The Minnesota Orchestra Thinks You’re All Idiots

The leaders of the Minnesota Orchestra think that you’re the stupidest audience in the United States. Maybe even in the world. Maybe even in the known universe. There’s no other way to explain what’s on the front of their webpage right now.

Is it true you are asking musicians to accept 1983-level salaries?

That is not the case. In 1983, Minnesota Orchestra musicians earned $33,000 a year, and health care and pension costs were more modest, manageable expenses.

Today, we are offering an average annual salary of $89,000 per musician in addition to a benefit package that is far more generous than that of the average professional, totaling $30,000.

I don’t comb the Minnesota Orchestra website every day anymore, so I’m not positive when this was put up, but I’m guessing it came about after violist Sam Bergman’s impassioned speech at the Bruckner/Mozart concert, and the musicians’ full-page ad last weekend in the Strib.

The bankers (may I repeat, the BANKERS) (the ~FINANCIERS~, if you will) in charge at the Minnesota Orchestra might be interested to know that there’s a thing called “inflation.” It even has a Wikipedia page, so you know it’s real.


Inflation. Turns out, it checks out.

Of course inflation is a relatively new discovery, so I’m not sure if the heads of Wells Fargo or US Bancorp have learned about it yet. But independent sources have confirmed to me that it does indeed exist. Even more shockingly, there are now newfangled calculators on the tubes of the Internet that allow the peasant patrons of the Minnesota Orchestra to effortlessly run complicated equations on the subject.

Jon Campbell and Richard Davis: "WHAT IS THIS WITCHERY?"

Jon Campbell and Richard Davis: “INFLATION? WHAT IS THIS WITCHERY? WHY, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING WE EVER KNEW ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL MARKETS!” (Also, yeah, I haven’t gotten around to uninstalling Windows Messenger. Sue me.)

As you can see above, according to, something that cost $33,000 in 1983 would cost $77,123.58 in 2013. The Minnesota Orchestra’s proposed base salary is $78,000. As my luthier always says, CLOSE ENOUGH FOR JAZZ.

And you know what? Sam even mentioned the i-word in his fricking speech!

Under their plan, the base salary of a Minnesota Orchestra musician would plummet, overnight, to a figure that, adjusted for inflation, equates to what our predecessors were making in 1983.

Since Sam is a terrible awful no-good communicator who loves crafting complicated indecipherable sentence structures impossible for anyone to understand or parse, let me break that down into more easily digestible terms for ya.

  • a figure that, adjusted for inflation
  • a figure that, ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION
  • a figure that, ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION

Hey, MOA! You want to bring salaries down to 1983 levels? Then grow a pair and own it.

In the meantime, the board clearly thinks we audience members have the intellectual capacity of a box of rocks. So kudos, Minnesota Orchestra audiences. Michael Henson, Jon Campbell, and Richard Davis would like to grant you the highly coveted “Most Idiotic Audience In The Known Universe” award. Where do you want to display yours? I’m putting mine on the shelf above my toilet. It’ll go very well with something else that is regularly found in that room.




Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra

15 responses to “The Minnesota Orchestra Thinks You’re All Idiots

  1. What’s even more stupid is that they are paying lots of money for ads and other PR that say these idiotic things.

    • Lots and lots. $50k a year for three years for their PR outfit, and God only knows how many thousands for a full-page ad in the Strib today. I read about a musician’s family member who read the paper today AND DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE IT WAS THERE UNTIL SOMEONE ELSE TOLD HER ABOUT IT. When your ad doesn’t even catch the attention of a musician’s family member… That money might as well as have been inserted into the last image of this blog entry.

      • Anon

        And how many thousands do you think the musicians spent on their full page SUNDAY ad?

        • Way more, undoubtedly! But I understand why they did what they did. Rightly or wrongly, they were working toward a specific goal (to make the public feel more involved by asking them to call Mr. Campbell and Mr. Davis). And they achieved that goal. (We could have a discussion of whether it was worth the money, but they did achieve their goal.) On the other hand, I’m not sure what management was aiming to do with its ad. If you have any insights, please share.

          Also… Right now, if I’m understanding correctly, the money the musicians are using for PR comes from A) the musicians themselves, and B) patrons who have specifically donated to the musicians during the lockout. Whereas the money the MOA is using for PR is not necessarily specifically donated for the purposes of PR. (Although if the MOA would like to clarify, I’d be delighted to hear about it.) I think this is an important distinction. I feel especially invested in this because my readers have been blatantly lied to by the MOA on the phone: people telling them the orchestra will cease to exist in six months if they don’t donate, people telling them the money goes to support musicians (not right now it doesn’t!), people telling them concerts will no doubt resume soon, etc., etc., etc. So I imagine uninformed people who don’t necessarily support the lockout have donated, when really that money isn’t going to the production of music; it’s going to full page Strib ads or web design meant to shame musicians…or a salary for Mr. Henson. But like I said, if the MOA wants to clarify on that point, they should feel free.

          But am I an impartial observer? Heck, no, and I’ve never claimed to be.

          The fact it’s come to this – management and musicians both feeling they have to spend tens of thousands to communicate with their public, instead of being able to work together with mutual respect to use that money to present concerts – is tragic. Incredibly, incredibly tragic. I don’t think you’ll find anyone to disagree with that. At least I hope not.

        • Anonymous

          The musicians spent $30,000 for their full page Sunday ad. Personally I think the Star Tribune should have just given them the space, because if this doesn’t get fixed what are they going to write about in their culture section?!

  2. Sarah

    This is like shooting fish in a barrel, right? Too easy, and much too fun! How about this for another comparison – CEO salaries over time?

    Here’s a good one for you, with statistics from the American Policy Institute:

    In 1978, CEOs took home 26.5 times more than the average worker. They now make roughly 206 times more than workers, EPI found. The pay isn’t always tied to the performance of their businesses — as ThinkProgress has noted, CEOs at companies like Bank of America often pocket huge pay increases even as the company’s stock price plummets and jobs are cut.
    Workers’ wages aren’t tied to productivity either. Despite substantial gains in productivity since the 1970s, worker pay has remained flat. According to Labor Department data cited by the Huffington Post, inflation-adjusted wages fell 2 percent in 2011.

  3. Sarah

    BTW, what exactly is an “average professional” as referenced on the MOA website?

  4. here’s a fun challenge. Try to sing Emily’s second sentence to the tune of We’re off to see the Wizard! maybe add some more lyrics

  5. Kim Munholland

    The “average professional” is “with a Ph.D. Where do we find Ph.D’s employed. The answer is in several places. Some work for high tech companies, some are lawyers, but what I suspect these board members had in mind was the University of Minnesota. I can attest as an employee of the U of Mn, now retired but still with a Ph.D. (in history) that the “facts” presented in this MOA ad are not how it works at the U of Mn. There are several terms. Some Ph.D.s are paid on a twelve month basis; most in liberal arts are paid for nine months of teaching, but are all expected to do research, serve on University committees and engage in community service. Those on a nine month contract are able to have the pay spread over twelve months, but this often means need for extra teaching in summer schools or evening classes (recently taken away). There is no paid vacation. The university’s retirement contribution was 13% until the end of 2012 when it was reduced to 10%. The health benefits were based upon employee and her/his dependents, probably more than the $11,000 average cited. As for the “average” salary, the $84,000 figure may be correct for Liberal Arts, but is wildly understated for the Medical and Law schools as well as for the administrators, most of whom have Ph.Ds. In any event, the MOA does not give sources for its claims, expecting that the ignorant public (the “idiiots”) will swallow, once again, false, mistaken and often misleading “facts” in the same way Mr. Henson provided factual, unbiased information to the legislature to get his $14 million. And so it goes. One cannot trust any of the numbers, data or statistics provided by the MOA, at least when it comes to “professionals with Ph.Ds,” to say nothing of the non existent data on how they invested the endowment funds. Where is the money? Since President Kaler is an “honorary” member of the Board, they might have asked him for information about the U of Mn, if those are the professional Ph.Ds they had in mind. But then, so are mayors Rybeck and Coleman “honorary” members of the Board. At least the Board of the SPCO paid attention to Coleman. We all know how Rybeck was not heard by this tone deaf MOA executive committee, who seem to think that the “community” of ordinary Minnesotans can’t afford a first-rate orchestra. Thankfully, we have a sensible proposal how to call upon the people of Minnesota to rally behind the orchestra. We should all get behind Mr. Lee Henderson’s proposal.

  6. Jon Eisenberg

    Good rebuttal to another absurd statement by MNO management. Now let’s take it to the next level. Does anyone know where we can find the total executive compensation (salary, benefits, stock options, performance incentives, etc.) for 1983 for the CEOs of U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo (or perhaps its MN predecessor before acquisition, Norwest Bank)? I’m sure if we compared those to today, and put them on a graph against the musicians’ salaries – especially the proposed salaries – the differences would be staggering. For example, look at Figure A2 on p. 65 of this:

  7. ……….just when you think that the kool-aid must have run out…………

  8. This whole thing is so exhausting. It seems like it’s getting even more absurd than Louisville, and that sh*t was CRAZY. San Francisco had vitriol going for it, but I think Minnesota may be in the running for *bitterest orchestral strike in the 21st century*. Congratulations, administration! You did that!

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