The MOA Discusses Financial Review

Some of you have asked what I know about the upcoming audit, financial review, fundraising feasibility review, etc., etc., etc. Truth is, I know nothing more than what appeared in this WCCO article…and now, an email from the MOA that a friend forwarded to me. She always passes MOA emails along because I still never get them (or letters, or phone calls), despite the fact my family’s account with the MOA is still active and all our contact info is complete and up-to-date. But whatever. Here’s the note, with some of my interjections:

Dear [Patron],

Next week will mark one full year since the Minnesota Orchestra and the Musicians’ Union began contract negotiations. Our Board put forward a contract proposal (pdf) on the first day of negotiations—in order to allow time for active debate—and 12 months later we have yet to receive a counter from the musicians. This is an unprecedented action by the Musicians’ Union. Across the nation, musicians at other orchestras have respectfully submitted counterproposals to their boards, even in challenging situations where they have been asked for significant concessions.

Editor’s Note: According to industry expert Drew McManus, a counterproposal isn’t a prerequisite for negotiations.

Also, another note: assuming you want this to end, remember you’ll eventually have to market your orchestra, which (interestingly!) largely consists of musicians. Publicly demonizing them is like shooting yourself in the foot before you head off on a hike. Remember, as completely nauseating as the idea is, absent a dramatic coup, y’all are going to have to work together again…

Our volunteer Board members will continue to do everything possible to remove any barrier the musicians say is standing in the way of them making a serious counterproposal that helps to address our Orchestra’s $6 million operating deficit.

Editor’s Note: The musicians requested financial analysis in September. A representative for management called it a frolic and detour five weeks before they agreed to it.

Here are the actions we have taken:

Joint Independent Financial Review
The Board has been eager to move forward with a joint independent financial review since we agreed to this course in January.

After thorough and detailed conversations with the Union, we have come to an agreement on two financial consultants to lead the review.

The Board has suggested parameters for the review to the Union and we are currently awaiting their response. We’ve suggested that the review should:

Be jointly funded by the Orchestra and the Union;
Test the accuracy of the Orchestra’s Fiscal 2012 financial position (which the musicians doubt);
Test the forward-looking financial assumptions upon which our strategic plan for 2012-15 is based.
Once agreement from the Union is in place around terms, we will launch the review immediately.

Editor’s Note: It would be nice if the actual Strategic Plan could be tested and reviewed, too, since we’re testing and reviewing things, but maybe that’s too much to hope for.

Editor’s Second Note: Remember, the 2012-2015 Strategic Plan is already fatally flawed because we’re already a third through that time-frame, and none of the stated goals for the 2012-13 season have been accomplished.

Legislative Audit

The State’s Legislative Auditor has also agreed to do a special audit in order to examine the public funds received by the Minnesota Orchestra for our annual operations and for the Orchestra Hall renovation project.

Editor’s Note: Um, yeah, because almost half the legislature asked him to. Minor detail, though. Easy to overlook.

We are eager to work with the Legislative Auditor on this review and have every expectation that the end result will confirm that the Minnesota Orchestra is a careful and diligent steward of public funds.

Editor’s Note: Several legislators have already indicated the way that the MOA treats its employees will affect the way they vote about allocating funds to the MOA in future...thereby kinda insinuating that legislators don’t believe the Minnesota Orchestra was a careful or diligent steward of public funds…

Fundraising Feasibility Review to Proceed
We are pleased to note that the Orchestral Association will immediately begin a separate fundraising feasibility study conducted by a Minneapolis-based firm with an international reputation, Bentz Whaley Flessner, in order to accurately gauge any levels of new funding that may now be available in the community to support the musicians’ salaries and benefits. Although we believe that our fundraising professionals have a good sense of the realistic fundraising capacity of our community and we have already accurately reflected this in our strategic plan,

Editor’s Theoretical Existential Question: If a tree falls in the forest, will anyone hear it? Also, how could realistic fundraising capacity be judged when no one was told 30-50% cuts were imminent? hmm

we are willing to test whether or not new, sustainable fundraising opportunities now exist. As part of the study, Bentz Whaley Flessner will contact many Minnesota Orchestra subscribers and donors. We encourage you to participate in the e-mail questionnaire as your feedback will be enormously valuable. Please watch for this email in the weeks ahead.

Editor’s Raging Note of Frustration: MY FEEDBACK WILL BE ENORMOUSLY VALUABLE TO YOU???11!!?!?


Whatever. Readers, let me know when you guys get this email, because I’m curious what it looks like. I’m guessing I won’t get one. But I’ll let you know.

Negotiating a Sustainable Settlement

As we engage in this multitude of financial and fundraising reviews to further eliminate obstacles preventing a financial counterproposal from our musicians, our goal remains the same. We aim to come to a common understanding with the musicians over the significant financial challenges facing the Minnesota Orchestra, so that we can negotiate a sustainable settlement that protects the Minnesota Orchestra for the future. We hope to do this as expediently as possible in order to prevent further concert cancellations.

Editor’s Note: Cool! If you really want to prevent further concert cancellations, you should be really excited to hear about the grassroots citizen-led play and talk petition! Woohoo!

We thank you for your patience, and we promise to keep you advised on our various financial reviews as they proceed.

Editor’s Note: It’s sweet of you to thank me for patience I’ve never displayed.


Editor’s Note: You flatter me.

Jon R. Campbell
Minnesota Orchestra Board Chair

Michael Henson
Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO


Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

15 responses to “The MOA Discusses Financial Review

  1. Nils Halker

    The sound of teeth being gritted…..

  2. Pingback: – The Orchestra Musician Forum – News from the North

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

    Fire both management teams and start anew. The do not know anything
    about music and how Orchestras work-FIRE THEM ALL NOW!!!!!!

  4. How do you offer a counter proposal to a pile of bull shit? Get this straight, MOA. pretty much everyone knows that part of the plan was to put forth such an outrageous proposal that the musicians could not possibly take it seriously.

  5. Bill Slobotski

    I would like to know how the board feels, knowing that the musicians wanted this review 6 months ago but the MOA only agreed to it now. Surely there has to be some members on the board who are pissed at the management.

  6. Nils

    Although I cancelled my financial contributions to MOA, I am still a season ticket holder — I did not receive this communication from Henson & Campbell. Maybe because I sent letters to both of them demanding their resignations? I bet I won’t be part of Bentz-Whaley-Flessner survey, either.

    • Amy Adams

      I’m gusesing you’re correct, Nils. They are probably combing through the mailing list, looking for recurring “angry patrons”…so management can survey a group free from the contamination of outraged opinion.

      • Sarah

        Well then – if a lot of “angry patrons” do not receive this email, then, when the “results” are made public, and they are skewed towards mgmt, that needs to be also made public. It’s like the SPCO sending out little email surveys after each concert, and then saying that they don’t hear that people don’t like their programming – well, those who don’t like it aren’t going to attend those concerts, are they?

        • Yeah, this is a potential problem. Something to keep an eye out for, I guess. My followers are pretty much all anti-management, so…. We’ll see. Keep me updated, dear readers.

          The feedback loop is so fatally flawed. We’re all pretty much in our own little echo chambers. Sigh.

          • Michael

            Like some of your other readers, I did not receive this letter despite being a subscriber this season. I received prior notifications regarding cancellations, and I was surprised not to get this one. Like your other readers, I expressed my disappointment with the current approach taken by the MOA, though I made it clear that I would donate if they changed course. It is too early to know if I will be contacted by the firm evaluating fundraising potential, but if I am not, I will call the firm myself.

  7. Ray Weaver

    You do all musicians a great service! Love your humor too….angry humor, but effective.

  8. Kay Hatlestad

    I agree with the earlier posters. When I’m called, I respond that I’m not going to talk about donating until the board talks to musicians. Makes for a short phone call. The WCCO article was relayed to me. It wasn’t until tonight that I had time to realize what day it was published – April 1st.

  9. Amy Adams

    MOA: “See, angry patrons? This is why we don’t ASK for feedback. It’s why we have no place on our website for interaction. It’s why we must work SO HARD to interpret correctly what you say, even improve it, angry patrons. We are gratified by this debate about how we can heighten artistry in a sustainable way.”

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