Minnesota Orchestra musicians aren't easily replaced

  • Article by: MINA FISHER
  • Updated: September 5, 2013 - 5:50 PM
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Members of the Minnesota Orchestra, led by Osmo Vänskä, practiced in 2012. “Osmo may have to leave,” Richard Davis, chairman of the orchestra’s negotiating team, told the Star Tribune this week. “The board is resolved to know that that is a risk.”

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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The definition of fungible: able to be replaced by another identical item; mutually interchangeable. Exchangeable or replaceable for another of like kind.

This week Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson told the New York Times: “When we get up and running again … I’m sure we will get an astonishing bunch of individuals who will want to perform and live in this great city.”

In other words, our great musicians and Osmo Vänskä are fungible — easily exchangeable.

We’ve lost Burt Hara, his eloquent haunting melodies and galvanizing leadership of our woodwinds. Not fungible.

We’ve lost Gina DiBello, her elegant silky sound and relaxed leadership of the second violins. Not fungible.

We’ve lost Stephanie Arado, her vibrant and compelling leadership in the first violins. Not fungible.

That’s just the beginning of the list of beautiful artists already lost to the signature sound of the Minnesota Orchestra. Each contributed something unique to the fabric of sound that defined our orchestra.

Yes, each can be replaced, but each replacement alters the sonic chemistry. And you could also rip out parts of a Monet or a Picasso masterpiece and graft onto that canvas a lesser artist’s work. That might be called artistic vandalism.

This has got to stop. We as a community must say that we value great art, and that we value the unique contribution of each of our artistic leaders.

We must say that we are not a throwaway society — that individuals are not fungible. We must reaffirm that artists inspire and delight and heal us, and that by nurturing and supporting them, we aspire with them to reach our human potential.

The most-talented people attracted to Minnesota in recent decades came and stayed because they admired a state that prized and invested in its artistic and natural resources. We must remind our leaders not to squander the investment we’ve already made in our arts institutions, and to prize the unique character of each of our artists.

Last weekend, concerned members of the public launched the SOS: SAVE OSMO (Shape Our future Symphony) pledge campaign on Facebook, asking for funds from the public to sustain the Minnesota Orchestra while its board changes its course and innovates for the world-class orchestra of our future.

In 10 days, pledges of small donations by Minnesotans wanting to support a world-class orchestra have already totaled nearly half a million dollars.

Pledgers have promised to help sustain the orchestra for three years if our orchestra’s leadership commits to a period of innovation and reinvention, and if it recommits to its former mission — to enrich and inspire our community as a symphony orchestra internationally recognized for its artistic excellence.

These community members pledged to give money if a new endowment campaign is mounted to ensure strong financial grounding for the future.

They pledged asking that board and musicians negotiate, quickly, a settlement ensuring that our musicians continue to rank in the top American orchestras, and that Vänskä remains as our dynamic and catalyzing conductor.

They don’t think Osmo is fungible, easily exchangeable for another. No, he’s unique — a human treasure.

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Mina Fisher, of Minneapolis, is a music teacher, arts manager and retired cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra. She can be reached at sossaveosmo@gmail.com.


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