Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra sounded a note of resolve Monday to continue performing concerts if they remained locked out in their long and bitter confrontation with the Minnesota Orchestral Association.
At a community meeting in Minneapolis attended by more than 300 people, the musicians revealed that they have raised $650,000, much of it coming from individual donors but also from players at 87 orchestras — including international ensembles. In addition, 70 orchestras have hired Minnesota musicians during the 14-month lockout.
Clarinetist Tim Zavadil, leader of the musicians’ negotiating team, told the meeting that the priority is reaching a contract settlement with the Orchestral Association. However, he and others spoke of plans for eight to 10 concerts through next spring, including a guest appearance by violinist Joshua Bell and two previously announced concerts to mark the reopening of Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.
“We are doing this because we are a family and you, our audience, are part of our family,” said principal cellist Tony Ross, a member of the negotiating team.
Ross said that in addition to two concerts this weekend, the musicians will bring in conductor Hugh Wolff and the Minnesota Chorale to perform Mozart’s “Requiem” on Jan. 10-11 at Ted Mann Concert Hall at the U.
The musicians revealed that they have earned $201,289 from concerts since Oct. 1, 2012, while spending $288,587. Donations have covered the difference. In an interview, Zavadil said 75 percent of the group’s concert budget goes to pay musicians. In addition, the group pays rental fees and compensates guest artists and conductors — who often return the check.
Several community commentators and activists have suggested that the musicians make a formal break with the Orchestral Association. Zavadil said Monday that the players have no such plans at this point, even though there is an application pending with the IRS to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Minnesota Orchestra Musicians.
“The Minnesota Orchestral Association has been a successful model for more than 110 years, so our priority is to get back on stage with that organization,” he said. “It’s our intent that even when we are back that the 501(c)3 can exist to promote classical music.”
Marlin Osthus, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, said Monday there is case law regarding a union putting itself in competition with an employer.
“The employer might then be justified in refusing to deal with the union,” Osthus said. “Having said that, I don’t know if that would apply in a circumstance like this where the union is responding to a lockout. Employees who are locked out have a right to seek other employment.”
Kevin Watkins, a percussionist and negotiating team member, told the crowd Monday that the musicians created a hardship fund of $150,000 for members and a loan fund. Watkins cited 1,200 individuals as donors, in addition to other orchestra players around the country, the American Federation of Musicians and the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. A printed report noted that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has hired half of the Minnesota musicians at some point during the lockout.
Last weekend, the orchestra was nominated for a Grammy award for its recording “Sibelius Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4.” A previous Sibelius album was nominated last year. Plans this fall to record a final disc in the Sibelius cycle were scrapped because of the lockout.