I haven’t checked in here for a while, and y’all are probably wondering why.
For what it’s worth, I haven’t been idle. I think I’ve written the equivalent of several novels in private messages with friends…dissecting the settlement, examining tea leaves, and coming to grips with a new era.
Lots of people have been taking a “what have we learned?” approach to the Minnesota meltdown. So I’ll zig when others zag and try out a “where are we going?” premise.
Without further ado, here are my best predictions of what happens next… Feel free to agree or disagree.
Taxpayers will finally get to see the renovation they paid $14 million for. There will be some bitterness about it, given what we’ve lost. Also, people will be very critical of the light fixtures in the lobby (…and if you aren’t, your taste in light fixtures is highly questionable). (wink wink) Others might like the aesthetics of the renovation, but then they’ll start noticing certain things… A bar taken out. Floors that are easily stained. Seats that weren’t reupholstered with the rest. Shoddily constructed signs. (For instance, there was one photo that made the Facebook rounds a while ago in which a letter in the Box Office sign had already fallen down, only a few weeks after renovations had ended.) One wonders if the auditorium escaped unscathed. Questions might start to arise about the quality of the renovations…and that could quickly turn into a Pandora’s Box.
I really hope I’m wrong on this point, but we’ll see.
It will be well attended. The desperate edge to the audience’s energy will slowly diminish over the months, but the motivating drive will remain. We will not soon forget what was taken from us. The energy of Minnesota Orchestra concerts will be totally unique, and visitors will remark upon it. And I think that energy might unnerve Michael Henson.
One thing that made me laugh recently was MOA board member and frolic and detour catchphrase originator Doug Kelley saying he wanted the energy of the musicians’ indie concerts to find its way into Orchestra Hall. Bwahahaha. I wonder, Mr. Kelley, why there was energy at the musicians’ concerts?? Hmm. It can’t have been because the community was furious at what the board was doing, because surely if that had been the case, Mr. Kelley would apologize for that, so… Why were we all so hepped up? Did the musicians slip us drugs???? I don’t remember.
Anyway. No worries, Mr. Kelley. There will be energy. Maybe not the kind of energy you want, though.
I’m guessing that some orchestras that might have tried Minnesota tactics will choose not to based on what happened here. However, I can also imagine other boards and CEOs doubling down on their nefarious plans, betting their musicians won’t be able to hold out for the length of time the Minnesotans did. A lot of this will probably depend on the economy and the performance of various endowments, and the political moods in various places around the country.
That being said…
American Audience Advocates
Are likely here to stay. Save Our Symphony Detroit showed that audience advocates can make a difference, and the folks at Save Our Symphony Minnesota proved it. What orchestra comes next? Will the activists in that city continue the trend?
I’m incredibly proud of what activists did in this situation. So proud.
They will play better than ever. They’ve been to hell and back – and they survived. Not only that, but they went to hell with their audiences…and their audiences brought them back. This experience will increase the depth of our music-making. I say “our” because this specific audience will be a vital part of the power of every future performance. The audience will have a real ownership in the music, even if we don’t play a single note.
Nonetheless, some people will leave for good. (Happily, at least one or two will come back. Maybe more. I can’t wait to cry with happiness as I welcome each one home – where they belong. Because I am goddamned sick and tired of crying over my losses. Sick and f’ing tired of it.) I’m guessing the musicians who do leave will always feel a little bit of loneliness in their new jobs, because they survived something unique in American music history, and people who didn’t survive the meltdown with them will never understand an important part of what makes them, them…? But they will contribute to their new communities, and we will all wish them well. Of course.
This is probably a controversial opinion, but I believe that thanks to the terms of the final settlement, Minnesota will remain an attractive destination for talented musicians. If prospective musicians have concerns about the organization’s internal culture (and they should; if they don’t have concerns, their naïvety will serve them poorly in their careers), there is also undeniable evidence of a hugely supportive musician family and a massively committed audience, and those two things have got to be appealing on a certain level. I’ll go one step further: depending on what all goes down in the next few months, Minneapolis may become one of the most interesting places in the world to have an orchestral career. Maybe. (At the very least, it might be a pretty nice place to stay while you audition elsewhere…)
The newcomers will probably tire of hearing stories about The Lockout, and be confused when we talk about stuff like frolic and detouring and $200,000 and tap-dancing munchkins. You had to be there.
Next Negotiation Cycle
Oh, God, do we really have to go there? I don’t want to go there. I’m still tired.
But let’s hope for a repeat of what just happened in Detroit: a contract settled eight months early…with wage increases.
Osmo will be back if the board wants him…and is willing to kick out Henson. Question is: will they? It would be a wise business move, but then again, the board has never been very good at recognizing wise business moves.
I do feel like if they’re hoping on attracting any semi-famous music director, they’ll have to get rid of Henson first. (Unless there’s a large pool of conductors out there who would want to work for Michael Henson…) (…)
Regardless of what happens, Osmo’s musical legacy will remain with the Minnesota Orchestra for years to come. It’s become part of the orchestra’s DNA. And that’s a great gift.
He has lost power. It remains to be seen how much…but he has lost power, along with a crap-ton of credibility. My gut instinct is that he’s a lame duck. Or as Robert Levine suggested, toast in a toaster. (Have you noticed that Henson hasn’t really spoken in the press at all on behalf of the MOA? It’s almost like he’s been asked not to talk. What’s up with that? Is the MOA nervous to have their own CEO speak on their behalf, even after a settlement has been reached? If they are…well, that says a lot. If people just aren’t seeking out his opinion, well, that says something, too.) He may still try to pull his old tricks, but…When your orchestra CEO can’t stand up in front of audiences for fear of being booed off the stage, you might have a problem. Hopefully the MOA knows that people like me, Scott Chamberlain, and Save Our Symphony will be on Henson’s case if he tries the kind of stuff he tried eighteen months ago. He simply can’t get away with what he used to without a well-organized and well-publicized backlash. If he doesn’t understand that yet, he will soon enough. Promise.
If he wants to make a fresh start (or is forced to make a fresh start), I believe he’ll be able to massage his resume to make himself attractive to some organization somewhere. He did oversee a $50 million lobby renovation, a recovery in the value of the endowment, and a 15% reduction in musician pay, after all… Let the rewriting of history commence.
They’ll go back to whatever the crap they do whenever they’re not destroying orchestras by cutting them to death. I hear there’s a governor’s race coming up. That might be a fun, rewarding extracurricular activity for them to devote themselves to!
Remaining Board Members
They will have to figure out what exactly the crap just happened. I have to believe board members have a bit of whiplash. How to reconcile what they were seeking with what they ultimately got? I don’t know, and I’m glad I don’t have to be a part of that debate. The cognitive dissonance there would give the Second Viennese School a run for its money.
The person who is nominated for board chair, and the behavior of that person in the coming months, will tell us a lot.
Young Musicians of Minnesota
YMM will continue, and continue to be amazing. Emily Green will go on to do important things…that never could have happened without the lockout and the havoc it wreaked. That will be one of the lasting paradoxes of the lockout: hugely great things have come directly out of the destruction, and will continue to come directly out of the destruction. Even if we’re too close to the situation to see those things now.
SOTL’s views will likely trend downward. Scandals like Domaingate and Bonusgate will be things of the past (…um, I think?). I have a hard time imagining that the hard slog of rebuilding will be as dramatic or compelling as the work of railing against an unjust labor dispute built on the ugly foundation of public deception. I mean, I’ll still be here, obviously; and people will still be reading me; I just don’t think I’ll be read as widely. Soon I’ll go back to reading and writing about the history of women in music, then I’ll remember that nobody actually gives a crap about the history of women in music. I’ll start to miss the feedback, so I’ll try to find a balance (balance? what’s that?), and I’ll either return to fiction after a long absence, or I’ll write a book about the lockout, which will be published by a small regional press. If I ever get to New York City, I’ll get an autograph and a picture with Alex Ross. And then ——- I don’t know.
Oh, it will happen. You know it will. It’s only a matter of time. *wink* Leave your casting suggestions in the comments!
So there you have it: my completely unscientific predictions on what happens from here. I may be intuitive, but I’m no psychic. So who knows, really. Nobody does. Nobody.
What are your predictions for the future? If they’re positive predictions, what do we have to do to realize your vision? If they’re negative predictions, what do we have to do to avoid those outcomes?
And how will you make a personal commitment to make the positive visions a reality? For some reason…(God only knows exactly why)…we’ve stuck with the orchestra this long. Are you ready to keep working for it? I hope so.