This open letter was originally written in October 2012 and last updated 27 August 2013.
I’ve been getting a lot more views since the Minnesota Orchestra lockout began, and I thought I should put up an entry introducing myself, since so many of you are new.
First off, welcome! My name is Emily; I live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (that’s ninety miles from the Twin Cities, for those of you who aren’t from these parts). I’m 24 and a freelance violinist, violist, writer, historian, and wannabe musicologist. More details on my professional background here. I’m disabled and trying to save up for college, so as of right now, the only education I have is a high school diploma and what I’ve been able to pick up on my own. I’ve blogged about my musical visits to Minneapolis for a couple of years now, but, although I’ve known since spring 2012 that these negotiations would be unusually contentious, I was determined to keep my nose out of any labor disputes for the simple reason they made me sad. But then someone at the Minnesota Orchestra very rudely and suddenly shut down the Inside the Classics blog with the lamest entry that site had ever seen, and I got angry, and I started to write. And write. And write some more. You mess with the Minnesota Orchestra? You mess with me. (By the way, the Minnesota Orchestra has since nuked the blog, as well as its archive…completely unnecessarily. Stay classy, Minnesota Orchestra. Stay classy.) Since the lockout began, this blog has gotten international attention, which is both flattering and, honestly, a bit terrifying. I have no experience analyzing complicated orchestral politics, much less analyzing complicated orchestral politics with people I’ve idolized for years watching me, so I’m relying on my dear readers to nudge me in the right direction if I start veering off-course. (And they have, too, which I’m very grateful for. Thank you, readers!)
I’ve been going to Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO concerts since I was thirteen. Without these musicians, I wouldn’t have gone into music. They were integral inspirations as I grew up, and I can’t begin to explain to you how much poorer my life would have been if they had decided to make music elsewhere. So I freely acknowledge my pro-musician bias. Although I started this project with the intention to be more of a neutral aggregator than a commentator, I quickly became so shocked and frankly personally insulted by managements’ behavior, that soon I began verbalizing my PO’d POV…and I haven’t really let up since. Unless the Minnesota management begins aggressive PR campaigns to address in detail the big questions that patrons have been asking, please understand that I will remain skeptical of their methods and motivations. Before you judge my judgments, and immediately label me a commie pinko union lover unwilling to compromise, I ask that you first look back in my archives and see how many times I said “I want to be open to both sides!” I am, in general, a level-headed, reasonable, responsible person. I am not an extremist. Conflict makes me sick. I see the best in everyone, to a fault (I’m a textbook INFP). I have absolutely no ax to grind. I’m in total awe of talented effective management and leadership. I believe a virtuoso orchestra CEO is just as impressive as a virtuoso violinist. And so despite my instinctive pro-musician bias, believe me: both the SPCO and Minnesota managements had ample chance to make good, or at least neutral, impressions on me. Unfortunately, ultimately, both failed. (Minnesota in particular failed badly.) I’ve repeatedly called upon the Minnesota Orchestra board members to address the questions I and other patrons have asked, but I haven’t heard from them, although I know they know I’m here, and that I have many many readers who would be able to publicize their answers in a heartbeat. *waves at management* Hello, Board! Hello, management! I know you know I’m out here! I still hold out the quixotic hope they’ll eventually speak up. If they do, you’ll be the first ones to know. Don’t hold your breath, though.
I’ve labeled the Twin Cities meltdown “Orchestral Apocalypse ‘012.” It started as a tongue-in-cheek term but has turned more serious as the months go on. More than one person has questioned where the term came from, so here’s the scoop. My subconscious stole it from the Colbert Report: combine the Glennpocalypse with the StePhest Colbchella ‘012 – Rocktaugustfest, add in an “Orchestral”, and voila. Strange portmanteau, maybe, but I tossed it off in late August and never came up with a better phrase, so alas, it has stuck to my coverage.
Click here for a list of links to articles I’ve written about the Apocalypse. I originally listed them on the front page, but once I wrote my thirtieth, I thought the list was getting just a tad long for everyone to have to scroll through.
Sending all my love to those who are working in good faith to get this mighty ship righted again. I know that better, more engaged, more imaginative leadership is possible. I suspected that at the beginning of this fiasco, and I’ve only become more convinced of it the more I read, and the more I hear from you. And I’m convinced that if any community can get the Minnesota Orchestra back on track again, it’s this one. It may take a very long time, but we will do it, and we are in this for the long haul.
Thanks for reading.
And keep in mind that, unlike at the Minnesota Orchestra management’s website, the comment section here is always open.
Sincerely, musically yours,
Postscript, 10/9: Due to recent comments, I feel the need to clarify a few things. I appreciate all comments; but I don’t take any responsibility for what my commenters write, and I do not always agree with everything they write. I urge them to be kind, respectful, and thoughtful – to use common sense – and to remember that a metric crap-ton of important people in the orchestra business are reading this blog, so if you wouldn’t say it directly to Stanislaw Skrowaczewski or Tony Ross or Erin Keefe or Michael Henson or Jon Campbell or Drew McManus or Frank Almond [edit 10/24] or ALEX ROSS ZOMG, then don’t say it here. But if you have an issue with what someone other than me says here, please take it up with the individual commenters. Thanks kindly. xx