Minnesota Orchestra's Symphony Ball will skip a year after co-chairs resign

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2014 - 11:48 PM

Saying it was no time to celebrate, the long-standing event’s co-chairs resigned.

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Osmo Vanska at the 2011 Symphony Ball with his daughter Tytti, right, and that year's honorary chair, Beverly Grossman.

Photo: Sara Glassman, Star Tribune

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The Minnesota Orchestra’s main fundraising gala, September’s Symphony Ball, has been canceled.

The co-chairs of the event resigned last week, saying in a letter to board chair Gordon Sprenger that the current climate at the orchestra did not lend itself to celebration.

The organization will appoint new chairs, but feels it would be too difficult to get the event ready by September. The ball, at one time considered the social event of the season, routinely raises a gross of $1 million toward the orchestra’s annual budget.

Gwen Pappas, orchestra spokeswoman, said she could not recall the Symphony Ball missing a year since its inception in 1956.

In a statement, the orchestra acknowledged that there will be no ball in 2014, but the statement said that a ball held in June 2015 would still fall within fiscal 2015, “which is important from a revenue perspective.”

Regardless, the upshot is that the fundraising event will miss a calendar year. The gala, which is typically held in June, was last held in September during the lockout of musicians.

New chairs have not been named to replace Camie Eugster and Karen Paulson. Eugster is the wife of past board chairman Jack Eugster, and Paulson’s husband, Eric, is a member of the board’s executive committee.

The orchestra is still trying to recover from the effects of the 16-month lockout, which ended with a contract deal in January that cut musicians’ salaries by 15 percent. CEO and President Michael Henson has agreed to resign by the end of August. Several board members resigned in protest over Henson’s departure.

Two of those have since rejoined the board, meaning nine members have resigned over the past month from a board of 77. That does not include former chairs Jon Campbell and Richard Davis, who resigned shortly after the labor deal was settled.

Talks with Vänskä

Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing with Osmo Vänskä on a possible return to the orchestra. Vänskä resigned as music director last October in protest over the labor dispute. He returned to conduct the orchestra two weeks ago, to great enthusiasm from patrons. He said in an interview at the time that he had unfinished business with the orchestra and was discussing a return.

The negotiations appear to be revolving around the nature of the position Vänskä is offered and the terms of any deal.

Vänskä will lead the orchestra Tuesday in a one-night-only concert with violinist Joshua Bell at Orchestra Hall. The event is sold out.

 

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

 

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