Response to Jon Eisele’s MinnPost Editorial

Here’s a link to Jon Eisele’s piece in MinnPost: “MN Orchestra board member: We seek our musicians’ partnership to build a strong future.”

I’m not going to spend the time nitpicking every little thing in it that’s misleading or unsatisfactory, so I’ll just pick out a few highlights…

Here’s Mr. Eisele’s answer to why the mission statement was changed:

Our mission statement was changed in our new strategic plan to signify a new emphasis around serving our community. This language change is important, not because the “orchestra” isn’t part of it, but because it communicates a pivotal shift in what we see as the role of symphony orchestras in the 21st century. A shift to a more community-minded and responsive organization is a positive and needed repositioning for our orchestra.

For those of you who haven’t memorized the orchestra’s old and new mission statements… It went from

Our mission is to enrich and inspire our community as a symphony orchestra internationally recognized for its artistic excellence.

Our mission will be implemented by:

  • Enhancing the traditional core of concerts with innovative approaches to programming and format;
  • Providing the finest educational and outreach programs;
  • Representing and promoting the Minnesota Orchestra and the State of Minnesota to audiences across the state,  across the country and around the world through tours and electronic media;
  • Maintaining an acoustically superior hall with a welcoming environment.


The Minnesota Orchestral Association inspires, educates and serves our community through internationally recognized performances of exceptional music delivered within a sustainable financial structure.

Seriously, now. Which mission statement sounds like it’s more interested in serving its community? If community service really was at the heart of the Minnesota Orchestra’s new mission, then why remove references to “the finest educational and outreach programs”, “representing and promoting the Minnesota Orchestra and the State of Minnesota to audiences across the state” and maintaining a hall with “a welcoming environment”? I think this is a fair question.

Also, I’m failing to understand how not addressing a community’s questions about its finances is in any way, shape, or form serving them…

Another point: I was disappointed that Mr. Eisele took words directly from the Minnesota Orchestra’s website and Mr. Campbell and Mr. Davis. I would have much preferred to hear from him in his own words.

The website:

These donations would not have been contributed to the Orchestra if there were not a building project to support.

Mr. Eisele:

The vast majority of donations we received for the hall campaign would not have been contributed to the orchestra if there were not a building project to support.

Mr. Campbell, Mr. Davis:

 In 2010, we asked our musicians to help alleviate growing deficits by taking a 22 percent wage reduction. We told them that even this sizable reduction would not resolve our financial problems. It would, however, make the cliff less steep in 2012. The musicians chose not to participate in those reductions. That was their legal right, and so we must grapple with even bigger financial issues today.

Mr. Eisele:

It was the musicians’ legal right to do so, but it has made the cliff we face today all the steeper.

Mr. Campbell and Davis:

Why would we seek harm for any member of this iconic organization?

Mr. Eisele:

Why would we want anything but the best for the organization?

And so on and so forth. It would have been lovely to hear more from Mr. Eisele, and fewer rearranged talking points. We’ve already read the talking points, thanks.

I couldn’t help but note that Mr. Eisele ignored the DeCosse’s question, “Has the community raised almost $47 million to renovate an Orchestra Hall that will not include a first-rate Minnesota Orchestra?” That’s troubling, especially when it’s probably the most pertinent question that the DeCosses raised.

On top of that, there are no answers in Mr. Eisele’s piece to questions like:

  • Why the orchestra trumpeted its financial health from 2008-2010
  • Why Mr. Henson misled the state legislature
  • Why an independent analysis would be harmful
  • Why orchestra experts like Drew McManus, Robert Levine, and Bill Eddins are so off-base in their assessments
  • Why we shouldn’t be listening to all the former music directors who claim these cuts will be catastrophic
  • Why there was a $6 million draw from the endowment in 2011 that did not go to operating expenses
  • How much revenue will come from the newly renovated hall, and how

Etc., etc., etc.

We believe the board and the community that supports the Minnesota Orchestra deserve that level of respect.

I look at it another way. I believe the community that supports the Minnesota Orchestra deserves the respect of the board. They are there to serve us and the musicians. Serving us would include submitting to a full independent financial analysis. This isn’t about the musicians anymore. It’s about the taxpayers who footed the $14 million bill for the Orchestra Hall renovation.

In short, this is a hugely unsatisfying piece. I doubt the DeCosses are satisfied. I know I’m not.

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