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Continued: Art and money are key factors as Minnesota Orchestra rebuilds

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 10, 2014 - 6:02 AM

“We’re very pleased with the community response,” said Cindy Grzanowski, director of marketing for single-ticket sales. “In terms of capacity being flat, that’s a tremendous achievement, because we’re up against a lot of unknown odds.”

That is true, but rarely has attention been more fixed on the orchestra than it is now.

Looking ahead, the challenge is to manage the erosion of season-ticket buyers, who once provided the backbone of the orchestra’s earned revenue. In the past five years, the move to single-ticket decisionmakers has accelerated. Marketers can’t start selling subscriptions for 2014-15 until the season is announced, probably at the end of this month or early June.

Back in the community

The orchestra was in Hibbing this weekend as part of the Common Chords program.

Small ensembles played at a Hibbing senior-citizen residence, hospitals, schools and a Salvation Army center. The full orchestra performed at Hibbing High School on Friday night.

Cellist Marcia Peck, who was there, said the musicians’ mood is very positive.

“We have the main bricks in place — a settlement, a contract and Osmo back as music director,” Peck said. “Now that those issues are resolved we can look forward to putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

Four months after the contract was settled, the musicians have kept their independent Minnesota Orchestra Musicians website operating.

They actually produced the recent concerts with Vänskä that were part of Northrop Auditorium’s reopening, and they continue to make community and school appearances.

Some board members privately have grumbled that the separate organization represents mistrust and a competing interest. Why is there still a need for a separate musicians’ organization with its own programs and public-relations effort, they ask.

Board chair Gordon Sprenger did not indicate those concerns in a statement that said the Northrop concerts had been committed to before the labor dispute ended.

“The board’s intent is that musicians will play an integral role working with board and staff to plan Minnesota Orchestra programs and projects, with all constituents working together,” Sprenger said.

Miles to go

Seven months ago, in the wake of Vänskä’s resignation during the lockout of musicians, several bloggers more or less declared the orchestra dead. If it broke apart, this argument went, then something new might be able to grow up in its place.

Lund recalled those assessments last week as he expressed surprise at the organization’s resiliency.

“There’s a lot of healing to be done, but in terms of the orchestra walking out and performing, the recovery is more rapid than I thought it would be,” he said.

Board leadership has turned over, and Henson will leave in August. Sprenger has begun soliciting names and retaining a search firm to find Henson’s successor. He did not suggest a timetable.

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  • Collaboration: Now that conductor Osmo Vänskä has returned, observers say, musicians, management and audiences must all work in concert.

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