Gordon Sprenger on Friday accepted the task of helping to heal the Minnesota Orchestra. Sprenger, 76, was elected as board chairman at a moment when the organization returns to music after a 16-month lockout of musicians.
“I want to move past this era of ‘we’ and ‘they’ to where it is only we,” said Sprenger in an interview Friday. “I don’t mean just musicians, board and staff but the entire community. To have this world-class orchestra, we need the collaboration and support of community in the broadest sense.”
Sprenger has extensive experience in the nonprofit world. He is the retired CEO of Allina Health Systems, and has served on the boards of St. Olaf College and Luther Seminary. He joined the Minnesota Orchestra board in 2006 and chaired the organization’s architect-selection committee for the recently concluded Orchestra Hall remodeling project. He was a campaign vice chair for the Building for the Future Campaign — an effort to add to the organization’s endowment.
“My style is to engage people,” Sprenger said. “I am going to meet with musicians next week to see how we can collaborate — what areas they have interest in.”
Clarinetist Tim Zavadil, who led the musicians in the recently concluded contract talks, said Friday that he understands Sprenger to be a man “who loves the Minnesota Orchestra.”
“We look forward to sitting down and talking about the future of the organization,” Zavadil said, indicating that the musicians feel the selection of a music director needs to be the top priority.
Osmo Vänskä, who resigned last October, has indicated that he might entertain a return to Minnesota. Sprenger said Friday that he knows Vänskä has spoken with friends on the board of directors but that an official overture has not been made.
“I intend to get right on that,” he said, referring to the question of hiring a music director.
Sprenger succeeds Jon Campbell, who at the December annual meeting, agreed to continue as chair until a new contract was ratified. That took place Jan. 14.
Board member Ron Lund, the retired Medtronic general counsel who was a key player in settling the new bargaining agreement, expressed optimism over Sprenger’s election.
“I think he’s the only candidate we had who could get on with the job of healing and restoring the orchestra,” Lund said Friday. “He’s the perfect guy to restore the grandeur of the orchestra and establish new areas of collaboration.”
Also at Friday’s board meeting, President and CEO Michael Henson reaffirmed that he would take a 15 percent reduction to his overall compensation. The cut fulfills a pledge Henson made last fall to take the same reduction as musicians did in the new contract.
The full slate of officers ratified on Friday includes vice chairs Karen Himle, Nancy Lindahl and Marilyn Carlson Nelson; treasurer Patrick Bowe and secretary James Melville.
The orchestra will play for the first time in a newly remodeled Orchestra Hall on Feb. 7. Sprenger said he will make brief remarks that night. Zavadil said a musician will also speak at the program.