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Continued: Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO musicians learn to play the field

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 23, 2013 - 6:07 AM

“I believe in the Twin Cities and the musicians and everything that’s here,” Papach said. “I pray we don’t lose any more.”

Julia Bogorad-Kogan, principal flute with the SPCO, just returned from five weeks of work with the National Symphony, including a tour to Europe and Oman. Bogorad-Kogan, who is married to Minnesota Orchestra timpanist Peter Kogan, said, “I was very fortunate to get this. It’s been difficult, and we’ve cut back expenditures.”

Unemployment and union benefits can fluctuate from week to week, with Zavadil estimating those figures might amount to anywhere from a quarter to one-third of a musician’s usual pay.

“People are all over the spectrum,” he said. “We have a welfare fund called Working Partnerships that is handled anonymously.”

Albers — who has traveled to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta — was in San Francisco on Thursday.

“San Francisco just started calling our musicians” she said. “They don’t want to take work away from their local people.”

Impact on freelancers

That issue is an important one for freelance musicians, who often work as substitutes for orchestras. When the Minnesota musicians played a concert on Feb. 1, subs made up about 25 percent of the ensemble.

In the Twin Cities, there are more bodies vying for positions in a tightening market.

Steve Lund, a union orchestra contractor who hires players for theater shows and special events, estimated that opportunities are less than 10 percent of what they were in the mid-1990s.

“Broadway touring was huge then, with more than 30 weeks of live performance,” Lund said. “Now a lot of those tours bring their own orchestras. And ballet has almost completely gone away.”

Cellist Rebecca Arons plays with Four Voices String Quartet, the Minnesota Opera orchestra, and also produces records. She said there was a large orchestra hired at the Orpheum Theatre for a production called “The Legend of Zelda” last fall that included many Minnesota Orchestra musicians. She felt those jobs would normally have been filled by freelancers.

“It’s difficult because we all support each other,” Arons said.

The answer for musicians, Arons believes, is entrepreneurship. Four Voices struck a deal with restaurateur Vincent Francoual to play an evening in his restaurant, a haunt for musicians and patrons just across the Nicollet Mall from Orchestra Hall. It was successful enough that the group is doing it again on May 5.

“That freelance mentality is that you make things happen,” she said. “This is the beginning of a shifting landscape for musicians, and you have to look to the future and think about reinventing yourself. That’s the silver lining, here. Otherwise, it’s too depressing.”


Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

  • related content

  • Cellist Rebecca Arons says some jobs that would go to freelancers are now going to locked-out professional musicians.

  • Bassist William Schrickel has worked only one week since the Minnesota Orchestra lockout. “I was never unemployed for a day in my life,” he said.

  • STATUS update on Orchestra lockouts


    Lockout: Began Oct. 1.

    Concerts canceled: Through April 7.

    Number of musicians: 90.

    Status of talks: None scheduled.

    Key issues: Management seeks to cut base salaries by 32 percent and trim $5 million in expenses. No formal counteroffer yet from musicians.


    Lockout: Began Oct. 21.

    Concerts canceled: Through March 23.

    Number of musicians: 30.

    Status of talks: Musicians are weighing a “talk and play” proposal. The two sides will meet Monday.

    Key issues: Management seeks double-digit cuts in salary, including potential two-tier wage scale; players are stressing artistic control.

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