Michael Henson, president and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra, received $202,500 in bonus pay in 2011, boosting his total compensation that year to $619,313, according to the orchestra's tax return.
Such bonuses might be noncontroversial were it not for the fact that orchestra management — arguing it faced a serious financial shortfall — began contract talks with musicians in the spring of 2012 aimed at reducing expenses. That dispute resulted in a lockout that remains unresolved after nearly 13 months.
"The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra do not believe it is appropriate in most cases to comment on MOA leadership compensation," spokesman Blois Olson said in a statement Friday. "However, in this instance, we are absolutely appalled that, as the MOA was laying off staff members, asking musicians for 30 to 50 percent pay cuts, and declaring the largest deficits in the orchestra's history, the CEO was given a bonus of over $200,000."
Orchestra management defended the bonuses, which were paid in March and December 2011 but fell into separate fiscal years.
"It recognizes Michael Henson for exceptional fundraising work around the orchestra's $110 million comprehensive campaign," board chair Jon Campbell said in a statement. "We also successfully launched the new Common Chords Outreach Initiative, toured to Carnegie Hall and planned the renovation of Orchestra Hall."
Orchestra management noted that Henson has agreed to accept the same pay cut that musicians take in a settlement.
"Six of the orchestra's nine highest-paid individuals [were] musicians — which accurately reflects the values of the organization," the orchestra said in a statement. That included total compensation of $1,183,720 for music director Osmo Vänskä, who resigned last month because of the lockout, and $222,785 for trombonist Doug Wright, a member of the musicians' negotiating team.