Fork in the Road

We’ve been on a bumpy road together for twelve months. And as expected, we’ve finally reached a fork.

The path to the left says that a worthwhile symphony orchestra can never be rebuilt here…or even if it can, it will take so long that it’s not worth trying. It says the great Minnesota Orchestra, the Minneapolis Symphony, is dead, so mourn it and move on. Go to New York or Boston or Chicago for great live symphonic music, or don’t see great live symphonic music at all. Requiescat in pace. Cue the apocalyptic silence after La Valse.

The path to the right says this is going to be a hard slog, but, despite any teary exhaustion, the story isn’t over yet. There are still great musicians performing in Minnesota this autumn, and those performances might contain the seed of a new way of doing things, if we work hard and are very lucky. It would be a waste to give up now, so let’s get to work trying to rebuild what we can on our own. Cue the final movement of Shostakovich 5.

There is something to be said for both paths. Each of us will have to make a decision which one we want to follow.

I’m guessing more musicians will want to take the left path than the right path. And I don’t blame them one whit. Many patrons and donors will follow them. I don’t blame them, either.

But you know the path I’m taking (for now, at least). At this point, I’ve invested too much to stop. Plus, unlike the musicians who find work elsewhere, I don’t gain anything by stopping. If anything, I stand to gain more by seeing this thing through to…wherever it goes. At least for the foreseeable future, moving from the Midwest isn’t an option, nor is staging a coup within the MOA offices. And I can’t really give up on the idea of live orchestral music because I’m an addict, and addicts do what they can to get their fix. So I’m stuck with the slog of rebuilding. There are worse fates.

To all my readers headed down the path to the left (including a certain beloved Finnish maestro): give me a hug before you go. I understand your decision completely. It’s been an honor and a privilege to travel together: thank you for your company. I’ve learned so much, and I’m a better writer and musician and maybe even person because of it. I’ll try my best to keep you posted and do you proud. I just wish my best was more! Don’t be a stranger.

And to all my readers headed down the path to the right: I’ll see you this autumn in Minneapolis. As you cry – and I imagine there will be more than a few people who will be crying themselves to sleep tonight; I fully expect to be one of them – do yourself a favor and remember that you are not alone. It is too easy to feel alone. You are not. When just two or three people gather in the name of music, there is something sacred at play. And we will have a lot more than two or three people gathering.


The lockout will likely no longer be the sole topic of conversation here. I’ll still cover it – no, duh – and I’ll cover it as extensively as I possibly can. But there are way more fulfilling things to blog about than Michael Henson’s stupidity…like the history of women in classical music, my part-time performing career (which has gone increasingly dormant this year), or (and I’m just throwing this out there) the gripping work of a musician-led orchestra in the Twin Cities. I hope that even if some of the entries bore you that you’ll be patient and stick around for the other stuff that doesn’t. Or maybe eventually I’ll keep two blogs, one for current orchestral events a la Adaptistration and one for research on dead women violinists and my rambly musings on the violin and viola. Because I don’t think the two audiences overlap much. Not sure. But anyway, as always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!


Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra

23 responses to “Fork in the Road

  1. Amy

    Love, from the bottom of my heart.

  2. Sarah

    First time I think I vote to veer to the right!! Emily, what would YOU most like to do in terms of “gripping work” with this “musician-led orchestra”?

  3. Laura Roelofs

    Phenomenal post! Thank you for your passion and beautiful writing.

  4. Holly Fairchild

    Thank you, Emily! I do hope a musician-led orchestra is in everyone’s heart. I’m crying for what we’ve lost. Keep writing, whatever else!

  5. Clearly what is needed is a new organization in which the musicians control the Board.- as they do in London, Berlin, and Vienna (Philharmonics). According to Tony Ross at today’s rally, the musicians intend to stay together and to produce a whole season. We can help them do that. The important thing is to support the musicians in every way possible to keep morale – and hence, solidarity – up.

    As for the beloved Finnish maestro, I notice that the conductor for this weekend has not been announced. Wouldn’t it be something if…

  6. Alison

    Emily, your writing has given a voice to the heart and soul of classical music lovers of Minneapolis and, well, everywhere. You have also set the bar for investigative journalism.

    If you haven’t already started to do this, I think you should publish your blog writings in book form, proceeds to go to whatever orchestra the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra end up forming.

    I’ll be first in line to buy a copy.

  7. Bobby Daves

    Emily, thank you for all the work and passion and inspiration over the last year. See you on the right path.

  8. Lisa Renee Rags

    I agree 100% with Alison and I too would stand in line to buy a copy. You have been part of the “glue” that keeps us on the left together.

  9. I will try very hard to meet you on the right path. Right now, I want to blow something up. Of course I won’t, but I will pull my money out now. I will not stop talking about the importance of artistic integrity to my students. I will not stop telling the story of what kind of damage results from greed, arrogance, and ignorance. But I do sincerely hope I can find a way to join you on the right path.

  10. Tom Foley

    I’m with Bill Teska on this one. It’s not a matter of a left or a right turn to me. It’s straight ahead. I will continue to support the musicians of the fabled Minnesota Orchestra in any way I can. I will go to their concerts, and I will sing their praises every chance I get. I will go to other musical offerings in Minneapolis/St.Paul–and life goes on.

    But make no mistake–I will not forgive–I will not forgive until true remorse is shown, and restitution of damages is paid to the musicians and this city and state and region. And I will lurk in the shadows waiting for the opportunity to expose, to embarrass, and to humiliate the white collar felons that dismantled the Minnesota Orchestra.

  11. Ree

    it’s truly heartbreaking that Osmo Vänska has resigned. This weekend at our youth orchestra retreat, our conductor (a trumpet player of the MN orchestra) was talking about how special the relationship between Osmo and the orchestra was.

    For me? I believe in the passion and power of music, and I believe in believing. I believe in YMM (and GTCYS and MYS, the two major youth orchestras of minnesota) and the strength that many of us share, from kids to teenagers to adults, and that is something that management doesn’t have, and that they can never take away.

  12. GGSlade

    Emily, you have spoken truth to power so well and so long, I have to say that reading your words here—hell, even reading the title of this post—made me aware that we have crossed the orchestral Rubicon today. I am inspired by your dedication to the right fork, truly the RIGHT way to go for the believers. Like my darling Stephanie and her colleagues with decades of standing as players, it is the left fork that beckons, as their fundament has been eroded beyond repair, their tolerance stretched past recall.
    Thank you, Emily, for calling attention to and respecting the dialectical conundrum here. Wherever you go next, stay in touch.

  13. Thank you Emily for your spirited leadership, and for giving a voice to the frustrations we have all felt. I just took down my save the symphony yard sign. Sadly I was the only one in my neighborhood who had one up all year. Somebody else finally did put one up on the other street. But considering my neighborhood is definitely the kind of neighborhood you would think would support the symphony, and I was the only one who had one up. AND I’ve only lived there for one year. Everyone else has been there for thirty years, it makes you wonder what happened to the Twin Cities. I’ve so appreciated this blog because I have indeed felt very alone. Osmo Vanska and the Mn Orchestra was the main reason my husband and I moved here from NYC three years ago. We consider Seattle and Portland, but wanted the great music.

    • I’ll be in touch with you. The Save Our Symphony Minnesota people have been working their hind ends off, and we need all the dedicated volunteers we can get to do everything from having a presence at musicians’ concerts to planning rallies, fundraising events, strategy, etc. It’s been hugely empowering to work together – we’ve accomplished so much over the last few weeks!! – and I think you would really enjoy.being a part of making a difference. This offer goes for anyone else who has been following the blog and feels alone but is too shy to pipe up here. If you have time or money, get involved with us! Trust me, SOSMN will find fulfilling jobs for you to do, and the people in charge of it are smart, savvy, and so very very sweet. Contact them through their website.

  14. Keep the signs up people. The musicians of the MN Orchestra aren’t giving up, and neither should we. At the rally yesterday Tony Ross said they will play wherever they can play with the intention of ending up at Orchestra Hall at some point. This fight isn’t over. Management is trying to starve out the musicians, taking their lesson from the American Crystal Sugar 17-month lockout of its workers in the Red River Valley. To their credit, the musicians have stayed firm. Yesterday I saw musicians from both the SPCO and the MN Orchestra standing together in solidarity. I saw young students and senior citizens who have probably never held a picket sign in their lives stand together in solidarity. I will shed no tears because the fight is still on. I hope everyone posting here has your tickets for the weekend concerts at Ted Mann!

  15. I have an idea for a song cycle, or an Opera, to be called ‘Lock Out’. This might be written by all the musicians that want to participate. It would use all the fine words from the many web postings on this whole tragedy. The Opera, like Verdi’s, will have its villans and its heroes and its social comment. This whole affair may then be hard written into history so that future generations can know what we felt and what we did about it.

  16. Karin

    Thank you Emily….I will veer to the right for a big change in my life. I will definitely work to help these wonderful and brave musicians.

  17. Emily
    Thank you for your vigilance and diligence keeping is abreast of events in this deplorable situation. When we first moved to the TC;s ten years ago the first two things we did was to join a congregation and to become subscribers to the tow otchestras. We are heaartsick at this tragic turn of events. What we would like to see now is a clearinghouse location for events we need to be part of. Sit-ins, pipcketing rallies etc. If there is an event even this afternoon we will be there is we can. We just need to know where and when. We feel kind of out of the looop learning about things the day after they happpen,Also where we can send money in supportr of the effort. Jan and Id

  18. Steve

    There comes a time when a chief executive cannot do his or her job effectively without falling on his or her sword. Right or wrong, Michael Henson has now reached that point in his tenure in Minneapolis. He is too polarizing a figure now to be a part of any solution. Time to go.

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