New Year’s Notes

It’s New Year’s Eve, so it’s time for some sentimental naval gazing.

Well. 2013. You wanted soul-crushing disappointment? You wanted dizzying ecstasy? You wanted proof that arts activism is alive and well? (You wanted proof that orchestral music is alive and well?) You wanted proof that improbable, impossible things are, in fact, quite possible? Then 2013 was the year for you.

Here were the year’s most popular SOTL stories in reverse order…

5. Summary of Recent Negotiations at American Orchestras, 11 June. This blandly titled entry, in which I (drumroll, please) summarized recent negotiations at American orchestras, proved to be surprisingly popular. Note to self: an updated version would be helpful, as a few of these orchestras settled contracts since I published…

4. 17 Tips on Marketing Orchestras to Millennials, 8 October. Short version: hashtags and an Instagram account won’t cut it. Maybe in the new year I can flesh out some more of these theories. We’ll see.

(May I take a moment to say that I’m relieved that two of my five most popular entries this year had little to do with the Minnesota Orchestra implosion? I’ve been privately wangsting over the subject, but maybe SOTL will still have something to offer the field post-Apocalypse, after all.)

3. Review: Minnesota Orchestra Musicians, Bruckner and Mozart, 30 April. An account of a hugely powerful communal experience, full of joy and fury. And as Forrest Gump would say: That’s all I got to say about that.

2. Michael Henson’s Massive Bonuses, 12 October. In which Michael Henson rightly became the laughingstock of an entire industry.

Do I even need to mention the most popular story?

1. How Was Named, 21 August. Alias: DOMAINGATE. (Apparently I am compelled to capitalize, bold, and italicize this word every time I type it.) I think it’s safe to say nobody saw this coming. DOMAINGATE speaks less to my ability than the MOA’s ineptitude – but it speaks nonetheless.


Stats this year were incredible and overwhelming. Readers came from 150 countries. Traffic was up by roughly 221% from last year. (My inner Holmesian approves.) Pretty impressive for no advertising and no backing from the mainstream media. Facebook drove a huge percentage of the traffic.

I am more convinced than ever that if the right people find the right roles in the right communities, social media will continue to influence orchestral music in ways nobody can see coming.


As for personal favorites….

I think my best written review was actually my least popular, and that was Stan’s Brahms.

My favorite essay was the one a lot of people were appalled by: Having It. Despite the entry being potentially problematic, it’s hard evidence that I tell the truth about subjective experiences, and although I might fret and dither about it, I will ultimately be honest with you about controversial opinions.

Favorite Concert: Oh, God. Wow. It’s literally impossible to choose. Don’t make me. All the parties around the Grammy concert in February were fabulous, though. Let’s have more of those in the new year.

Favorite Blog: Scott Chamberlain’s. If I’ve not analyzed as much MOA BS in the past few months, it’s almost always because Scott has written a full entry before I can write a topic sentence, and once Scott covers a topic, what has to be said is invariably said.

Favorite Story That Came Completely Out of Left Field: Chair of the MOA’s negotiating team Richard Davis saying he was paid $28k as a tap-dancing child to be a munchkin in a two-week production of The Wizard of Oz. Good times. (No wonder the arts are unsustainable…)

Speaking of which…

Favorite Research Job: Definitely exploring the links between Richard Davis, Jon Campbell, the Minnesota Republican party, and the hall renovation. Nobody else dug that far, even though there’s quite a juicy story there. For a few days after that, I actually felt like I was a real reporter.

Favorite Comment From Michael Henson: “Henson had no comment.” – NPR, post-Domaingate, 22 August.

Favorite Inspirations: Young Musicians of Minnesota. Enough said.

Favorite Reaction GIF…


This is from the show Community (which I don’t actually watch) and I have zero idea what the context of the GIF is, but I love it, because it just totally sums up the reaction to Domaingate.

(By the way, I’m starting to save happy reaction GIFs to use when I get good news in 2014. So you’d better live up to the tone of my GIF folder, 2014.)

You'd better give me an opportunity to use this reaction GIF without irony in 2014, okay, universe?

You’d better give me an opportunity to use this reaction GIF without irony in 2014, okay, universe?


In short, I’m satisfied. Lots of great things were accomplished in the face of great adversity, and it was a bizarrely fulfilling year. I’m super proud of what we’ve done together. Even in the middle of the apocalypse, there is so much to celebrate.

So. Champagne toasts all around. Here’s to new beginnings and new year’s resolutions…and hopefully resolutions of more than one kind. Let’s see what impossible events we can muster up for 2014…

Thank you for being my readers. Thank you.


And just in case you missed it, here’s the completed 2013 SOTL Advent calendar.



Filed under Blog Stuff

12 responses to “New Year’s Notes

  1. I can’t thank you enough for all your dedicated hard work in keeping us informed about the details of the Musicians and the “saga” this past year. Since we’re not getting any substantial coverage anywhere else, I count on you to keep me updated. THANK YOU! May the New Year bring in a solution worthy of these fine musicians, Maestro Vanska and all the volunteers who have given us beautiful, elegant music despite the management’s dismissive manner. Forward, onward and upward! Happy New Year!!

  2. John Sorensen

    I love your writing. And I certainly appreciate your mission.

    A question: naval gazing, as in watching the ships go down to sea


    navel gazing, as in staring at this dent on my tummy or that orange


    perhaps both!

    Suggested in friendship ——–


    John Sorensen Rowhouses Duluth 218 727-2525

    I’m enthusiastic about:

    Holy Cow! Press Destination Duluth Sacred Heart Music Center Duluth Rowing Club Lake Superior Marine Museum Assn Northern Lakes Archaeological Assn UMD Geology Gloria Dei, UU, Peace Hawk Ridge Raptor Center

  3. dugsdale

    Hi Emily!
    This New Year’s Eve I’m posting a sincere Thank You to you, for your posts this year. I ran across SOTL several months ago as a side benefit to looking into the horror stories surrounding the MSO lockout; your blog quickly became not only my primary source on the MSO but a valued and eye-opening education on orchestral finances in general. As a woodwind player, I participate in a couple of what I affectionately call “woodwind-nerd” bulletin boards, and because of your research I was able to combat a number of misapprehensions (which have taken on the heft of stone-cold certainty) on those boards about the MSO and about the state of classical orchestras in general (one truism being ‘everyone knows’ symphony orchestras are doomed, doomed I tell you; and another, that musicians who are paid what they’re worth should be prepared to take cuts anyway, because ‘symphonies are doomed, doomed etc.’). Board performance is NEVER scrutinized in these discussions, and but not for you, I wouldn’t have known any better.

    So I hope you’re off somewhere festive and celebratory tonight (even if only in your own mind), and I’ll be lifting a glass of figurative champagne to you and your work this year, for gleefully and lethally skewering people who should only have the common decency to STAY skewered so we all can move on.

    Cheers, Emily!

  4. What a wild ride you had in 2013! Who knew that the statement “blogs are senseless and must be ignored” would bite that speaker in the butt repeatedly? Thanks for your research, your humor and your honesty. You truly have a way with words. Here’s to a resolution of sorts (of the lockout) in 2014. May your readership continue to grow.

  5. Barbara Hodges

    Thanks, Emily! I look forward to your continuing SOTL postings in 2014!
    You’re a bright light shining into the dark corners of this debacle!

  6. Kevin Kooiker

    Happy New Year, Emily! I certainly hope we get better news in 2014!

  7. Michael

    I am more convinced than ever that if the right people find the right roles in the right communities, social media will continue to influence orchestral music in ways nobody can see coming. —-

    I dunno. I don’t know the abilities of social media all that well but I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to see to abilities of individuals to do great things so I think I can see at least one thing coming….it begins with the very simple question. A question everyone gets the opportunity to answer in their own way.

    What can an orchestra become without the board backing of incompetent leadership and disasterous mismanagement of Mr. Henson leading it to an inevitable demise?

    I think I know the answer to that and in my mind, I can see incredible things happening this year.

    Good luck and prosperity to all this year. You included Lark! ;)

  8. ssarich

    Emily, love your blog.

    As you are a Brahms lover, I thought I’d call to your attention a just fabulous recording on U-Tube, conducted by Skrowaczewski, played by hr sinfonie/Frankfurt Radio Symphony. It’s just incredible. (I know our orchestra is fabulous, but these guys are too.) This was done about six months ago. The book about this conductor/composer, “Seeking the Infinite,” is also very interesting, going through his history of occupied Poland, his composing and conducting of orchestras through the years.

    Regards, Stephanie Sarich

  9. Jan

    I can’t thank you enough, Emily, for your game changing work since this tragedy began. You write so eloquently what many of us feel so deeply. You turn over every rock when the rest of us can’t find the time or don’t know where to begin. Because of you, I have hope that our community’s painful experience may ultimately make our orchestra stronger and better and may save the future of many orchestras across the country. Once this is satisfactorily settled and the MN Orch is back in their rightful home, I think it would be most fitting that the new lobby be named the Emily Hogstad Lobby. Happy New Year, Emily!

  10. Emily, now that the lockout is over, they need to get you on the payroll as soon as possible. Your style, wit and insights should be welcome assets.

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