The year in letters 2013: The Minnesota Orchestra

  • Updated: December 31, 2013 - 6:27 PM

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Competitive pay is a must

In all the discussion about the Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute, the element that’s missing is simply this: The orchestra must pay competitive wages to attract the best musicians. All orchestral musicians, whether veterans or newcomers, are keenly aware of the minimum salaries in the various orchestras, and they are not going to audition for an orchestra that pays substandard wages. Comparisons to college professors and those in other professions are meaningless. The orchestra has been able to attract world-class musicians because it has paid wages comparable to other ensembles in its wage class.


Remember ‘ordinary’ workers

A key fact has been ignored in news coverage of the labor disputes involving the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. For years, workers throughout the country have been hit by pay and benefit cuts like those being forced on the musicians. But when the workers in question are blue-collar rather than black-tie, the news stories, if written at all, are small and often at the bottom of an inside page. I wish more people would have more sympathy for “ordinary” workers when our brutally flawed capitalistic system hurts them far more than the musicians have been or will be hurt.

Steven Schild, Winona, Minn.

Confusion about board’s role

I believe that part of the difficulty between the board of the orchestra and its musicians is due to misunderstanding the board’s long-term interests and obligations. While employees may be focused on today’s or next year’s contract, the board must necessarily have a long-term horizon — often 10 to 20 years or more. To fully exercise their required “duty of care,” boards must think about how their actions today potentially affect the organization’s health and survival tomorrow. Board members of the Minnesota Orchestra are fulfilling their fundamental, long-term role and obligations of stewardship, and we should thank them for that.

Sandra Davis, Minneapolis

A hall without an orchestra …

When the expensive renovation of Orchestra Hall is finally completed, and locked-out musicians have all found other jobs, a large marble marquee can be placed out in front with these words engraved: Monument to Foolishness. Tours at 1:00 and 4:00.


And an orchestra sans Vänskä

So we retain Ron Gardenhire, who has led his Minnesota Twins players to new plateaus of mediocrity, and we lose Maestro Osmo Vänskä, who has led his players to unparalleled levels of excellence. These two catastrophes are victories of ignorance from which recovery will be slow, if it happens at all.


Be careful with comparisons

I felt compelled to write a rebuttal to the Oct. 1 letter “Why musicians’ salaries aren’t like everyone else’s.” I beg to differ. I am a registered nurse, and I have spent an equal amount in my education, if not more, and it took me way more than 30,000 hours of “practice.” I also pay for insurance. It’s been a long while since I got any substantial wage increase, and my expenses for continuing education, license fees and malpractice insurance have all increased. The difference in my job and the musicians’ jobs is that people can die if I hit a wrong note. Put on your big-boy and big-girl pants, musicians, and accept what the rest of us have been forced to accept.

CHRIS ADDINGTON, Baytown Township, Minn.


    With the help of news researchers Sandy Date and John Wareham, we’ve compiled excerpts of letters to the editor on topics that drew the most response last year. Enjoy, and keep sharing — in 250 words or fewer — by using the “Submit a letter or commentary” link or via e-mail to

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