Still here, actually

Sorry I haven’t been posting much the last couple of days. I’ve been battling a tinge of the flu while living with and taking care of someone who has full-out Martian Death Flu. Fun times, but not conducive to analytical thought, orchestral muckraking, or sleep. I had the thought today that I should probably sit down and start work on a Lockout Week 1 post…and then I realized it’s already been seven days since the lockout started, and that judging by the calendar I should probably already be drafting a Lockout Week 2 post. Oy vey. I have been keeping the Apocalypse Index updated, though, so you can always catch up on news there, even when I’m off valiantly fighting germs.

The news highlights from the last few days:

  • The Minnesota musicians have balls the size of the wrecking ones at Orchestra Hall, and they are renting out the Minneapolis Convention Center on Thursday October 18 to give a concert of their own. There hasn’t been a ton of details released yet about the show, besides the fact that Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
    is conducting. Apparently he’s excited to send an implicit obscene gesture to management with a kind of aplomb that only an 89-year-old can muster. I pray that there will be an encore (or at least one more concert) if the Shostakovich 5 programming rumors are true. Please, guys, please please please do not stamp on my soul by ending what might possibly be the last concert the-Minnesota-Orchestra-As-We-Know-It plays with Shostakovich 5. (And yet…we all know there is no piece of music that can come after Shostakovich 5, so I know my encore request will likely not be granted…sigh.) Anyway, assuming my tinge of flu doesn’t turn into the Martian death variety, I’m coming to the show, and you should, too. You should also donate to the musicians.
  • Also, you should donate to the musicians.
  • And it would probably be a good idea for you to donate to the musicians. Because I hear rumors that renting a massive auditorium in the downtown of a major metropolitan area is expensive.
  • So donate already!
  • After a couple days of not writing in here and gaining perspective, I’ve come to the decision that……Michael Henson and the board are still as incompetent as I thought they were a few days ago. Sorry, guys. You know what might convince me otherwise? You answering these hundred questions… Just sayin’…
  • A couple days ago there was an Almanac debate between the musicians’ side and management’s side, like the one between Dobson West and Carole Mason-Smith from a couple weeks ago (doesn’t it feel like years?). I haven’t watched it yet. But it’s there, and archived, and eventually I’ll get around to watching it, and discussing it…
  • The Star Tribune editorial was nice when it wasn’t reciting the same old talking points that we’ve rehashed and (hopefully) cast real, legitimate doubt on again and again here. Surprisingly, it ended with a call for an independent financial analysis.
  • Also, we also heard from a trifecta of conductors in the Star Tribune, telling management in no uncertain terms to get their crap together. I don’t think anyone at the top will actually listen to them (conductors? pshaw, what do they know about orchestras?), but hey. It’s still awfully meaningful to hear from them. A moment of silence for Osmo, who must be just in an agonizingly awkward place right now…
  • I installed this game that I got from Savers the other day. It’s called Trainz: Driver Edition. It sucks. Don’t buy it.
  • Flus also suck, in general.
  • The leaves came off the trees, and it’s unpleasantly cold out now. I don’t really feel like we got much of an autumn, but I’m not sure if this is because we didn’t get much of an autumn, or because I squandered it indoors blogging. I probably squandered it indoors blogging.
  • I’m tired. I need to try to sleep again.

So, anyway. Obviously not much substance to this post, but I just wanted to let you know I’m still alive and PO’d. In time I’ll get back to some better blogging. xx


Filed under My Writing

15 responses to “Still here, actually

  1. Terry Carlson

    Et tu, StarTribune? That’s all I can say about that one. Well, the publisher is on the orchestra board, so I suppose they couldn’t get too snarky and still keep their jobs. But to pretend that both sides are somehow equal in this matter and just need to get together and chat, well, dream on. The board and management have shown just how much respect they have for these world-class musicians (which is not much; just look at the 250 contract changes in the “offer” from management) and that disrespect will never be forgotten or forgiven until an entirely new board and upper management have been put in place.

    • People’s reactions to the Strib editorial have been so conflicted, and I find that fascinating. It’s like we all read totally different pieces. I’m one of those who thought it was a net PR gain for musicians (if a modest one), and was as about as positive a statement as they could realistically hope for from the paper in this particular time and circumstance, especially given the fact the Strib guy is on the board, and no doubt wants to avoid making waves, given the uber-wealthy and uber-powerful men who sit on that board. And I was really surprised by the call for independent financial analysis. *shrug* Makes me wonder who on the board wants to see that happen, and who is stopping it from happening (and why). The Strib could very easily have been a lot ruder to the musicians. Someone associated with the Louisville debacle said on the Minnesota musicians’ FB page that those musicians could only *dream* of having such an editorial run in their local press. Also notice that on the same day the Strib editorial team ran that slightly ambivalent main editorial, they also chose to run two very supportive pro-musician editorials, one very powerful unequivocal one from a trifecta of internationally renowned conductors. A quiet, unobtrusive, very Minnesotan-style rebuke to management? Maybe… We’ll see.

  2. Ken

    One one hand, I’d have to believe that the amount of negative publicity is really getting to Orchestra management. But on the other hand, I’m not sure they’re smart enough to figure it out – or they are too stubborn to care. This was the email I sent off today to

    “You want us to make a gift when you aren’t even playing concerts right now? Is there something wrong with you people? The fact that the Minnesota Orchestra would have the audacity to plaster this request on the front of their webpage is truly mind-blowing. At this point, I cannot foresee a day when I will be willing to give to your organization. Perhaps when your current leadership is fired and you pay the musicians an ACCEPTABLE going wage, I will consider it – but not until then.”

  3. Anon

    That editorial may have been a calculated one dependant upon the call for independant financial analysis. It’s one thing for those opposing the impostion of contractual obligations to be calling for that and quite another for those who are impartial to biased towards you side to reaspectfuly request it.

    We’ll see what happens.

    Lark I’ve been wondering if your letters made it to management. I take it they did and you recieved the standard “thanks for your concern” reply letter? Next step would be to publish flyers in support of the musicians and canvas. You won’t likely reach the donors directly that way, but you would the donors’s relatives with an added plus of getting the word out to the general public.

    Just a thought.

    • Song of the Lark

      If they weren’t delivered, they’ve seen this blog, I can guarantee it. Explanation of why here… And no, not a peep from them. I imagine if I posted a link to it on the MN Orchestra FB page that the person in charge there would say thanks and we’ll pass it along to management, but who knows if it’s really getting there, if no patron has gotten any feedback or acknowledgment from management?? The poor FB [edit 10/9: person] might be desperately trying to pass this information along, only to have Michael Henson turn around and feed it through his shredder unread.

      I’d love to design and publish flyers. It’s just that I don’t live in Minneapolis, so I don’t know how to distribute any! I wonder how we could go about such a thing. Something in the lobby on the concert on the 18th? Design a flyer and then asking Minneapolis residents to print them themselves and post in places where artists and donors might congregate (being an out-of-towner, I don’t know where those places would be)? Trying to mail letters to donors listed in Showcase (with an emphasis on lower-level donors, since they’re more likely to get letters)? Where’s the line between disseminating vital information and being a totally creepy overbearing person sticking my nose into people’s financial business? And then I run into the question…I’m not associated with the musicians; I’m independent of them and do not coordinate with them in any way; but will people believe me, or think I’m a hired shill, and might I in the end hurt the musicians’ credibility? Lots of questions… But definitely some worth thinking about.

      • Kate Golden That’s a low blow to call someone (probably in an entry level position) that and who has to sit there and read all the vitriol and who is simply doing their job. That “flunky” is probably some young, scared to death kid, just trying to pay their bills.. Someone recenty advised you to be a little less sarcastic in your blog posts. And I asked you to control the f word which you so kindly did. You are a brilliant, bright girl. But you are crossing the line, time and time again in this blog. I would wish that you would lead by example and write consistently, with concise, mature posts (and you have from time to time) and encourage your commenters to stop being viscious. The only reason I ask this is because your posts are being noticed more and more and more people are realizing that you not credible. I am not a schill. Just a reader becoming more and more disturbed by this effort.

        • Song of the Lark

          Thanks for your comment!

          First off, I want to make very clear that the word flunky was meant to imply someone of very limited power, who has no choice but to follow instructions in an incredibly tense and demoralizing environment, and that’s it. That was the connotation I was taught, and the connotation that the word has among my friends. I see now how it could be taken differently, so after I’m done with this reply I’ll edit that. But I have been clear again and again and AGAIN on this blog about how deeply concerned I am about these people. To be honest? I’m much more worried about their fates than the musicians’. I’ve expressed concern for them on the Minnesota Orchestra Facebook page, when no other patrons have. I’ve brought them up in 10 Obfuscations. I’ve been the only blogger to repeatedly demand answers as to why the one employee was fired via email. I’ve linked to Drew McManus’s article mentioning how awful he thought it was to use them as pawns in the negotiation process. I’ve differentiated clearly between Campbell, Henson, and Davis and the rest of the lower-paid employees. I’m deeply deeply deeply concerned about them.

          Moving on…

          I can’t control my commenters. I made a decision early on not to censor them in any way. (A resolve that was put to the test immediately, when the very first comment I got called me a menace. But I still approved the comment, anyway, and it’s still there…) I bear no responsibility for what my commenters say, and I’ll add that clarification to “If you’re just joining us.” I approve all comments, in their entirety, unedited, whether I agree with them or not. And there are many comments here I don’t entirely agree with. If I don’t engage with every single commentator I don’t entirely agree with, it’s just because I just don’t have the mental and emotional energy to engage in any more debates than the ones I’m engaging in within the actual posts. I apologize for that.

          People are free to come up to me and engage in a dialogue (even with a fake email address and anonymously! which is more than Drew McManus will allow) about what they think about the subject matter and how I’ve written about it. At the end of just about every single post I practically beg people to join me in the comments.

          And yes, I do know that a lot of people are reading this blog…hence the terror expressed in “If you’re just joining us.” At this point SOTL is everywhere. It’s like a cold in Minnesota in January. It’s viral. It’s unavoidable. If you’re in a certain circle, you’re going to hear about this blog, and you’re going to have an opinion about this blog. But to be fair, I didn’t make it popular. Clearly for some reason it’s hit a nerve – the analysis? the more independent perspective? the angry sarcasm? I don’t know, but I’ve clearly done *something* that has *really* connected with a lot of people – and I have no control over its popularity. All I can do is just listen to my instincts, take people’s feedback into account, and move forward as best I can. And I’ve been doing that to the best of my ability. The blog will be flawed because I am flawed.

          As I’ve repeated again and again from the beginning, I’m not the Strib; I’m not MPR; I’m not a news organization. I’m an aggregator and a commentator, who speaks bluntly and often crassly about things I care about. I’m making up my own rules for myself as I go along. It’s only within the last five years or so that blogging has really taken off, and bloggers are still experimenting with the format and what can (and should) be done with it, especially in a situation like this. I’m a confused, terrified, angry 23-year-old girl with no arts management training (with no training, period), who just wants to know what’s going on with my beloved orchestra. That’s it. Would my snarky tone be at home in the Strib, in MPR? Heck, no!!! But is it at home in a blog? Well, yes. Because *anything* is at home in a blog. It’s the nature of blogs to be whatever the author thinks they ought to be at that particular moment in time…for whatever reason, for better and for worse. Blogs, by their nature, require no justification. That’s their great strength and their (at times fatal) weakness. They answer to no publisher; they don’t need to answer to readers; they can be entirely anonymous; their commentators can be entirely anonymous; they can leave out contradictory evidence; they can deliberately mislead readers. (They can, in fact, be very much like the Minnesota Orchestra management’s website…) But I’m actually holding my blog to pretty high blog standards, in my opinion, because I’ve revealed my name, my biases, my background, OK’d all comments, posted links to articles I disagree with, begged for feedback, etc.

          I find it interesting I’m losing credibility. But I never had any to begin with, and I’m not seeking to gain any. I’m not a journalist, and I don’t have any intention of EVER going into journalism. I’m just a private citizen being myself and trying to sort things out to the best of my ability. As I told a friend, once this is all over, I will watch my WordPress stats plummet as I go back to my first love, which is writing about historical musical figures. Nobody will be reading me in a few months. I can promise you that.

          And if I had to estimate, I’d probably say I’ve gotten at least 100 pieces (I know it sounds crazy, but I’m not exaggerating) of “keep doing EXACTLY what you’re doing, don’t change a THING” type feedback for every 1 or 2 bits of “mmm, Em, I’m not sure you should be doing this in this way” feedback. And obviously (unfortunately) I can’t make everyone happy. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from behind the scenes, that never shows up here. Maybe there are hundreds of people who are gravely disappointed in me who just aren’t saying so. That’s totally possible. But the comment section is open to all, even to anons with faked emails (once again, a much more generous policy than McManus employs), so… I don’t really know what else to say. I also have my Facebook account set to be able to receive messages from strangers (and I have). But I’m incapable of engaging with people who are disappointed with me who don’t go into details about what specifically they’re disappointed in. As you know yourself, if someone comes up to me and kindly suggests I ought to change something, and I think it over and agree, I will change it.

          What I would love is if you could write some of your own blog entries, elucidating more about what’s going on from your viewpoint. I don’t know if you’re in any position to do that, but I think it would be amazing. No snark here; promise. I really feel the weight of expectations on me because I’ve been the one to write the most about this debacle. That strikes me as very possibly the most ridiculous part of this entire absurd fiasco, that in the midst of one of the most important orchestral labor battles of this decade, a kid from Eau Claire is the one who is being quoted the most in the blogosphere. That’s crazy. That’s sheer INSANITY. We need more voices, desperately. People shouldn’t trust me alone (as I’ve said from the beginning). That would be intellectual malpractice. So if you’d like to start your own analysis of what’s happening, even anonymously, feel free. Make it as sincere and polite or snarky and angry as you’d like. More voices, more tones, would be great for the debate, and what’s great for the debate is great for the Minnesota Orchestra.

          Are you coming to the concert on the 18th? I’m not sure if I’ll be volunteering or ushering or anything, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to talk, but I’d be delighted to at least shake hands. Otherwise maybe we’ll meet at another show when this is all over. I’m sure that despite any disagreements we both have the same ultimate goal in mind: to have two world-class orchestras in town.

      • Anon

        I see your point with regards to donors’ privacy. There might be something against distributing flyers inside the building too which could cause you to get into trouble. Dunno.

        I’d like to take this opportunity to appologize if my comments here have caused you any trouble. For the record, such that it is, for anyone reading this, I am not affiliated with or working in any capacity for the Minnesota Orchestra musicians, management (goes without saying, but I need to be crystal clear), or Song of the Lark.

        And as far as my comments go, I think I’ll keep them more or less private in the future, from this point onward. That’s not to say I won’t be reading and *trying* to follow along.

        But again, my sincerest apologies Lark for any trouble I may have caused. Best of luck to everyone. *waves*

  4. Hi everyone,

    Sorry I’ve been absent as well, it’s that time of year for MIDTERMS! Yay! but not really…

    So please, let me tell you about the SPCO concert at St. Olaf last Thursday. OK so remember how I told you that the last SPCO concert I saw (Strauss study for 23 strings and wind serenade and Brahms’ 2nd piano concerto) was probably the best concert I’ve ever seen…

    …Well this past thursday was BETTER! They opened with a really beautiful Wagner piece that he wrote for his mistress. Well, some scandal there, but really exquisite and beautiful.

    Then the Nielsen Concerto for clarinet played by U of MN clarinet professor Alexander Fiterstein. Like, OMG WOW! Holy CRAP! excellent piece of music and daang Alex can play! And on top of that, the orchestral score is incredibly difficult to play and SPCO did a great job with the accompaniment.

    And then Beethoven 7. Naturally it would be good but I was not expecting what I got. Absolute best performance of a Beethoven symphony I’ve ever seen/heard. I just can’t even describe it, the passion and all was there.

    The conductor was brilliant. Thomas Dausgaard, he conducts the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. He was very impressive.

    OK, so yeah, best concert I’ve seen, now lets get some juicy details.

    It’s a miracle in the first place SPCO even came to St. Olaf. Because of the “play and talk” this concert got to happen, if a strike or lockout had happened it wouldn’t have. So, Carole Mason Smith was there handing out musician flyers before hand and I was a nervous and embarrassed little college kid, walked up and just said I’d been following the story really closely and fully supported the musicians. She seemed very genuine and grateful. And oh my was I jittery afterwards! A brush with stardom, to say the least.

    So it gets better. about 5-8 of the musicians were MNO, so that was kind of exciting. I mean, from my potion of view, and interesting. Obviously MNO isn’t employed anymore, and SPCO WITHOUT FAIL needs more musicians for every concert (and they want to cut # of musicians????), so why not hire some MNO people? Well it was cool and a little unsettling seeing so many MNO people there.

    Regardless, 5 minutes before the concert I got out my “WE <3 MUSICIANS" sign. First I held it up so the audience could see it (I was very close to the front). Immediately applause broke out in the hall. THAT was something I wasn't expecting, but it was loud and it was clear, which is so awesome because that meant the audience had a clue and supported the musicians too.

    I flipped the sign around and the musicians went crazy! Like I'm not kidding, they went Batsh!t crazy! Bows in the air, flutes raised applause from them. OMG I was just so embarrassed and pleased and excited that they loved my sign. So I mean, they loved it. God, it made the whole atmosphere feel a lot less severe and just, "let's make good music, we are all friends in good company". It was a little awkward though, because I made this sign for the MNO benefit concert in edina a few weeks ago, and anthony ross was at that concert and this concert. You can't really forget a sign like this, so he probably thinks I'm stalking his life but whatevs, it's totally worth it!

    So yeah, they got on with the best concert I've ever seen and then on the closing note of beethoven 7 the audience burst to their feet. There was no hesitation, the concert was so good people just shot up. And so did my sign and it was STUNNING!

    I really hope management was there. I want them to have seen that sign. Serve them right.

    Any way, a few more important notes. After the concert, a viola friend went and talked with his old teacher who subs with SPCO a lot. Good news, he said the musicians LOVED the sign!!!!!

    Furthermore, I briefly talked with one of the musicians who's from MNO (I'll leave him/her anon) and my own teacher afterwards. We asked about the musician about the MNO contract and s/he said all those concerts were for sure canceled, that s/he didn't think management ever intended to put on those concerts (aka, has been planing this fiasco all along), said s/he expects management to squeeze at least 2 more months out of the lockout, and that everything management is doing is a load of "Bullsh!t"

    So there you have it, right from a source. Well, it's obviously a biased source, but at least it's something from the inside.

    OK, so onward. I plan on going to the oct 18th concert and I will basically do anything to get there regardless of what I have going on at school that night or the next morning. I WANT to go badly! and I want to bring my sign! So SOTL if you're there let me know, we can meet up!

    And (for those of you who actually read this whole ramble of mine) I want to say that Emily is doing a great job here. No one else is doing ANYTHING like this. We have a conversation going and it has been acknowledged by me and Emily time and time again that we aren't radicals. I have stated before that I want to remain open to both sides, unlike the politics of today, which is dominated by partisanship and the radical right and left. I also don't think any line is being crossed here. When management decides to start acting civil and will speak "transparently" with the public and the musicians, that is when we can come together to fix this. Until then, if they aren't going to play fair, then why should we? Because it's the "right thing to do". Well, yes, we need to have a standard and ethics. Maybe we should drop the sarcasm and become a bit more professional. But is that going to bring change? Is trying to politely reason with an organization that *seems* (key word, SEEMS) to be doing everything possible to cause more problems going to fix this problem. Management has shown time and time again that they don't want to work with musicians or communicate with the public. As Emily has so wisely said, weeks and weeks ago, if, at the beginning, management said "hey, here's the situation. it really sucks and we're sorry but things need to change and if people decided to leave then we accept that and we'll try to rebuild from there", things would have been so much different. Maybe all the musicians would have stayed to get through this and come out better than ever. Maybe. Maybe this maybe that. But no! Management has been mean, disrespectful and unyielding. How can anyone work with that? REALLY!? what are we supposed to do? Sit back and watch it burn?

    Yeah, this blog has a musicians-bias. Maybe, just maybe, it's gone too far. But how can we change something that is wrong unless we talk a side and fight for it.

    And for the record, Emily has been more than kind to the Minnesota Orchestra "Flunky" on every occasion and even expressed her sympathies to the "Flunky" in question, as she realized that the "flunky's" job is on the line too, since there might not be an orchestra after this blows over.

    OK there's my 2 cents.

    We <3 Musicians!

    • “(and they want to cut # of musicians????)”

      Because they’re cheaper… *is cynical*

      I love your story about your sign. That’s awesome. LOL at poor Tony Ross.

      I think they planned this for months, too. And I’m wondering if we’ll hear more from the musicians about this as the days/weeks/months go on. The musicians are clearly planning on a long game here, and I’m sure they have QUITE a bit more ammunition to use… They obviously haven’t dumped everything they know about management’s mismanagement in the first week. Which is a wise decision on their part, I think.

      When management decides to start acting civil and will speak “transparently” with the public and the musicians, that is when we can come together to fix this.

      Yes, this exactly. Word. Heck, they wouldn’t even need to be civil. Just transparent. If they answer some of our questions transparently and honestly while repeatedly kicking me and insulting me and telling me what a terrible human being I am, I’d be utterly delighted. I just want some answers, that’s all.

  5. Ken

    St. Olaf – you mention some interesting things. It does seem strikingly odd that the Minnesota Orchestra Season was scheduled to start so late this year. The fact that they are not playing in Orchestra Hall, really when you think about it, should not have had an impact on the start of the season. So it almost does seem as if the late start was to provide more leverage to Management for the contract. If the season has started in September, then the edge would have gone to the musicians. The fact that all those concerts were canceled even makes me wonder if they were ever booked in the first place!

    The other odd thing I noticed a number of months ago, was that there is no New York (Carnegie Hall) appearance scheduled for this season. I looked at their schedule when it was released this past Spring and noticed this absence. They orchestra has performed there virtually every season for decades, so it’s odd that there was no appearance scheduled. Were they already gambling on the lockout way back then?

    Kate, it’s interesting how you keep coming back to this blog with all the criticism you have of how it’s written. I tend to avoid things that I do not like. Just a thought.

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