If you’re just starting to learn about the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, read these eight articles, five by me, three by a guest blogger, and you’ll be caught up with the gist of this hugely complicated conflict. After that, read more at your leisure to flesh out your understanding.
If You Can Only Read One Article, Make It This One. The entry I wrote for blogger Norman Lebrecht in late November, summarizing the situation for an international audience.
Introduction to My Coverage Who I am, why I’m doing this, how much I appreciate my readers, etc.
A Layman’s Guide to the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout, Part 1 The bare-bones basics of this complicated conflict. Covers events from August to mid-October.
A Layman’s Guide to the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout, Part 2 More basics. Covers events from mid-October to late December.
SOTL Glossary A glossary of names, terms, and blog in-jokes.
What We Know About Minnesota Orchestra’s Finances – And What We Don’t, Part I Here guest blogger / local non-profit professional Mary Schaefle digs through various publicly available documents concerning the orchestra’s finances, and comes up with some questions for the Minnesota Orchestral Association. An excerpt: “So far we’ve confirmed the endowment decreased during the recession. But we’ve also looked at faulty estimates, endowment draws not matching tax returns, some bad investment advice, and an endowment draw where only half the funds go to the work of the Orchestra.”
What We Know About Minnesota Orchestra’s Finances – And What We Don’t, Part II Mary continues her series, this time looking at decreasing revenue. An excerpt: “After all these words about income and revenue, what do we know? Management’s statement that revenue has decreased is true. But I believe there are enough questions posed here that the Board needs to take another look at ways to increase revenue in addition to considering cuts.”
What We Know About Minnesota Orchestra’s Finances – And What We Don’t, Part III The series continues, this time looking at expenses. “The second and third cuts – guest artist fees and marketing – are troublesome to me. When you combine these with the decrease in number of concerts, it looks like a recipe for decreased income for the Orchestra. There may be other reasons for those changes. My previous posts suggested an outside expert review of the Strategic Business Plan, and this is one more reason for the review.”
AND HERE’S THE REST… (in more or less chronological order)
Addresses of Minnesota Orchestra Board Members As many as I could find.
Orchestral Apocalypse Index Here is an index I updated daily with all new (halfway intelligent) articles and blog entries discussing the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO situations. If you find a good story I haven’t yet featured, feel free to submit a link in the comment section. After November 1, I realized that Matt Peiken at MNuet was aggregating basically the same things, and there’s no point to both of us doing it when he’s doing such a great job, so for links to stories published after November 1, click here. However, if you feel a story has fallen through the cracks, again, please feel free to link to it in the comments…
Minnesota and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra 2012 Negotiations, Week -4 My day-to-day reactions concerning what happened from August 30 to September 7.
Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO 2012 Negotiations: Week -3 My day-to-day reactions concerning what happened from September 8 to September 14.
Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO 2012 Negotiations: Week -2 My day-to-day reactions concerning what happened from September 16 to September 22.
Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO 2012 Negotiations, Week (Gulp) -1 My day-to-day reactions concerning what happened from September 25 to September 30.
A Hundred-ish Questions for Minnesota Orchestra Management Here are a hundred questions I invited management to answer. On September 19 I sent three copies out: one to Michael Henson, one to Richard Davis, and one to Jon Campbell. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will. However, I’d be utterly delighted to have them prove me wrong. (That’s your cue, Minnesota Orchestra management, to prove me wrong.)
Is Minnesota Orchestra Management Lying To Us? Here I muse aloud about how management is expecting to heighten artistic standards while simultaneously disrespecting and alienating musicians. My conclusion? They can’t do both.
Is Minnesota Orchestra Management Lying To Us?: Part II: Michael Henson Edition Here I ask some questions about endowment draw numbers and an interview Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson gave to the British press in 2010, in which he sounded bizarrely confident about the organization’s fiscal future. (This interview, by the way, is still on the Orchestra’s website.) (Edit in mid-October: whoops, not any more…)
Comparisons of Minnesota Orchestra Management’s Two Proposed Contracts Here I check out the differences between Minnesota Orchestra management’s two proposed contracts. Quick summary: there aren’t many differences, and it’s pretty disingenuous for management to imply there are.
Ten Obfuscations from Minnesota Orchestra Management’s Oct 1 Press Release Here I break down what specific issues I had with the now infamous Oct 1 press release that canceled all Minnesota Orchestra concerts through November 25.
A Red Letter Day for the Redline Express My reaction to the announcement that Drew McManus and other bloggers have been granted access to the 2007-12 contract, and will be analyzing the differences between it and management’s proposed 2012-2017 contract.
Musings on the Campbell/Davis Minnesota Orchestra Editorial My reaction to management’s 11 October Strib editorial, where Jon Campbell and Richard Davis admitted to drawing from the endowment at a 17% rate in 2012. To the best of my knowledge, I actually was the first one to raise this percentage, way back in Is Minnesota Orchestra Management Lying to Us?: Part II: Michael Henson Edition. If you’re a donor, I’d appreciate it if you could read this and send me your thoughts.
Violinist Jill Olson Moser Writes About Minnesota Orchestra Subs A lovely heartfelt essay from a guest blogger about the importance of sustaining a strong sub pool in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Please read this.
The Mysterious Disappearing Michael Henson Article! In which things start getting too spy-novel-ish for my taste. Sometime between October 12 and 15, management took down a 2010 article from their website, in which Michael Henson speaks about how wonderfully the Minnesota Orchestra is doing fiscally. Of course this article directly contradicts what the Orchestra is now saying was happening in 2010 (as I detailed in Is Minnesota Orchestra Management Lying To Us?: Part II), so it’s obvious that someone somewhere was (is?) lying. But astonishingly, nobody in management seemed to think the article was worth deleting…until this week. This is the strongest indication the public has gotten so far that someone in management is starting to get uncomfortable with the way the lockout is shaking out. How else to explain the attempt to cover their virtual tracks?
The Key and the Lockout: The Minnesota Orchestra Musicians In Concert, Oct 18 The concert heard round the world…quite literally! The Minnesota Orchestra musicians put on their own show at the Minneapolis Convention Center on October 18, and what a heckuva once-in-a-lifetime show it was. This is a “long, impassioned account,” according to Alex Ross, critic at The New Yorker. So you’ve been warned.
Matt Peiken’s SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra Podcast Matt Peiken from MNuet talks to Ellen Dinwiddie Smith and Carole Mason Smith about the conflicts from the POV of the SPCO players and the Minnesota Orchestra players. Highly recommended stuff. There are some pretty serious accusations here, and I for one need some answers. In the interest of fairness, Mr. Peiken has also generously extended an offer to interview SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra managements. We are looking forward to hearing from them. *awkward void of silence* (Happy edit 11/16: Dobson West from the SPCO agreed to be interviewed. You can listen to that here.)
Endowment Draw Rates and Other Numbery Things In which I try to analyze Minnesota Orchestra endowment draw rate numbers, and get confused.
Misrepresentation, Reality…Misrepresentation of Reality Sometime around November 1, Minnesota management put up a stupid chart on their website called “Misrepresentation vs. Reality.” Spoiler alert: none of patrons’ concerns are addressed! So in this essay, I try to unpack the chart, getting increasingly frustrated and unhinged as the paragraphs go by, because my concerns and the concerns of others ARE NEVER ADDRESSED. This leads to FRUSTRATION and CAPITAL LETTERS and SARCASM. In the process I quote Tolstoy, Reagan, Colbert, Shakespeare, and Barney Frank, and link to the work of Mark Gatiss, Aretha Franklin, and Unskewed Polls Guy.
Even MORE Obfuscations from Minnesota Orchestra Management! In the dangerously sarcastic tone of the “Misrepresentation, Reality” essay, I unpack the Minnesota Orchestra’s maddening press release canceling concerts through Christmas.
Response to Management’s Response to Osmo’s Letter In mid-November, Osmo wrote a letter about this whole mess. It went public, and, bizarrely, ended up being a freaky Rorschach test. People saw whatever the crap they wanted to see in it. I was positive the letter was pro-musician. Management believed the letter was pro-management, or at the least, neutral.
A Michael Henson Retrospective A compilation of Michael Henson’s greatest hits of incongruity! Click here to read such eyebrow-raising Henson quotes from 2010 and earlier as “We’re being fiscally prudent” (while also employing a 10%+ endowment draw rate and not telling anyone) – “There is no point in having a great building without having great art inside it” – and (I am not making this up) that orchestras are in a “golden period.”
Richard Davis Debates Richard Davis In June 2012, Minneapolis Orchestral Association immediate past chair Richard Davis had some things to say about how to run a business that (to put it mildly) contradict how Richard Davis is handling the lockout this fall. Here the two Richard Davises debate one another, in the most blatantly satirical entry I’ve yet written here.
Is Minnesota Orchestra Management Lying To Us, Part 3: Yes On 26 November, Strib reporter Graydon Royce wrote a bombshell article that has the potential to change the entire dynamic of this lockout. In the article, he reveals that in 2009, the board planned the organization’s finances over the next four years. They’d raid the endowment and post balanced budgets in 2009 and 2010 so they could get $14m from the state for the hall renovation. Then in 2011 and 2012 they would post deficits so they could “reset the business model” (i.e., pay musicians a lot less). This essay is my reaction to Mr. Royce’s masterpiece of orchestral investigative reporting.
Mr. Henson Goes to St. Paul, Part I A transcription of Michael Henson’s January 2010 testimony to the Minnesota State Legislature, in which he says, “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.”
Mr. Henson Goes to St. Paul, Part II My thoughts on Mr. Henson’s testimony. Spoiler alert: they include a picture of the Hindenburg.
Michael Henson’s Advent Calendar I made an Advent calendar for Michael Henson. More exciting details here.
Doug Kelley V. Tony Ross On Almanac Doug Kelley from management’s side and Tony Ross from the musicians’, went at it on Almanac on November 30. I transcribed the interview for your reading pleasure. FYI, if the phrase “frolic and detour” becomes a catchphrase on SOTL – as I believe it’s going to – then this is the entry that phrase comes from.
On Cheap Publicity Stunts My angry response about Mr. Campbell and Mr. Davis’s November 29 Strib editorial. I’m trying to keep things civil, but…it’s hard. Very, very hard.
More Misrepresentation, More Realities…..More Misrepresentations of Reality Here I take a look at the brand new “Misrepresentations” and “Realities” on the Minnesota Orchestra’s website. They’re all very easily refutable. Especially if you’ve been following this conflict for more than five minutes.
Analyzing the Almanac Interview It took me a while, but eventually I got to analyzing in great detail Doug Kelley and Tony Ross’s joint appearance on Almanac. Not to spoil it, but here’s my summation of the analysis: “With that, I come unceremoniously to the end of the longest live interview a representative from MOA management has yet given. And it wasn’t even that long: ten minutes and six seconds, according to the Almanac website. And about half of that was Tony Ross speaking. And within the space of those five minutes, I had to sort through Doug Kelley’s misrepresentations, weak excuses, non-answers, logical fallacies, a paragraph of complete gibberish…and I was even forced to email MPR to fact-check one of Mr. Kelley’s statements. That’s…not good.” Dear Mr. Kelley: please step it up. You’re not cutting it.
The Musicians’ Letter from Japan Get a box of Kleenex and read.
Some Historical Perspective Proof that we’ve been discussing the Minnesota Orchestra’s fiscal stability since before the Minnesota Orchestra was even formed. Also, I uncover a pretty cool link between The Song of the Lark and the Minneapolis Symphony.
What Can One Person Do? Feeling helpless? Don’t. Read this guest blog entry from Rolf Erdahl about concrete steps you can take right now to help end the lockout and restore orchestral music to the Twin Cities.
Invitations and Hearings and WCCO Reports, Oh My Here’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: on December 6, politicians reached out to the MOA and asked them to explain themselves, making five very specific requests.
Analysis of the MOA’s 12/21 Letter to the Legislature In which the MOA makes a wholly unsatisfactory reply to the legislature. Their slipperiness never ceases to astonish. You’d think they’d be a little more careful when dealing with the government, but whatever. It’s their show.
Review: Minnesota Orchestra in Bach and Beethoven, December 2012 Lockout Concert Number Two: a remarkable Ode to Joy.
Some Observations on Charts Incontrovertible evidence that the MOA manipulates charts to advance a preordained narrative.
SOTL on MPR Incontrovertible evidence that the MOA knows I and this blog exist.
Analysis of the MOA’s 1/2 Press Release Ahead of public hearings, I examine the MOA’s sudden change of heart over financial analyses and their possible motivations for making the lockout last until summer of 2013…or at the very least, as long as possible.
Some Economic Impacts Some economic impacts of the lockout. FYI, Minneapolis is losing millions of dollars thanks to all these cancelled performances. The MOA, however, is making out considerably better.
Minnesota Orchestra Sibelius Grammy Concert On January 9th, longtime Orchestra supporter Judy Dayton and Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak invited the musicians and Osmo Vänskä to come together to celebrate the Orchestra’s Grammy nomination by mounting a public concert, in which all sides were asked to put down their rhetorical arms and agree to a one-night truce.
One Night for Art: An Open Letter to Michael Henson Surprise, surprise, I was underwhelmed – and angered – by the MOA’s tone-deaf response to the Rybak Dayton concert. I let off a bit of steam in this open letter.
Woods Bowman’s Amazing Article on Non-Profit Ethics Lots to think about here. What is an ethical non-profit? Is it one that follows the letter of the law, or one that goes above and beyond to be accountable to all stakeholders…including patrons?
My MPR Commentary. I wrote a commentary for Minnesota Public Radio on 15 January, and you can read that here.
Transcriptions of testimonies at the 23 January Hearing for the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives
- Introduction from Rep. Atkins. “In Minnesota, as well as across the country, we’ve seen something akin to a flu epidemic, with the number of employee lockouts that have been occurring. It used to be a relatively infrequent occurrence. Now it seems to be becoming more and more frequent. So we’re going to learn a little bit about those.”
- Michael Henson’s testimony. “My family and I were drawn to Minnesota and to this great orchestra because of its outstanding reputation. Along with our board of directors, I see it as my duty to ensure the Minnesota Orchestra remains artistically excellent and financially solvent for the future.”
- Musician Doug Wright’s testimony. “It is becoming increasingly clear just how isolated our current leadership has become through these tactics. In a year-end list of most notables, the aforementioned New Yorker critic Alex Ross wrote, and I quote, ‘A special citation for Quickest Plunge from a Great Height is handily won by the management and governing board of the Minnesota Orchestra,’ end quote. This lockout is not only irreparably damaging the trust between this community and our organization, it is severely tarnishing our image throughout our own industry.”
- Orchestrate Excellence testimony. “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.”
- SPCO and Save Our SPCO testimony. “We believe that the use of this lockout is an unfair and callous abuse of the trust the state has conferred on the SPCO as a non-profit entity.”
Rebuttal to Michael Henson’s Testimony, Part 1/2. “Mr. Henson believes that pre-planning deficits four years in advance so that your organization will be better positioned to secure millions in public and private money, as well as major concessions from musicians…without telling your stakeholders what you’re doing…while also raising tens of millions of dollars for a major campaign…is an ‘appropriate’ and ‘responsible’ way of maintaining ‘stability.’ Do you agree with him?”
Rebuttal to Michael Henson’s Testimony, Part 2/2. “Why, Mr. Henson, are you failing to provide us the product we’re clearly paying the Minnesota Orchestral Association to get? They’re getting the product in other cities. So why can’t you deliver it here?”
An Old Showcase and Some Censorship. Proof that once upon a time – in the halcyon days of 2008 – Michael Henson was eager to answer our questions. I wish he still would be! Also, I come to the depressing realization the MOA is censoring its Facebook wall, taking down the vast majority of anti-management comments, while still (bewilderingly) leaving some recent ones up.
Minnesota Orchestral Association Scam Alert. Just FYI, the Minnesota Orchestra is lying during its fundraising calls. Details here.
Business Cards for Locked Out Patrons. Business cards with web addresses to hand out to curious friends, family, and acquaintances.
Another Hearing and a Lockout Flier. On 9 February we got word that the Legacy committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives wanted to hold a hearing to discuss the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s use of state funds. When I announced that hearing on the blog, I also included a flier discussing the bare-bone facts of the lockout. Feel free to distribute that however you wish!
Transcriptions of testimonies at the 12 February Hearing for the Legacy Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives
- Michael Henson’s testimony, along with some questions from legislators. “Um, we have three income streams which are, uh, contributed revenue, which we continue to fundraise for. Uh, we have earned revenue, which is box office revenue, which, uh, we quite clearly are not collecting at the moment, and we are refunding any tickets that we have sold. And we are still reliant on, ah, the investment income from, uh, the endowment. Um, first of all, I want to say that we want to get the orchestra back to work as soon as poss – we want to negotiate a contract that is sustainable for this community with its generosity, and I think the – it’s balanced on two equations, the money that we haven’t actually taken, so obviously box office, and then the money, uh, that we haven’t paid – unfortunately – because of the lockout.”
- Musicians’ testimony. “The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra couldn’t be more grateful to the state for its tremendous support. It’s living up to this every day that challenges us to the level of excellence Minnesotans expect in the arts, and that we feel our state deserves. It gives us hope for the kind of thriving musical organization we think this state expects.”
- Orchestrate Excellence’s testimony. “We are an independent coalition of over one thousand community members, donors, concert-goers, and organizations giving voice to the economic, educational, and artistic repercussions of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout. New groups are joining each week, evidence of the deep impact the Minnesota Orchestra has had on the community and what we’re missing this year.”
- Legislators ask further questions of Michael Henson. “Uh, Madame Chair, Representative. Um, first of all, we are in a stage of negotiations that whatever the cuts that we actually finally agree, we’ve not agreed, as part of that negotiation process with, uh, the musicians – uh, we uh, have effectively frozen salaries across the administration, uh, for the, uh, last five years while the musicians received a nineteen percent increase. We’ve cut pension contributions by forty percent; we’ve laid off twenty percent of, uh, of the management, and medical costs, uh, cost the staff twenty-five percent more than they currently cost the musicians.”
Michael Henson on a Call-In Program! For no apparent reason, Michael Henson suddenly saw it fit broke his public silence about the Minnesota Orchestra situation. He and Tony Ross went toe-to-toe on MPR. Few questions, if any, were answered, but new ones were certainly raised. (I hope to transcribe and analyze this interview in future, but it is currently on the back burner as I pursue a couple of other of lockout-related projects.)
I Answer Some Questions for Michael Henson. In the aftermath of Michael Henson’s rather disastrous testimony in front of the state legislature, I share some facts and figures to help them get a better picture of what exactly is going on at the Minnesota Orchestral Association (namely, brutal incompetence). If you’ve found this blog helpful, you may want to pass on any relevant points to your legislators.
Minnesota Orchestral Association Scam Alert, Part 2. Surprise! The Minnesota Orchestral Association is still scamming people and telling them false things! This time it’s that management has taken a 40% cut, which contradicts everything Michael Henson said this past week. If you’ve been the victim of one of these misleading calls, here’s a link to file a complaint with the state attorney general’s office.
Some Dorky Musings on Endowment Sizes and Base Salaries. We all agree that the Minnesota Orchestra needs to be sustainable. But when do we get to a point where the orchestra is so sustainable that we sacrifice quality? In this entry I meditate a bit on the relationship between orchestral endowment sizes and base salaries.
The MOA Can Afford To Play and Talk. A short entry in which I run some numbers and ask, “Why can’t the MOA play and talk?”
Putting Michael Henson Under the Microscope. Many people have asked me if Michael Henson has taken a 30-50% cut. Short answer: he hasn’t. Longer answer: read this entry.
What Michael Henson Doesn’t Want You To Read. A collection of quotes from outside observers, all of whom are stunned to see such a cultural tragedy unfolding in Minnesota.
Investment Income Excitement. Was the MOA’s endowment mismanaged during the recession? It’s tough to say, but I delve into the question here.
Audit Time On 7 March 2013 over 40% of the Minnesota state legislature wrote the state auditor, asking him if he’d consider auditing the organization about its use of public funds. More information here.
Orchestra Hall: Orchestra Optional, Part I Here I begin a series of entries devoted to analyzing the Orchestra Hall portion of its website. Want a swanky place to hold your next holiday party? Hall might be just the ticket…
Musings on Marketing How does an orchestra go from 65% capacity to 80% capacity, without any work? Easy: you embark on a $50 million renovation of your hall and rip out a couple hundred seats.