Musicians vote 'no confidence' in Minnesota Orchestra president

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

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Minnesota Orchestra president Michael Henson

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Things got personal Tuesday in the increasingly acrimonious labor dispute at the Minnesota Orchestra.

The locked-out musicians took the dramatic step of saying they have "no confidence" in Michael Henson, president and CEO of the orchestra since 2008.

The musicians on Monday voted unanimously for Henson's removal and issued a statement calling him "the major obstacle between the musicians and the Board of Directors working on a new contract."

The board disagreed.

"Michael Henson is a perfect leader at this challenging time and has the full confidence of our board," Jon Campbell, the board chair, said in a statement. Campbell dismissed the musicians' vote of no confidence as a "publicity tactic" and said "the only obstacle between musicians and board working out a new contract is the musicians' perplexing refusal to put forward a single contract proposal after nearly eight months of talks."

The musicians were locked out by management Oct. 1, and all concerts have been canceled through the end of the year. In dispute are major pay cuts being proposed to help counter large operating deficits.

Tim Zavadil, who heads the musicians' negotiating committee, said there was widespread feeling among musicians that Henson has been an ineffective leader. "It became apparent to us that the trust is broken," Zavadil said by phone Tuesday.

Asked whether this meant the musicians would refuse to meet with Henson at the negotiating table, Zavadil said, "if they wanted to call us to meet, we are always available to meet. We believe the lockout needs to end, we want to get back to the stage and serve our community. We want to work with our board to do that."

Countered Campbell in his statement: "We hope the musicians will soon dispense with these tactics and invest their energies in producing a substantial counterproposal."

Michael Klingensmith, chairman and CEO of the Star Tribune, is a member of the Minnesota Orchestra's board.

cpeck@startribune.com 612-673-7977

ktillotson@startribune.com 612-673-7046

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