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.
26 responses to “Minnesota Orchestra Predictions”
Emily, again, a thousand thanks for all your work and dedication. You personally made a difference that helped reclaim an entire orchestra from the philistines!
I vote for Anthony Heald, á la ‘Silence of the Lambs’ to play Henson in the miniseries.
I had a Dr Suess approach in mind – Henson would make a perfect Grinch that stole the orchestra!
Emily you made us smile; you made us cry; you kept us informed; especially by digging like a Swedish mystery detective, you enlightened us. What a treasure you were through it all. Thanks!!!!!!
Great post. I too, am interested in what the Board does about their elections or appointments. Because of their history, I am a bit pessimistic, but hope they may have learned something good. Your posts about the organizational chaos is spot on. One bad decision after another. I sincerely hope you have some good things to write about in the future.
I predict, and hope I am right and not just naive, that the MOA will recognize the extraordinary skill the musicians have in choosing music for concerts and naming the concerts in such a way that audiences just have to hear them. The musicians understand the audience far better than MOA staff.
I predict Henson will leave because his sick mother needs him.
Thank you Emily. I have appreciated all your efforts. I don’t know how the mechanics of such a huge, massive board work. But I hope they have the vision & discipline to vote themselves into a smaller, more focused board with musician & community representation.
I love your writing, Emily. I hope the MOA is smart enough to not send one of their group out on stage to welcome everyone back to Orchestra Hall at the February 7th concert.
I hope they do. The boos could be deafening in the new acoustics.
Yes, the toilet paper covered lights of the lobby! A reminder to us for years to come of the gilded paper that graced the shanks of Henson, Davis, and Campbell during their scorched earth attack on our wonderful orchestra.
Mads Mikkelsen for Henson if it ever comes to a TV series. I don’t think I could stomach watching it though.
My first prediction is a simple one, as long as Mr Henson is there, there still remains a huge problem everyone else will have to deal with. They will have to completely ignore him or find a way to work around/compensate for his future decision-making, and I don’t envy anyone who has to do that. Especially since it seems more than likely something like what follows, will be lost on the man.
But, having said that, and given the experiences that everyone has had, I will also predict a growth, well even moreso than already has done, in leadership abilities of those not wedded to Mr Henson’s particular way of doing things.
And that, that huge little thing, could just be the silver lining to all that’s happened.
I realize great art demands great heart and great heart requires either misery or love or both to find its loudest voice and truest pitch, and maybe I’ll be surprised by the future makeup of the musicians of the orchestra, but it won’t be the same without Osmo.
My final prediction is that Osmo will return. He simply can’t have been allowed to have Reichenbached it…..
Let’s get real. Henson will be around for a while. After all he is an administrator, though obviously not a visionary, but for the immediate future, administration is necessary. Davis and Campbell pulled the strings, and he responded. Despite his English accent, he suffered from foot in mouth problems, compounding his vision of the future. Hopefully, Osmo will come back, and Mr. Henson will fade away. I believe his orchestral administration days are numbered and he will have to return to the UK to learn a new trade. As for our resident music loving bankers, at least one of whom rarely showed up for a concert before the lockout, hopefully they will go away and have their employers send some new blood to the board and keep up their respective employer’s financial support.
Thanks much Emily for your prognostications and insight. I understand that the board feels the public really doesn´t care that much for OSMO and that they are personally feeling attacked by the public. They don’t seem to get it. Aside from writing to the MN ORCH BORED, I wonder if it would be helpful to have volunteers with clip boards in and outside the hall during concerts in the first two weeks, The open ended survey or petition could have two columns. Patrons could sign if they want Henson to go or stay and if they want Vanska to return. Any opinions about this effort? The musicians need to stay out of the fray on this one, but could SOS pick up on coordinating this for extra credibility? At the very least we should ask Mr. Henson to honor us with a question and answer session after the concert so he can show his face.
I like the clipboard idea at the opening concerts, but let’s keep things positive and focus strictly on re-hiring Osmo – don’t forget, the board and Henson are the ones who are going to make that decision, and they’re certainly not going to feel more inclined to hire Vanska if the idea is linked with the demand to fire Henson. Vanska’s going to have to work with these guys (if we’re so lucky as to get him back).
You asked for predictions and personal commitments. I predict a euphoric series of concerts in the short run while the musicians and the audiences reunite to celebrate the long witheld shared concert experience. However, in the long run there is a HUGE vision conflict still wating to be solved. That vision conflict is “money driven” vs. “mission driven.”
Mr. Henson holds a money driven position that looks to the bottom line as the prime directive. Musicians are not artists, but “chairs.” There are many musicians out there who would play. Quality of product isn’t that important. It isn’t efficient to pay for Osmo and renowned soloists. The great symphonic literature just isn’t that relevent anymore and the bottom line is better served with a more pops oriented programing emphasis. Every action MOA has taken over the last few years supports that money driven vision.
A mission driven vision takes the perspective that the symphony orchestra exists to play that great literature at the highest possible level because doing so is an essential part of our social fabric. Doing so allows our society to experience one of our greatest cultural acheivements. The musicians steadfastly held to this vision throughout horrendous conditions. They fought for the soul of the orchestra’s original mission, that of playing great music.
The next several months are crucial! Members of the MOA board need to be contacted by the public so they know that the public wants a mission focused organization. Yes, there are real financial issues. However, I feel that the public WILL step up to support a quality orchestra when asked correctly. I second the idea of George Jaquith for audience opinions at the first two “Homecoming” concerts. I will volunteer to be a clipboard holder at the two concerts for which I don’t have tickets.
Finally, what personal commitments can people make to the future of MO?
1) I have already made a small contribution to the guaranty fund as a gesture of support to both sides for the compromises made. The telemarketer was told in no uncertain terms, however, that NO further contributions would be made until Mr. Henson is gone. 2) I will make it a priority to attend as many MO concerts as I can. 3) I will volunteer time to any effort which shows intention to make the orchestra artistically strong, whether such an initiative comes from management, the musicians or the audience. 4) I have some ideas for progamming which would compliment the State Tour concept broached elsewhere which I would share with management or musicians if they have the time to listen.
Thanks to Nick VanDuzee for volunteering to take the open ended straw poll at the opening concerts. Unfortunatley, I will be in MEXICO, but I could help to write a short survey which asks but does not link the questions of Vanska coming and Henson leaving. They are still two separte issues, even though probably contingent if the Maestro Osmo chooses to return. Nick could you interest Orchestrate Excellence and or some friends to help you. The musicians spokesperson already told me that they need to avoid certain appearances.
This appeared in Sunday´s San Francisco newspaper which merits passing on:
The piece by JOSHUA KOSMAN,distinguished critic and author.
Call him Ishmael.
Like the lone survivor of the Pequot in Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” Osmo
Vänskä will wash up on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall this week, a
refugee from the massive display of arrogance and blind hubris that
until last week was coming perilously close to destroying the
Minnesota Orchestra. The musicians and patrons of the San Francisco
Symphony should give him a warm welcome.
Vänskä, the superb Finnish conductor whose 10-year stretch as
Minnesota’s music director was central in the growth and development
of that orchestra, resigned in October. A lengthy labor dispute that
included a 15-month lockout of the musicians killed an entire concert
season; when it led to the cancellation of a planned Carnegie Hall
appearance, Vänskä – as he’d promised to do well in advance – walked.
The questions now are what will become of the orchestra he left
behind, and what role, if any, Vänskä will play in the coming chapter.
A little brighter
The first part of that equation looks a little brighter since the Jan.
14 settlement. The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will go back
to work Feb. 1 under a new three-year contract that includes an
initial pay cut of roughly 15 percent – a tough reduction, but far
less than the management had originally sought. The contract also
includes some changes in work rules and a requirement – which
increasingly seems to be part of any labor negotiation in any field –
that the musicians shoulder a larger share of their health care costs.
But the most telling detail in the settlement announcement has to do
with the size of the orchestra. Musicians and management alike agree
that 95 players is the optimal number for a major symphony orchestra –
and that is pretty much the standard complement (the San Francisco
Symphony’s roster numbers 104 players).
The Minnesota Orchestra, though, lost many of its musicians, including
several section principals, to attrition as the standoff dragged on
(one of them, violist Matthew Young, wound up in San Francisco).
According to the recent announcement, the orchestra’s membership
stands at 77 – and the contract provides for an additional seven to be
phased in over three years.
In other words, this is as direct an acknowledgment as you could ask
for that the orchestra has an enormous rebuilding project ahead of it.
The artistic excellence and national reputation that it acquired under
Vänskä’s leadership – bolstered by increased touring and the fine
beginning of a Sibelius recording cycle – have been set back years,
And for what? Every indication over the past year and more suggests
that the orchestra’s management approached the showdown with scant
appreciation of the difference between orchestral musicians and
widgets. Its scorched-earth negotiating policy (which, as one
Minneapolis blogger documented, included snatching up Internet domain
names that might have been useful to the musicians and their
supporters) has yielded, predictably enough, scorched earth.
Even if the remaining musicians swing back into action with full
artistic commitment – a big if – there are huge holes to fill in the
orchestra’s ranks. And until the organization corrects its new
reputation as an ill-run undertaking willing to jettison artistic
advances through bare-knuckled gamesmanship, it’s hard to see how
those vacancies are going to be filled by top players.
That brings us back to Vänskä, who, with all respect to individual
orchestra members, has left the biggest vacancy of all. At this point,
the orchestra has made no announcement about plans to find a new music
director. The first concerts back, scheduled for the first two weeks
in February, will be led by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski – the orchestra’s
music director throughout the 1960s and ’70s – and Yan Pascal
On the brink
Vänskä himself is keeping mum. For the moment, he’s concentrating on
San Francisco, where his guest program includes “Night Ride and
Sunrise” and the Sixth Symphony of Sibelius – a longtime specialty
whose music takes on particular luster in Vänskä’s hands – as well as
works of Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky. But surely the next question is
whether he will take a hand in helping his old ensemble pull back from
the brink on which it now stands.
Vänskä, by all appearances, has earned the trust and dedication of the
Minnesota musicians, and his behavior throughout this long ordeal –
principled and forthright, clear-spoken yet discreet – has been an
exemplary display of how to handle such a treacherous situation.
What he does next, one would suspect, will be telling. If Vänskä were
to return to Minneapolis and throw the full weight of his leadership
behind the rebuilding that lies ahead, that would send the clearest
possible signal that reclamation really is within reach. And that, in
turn, would be a welcome development for a cultural treasure that has
been subjected to far too much unnecessary suffering.
San Francisco Symphony: 2 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
$15-$140. (Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415)
Joshua Kosman is The San Francisco Chronicle’s music critic. E-mail:
Somewhere, on some blog in the past year, someone noted, in regard to Michael Henson, that any “honorable man” in his situation would have long since resigned. And the level of his honor has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. I submit that it would be a good idea to try to sustain the considerable inertia of the LOMOMO supporters in encouraging Phyllis Kahn and her cadre’ to proceed with the plan for a “public takeover” of the Minnesota Orchestra. I fear the slippage back into complacency (I’m already on my way) and none of us should have any desire to go through the blood, sweat and tears of the past year and a half again. Whether the rebuilding of the orchestra can occur in anything other than a matter of decades (if ever) remains to be seen. But the serpent Henson and the current governance structure have been proven to be absolutely toxic.
My predictions: As long as Henson, Davis, and Campbell are still involved, the MOA will have a hard time raising money; the symphony audience at large doesn’t trust their judgment or stewardship anymore (although some wealthy symphony backers may still). To minimize the actual “work” the board will have to do to fundraise in spite of the enmity they’ve caused, I predict they’ll jettison Henson with a pat on the bum and probably another breathtaking lump sum in severance, and declare a new era of kumbaya. Meanwhile behind the scenes, they’ll absorb the lessons, change their tactics but not their philosophy, and find still craftier ways to accomplish the same ends in the future. (These people do not give up. Ever. We should not kid ourselves about this.) Meanwhile, the orchestra has saved the MOA’s bacon in significant ways: thanks to the musicians, the orchestra season is already partially planned, and the MOA’s lease on the hall is now safe. None of this is the MOA’s doing; it’s all the musicians. Frankly I’d like to see a clawback of the Henson bonuses, but I’m afraid that’s too much to ask. But I hope the musicians are able to stand firm against future management outrages. They are coming, they will come. Fighting is hard, it’s exhausting, but look around the country. The forces against labor are well financed, and inexhaustible. I hope the bright line of integrity the musicians drew will endure; it will be needed in the future.
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You forgot to predict the Minnesota Orchestra’s Grammy win. ;)
I totally did forget! I did say privately to some friends though that the second Sibelius disc was better than the first…does that count?? ;)
I guess so! :) Isn’t it so exciting? I new when I first started following the Minnesota Orchestra as a teenager 9 years ago that they would eventually win a Grammy, and now they have done it!
It is hugely exciting and I’m so happy they received such a well-deserved honor.
And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me stghirat.
Dayton has recruited Davis to help with the state’s Super Bowl bid. (There is a great quote in MinnPost about fundraising, and how easy it will be. I nearly chocked on my applesauce when I read it).
It’s priceless, isn’t it? Well he can now take the 3 minutes a day he thought about the orchestra in between his other myriad charitable commitments to think about the Super Bowl, because he is officially off the Minnesota Orchestra board.
Those of us familiar with the Allina scandal may be forgiven for our lack of enthusiasm for the new chair. Over one decade ago, Attorney General Hatch investigated Allina (CEO Senger) for putting too much money into marketing and administrative salaries which, of course, short-changed the health care provided by Allina. From a September 2001 MPR news story:
Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch has released his year-and-a-half-long investigation into the state’s largest health-care organization, Allina Health System. At the same time, Allina announced it’s agreed to pay $16 million to settle a federal investigation into improper billing. The two actions end the state and federal probes into Allina, and the company says it’s trying to move forward with new management and policies preventing wasteful spending.
See Hatch’s audit report on the attorney general’s Web site.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S FINDINGS contained in seven fat binders detail what’s been leaked to the press for months: Allina spent millions of dollars on executive perks and consultants. The final book says Allina’s HMO, Medica, actually spent close to 19-percent of customer’s premiums on administrative costs, not the 12 to 13 percent that Medica has reported to the state. “Allina, simply put, had no direction. In short: it needed leadership,” Hatch said.
Hatch says new leadership is now in place. As a result of Hatch’s investigation, Allina split its hospitals and clinics from the one-million member Medica, CEO Gordon SPRENGER is retiring and Chief Operating Officer David Strand, who chairs the MPR Board of Trustees, has resigned. Both the Allina and Medica boards have been replaced and are now chaired by former business executives that Hatch helped select. Two board members serve on both the Allina and MPR boards.
Hatch says he doesn’t intend to take any further action against Allina. “Nobody got away with anything,” Hatch said.” Look through these things! You’ll see salaries, you’ll see trips, things that I think are embarrassing to people, and I think public outrage and condemnation is about the strongest penalty you can have.”
Hatch has not charged Allina with any crime, although an agreement between his office and the company says his office believes Allina has engaged in misconduct and may have violated the law.