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Today is something of departure from our usual public affairs focus to catch up with one of Minnesota’s critical cultural institutions – The Minnesota Orchestra. It’s actually back with a vengeance after nearly two years of roiled relationships between the Orchestral Association and its musicians. This group of extraordinary talents found itself confronted by the take-it-or-leave it offer during negotiations of a 32% cut in their pay, among other items, or face a lockout. The predictable outcome was to reject the offer. All music activity ceased.
Lockouts have increasingly used by management of all sorts of industries, but to counter strikes by union employees. The public simply was caught unaware that this could happen to a revered bunch of professionals like the 95 tuxedoed classical musicians. The management – Michael Henson and the board chair at the time, Jon Campbell, wanted to pare the orchestra’s size – significant, according to the members, to maintain the high quality of musicianship.
After 15 months of a very painful lockout during which the world class conductor, Osmo Vänskä, resigned when a Carnegie Hall concert long scheduled had to cancel. Last straw for Vänskä, so he moved to the sideline, but not too far. He conducted several concerts staged by the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra in a few local venues, joined by well-known concert soloists like pianist Emanuel Ax. Other former music directors came “home” to lead the ensemble in other concerts - Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Edo de Waart and Eiji Oue.
Finally, the swords were sheathed enough to come to agreement and the lockout ended January 14th.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and SIOBHAN KIERANS will talk with three men intimately in the Orchestra’s operation, negotiations, performing and reporting on it all. Then, we’ll hear selections from the Grammy-winning recording of the Jean Sibelius’ symphonies, and a treat – some live cello from Tony Ross, and the amazing season now planned.
TONY ROSS - Principal Cellist, Minnesota Orchestra and part of the musicians’ negotiating team.
KEVIN SMITH - formerly President of the Minnesota Opera, will serve as interim President and CEO, following Michael Henson’s August 31 departure until a permanent successor is identified.
MICHAEL ANTHONY – Long-time StarTribune Minnesota Orchestra critic, reviewer and observer, now a Minneapolis-based free-lance writer and critic.