Orchestra musicians: Open the books, end the lockout

  • Article by: TIM ZAVADIL, BURT HARA, DOUG WRIGHT, TONY ROSS and CATHY SHIBULSKE
  • Updated: November 28, 2012 - 8:16 PM

Musicians need full access to the books before making a counteroffer.

hide

A packed audience gave a standing ovation, and held up a sign in support, to the musicians of the Minnesota orchestra at a concert held at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Oct. 18, 2012.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

"Management should provide the complete independent financial analysis that the musicians seek," stated the Star Tribune Editorial Board on Oct. 5, regarding the lockout of the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra ("A change in key at Minnesota Orchestra"). "The 'trust, but verify' approach works in diplomacy; it should work here."

On Oct. 27, the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak made a similar call for financial transparency by unanimously passing a resolution stating that the city "encourages that measures be taken to ensure that both the Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians have a common understanding of existing financial information and future projections."

The Star Tribune reports ("Orchestra walked thin line on finances," Nov. 26) that management chose to delay the incurring of deficits so as not to affect fundraising and state bonding requests, according to minutes from the orchestra board meetings. In fact, the minutes reveal that members of the board hired a public relations firm that helped determine "what size of deficit to report publicly ..."

This confirms why we musicians contend that we cannot and should not make a financial counteroffer without a full, joint, independent analysis of the orchestra's finances.

No one is more vested in the financial health and future of this orchestra than the musicians. Unfortunately, the musicians have neither the access to financial data needed to make a more detailed offer nor the transparency that the Star Tribune and the city have urged management to provide.

Our community has raised many questions. In an open letter on MinnPost.com, major donors Cy and Paula DeCosse, featured by orchestra management in fundraising materials, ask why management decided to undertake a massive $50 million lobby renovation at Orchestra Hall when the finances were so dire.

More importantly, the DeCosses observe, "The strategic plan on the orchestra's website contains a new mission statement. In contrast to the old mission statement, this one does not even mention the orchestra. Why was the mission statement changed?"

We as musicians wonder the same.

The musicians do not understand why it would be effective to shrink the orchestra at a time when we have achieved global acclaim. With the sixth-largest endowment, thanks to our generous community, the orchestra would have its annual budget slashed to a level that would diminish its ranking to 15th.

The musicians refuse to accept that the "greatest orchestra in the world," as Alex Ross of the New Yorker wrote in 2010, should become a minor-league player when Minneapolis as a city and Minnesota as a state strive to be world-class at every turn.

Even as the Minnesota Orchestral Association has proposed extreme and unprecedented cuts, other leading orchestras have supported and rewarded their musicians through constructive contract negotiations. The Chicago, Cleveland and National orchestras have advanced reasonable, forward-thinking contract solutions with modest upward wage adjustments.

Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson, while testifying before the Legislature in 2010 regarding funding for a new lobby for Orchestra Hall, stated: "On the financial front, we have announced three balanced budgets in a row." He went on to say that the orchestra is one of the "finest in the world."

Three former music directors have stated that the current offer will "swiftly destroy" our artistic legacy and world-class status.

In light of news that management has not been transparent about its finances, and because management has not shared any new financial data with the musicians since the lockout began, the musicians continue to urge the board and management to open all of the books for outside analysis.

As Music Director Osmo Vänskä states, the lockout needs to end. This is also the position the City Council and mayor stated in their resolution, saying that the city "discourages 'lockout' as a means to resolve the existing labor dispute."

The musicians agree. We ask the board to end the lockout. While we are disappointed that our previous requests to meet with the board to discuss the future of the Minnesota Orchestra have been refused, we renew our commitment to working with the entire board in good faith to preserve our world-class orchestra.

* * *

Tim Zavadil, Burt Hara, Doug Wright, Tony Ross and Cathy Shibulske are musician members of the Minnesota Orchestra negotiating committee.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

  • about opinion

  • The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.

  • Submit a letter or commentary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the All-Star Game experience

Weekly Question
 
Close