What does it all mean?

Graydon Royce’s latest:

Fresh talks signal thaw in Minnesota Orchestra dispute

The rhetoric softened noticeably on Wednesday. “I was encouraged by the meeting,” said board chairman Jon Campbell.

A spokesman for the musicians said only that the players “agreed to a fresh start.”

The board offered a four-point plan for musicians to consider:

• Return to the organization’s former mission statement, with two changes to emphasize community service and financial stability.

• Share more financial data with musicians, including forecasts through 2015.

• Invite musicians to submit a proposal for a “mutually agreeable independent financial review” to verify the orchestra’s financial condition.

• Offer a schedule of dates for more meetings.

“We had good dialogue around the four ideas that we had, and agreement on the concepts of financial sustainability and artistic quality and the fresh start,” said Campbell.

A fresh start

I need to sleep on the news and mull it all over. But obviously the first thought that struck me…

Five weeks ago, financial review = a frolic and detour

But now, apparently financial review =

A fresh start

So, hmm. What happened in the interim…. I wonder…

Anyway, I’m sensing a new SOTL catchphrase, folks! One that would be at home in an advertising campaign for deodorant or detergent.

What do you think? Are we being played? Is pressure being applied behind the scenes? Is the MOA scared of the state legislature? What do you think? Unfortunately right now my cynicism meter is on high. So I’m waiting for the trick and the catch.

More analysis to come, after I dream of “mutually agreeable independent financial reviews.” Whatever those are.

15 Comments

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15 responses to “What does it all mean?

  1. Amy Adams

    So.
    After the interview with Doug Kelley,who explained that MOA already HAD been transparent/plus who would EVER even lie on their tax returns, ha, ha, good one, right? Management? Ha ha…? NOW they’re all about marriage counseling…

  2. I would be very wary of how “financial stability” is phrased in the mission statement. It should not be allowed to trump “artistic excellence.” “Financial stability” could be used to justify all sorts of business minded marketing ploys and expenditures that might hinder excellence. Are they going to be catering wedding dinners in the new lobby and thereby disallowing use of the hall for symphony concerts? Look at St. Paul and the Ordway. At the time it was built, it was supposed to be the home of the SPCO, but over time, booking traveling road shows seemed to be more profitable. And as a result, at least as I understand it, the Schubert Club, the SPCO and the Minnesota Opera have real difficulty booking it to their advantage. In my opinion, the draw for the Minnesota must always be “artistic excellence” focused on the classical music tradition–not catering, not dinner music, not Los Vegas style entertainment–all of which could be justified as necessary for “financial stability.”

    As to “community service,” I’ve never quite understood what this issue was all about.

    Points two and three together seem to be an opportunity for the musicians to clarify and demand what they want in terms of financial disclosure and an independent analysis.

    • Nils Halker

      I agree with Tom – I have trouble understanding why “financial stability” should be in any mission statement. A mission statement is about the big ideas that are the reason for the the orchestra existing at all. The purpose of the orchestra is not to be financially stable, its purpose is to make great music for the people of Minnesota and beyond. Yes, financial stability is the goal (and perhaps mission) of the accounting department and the development office, but it does not belong in the mission statement for the entire organization. That the board negotiators are insisting that it be included in the mission statement feels like the MBAs trying to twist the knife in our backs.

      • Vipunen

        Exactly, “financial stability” shouldn’t show up in anyone’s mission statement, for two key reasons. First, it is self-evident and universally true for all people, organizations and businesses. If you don’t manage your money, you fold. Period. It would be just as valid to swap out those words for “law-abiding.” Of course it is expected that you won’t break laws in the course of doing business, and you will be shut down if you do. As a side bar, it is so self-evident that including it immediately raises a question in the mind of the reader—um, do you mean it hasn’t always been that way…?

        But beyond that, “financial stability” isn’t an end goal of this, or any organization. It is more a metric–one that may or may not determine the success of achieving your real goal. The Orchestra could decide to do Wagner’s “The Ring” in its entirety. It could do that in a financially sustainable way by increasing the ticket prices, extending a run, sharing production costs with the Met, or hiring high schoolers to save on artist fees. These would all achieve financial stability, but never broach the subject of whether the Orchestra should take any of these actions, or do “The Ring” in the first place.

        I get that in tough financial times they are trying to give greater weight to financial issues, but this is the wrong way.

        • Maybe if they’re going to include financial stability in the mission statement, they ought to insert another clause, pledging not to be investigated by the state of Minnesota for misuse of public funds… You know. Just to cover all the Captain Obvious bases while they’re at it.

  3. I’ll add my voice to the chorus. “Financial stability” is not the orchestra’s mission; it is what allows the orchestra to fulfill its mission.

    If an orchestra produces outstanding music through 100 years of financial turmoil, well, that’s a rocky ride for everyone, but they •are• fulfilling their mission. If an orchestra makes lousy music for 100 years despite being financially stable, they’ve failed.

    Let’s not lose the forest fretting over one tree, though — this is encouraging, and I hope Negotiations Take 2 runs better than Take 1.

  4. Sarah

    Here’s something about Wells Fargo – hiding risk and other financial information again (where have we seen THAT occur?):

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/bank-trading-hidden_n_2403132.html?ref=topbar

    Maybe we should make the Minnesota Orchestra TOO BIG TO FAIL

  5. Say about fifteen, maybe even twenty years ago, the board was pursuing the purchase and development of a large real estate purchase in the suburbs. I recall Apple Valley and Fridley as possible locations. The sites were huge, upwards of 100 acres. The plan was to develop the property as an outdoor concert venue that could accomodate multitudes of people, numbers of forty or fifty thousand people wee bandied about. The project was at a point in the public mind where communitys in the burbs were objecting to the development because of noise pollution.

    The Minnesota Orchestra, as I recall, was always considered as a participant in these outdoor festivities, but the physical scope of the idea says that they were really thinking of rock bands as the major users of the site. The business rationale must have been that profits would be siphoned off to support the Minnesota Orchestra.

    What does it all mean? It doesn’t fit into the current MOA thinking. But as a history lesson in how the board came to remodel the lobby in the hope of supporting the orchestra by catering weddings, it’s something to think about.

  6. I completely agree with the comments about the “financial stability” clause in the mission statement. It does not belong there. I think it is part of a continued effort by management to perpetuate the myth at the core of the grand “vision for the future” —we must do a 180 in order to survive.

    It’s going to take an enormous effort on MOA’s part in order for me to believe anything that comes out of their mouths and truthfully,
    I don’t really think they are up for it. Meanwhile, I’ve been invited to a meeting with yours truly on the 16th and am considering the one question I most want to ask that incredulous cur.

  7. Terry

    Keeping the “financial stability” verbiage in the mission statement must provide cover to the board in some way that lawyers could probably address — have their actions (and loans from the endowment, possibly?) been acceptable because it was done to provide financial stability to the organization? That is part of their mission, after all … and still is.

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