Jan 23rd Hearing, Part 4: Orchestrate Excellence Testimony

This testimony was given by Laurie Greeno, co-chair of Orchestrate Excellence, in front of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives on 23 January 2013. Rep. Joe Atkins chaired. You can listen to Ms. Greeno’s testimony here. It begins at roughly 47:30.

***

LG: Chair Atkins, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, thank you for considering the impact of the lockouts on our communities and the state of Minnesota. I’m Laurie Greeno, co-chair of Orchestrate Excellence, an independent coalition of over a thousand community members, donors, and concertgoers. In the last few weeks, this group of concerned citizens has formed to give voice to the tremendous economic, educational, and artistic repercussions of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout.

On the economic front, the impact of the lockout is significant and far-reaching. According the estimates by Meet Minneapolis, the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, visitors who attend classical music concerts spend almost thirty million dollars annually, and much of this revenue will be lost as a result of the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO lockouts. Already a single parking facility is reporting a $70,000 shortfall due to concerts canceled to date. The Convention Center, the Orchestra’s home for this season, has lost over a quarter million dollars in revenue, with a potential of six hundred thousand lost for the year. One Minneapolis restaurant manager is reporting revenue shortfalls of $3000 to $10,000 per concert evening with revenue reductions expected to exceed $100,000 for the 54 Minnesota Orchestra concerts canceled so far. Multiply that times the number of restaurants on south Nicollet Mall and the shortfall exceeds a million dollars for this sector alone.

The economic ripple effects of the lockout are perhaps most significant for the countless individuals affected, some of whom we have heard from today, in respect to the hockey lockout. But musicians, stagehands, ushers, and others are out of work. Servers are seeing their hours cut. Luthiers like Mrs. Givens – small businesses that maintain stringed instruments report significant revenue shortfalls. The Minnesota Chorale has lost twenty percent of this year’s revenue. Bemidji’s community-wide orchestra project for this spring is at risk. And then there is the double whammy effect the lockout has on public funding. Not only are the city, county, and state tax revenues down as a direct result of the lockout, but at the same time the government is paying thousands of dollars in unemployment every week that the lockout persists. Clearly the economic impact of this lockout is significant. A thorough analysis by legislative leaders would be very revealing.

The lockout is also having a negative impact on the education of Minnesota students, as well. In a typical year, the Minnesota Orchestra reaches over 50,000 students. Many of these events have already been canceled and the public funding spent on them wasted. The time spent planning them was wasted. For example, the orchestra was not able to spend two days in January with Osseo public schoolchildren just last week. The Forest Lake schools’ orchestra residency has been canceled. Students in districts throughout the metro area are waiting to learn whether their orchestra events will be canceled, as well.

And while impossible to quantify, the artistic impact of the lockout is potentially the most significant long-term repercussion. What we do know is that we have a world-renowned world-class orchestra that is sitting idle, and a tremendous state asset built over generations by dedicated and far-sighted donors, Orchestra board members, corporations, and State officials that is in danger of withering away.

We at Orchestrate Excellence, this nascent group of concerned citizens, recognize the significant financial challenges facing the Minnesota Orchestra, and understand that a new path must be forged. We believe that it is possible to identify win-win solutions to the current impasse that preserve the world-class orchestra while creating a path to a secure financial future. We encourage management and musicians to end the lockout, to share the facts broadly and transparently, to engage in a productive dialogue, and to engage the broader community to begin to work together to build for the future. Thank you.

JA: Thank you, Ms. Greeno. That was very helpful.

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