Minnesota Orchestral Association Scam Alert

Listen up. I need your help.

Recently, patrons have been getting phone calls from the Minnesota Orchestral Association. During the course of these calls, patrons have been told misleading and/or outright false things, such as

  • Musicians in the Cleveland Orchestra are currently playing with no contract
  • Orchestras in Syracuse and Honolulu have gone under, and Minneapolis as a metro area is equivalent to Syracuse and Honolulu
  • Musicians in Chicago took massive pay cuts
  • Money that is raised via the MOA will go to support musicians
  • Former Orchestra violinist Peter McGuire would have taken his job in Switzerland even if the lockout hadn’t occurred
  • The endowment has been drawn down by 80% to pay musicians’ salaries
  • The Dayton family gave money to support the Building for the Future fund; therefore, you should too
  • The renovation of Orchestra Hall is complete
  • Something dire will happen to the Orchestra within six months if more money is not raised right now

Understandably, many of the people who received these calls were shocked at the gumption of the people on the other line, and were not able to think clearly to respond. I’ve heard quite a few people apologize and say they just got so upset that they couldn’t remember clearly or exactly what was said. So I want you to be prepared…and if you can, to remember every little detail. This is important!

The fundraising call will come from 612-373-9236. The Caller ID will say “The Future.” (No, I’m not making that up. I suppose so few people picked up when it said Minnesota Orchestra, that they had to change it…)

Here’s what I’m thinking. If you get a call from this number, pick it up. Try to draw out all the information and talking points you can, before telling them you will not contribute until the lockout is over and new leadership is put in place. Always have a pen and paper near your phone, or another method of transcription. (If you’re curious, Minnesota is a state with a one-party consent law, meaning that you are free to record a phone call if you are one of the parties having the conversation…)

If you’ve already gotten a call, please let me know what claims were made; I’d be happy to fact-check them for you. It also may be worth filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau (click here to file an online complaint) and the State Attorney General’s office (click here to download the form to mail).

How can the state’s largest cultural institution get away scot-free with lying so blatantly so often during the course of a major fundraising campaign? What do you think? What else can we do to hold the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s fundraising department accountable? Is it time for the State Attorney General to step in?

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25 responses to “Minnesota Orchestral Association Scam Alert

  1. MaryAnn Goldstein

    I think that we, the supporters of the musicians union, and the musicians (union) and any other member of a union who supports the orchestra should picket orchestra hall. That would mean the labor union workers would have to cross their union colleagues line or respect it. This would make a lot of sense in making the union busting nature of this dispute public and put the lid on the renovation. And create a huge public relations nightmare for several MN organizations. Someone should talk to Mortenson and tell them that union members will be picketing and lead the way. The threat of additional picketing during other events that MOA might be putting on will create additional headaches for MOA. I mean what wedding party or the musicians playing will want to cross a picket line? No more Minnesota Nice!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Wow, MaryAnn. What an amazingly good idea. However, the musicians, as I understand it, have chosen to take the high road in this dispute. The fact that they have reached out repeatedly to their primary stakeholders, i.e. the community and concert-goers, puts them way higher than MOA. I guess I wouldn’t want them to change their strategy all of a sudden and start playing dirty, which I think this kind of union action would be. But I still love this idea!

      • Maryann Goldstein

        Cinda, I understand what you are saying, but quite frankly,this dispute seems to be more about union busting than contract negotiations. By now also it s apparent that the MOA mangement has been “playing dirty” for long before the lockout. At this point, the supporters of the musicians know what MOA is up to, so why not use classic union tactics now? There might have been a public relations downside for the musicians early on — but now? That’s why I think there needs to be a strategy adjustment. :-)

      • Katie Kellert

        Actually, I totally disagree– picketing isn’t playing dirty at all. Choosing not to picket isn’t taking the high road, it’s taking the quiet road. Collective protest is one of the things that come along with union membership, and every time other workers or labor unions walk into that situation to work when another union is locked out they’re already crossing that line whether picketers are there or not. If the musicians don’t make that injustice felt, then they’re losing another opportunity to make their voices heard. Remember that the goal here is to pressure the other side to make concessions so that both sides can come to an agreement, and if they’re not feeling discomfort from the union members’ side of the argument, they don’t have a reason to make concessions. Union membership is about worker solidarity, but in order for that solidarity to be upheld, the workers and unions in question have to actually stand together. If they don’t, then everybody loses and those are the consequences of their inaction. You have to fight for what you want to achieve visibly sometimes, not simply wait relatively politely and quietly as I’ve seen so many unions do lately and fail. Appeals and communication are a good start, but so is keeping the fight publicly visible. (I am also a musician myself, though not in Minnesota.)

  2. Sarah

    Here’s a concert you can picket:

    Max Raabe and Palast Orchester, scheduled to play April 7, will now do so on that date, but at the Dakota Bar and Grill


  3. Terry

    I suppose the Development Department is getting a bit anxious right about now. With no ticket sales of any kind this season, how will they ever be able to pay Henson’s $400,000 salary? It will be hysterically funny if the MOA has to declare a huge deficit for this season (non-season, that is), when there were no salaries/benefits of any kind paid to musicians and no rental fees paid to the Minneapolis Convention Center, just the salaries/benefits of managers and other employees which the fundraising department was unable to cover. Oops — maybe they need the ticket-buying public after all. Too bad they burned that bridge so thoroughly by treating our beloved musicians like peasants.

    • Now that is an interesting thought…

      I really wonder how fundraising is going. Are enough people taking the bait of the lies? I’m going to guess that since they changed their Caller ID name, they had trouble getting people to pick up as the Minnesota Orchestra…

      • Sarah

        They probably didn’t expect it to last this long. And no Plan B.

      • Terry

        I hope most of the season subscribers demanded refunds on tickets (instead of exchanges or donations), although they are a supportive bunch, so I can understand their wanting the orchestra to survive, of course. Drew McManus says we’re “seven minutes to midnight” on the doomsday clock, and midnight means organizational collapse and liquidation bankruptcy. If it comes to that, I have no doubt whatsoever that these musicians will be able to pick up the pieces, carry on, and be stronger and better than ever!

      • Sarah

        You can just BET that there will be a lot of people following any liquidation or bankruptcy attempts. Given the endowment they still have, that might be a problem – and then there is the city and the state to contend with. Liquidation and bankruptcy threats seem to be the modus operandi of a certain shared law firm . . .

      • Terry

        Just to be clear, I’m not advocating for liquidation/bankruptcy, needless to say! But I can just imagine it’s on their agenda at some point …

    • Sarah

      And this is usually the time of year for orchestras etc. when the next season is announced and renewal forms sent, so no big incoming cash flows for awhile . . .

  4. I think the MOA management had a very specific plan which they are following closely. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they timed all this for this season when Orchestra Hall was out of commission, and so they could save money. As for Development, I recognized that phone number as being the one that called me repeatedly last season and I refused to answer. I knew it was for the Building for the Future fundraising campaign and I’m unemployed, unable to donate anything. They called at least once a day, different times, for weeks on end. Now, if I see that number, I’ll answer. I’m really curious to hear their spiel.

    P.S. Nice meeting you, Emily, in the restroom last Friday evening. (smile)

    • Sarah

      I believe both orchestra managements have plans, and they have been in place for years. If only those musicians had rolled over and played dead, and the audience members had agreed to have crap spoonfed to them . . . curses!!

  5. Lizzie

    Could you please explain where the musicians union is in all of this? To an outside observer they have been totally absent.

    • Sarah

      They have probably been very active with the musicians and negotiations, but not “externally”. But they will probably become more vocal should concerts like the one above for April 7 materialize.

      • Maryann Goldstein

        Well,I’m glad to see Katie’s response above. This was what I was getting at. I can understand initial reluctance on the part of the musicians and musicians union but it seems like until this situation gets out of a “closed loop” so to speak, nothing is going to get resolved in the musicians’ favor. So I do hope that the union becomes more visible soon. In the meantime we can hope that the hearing on Tuesday will put some additional pressure on the MOA.

  6. Tyrants rarely anticipate resistance

  7. Jeffrey Levenson

    No matter how one looks at this it was mismanaged. MOA wants an orchestra — just a less expensive one. The hall is an asset — the master agreement is a liability in their eyes. Time for a new CEO if this ever gets resolved.

  8. Teresa

    The musicians should definitely picket! PICKET!!!!!!!

  9. Kimberly McGuire

    Hello Emily,

    Peter and I have been following your blog like a religion. Thank you for lending your voice to our cause — especially as we feel our hands are tied during this frustrating and devastating lock-out situation.

    When we read about the phone calls that MN Orch donors and supporters have been receiving and the lies that are being told, well, our blood is boiling. Especially since one of those lies is about us. As you might imagine, there have been no heart to heart chats with the MN Orch management about our long-term plans. Peter and I were both born and raised in southern MN. All of our family is in Minnesota. Peter absolutely would not have taken the Tonhalle Orchestra – Zurich Audition had management and the Board submitted a respectful offer in April 2012.

    If you would like to speak to either of us directly, we’d be happy to give you the full scoop. In the meantime, we will continue to read your well-written and researched blog. Your words are a balm for our broken hearts over the Minnesota Orchestra situation. Sadly, we now know first-hand that the MN Orch’s reputation is being tarnished not just at home, but internationally.

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