What Do the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO Mean To You?

I have a simple question for y’all.

What do the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO mean to you?

How have they inspired you, moved you, transported you? When did you first see them? When did you last see them? What makes you love them? What makes them special, and worth preserving in their current forms? Write down your thoughts and then post them in the comments section here (or if you want to communicate through email, leave a comment saying so, and I’ll get in touch with you privately as soon as possible). Write a few sentences, or write an essay. I’ll then re-post them as actual entries that you can then spread and share with your friends and family. I want to hear funny anecdotes, profound experiences, intellectual epiphanies: anything. Let’s take a minute to remember what we’re fighting for. I’ll post them all under the tag What Orchestras Mean. I think in the middle of the fight it’s vitally important to occasionally step back and remember all the amazing music we’ve been blessed with.

By the way, Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO managements are more than welcome to participate in this! :D Even if you don’t want to answer my questions, feel free to take part in this activity! (*shrug* Hey, it’s worth a shot…)


Filed under Not My Writing

7 responses to “What Do the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO Mean To You?

  1. james Mason. Principle bassoon,Toledo Orch, retired.

    Music is a vital part of education.
    Managements job is to support Orchestras -to find the means, not micro manage.

  2. Terry Carlson

    “I am as angry now as I have ever been in my entire life.” — Eleanor Roosevelt, upon hearing that the Minnesota Orchestra musicians have been locked out by management, or was it upon hearing about her husband Franklin’s affair? In any case, I feel the same way! To think that a Minnesota cultural institution would do this to its world-class musicians means, to me, that it’s time for something completely different: A new orchestral association, with musicians in charge; they will hire and fire management and music directors (if any; the Vienna Philharmonic has been without a permanent music director since 1933, and seem to be doing just fine with guest conductors, thank you). The old ways are not working. Get rid of the managers who think it strange that the largest budget item is musicians’ salaries; why would that not be the case? Sheesh, they actually say these sorts of things in public and in print, as though it’s a problem. It is the REASON that the association exists, for crying out loud, to pay the musicians and to present concerts. It’s not rocket science. Let’s get going and begin again, while honoring the 100+ year history of the Minnesota Orchestra; there’s no time like the present. The venue (for now) does not matter. Otherwise, we (meaning the audience, as well as the musicians) will just find ourselves in this situation, and perhaps a worse one, again in five years’ time.

    • I’ve been fantasizing for a month or two now in the comment section of this blog about the players quitting en masse and beginning their own orchestra, or using some kind of leverage (what, I’m not sure, but…) to fire the board and CEO…or in some way drastically reforming the organization. I never thought it would actually happen. But now, since the lockout began, something along those lines suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible. I think it’s wayyy too early to mourn the loss of the Orchestra, as at least one blogger has done. But I do think it’s in flux. And it may emerge as a different group with a different name with different management. And I would not be surprised to see a better (if poorer) organization form in its wake, or in direct competition with it. It would be a huge incredibly stressful upheaval but…in the end, maybe it will be worth it? It’s up the musicians. I don’t envy the decisions they’re going to have to make. People all around the country are watching. The pressure on them to do this right couldn’t be higher.

      It’s a very strange, very fascinating moment in American orchestral history. Yes, I went there: I think this struggle is going to be looked back on as a seminal one. But we’ll see.

      And your point about the situation reoccurring in five years is a fantastic one, and one I hadn’t thought much about. If management is obfuscating about its finances now, if accountability isn’t demanded of them now, what’s going to keep them from pulling the same s*** in 2017? Especially if the economy continues to be mediocre over the next few years? Especially if other major orchestras are forced to deal with this same kind of thing because “it worked in Atlanta in Minneapolis”? Nothing will stop them. As tough as it’s going to be, it will be much more efficient for the musicians to stand up now, versus in another five years.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Anonymous

    I must respectfully disagree with Terry that the reason orchestras exist is to pay musicians. The Minnesota Orchestra’s mission statement reads: “The Minnesota Orchestral Association inspires, educates and serves our community through internationally recognized performances of exceptional music delivered within a sustainable financial structure.”

    The primary mission of this orchestra, and I would wager all nonprofit orchestras, is to serve the community– the same community that supports the orchestra through its donations and patronage. The community does not support 100 individual musicians; it supports the orchestra, of which 100 individual musicians are a part. There’s a difference.

    It’d be interesting to know if the musicians themselves have ever suggested that they create their own self-run organization. The MNOrch musicians are likely to find out soon how much work it is to handle all the marketing, fundraising, ticketing and behind-the-scenes operations that go into producing each concert. The relationship between musicians and administration is more symbiotic than host-parasite. Think about a traditional newspaper– it couldn’t exist without the reporters, but the reporters would have a hard time getting their stories out (in paper form, anyway) without the sales reps to sell the ads, the designers to lay it out, the printers to put it on the page and the delivery folks to get it to your door.

    • I don’t know that anyone is denying that musicians need people behind the scenes to manage the stage and sell the tickets and coordinate the volunteers, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. I don’t know if the musicians have discussed creating their own ensemble, but I imagine if they have, that’s probably the single thing they’re most terrified of. I’ve gotten no indication from them that they think it will be an easy task. But if they want to keep playing music, and not submit to the obfuscation of their management, then it’s the only choice they have. We’ll see. Everyone’s watching their every move. And they know it.

      That being said, I do believe there is a bit of a host/parasite type dynamic going on between high-level management (Henson, Davis, and Campbell in particular) and the rest of the organization. (Higher level management feeding upon lower level management.) If you feel that Henson in particular is more interested in a symbiotic give-and-take relationship with the musicians than in a chance to use his powerful high-paying job to go on some kind of bizarre thinly veiled ego trip…well, then I’m not sure what to say, really. We’d have to agree to disagree on that one.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Anon

        I imagine it would be tough for the musicians to self-manage, but worth it considering how management has acted towards them. Fire management, split the exorbitant salaries upper management are getting paid between the musicians and let everyone know, their greed and incompetance are a cancer within the organization who’s cure has finally come.

    • Terry Carlson

      But I don’t think I said that. I said the reason the ASSOCIATION (meaning the management structure) exists is to make sure that world-class musicians are hired and paid, and that concerts are presented. Maybe I’m splitting hairs because that would seem to be the same thing as presenting “internationally recognized performances of exceptional music.” Frankly, at this moment, I am much more interested in supporting the individual 100 world-class musicians in this orchestra than anything else. If we fail at that, not only will many of them leave for other positions, but a terrible precedent will have been set. All the people behind the scenes cannot deliver great music with a mediocre orchestra.

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