Orchestra’s state touring is now done via the Common Chords project. In the 2011-2012 season, when the Orchestra was still in the hall, there were two Common Chords residencies, one in Grand Rapids and one in Willmar. In the 2012-2013 season, there was only one week scheduled, in April, in Bemidji…even though the Orchestra’s performance calendar was totally blank from September to mid-October. Is this an indication that the MOA was anticipating a work stoppage back when they were scheduling the season? Read the tea leaves as you will.

Well, those were the gist of my thoughts. I might have more as time goes by, and if I do, I’ll flesh those out in the comment section in conversation with you.

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Mr. Henson Goes to St. Paul, Part I

From the Star Tribune website

The locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra issued a unanimous vote of no confidence in the organization’s president and CEO, Michael Henson, on Tuesday.

Here’s a GIF of my reaction to this news:

You can read a list of objections the musicians have to Mr. Henson on their website. Their first is that he misled “the Minnesota Legislature about the orchestra’s finances during his testimony in favor of the orchestra’s bonding request.” There they linked to an mp3 of Mr. Henson testifying before the Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division of the Minnesota House of Representatives in January 2010…and misleading, if not lying, to them. Here’s a link to the mp3. The segment having to do with the Minnesota Orchestra begins at 2:38:55. In the interest of context and thoroughness, and for future reference, I’m transcribing the entirety of Mr. Henson’s appearance here. Apologies at its length, but…it’s long! They always say that lawmaking is like sausage-making: people don’t like knowing how either is made. Well, here’s your chance to watch some sausage-making, up close and personal… If you’re anything like me, the process will make you a little queasy.

***

Here are the cast of characters (listed in order of appearance), their initials, their political party, and their title at the meeting (if applicable). Information courtesy of this page and quick Google searches…

Mary Murphy (MM), DFL, Chair of meeting

Margaret Kelliher (MK), DFL, then Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives

Michael Henson (MH), President and CEO, Minnesota Orchestra

Greg Davids (GD), Republican, Lead of meeting (he is referenced by Margaret Kelliher; he does not actually speak)

Lyndon Carlson (LC), DFL, ex-officio

Alice Hausman (AH), DFL

Dean Urdahl (DU), Republican

Diane Loeffler (DL), DFL

***

MM: Rep. Kelliher, 2528.

MK: Madame Chair and Committee members, thank you for your work; I’ve been watching you, and you have a lot of good projects in front of you. I could say something very nice about every single thing I’ve seen. I just hope that Rep. Davids and I don’t have to team up like we had to in my first term in the legislature this year to make some of these things happen. So I really appreciate your hearing a couple of bills today. We’re first here to present our bill on the Orchestra – the Minnesota Orchestra, and Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza. And so I’m going to be brief about this; I want to tell you just a couple of things about the Orchestra. The Orchestra was formed in 1903, and since 1907 there have been 680 concerts in 60 communities around the state. There’s a wonderful packet that they’ve put together for all of you, including the impact on your own districts of the Orchestra. But I do love this quote by a Tyler resident, who had only seen the Orchestra once as a young boy. “On Friday night he was hearing the Minnesota Orchestra perform as a whole new experience. ‘It’s a pretty nice deal,’ he said, ‘getting something like this out here.’” He was quoted in the weekender Independent in Marshall, Minnesota, in February 2008. So the Orchestra has a broad scope and reach. Over 80,000 students are served by educational programs by the Orchestra every year. It performs over 200 concerts. And Orchestra Hall has hosted ten million visitors since 1974. And that’s our topic today. This renovation of Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza is job-intensive. Over 900 jobs will be created with this little bit of state money, partnered with a lot of private money. This Orchestra is also one of our state’s great cultural exports. The Orchestra has been winning terrific acclaim all around the globe, including the London Daily Telegraph, as well as the New York Times. And you can also know the reach of this Orchestra by the fact that it’s one of the only – it is the only American orchestra with a regular broadcast on the BBC. I think that’s pretty amazing, Madame Chair, and members. And I have to tell you just a quick personal story. My own children got to participate in something very special through our church a few years ago, and it was the production of the oratorio that had been commissioned. And it was an oratorio that the music of course was played by the Minnesota Orchestra. And the singers came from a large pool of singers, including children from the Basilica of St. Mary. They had an amazing experience, being able to record that piece – the first recording of it ever, in Orchestra Hall, by a Swedish company that came in and did that with a Swedish production company. And it has had an amazing and profound impact. The oratorio itself was about the impact – it was actually commissioned by our priest at the time, Father Michael O’Connell – and the story was the story of the children of the Holocaust. And my own children, when they sang in that production, said, “Oh, Mom.” I mean, you could just imagine the terrifying thing that was happening to those children at that time. So I think for me, what music connects, and what a project like this connects, for people, for children, for adults, all across the state, is how music tells the story of people’s lives, whether that story was a long time ago, or that story is today. And so I’m pleased to introduce to you the President and the CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra, Michael Henson.

MM: Welcome, Mr. Henson.

MH: Thank you very much, Madame Chair, and Representatives, and what a great pleasure it is to be here today, and thank you, Speaker Kelliher, for such an eloquent presentation. I’d like to begin by sharing a bit more background on the Minnesota Orchestra with you, and then to update you on the substantial progress we’ve made on our building project since we appeared at the Capitol in 2008, requesting planning funds for the renovation of Orchestra Hall. I joined the Minnesota Orchestra just over two years ago, coming from England, and one of the factors that drew me here was the Orchestra’s reputation. It is one of the top orchestras in the world. The Minnesota Orchestra was founded in 1903, as Speaker Kelliher mentioned. It started touring the state only four years later, and has continued to do so ever since, traveling to every corner of the state. We began our education concerts in 1911 and they continue to this day, too. Today the Minnesota Orchestra performs nearly 200 concerts a year, reaching over 400,000 people, 200,000 additional individuals across the state weekly hear our radio broadcasts, and millions across the country through national and international radio broadcasts. On the financial front, we have announced balanced budgets over the last three consecutive years, and we are facing the current economic downturn with stability. In general, the orchestra is musically enjoying a Golden Period with music director Osmo Vänskä. And we are excited about the many possibilities surrounding our hall renovation. Let me detail the project very briefly. I have to say that I found this project to be an extremely captivating one since the first moment I visited Orchestra Hall. I was struck then by the tremendous potential of a revitalized Orchestra Hall in this community. Since I joined the Orchestra, we have tested and re-scaled the scope of the hall project in light of the very challenging economy. The result is a very focused and feasible project. Our vision for an expanded Orchestra Hall is a $40 million renovation that re-invents our public spaces, better serves our young audiences, and makes certain that Orchestra Hall lives up to its full potential as a beacon in the city, accessible to all in the community. Our general contractor estimates that the project will create nearly 900 jobs. Orchestra Hall was built in 1974 for approximately $15 million. The bulk of these resources were put into the auditorium, which still functions very well. The lobby, on the other hand, was built to last only fifteen to twenty years. We have three priorities in our renovation, and the top amongst these is an improved lobby. The second is to modernize our auditorium. And last, but not least, we have started to regenerate Peavey Plaza in the Orchestra Hall renovation. We believe that the reinvention of this entire city block will have a powerful social and economic impact on our community. I’d like to note that the $40 million figure relates only to the cost of renovating Orchestra Hall, not Peavey Plaza. We are currently working with the City to determine the appropriate costs for the renovation of Peavey. Our private fundraising efforts are going very well, but public funding is critical if we are to reach our ultimate goal. Our private donors are keen to hear that the state is a partner in our project. I thank you in advance for your support of our plans to re-imagine our hall and Peavey Plaza for our new audiences in this century. Thank you very much.

MM: So Rep. Kelliher, was the orchestra heard on BBC before Mr. Henson came to Minneapolis?

[laughter]

MH: I’ve had a close working relationship with the BBC for twenty years. That has obviously helped; however, we have a world-class orchestra and if we were not a world-class orchestra, we would not be appearing on the BBC. So I think there is a very good synergy between a world-class orchestra and another world-class broadcaster.

MM: Good answer. Very good. Rep. Carlson.

LC: As ticket holders, my wife and I might be interested in where will we be attending during the construction period?

MH: I think in the construction period we actually looked at a variety of options. One was to close the hall over a three year period – six months each year. What we decided to do is to close the hall for one season, and we are currently in advanced stages of negotiating where we’re going to appear in the downtown. We’re aiming to maintain the vast majority of that orchestral series, and the object has to be to actually retain that audience, so that when we close the hall and reopen it in a year’s time, we have retained as much of that audience as possible and retained that enthusiasm. So hopefully in the next couple of months we will be announcing that, and we are trying to minimize the amount of disruption.

LC: So the main point is that you’re still going to perform.

MM: Maybe in Duluth. [laughter and chatter]

LC: He never said which downtown.

MH: If I could also supplement that, we’re also aiming to increase our state touring for that year as well. And we’ll be looking at between two to four weeks of activity. So I think we’re going to see a smaller main season, but we’re also going to take that in terms of increasing our presence across the whole state.

MM: Representative Hausman.

AH: Thank you, Madame Chair. I believe it is this weekend we have the opportunity to hear the Minnesota Orchestra performing together with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and as the newspaper account says, those conductors who have international experience had really great things to say about the quality of the musical experience we have available in this state.

MH: That’s extremely pleasing to hear, and I know the orchestras are working as we speak at the moment, and I think it is going to be a truly splendid series of concerts.

MM: Representative Urdahl.

DU: Thank you, Madame Chair. Mr. Henson. I have had occasion a couple of times to attend the performances at the [?] Performing Arts Center, and enjoyed that, particularly with my Finlander wife and Mr. Vänskä. But if you’re looking for a home, you know, I’m sure that a good deal could be struck with the [?] Performing Arts Center. [Editor's Note: I can't make out which performing arts center Rep. Urdahl is referring to! Please listen to the mp3 yourself to judge and leave your ideas in the comment section. His comments are at 2:50:05. I'll edit this entry if I get any clarification...]

MK: What a generous offer, Rep. Urdahl.

MH: Thank you very much.

MM: Rep. Loeffler.

DL: Thank you, Madame Chair. And Mr. Henson, I’d like to put something on your short list of alternative locations. Just about two miles north of where you are is the original home of the Minneapolis Orchestra, which became the Minnesota Orchestra, at least it did all of its original recordings in the Edison High School Auditorium, which had perfect acoustics. I don’t think they’ve changed that much since then, and it’s in the official arts district of the city, and you’ve never toured to our area, so I think coming back home and maybe re-playing some of those wonderful classics that were done and recorded there would really be a really interesting thing, to tour within – for your home city and back to something that is the historical roots of the Orchestra.

MH: Thank you very much for that very helpful suggestion.

MK: Madame Chair, I feel like we’re being lobbied as much as we’re lobbying all of you today.

[laughter]

MM: Any other suggestions for their off-season? [laughter] Thank you very much.

***

I’ll have more thoughts on this transcription later. If you have any corrections to my transcription, let me know.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?

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SOTL Christmas Calendar Announcement, Redux

This entry is republished from November 17, in case you missed it then…

***

It’s beginning to sound suspiciously like Christmas out there. I heard Santa Baby at a store the other day. [shudder]

Why was this necessary?

So.

It’s been a…wild year, to say the least. As a thank-you, I’m cooking up a little holiday surprise for everybody involved in the Orchestral Apocalypse. Oh, yes, you heard me right: everybody! We may not be able to agree on anything, but we all have a part to play in the First (Annual?) Song of the Lark Celebratory Advent Calendar!

:)

The details are going to stay under wraps for a while longer, so try to contain your enthusiasm for just a couple more weeks. ;) I can pull the gist of it off myself, but I need your help to make it extra-special.

Here’s what I’d like you to do:

Write me a paragraph about your favorite 2012 Minnesota Orchestra or SPCO memory. Lockout concerts, protesting, meeting cool people, whatever. OR if you’d just like to send your encouragement to those affected by the Apocalypse (musicians or listeners), you can do that, too. Sign your full name, sign a nickname, sign an initial; doesn’t matter to me.

Send that paragraph of love and warmth and hope to songofthelarkchristmasproject[at]gmail.com, exchanging the [at] for an @, obviously.

Remember: follow the example of baby Jesus, and don’t be rude to anyone…or else your paragraph will end up in the trash bin.

If selected, your paragraph will appear on a virtual Advent calendar, to be published on Tumblr. (If you don’t know what a Tumblr is, here’s an example. They’re sort of like online scrapbooks. They are awesome. And they’re the perfect platform to publish virtual Advent calendars.)

The deadline to send your memory or encouragement is Thursday November 29 at noon.

So get writing, folks. And mark your calendar for December first, when the Advent calendar will be going live. More details later. Thanks for the support. xx

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Is Minnesota Orchestra Management Lying To Us, Part 3: Yes

Yesterday proved to be an important day. Graydon Royce penned and published the single most important article yet written about the orchestral apocalypse. So go read it. Now. Please.

Let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that Graydon Royce is the King of Minnesota Orchestra Investigative Reporting.

Your crown, dear sir.

The article begins:

For four years, the Minnesota Orchestra board has walked a tightrope between managing public perceptions about its financial health and making its case to cut musicians’ salaries.

I’m not writing in a newspaper, and I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone but myself, and I don’t need to be delicate, so please, allow me…

The Minnesota Orchestral Association lied to the public about its fiscal health in order to get what it wanted. Yes, I know that we’ve sidestepped the L-word in the past. I wrote “obfuscations” once; the MOA then wrote about “misrepresentations“. So I’m going to be the first to be blunt, and say lie. They lied. They lied, as in “they presented false information with the intention of deceiving.”

THEY LIED TO US.

Continue reading

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Two Approaches to Governance…indeed

I’ll just leave this here…

From the League of American Orchestras’ 2011 conference schedule

Two Approaches to Governance

The Minnesota Orchestra and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are both very successful institutions, offering strong programs to their communities in differentiated ways. Both are characterized by high-functioning boards, and, like their orchestras overall, their approaches to governance are distinct from one another. They exemplify two very different approaches to governance, and both styles are represented throughout our industry. This session will offer two views of governance, exploring what works about each, and what challenges and opportunities are embedded in each approach.

Michael Henson, president & CEO, Minnesota Orchestra; Jon Campbell, chair elect, Minnesota Orchestra; Sarah Lutman, president & managing director, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Dobson West, board chair, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Moderator: Sally Sterling, consultant, Spencer Stuart

Pity time-travel isn’t possible. Because I’d love to attend this session and learn how high-functioning boards operate, and see what challenges and opportunities are embedded in each orchestra’s approach.

(The Minnesota Orchestra’s Michael Henson, president and CEO, and Osmo Vänskä, music director, invite you to join them at Conference 2011)

I see the “Minneapolis is easy to get around” talking point had its origins many months ago.

***

(And yes, I have some opinions on today’s rather explosive front page Strib story. But they’re not quite yet ready for public consumption. Hold your horses. In the meantime though I found this and thought, especially in light of today’s revelations, that it was…interesting, shall we say, in hindsight.)

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Richard Davis Debates Richard Davis

Hey, do you guys remember Richard Davis? Yeah, me neither. We haven’t heard much from him lately. But presumably he hasn’t fallen off the face of the earth, as he is still listed as immediate past chair of the Minnesota Orchestral Association board of directors, and is therefore a co-architect of the lockout.

While I was Googling aimlessly this morning, I came across this shocking interview with Richard Davis from June 2012. It’s explosive. Second Quarter Richard Davis (in other words, “2Q Richard Davis”) has some extremely pointed criticism for Fourth Quarter Richard Davis (or “4Q Richard Davis”). Let’s listen in on their heated debate about how they should be running the Minnesota Orchestra Corporation.

Richard Davis v. Richard Davis

Inside the Performance Chain: An interview with US Bank’s Richard Davis

Congratulations to Richard Davis for his induction into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame — today!

US Bank: Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), with $330 billion in assets, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States. The company operates 3,089 banking offices, 5,092 ATMs in 25 states, and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions.

About Richard: “I could have been a pastor as easily as a banker.

“I started as a teller, working my way through school.  I became interested in ‘how does it all fit together?’  I’m one of those guys – ‘just tell me how it works.’”

Ouch. What a stinging rebuke by 2Q Richard Davis to 4Q Richard Davis, who has repeatedly shown a lack of interest in learning how orchestras work. Expert after expert has condemned the current contract proposal and the way the lockout has been conducted:

For decades, Minnesotans have taken pride in the accomplishments and extraordinary talents that make up the state’s most prominent cultural institution. In dramatic contrast, this management and board is out to destroy it, even though they may not quite realize that yet. – Frank Almond, Non Divisi, 2 October 2012

Traditionally, the diminution of artistic quality produces an equal decline in ticket buyer and donor interest, which in turn could initiate an unavoidable spiral of decline resulting in exacerbated financial crisis. The cure stands a high degree of probability for killing the patient. – Drew McManus, Adaptistration, 19 November 2012

He’s [Henson's] wrong if he thinks that Minnesota Orchestra will “always have great appeal as a place to have an orchestral career.” I’m sure they’ll always get musicians to audition for positions. But everyone now knows that the Minnesota Orchestra is not a trustworthy employer, even in an industry full of employers who are having trouble making ends meet. It matters to musicians considering going there that their chosen course of action, in the face of supposed financial problems, was 1) complete lack of transparency; and 2) a refusal to bargain in good faith with its musicians. I think the Minnesota Orchestra’s reputation has been wrecked for years amongst musicians by recent events, especially amongst the musicians who they would most want to recruit – those at the top of their game. - Robert Levine, Polyphonic blog, 9 November 2012

An orchestra does not recover easily, from such drastic cuts, if ever. – Edo de Waart, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Neville Marriner, 6 October 2012, Star Tribune

And yet! Despite these incredibly dire assessments by outside experts, 4Q Richard Davis never alters his position, and shows a consistent refusal to learn from them. The insinuation may be unspoken, but it’s obvious: 2Q Richard Davis thinks that 4Q Richard Davis should start listening to experts who know how orchestras work, and modify his positions accordingly.

Richard is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Bancorp. He has served as Chairman since December 2007, as President since October 2004 and as Chief Executive Officer since December 2006.

“When I stepped into my role, we had disaffected employees. We are in a service business which means we need really, really engaged employees who serve and create happy customers, who in turn lead to results for the bank.

(As Jon Stewart would say… “Go on.”)

“When we held a large investor relations event about a year after I became CEO in 2007, I built my whole presentation about how employees were going to take the front seat.  One analyst who follows the bank publicly questioned the approach. She doubted that a focus on employees would have the needed impact.”

A year later, that analyst told Richard he was right – focusing on employees was paying off.

Aww, snap! Did you hear that, Richard Davis? Did you hear that? Richard Davis is mocking you! He’s clearly insinuating you’re being fiscally and morally irresponsible by not fostering a work environment within the Minnesota Orchestra that results in “really, really engaged employees who serve and create happy customers,” which will then “lead to results” for the Minnesota Orchestra! Are you listening, 4Q Richard Davis? Are you just going to let that shocking accusation stand?

Richard turns to CPR when he talks about the evolving needs of the constituents: Consistent, Predictable and Repeatable. For investors, predictability is the most important aspect, while customers appreciate all three, making sure there are no surprises in their experiences. CPR gives employees confidence, and they enjoy representing the organization.

“The key is not to do things out of character with who we are as an institution. It works.”…

OH! OH! And the brutal hits to 4Q Richard Davis just keep on coming! 2Q Richard Davis thinks it would be a good idea to have a Consistent orchestra – a Predictable orchestra – a Repeatable orchestra…but 4Q Richard Davis doesn’t want any of those things. 4Q Richard Davis actually said of musicians in September 2012 – “There’s a risk that they find their way to another place, and those who can leave will. It’s going to be a personal decision where they want to perform.” (Well, actually technically I guess that was 3Q Richard Davis, but apparently 3Q and 4Q Richard Davis share many of the same beliefs, so…) Rarely do we hear such wealthy powerful people criticizing each other so publicly. I wonder what will happen the next time Richard Davis meets Richard Davis at a cocktail party. Yikes.

What are the key attributes of your company’s performance chain that come to mind?

“People. Empowered people.”

Can you relate to how speed, flexibility, predictability and leverage play a role in the way your company operates? Let’s start with predictability.   

“Predictability goes with ‘CPR.’ No surprises – consistently good service.  Communications across all levels of employees is critical.  We have a quarterly leader meeting with 1,000 leaders.  We talk about the business and the environment. We talk up to them and empower them to do the same with their employees. Rather than controlling the flow of communication, they asked that we expand the information sharing, so we’re now having a similar conversation with the next 6,000. The idea is to build understanding and empowerment, leader to leader.

If we want consistent performance, we have to rely on each employee to act within their role with as much information as possible.

Ooo, that is a powerful indictment. He didn’t spell it out specifically, but of course all of us who have been following this story know exactly what 2Q Richard Davis is referring to: 4Q Richard Davis refuses to give musicians information they’ve requested multiple times, including the current 2012-13 budget, an audit report from FY 2011-2012, minutes from a meeting of the Trustees of the Oakleaf Trust, a joint independent financial analysis, and confirmation or denial that a reduction in “contributions and pledges…was related to these contract negotiations.”

You know, I can’t help but think that things would be different at the Minnesota Orchestra right now if 2Q Richard Davis was in charge. Perhaps the lockout would even be over by now. I wonder: is it too late to get 2Q Richard Davis on the Minnesota Orchestra board?

“In our business, leverage is all about people. Again – I fully believe if employees are happy, empowered and know what to do, they will drive happy customers. Happy customers drive results.”

Wow, 2Q Richard Davis isn’t even trying to hide his scorn for 4Q Richard Davis anymore! As the entire music world knows, 4Q Richard Davis’s actions have resulted in widespread customer anger. In fact, the following comments were all posted by customers on the Orchestra’s Facebook wall within the last couple of weeks:

Michael [Henson] can stop sending me letters trying to prove that he has a) an argument or b) any integrity…

I am standing here with money in my hand, to give to the Orchestra as soon as you fire management…

You are holding the citizens of Minnesota hostage by not negotiating. We will not attend sub standard part time concerts no matter how shiny a new hall you build. Settle this now. You are in the process of lowering the standards of our proud state which has a history of supporting and appreciating the arts. Shame on You Board of Directors. Shame on you…

Just read Maestro Vanska’s letter to you. Beautiful and heartfelt. Shame on MN Orchestra management for picking out one paragraph in their letter to patrons to make it sound like he unilaterally supports their ridiculous and unfair stance. Yet another classic example of Management’s deceitfulness. Lord help us all…

I just purchased my tickets for the December 16th concert by the musicians. This will be the second Minnesota Orchestra concert I have attended this year and neither will have been under the auspices of the MOA. Michael Henson, Jon Campbell, et al: What I care about is the music. I have not, and will never, buy tickets to attend a concert of administrators. Your only purpose, and the purpose of the MOA is to facilitate the delivery of music. You have failed to do so, yet the music plays on. I guess that means you are irrelevant…

Those are some awfully unhappy customers! You know, I hate to take sides in this smackdown argument, but it does appear that 2Q Richard Davis has a point here.

I look forward to documenting any further debate between Richard Davis and Richard Davis.

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A Michael Henson Retrospective

A few days ago, I took a trip through the 2010 Minnesota Orchestra e-tour site. That’s the place where I found the “winning” article from Gig Magazine, where the Minnesota Orchestra was described “as a beacon institution among the bad [economic] news.” Not long after I blogged about that article, it mysteriously vanished from the Orchestra’s website. Luckily, a reader had told me to take screenshots, and so I posted those. We’re going on seven weeks now, and management has yet to address the disappearance.

Anyway! During my recent return trip to the e-tour site, I found some more quotations that I feel compelled to share with you now. They’re from an interview that Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson gave to Classical Music Magazine in August 2010 called “Flying the flag.” I’m not even going to bother with the cache. Here’s a direct link. When that’s taken down, here are the screenshots. Click for bigger images.

Mr. Henson is speaking…

“We’re being fiscally prudent, looking at how we plan the short term at the same time as being mindful of the medium and long term.”

“The current Sommerfest series is being well attended and the orchestra came in on budget for the 2009/10 season.”

In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the Minnesota Orchestral Association, or MOA, says their operating draw percentage was 10.7%; in 2009-2010, the orchestra says the operating draw percentage was 11.4%. (I say “says” because guest blogger and local nonprofit professional Mary Schaefle reports that the numbers released to the public don’t match the MOA’s tax returns, and so far, we have not received clarification from the MOA on this point.) As Jon Campbell, the chair of the MOA board of directors, and Richard Davis, the immediate past chair, put it, “In Minnesota, we were able to deliver balanced budgets through large, unsustainable endowment fund draws and ‘bridge-the-gap’ fundraising.” Which – and correct me if I’m wrong about this – is bad. But according to August 2010 Michael Henson, unsustainable endowment fund draws and “bridge-the-gap” fundraising are also….fiscally prudent, and being mindful of the short and medium and long term. Or something.

Although there has been a slight decline in recent audience numbers, it has not been enough for alarm bells to sound.

But… I thought national trends indicate a need for change…

So I guess there’s a need for change, but there hasn’t been enough change for alarm bells to sound? Or in other words, there’s no need for changes that require a significant departure from the traditions of the past?

Clarification would be very cool right about now.

“We’ve done a very good job in terms of maintaining audiences and indeed the audiences have really shown that even if we’re in a tough economy, people still want to come out and hear a great orchestra.”

In the fiscal year lasting from 2009-2010 (the year Mr. Henson had just finished as he gave this interview), overall attendance dropped by 7%, from 270,000 to 250,000. Is this “a very good job in terms of maintaining audiences”? I suppose if you get convoluted about it, and if most other American orchestras saw their attendances plummet by 10% or 15% that year (and I don’t know if they did), you could make that case. Otherwise…I dunno. Please forgive me if I’m not completely convinced. I’d love to hear more of the subtleties of the argument, and more figures to back the argument up. If Mr. Henson ever sits down with a reporter like Matt Peiken from MNuet, these remarks could form the basis of a fascinating and productive discussion. (Mr. Peiken has asked to interview Mr. Henson; Mr. Henson has not yet accepted the invitation. Maybe he will now.)

(And yes, I’m aware that a big chunk of that attendance drop can be ascribed to the fact there were 9% fewer concerts in the 2009-2010 season, as Mary has explained here. But Mr. Henson wasn’t talking about revenue here; he was just talking about audience maintenance.)

At the time Henson was appointed to the Minnesota Orchestra, he was quoted as saying he believed orchestras were in a golden period. That, he says, is still the case.

A visual representation of our era

Yes, apparently we are in a…golden period. Pretty fricking depressing Golden Period, if you ask me, but…OK.

 “At the moment we are getting some great artistic performances from major orchestras in America. The real challenge is looking at the long term future. It’s critical that the art remains central to our mission and critical that we continue to act in a fiscally prudent way. This orchestra’s been in existence for well over a hundred years and our job and duty is to make sure it’s thriving for the next hundred.”

What?

I agree with Michael Henson about something?

Yay!

This warrants a celebration.

OK, celebration over.

Now. Remember, at the exact same time that he was saying all of these things…”golden period”, “people still want to come out and hear a great orchestra”, “we’re being fiscally prudent, looking at how we plan the short term at the same time as being mindful of the medium and long term”…Mr. Henson was, behind closed doors, not only approving endowment draw rates of over ten percent, but Strategically Planning the Strategic Plan that would culminate in 20-40% pay cuts for musicians, prominently highlight how “stressed” orchestras are, and produce a drastically altered mission statement that can be interpreted as the MOA having no interest in supporting orchestral music at all. By management’s very own admission, the Strategic Planning began in the spring of 2010: months before these sentences were ever uttered to Classical Music Magazine (or, for that matter, Gig Magazine).

So, to sum, as he was giving these rosy interviews to the international press, behind closed doors, Mr. Henson was saying (formatting mine for emphasis):

  • “the status quo can no longer be preserved” (from the Open Letter)
  • “…this is a journey that began several years ago, when the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Orchestra recognized that the organization could no longer survive based on optimistic economic assumptions and the hope of limitless benefactor generosity” (from the Open Letter)
  • “…the reality is that over the past three years we met regularly with our musicians and others with a stake in our future to share the clarity of our financial challenges“… (from the Open Letter)
  • “Board and management have been communicating the financial position of the Orchestra with musicians for three years.” (from the Misrepresentation vs. Reality chart)
  • “As part of the strategic planning process, the board openly shared the Orchestra’s financial situation with musicians in a series of meetings spanning three years.” (from the Misrepresentation vs. Reality chart)
  • Would you like me to keep going? Because I could keep going. But alas, I have pity for this dead horse.

So.

What are you feeling right about now? Personally, I’m suffering from a bad case of confusion, and the only thing that has a chance to cure it is a long, long hours-long sit-down chat with Mr. Henson himself.

Here are some more quotes that struck me as odd as I was paging through old newspaper articles. Lots of interesting ones…although, awkwardly, none of them are as damaging as what is actually still on the Minnesota Orchestra’s own website.

Terms of his [Henson's] contract were not disclosed. According to public documents, [Tony] Woodcock, his [Henson's] predecessor, earned an annual salary of about $300,000. – Pioneer Press, 22 September 2007 [According to public documents, Mr. Henson's salary in the 2010-2011 fiscal year was $360,283; total compensation was $389,861. We are currently waiting on numbers from the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Since I don't have a paid account with Goldstar, I have no access to the 990s that would go into the details of Mr. Woodcock's compensation.]

 

Henson believes the hall’s finest characteristics must be preserved. He has visited the new Guthrie Theater, MacPhail Center and the Walker Art Center and came away concluding that while all three make distinct visual statements, it is what happens inside the building that matters most.

“There is no point in having a great building without having great art inside it,” he said. – Star Tribune, 24 February 2008

 

The Minnesota Orchestra has raised $24 million toward its $40 million Hall renovation. Michael Henson, president and CEO, told the Orchestra’s annual meeting Wednesday that $10 million was raised in September alone. In other financial highlights, the Orchestra balanced its budget for the third consecutive year even as total attendance declined, and ticket revenue rose 4.4 percent…

“We must balance artistic initiative with fiscal responsibility,” Henson told the noon luncheon in downtown Minneapolis. “We’re quite pleased with these results in a challenging year.” - Star Tribune, 9 December 2009. [In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the year Mr. Henson is referring to here, the MOA states the endowment draw rate was at 10.7%, over double what they now say is "sustainable" and responsible.]

 

Michael Henson, Minnesota Orchestra CEO and president, hinted Monday that the organization’s renovation of Orchestra Hall might be expanded. Henson’s optimism came after Gov. Tim Pawlenty included $14 million for the project in the state bonding bill. Coupled with private and corporate fundraising of $24 million, the orchestra has now raised $38 million toward a plan that was announced last summer at $40 million.

“You recall that the project was downsized from $90 million,” Henson said, referring to a previous plan announced in 2007. “If we can generate more money through our fundraising, then it would make sense to grow the project, but it’s too early to say that, and we’ve made a priority to be fiscally responsible.”…

It is no secret that the orchestra has been pleased with its fundraising. Last June, when Toronto architects Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) were chosen to spearhead the renovation, pledges for $14 million had been secured. That grew to $24 million by last December’s annual meeting. An organization’s ability to raise private capital helps its chances in the legislature. Henson said he was pleased that “the governor has shown confidence in this project. It’s a very good day for the orchestra.”

KPBM was expected to deliver sketches last December, but that likely was delayed to see whether fundraising might be robust enough to expand the project.  - Star Tribune, 15 March 2010

 

A gift of $5 million from Target has pushed the Minnesota Orchestra past a $40 million fundraising goal for its Orchestra Hall building project. With the Target donation, the orchestra has raised $43 million to expand and refurbish the 1974 hall’s lobby and surrounding terraces.

Target’s is the campaign’s largest corporate gift. The state of Minnesota contributed $14 million through state bonding, and one individual gave $5 million, according to Michael Henson, the orchestra’s president and CEO.

At the same time, the organization announced that the building project is part of an even larger fundraising effort it calls the Building for the Future Campaign. That initiative has raised $82 million toward a $100 million goal and has been talked about only within the orchestra and the philanthropic community. The campaign includes $40 million for the building project, $30 million for the orchestra’s endowment and $30 million to support artistic and education programs.

However, Henson said, within that framework it’s possible that more money could be dedicated to the renovation.

The $40 million was a “focused budget,” he said. “By passing that amount, we’re not going to increase the scope of the project, but we will increase the quality of finishes and other aspects that give us additional value.” – Star Tribune, 15 June 2010

????

So, um.

Wow.

But those weren’t the only articles I read. Over the course of a lazy afternoon, I carefully studied a couple dozen in which Mr. Henson discusses his work in Minnesota. In none of them was there any hint of an impending apocalypse, or even a “market reset.” True, there were articles about cutbacks in staff after the Great Recession began, and occasional mentions of a “difficult economic climate“, but just about everybody suffered staff cutbacks after the Great Recession began, and of course we all knew we were in a “difficult economic climate.”

Here. Don’t take my word for it; check out Highbeam or EBSCO yourself. The search term you want to use is “Michael Henson” orchestra. Leave any interesting links I may have overlooked in the comment section, especially if they prove me wrong. Because I’d love to be proven wrong. Go ahead. Make a fool of me.

I eagerly await Mr. Henson’s (and Mr. Campbell’s, and Mr. Davis’s) clarifications.

…………………..Because they’d better clarify.

Here’s a final observation from Mr. Henson from August 2010:

“These are much bigger organizations than British orchestras. That requires the right sort of skills and anybody contemplating coming here has got to have the right skill set. But there are some fantastic opportunities in America.”

Indeed.

So. What have we learned?

Assuming the MOA wants to support an orchestra (and at this point, I’m not convinced they do; they can get back to me on that one when they change their mission statement back to include the word “orchestra”), we’re going to keep circling round and round until we agree on the answer to one simple question:

Can you sustain – nay, heighten – the artistry of an orchestra while also cutting its budget by twenty percent over the course of one season? Can you pay twenty percent less for a product and still get a better product? (Especially when you can’t outsource the assembly of said product to China?) Do you believe that an orchestra that pays roughly half as much as the best orchestras in this country – that consists of demoralized dejected players seeking work elsewhere – that has no seniority pay - that has a management team reviled by musicians and music-lovers across the world (and I’m not exaggerating when I say that)…do you believe that such an orchestra will ever become a professional destination for world-class players? (Especially if – sigh; when – Osmo leaves in 2015?) I say no. (Robert Levine, a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras, also says no.) (Arts consultant Drew McManus has also expressed doubts.) I maintain that no matter what Mr. Henson says, easily walkable geography does not a desirable location make.

If you don’t have the money to sustain an orchestra’s quality, should you level with your public and say they can’t support the quality of ensemble they’ve grown accustomed to unless they pony up tons more cash and quickly, or should you promise your patrons the moon in the cynical hope they won’t notice when your orchestra starts to decline? As a patron, what kind of management do you want to have in charge? People who are level with you about the challenges ahead, or people who consistently sidestep the truth over a period of years?

Hopefully we all agree: eventually we’ll reach a tipping point. Obviously we can’t buy a world-class orchestra for, say, $0 a year. So somewhere along that sliding scale between $32 million and $26 million and $0, we’ll lose our “world-class” quality. So where is the Minnesota Orchestra’s tipping point? Is it at $30 million? $28 million? $25 million? $10 million? If we’re going to cut twenty percent, then what keeps us from cutting, say, thirty percent? Forty percent? Fifty percent? After all, that would give us more money to invest in the endowment. It would protect us against another major recession and give us more money to use on educational programs. How about we cut ninety percent? Ninety-five? Ninety-nine? How about the musicians pay us to have the chance to play in a world-class orchestra? All right; now I’m being hyperbolic. But hopefully you understand the broader point I’m trying to drive home here. Where is that tipping point? How close to the bone can we shave without seeing a marked decrease in quality (and an accompanying decrease in financial support)? Do we know? If so, how do we know? And why was the community never given a chance to discuss this? Because we’re not dumb. We could have helped you solve the problem, you know. It’s our orchestra, and we deserve to have a say in its future.

The only way I can reconcile Mr. Henson’s words (without labeling him a self-serving cynic who specializes in painfully inept incompetence) is to assume he honestly believes that a world-class orchestra – (in a golden age of orchestras) – will thrive artistically – (and therefore, financially) – after he brutally gouges the salary and working conditions of his musicians, and misleads and then infuriates his devoted public. Personally, I find that idea to be roughly as realistic as the idea of an obese man flying around the world to deliver toys to every good boy and girl on the face of the earth, and so do many experts in the field. The idea may be comforting at first glance, but in practice, it’s unworkable. But for whatever reason, a lot of people on the board appear to agree with Mr. Henson.

So what do you think? What I think isn’t important. It’s what you, the patrons, think that really matters. (Or, at the least, what should really matter.)

As always, the comment section is open.

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MinnPost Editorial by Paula and Cy DeCosse

As the Orchestral Apocalypse drags on, many readers have wondered what important donors are feeling about now. We have our first indication in this MinnPost editorial, “We’re locked out, too: Questions for MN Orchestra management,” by Paula and Cy DeCosse.

Their editorial begins:

The recent announcement of additional Minnesota Orchestra concert cancellations only deepened the gloom of hundreds of Twin Cities patrons and music lovers. We’ve already missed six weeks of concerts, and now the holiday concerts have been canceled as well. Orchestra Hall is under construction; the Convention Center auditorium is dark. The musicians are locked out – and so are we!

As the conflict has dragged on, with letters from the board citing unsustainable deficits and musicians protesting a 30-50 percent pay cut (management says the cuts would be 20-40 percent), we in the community are trying to make sense of it all. We have a lot of questions.

The whole thing is highly recommended reading. It covers several of the most important questions we’ve been asking here, calmly, succinctly, and persuasively. (And for what it’s worth, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first mainstream press mention of the “winning” article.)

Mr. and Mrs. DeCosse were one of the sixteen donor couples profiled on the Orchestra’s website. In light of their editorial today, if you click the link and the page is gone, I have screenshots I can share.

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