Michael Henson will be leaving the Minnesota Orchestral Association at the end of this fiscal year. Here’s the MinnPost story.
Perhaps surprisingly, I find I don’t have much to say.
In some ways, our relationship, such as it was, felt like a weird chess game. (Albeit one Mr. Henson never acknowledged he was playing. Or believed he was playing.) Nonetheless, moves were made…and a lot of people ended up watching. He’d testify in front of the legislature; I’d write a blog entry dissecting his testimony. He’d quote talking points in an outrageously misleading press release; I’d send him a sparkly homemade Advent calendar (as you do). And later, once Save Our Symphony and other groups and other writers got in on the game, the chessboard, along with the number of pieces, expanded exponentially. Action, reaction, etc., for eighteen long hard-fought months.
As the game begins to wind down, I survey the chessboard. In an appropriately bizarre ending to an equally bizarre game, I find I have approximately zero interest in complaining about Michael Henson today. At this point, his record speaks for itself. Quite loudly. And heck, truth is, I owe a lot to this man. More than he’ll ever know, certainly. I owe my attendance at a lot of great lockout concerts to him. I owe a lot of new firsthand knowledge about how government and non-profit processes work to him. Without Michael Henson, Alex Ross would not know I exist (please note: I am still extremely pumped about the fact that Alex Ross knows I exist). But most importantly of all, I owe readers – and therefore friendships – to him. I’m so lucky to have you, my readers, as my friends. You are irreplaceable, and to be honest, I don’t remember what life was like without you. Without him, I wouldn’t have you. Michael Henson may be leaving Minnesota via golden parachute, but I walk away from the game the richer woman. By far. So thanks. Seriously. Bon voyage, Mr. Henson. I’ll be watching your career with ~great interest.~
So. Where do we go from here?
Mr. Henson’s departure is a big step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work left to be done. I feel an odd kinship to the poor besieged Concorde in Airport: 79. We’ve evaded drones, dodged F-15s, and the landing strip is now in sight. On the other hand, there are gaping holes in the plane that have caused explosive decompression. But! This week’s news, and the potential change of organizational direction it could possibly theoretically maybe? signify, means that despite everything we’ve been through, we still might be able to land this thing. That’s not nothing. I’ll continue my volunteer work behind the scenes. I hope you continue to do what you can, too, whether that means writing comments online, sharing information with friends and family, buying tickets, etc. Even just staying informed is an important thing to do.
I think the moral of the saga is: Minnesota Orchestra leaders, listen to your audience and to the community both. Listen closely. Because we’re watching you, every little thing you do, and if you try taking any step that we feel goes against this organization’s best interests, forgive us when we trip you up. And if you do the right thing? We will help you. With everything we’ve got, 100%. A community of passionate people is a lot easier to work with than against.
So. Onward to the Grammy celebration concerts! What celebrations they’ll be, too! (Remember to wear blue and white, as per the instructions of Save Our Symphony Minnesota’s Finnish It Campaign!) Of course nothing is guaranteed, but my fingers are crossed that another big announcement might come soon. It would be quite the surreal ending to an extraordinary chapter of American music history…
19 responses to “Henson Out”
Emily, again and again I have to say thank you for your diligence and very hard detective work, along with your wonderfully creative approach to this unbelievable situation. I am not overstating anything that without your dedicated research and fact-digging, we would not be where we are today. We would not know what we know today. Consider yourself seriously hugged and thanked from probably lots of people! Onward to the next exciting chapter, and for the first time in a long time, I am very hopeful of a much brighter future.
I have only one thing to say: Even though I am hopeful that the Minnesota Orchestra’s future is looking much brighter than it has in 18 months, not only will I not be a part of it, I will boycott it. I have now been turned down for employment there THREE times; twice just since January and once a few years ago. “Frankly, my dear, I no longer give a damn.”
Spoken with grace and elegance. I’ll be at the concert with my flag – thanks for the tip and info. And Thank You! for Finlandia. We are on course!
Good riddance! I certainly wish he’d leave sooner, but I suppose the relevant Board members had to save face. Now I can make my MOA donation in good conscience. But I think I’ll wait until September, unless Osmo is back sooner.
**champagne corks popping **
Thank you! No mention of George Kennedy’s dynamite scene? I put the Airport: 79 reference in there specifically for you… ;)
Well, there’s been a lot to process recently, hasn’t there? :-)
You are so right about the work yet to be done. I am very familiar with organizational change processes and pitfalls. There is much to be done in regard to the culture and history of the board and how they will act next. Will they try to be more transparent? Will they listen to the ticket holders, the SOSMN, the orchestra musicians? Will they reorganize a board that sounds dysfunctional? Will they bring back Vanska? Will he come if they ask? Will they design a contract that he can sign? The issues are not over and I am not sure (since I don’t know any of them) if the board understands what the lockout really did to shred trust and relationships. When trust is lost, it is not renewed in a few meetings or a handshake. I am waiting to see what the next move is. The first shoe has dropped. What will be the next one.
Thank you for writing… I have learned so much from your sensitive and provocative blog. As I listen to Finlandia, and write this reply, I hope (as “we” all do) that Osmo returns to the orchestra who loves him so much. The music they make, together, is remarkable! Having said that, they will still have their hands full. Sadly, many excellent players have departed since the lockout. It will take considerable time to achieve the stature that existed in September of 2013.
Color me cynical (but willing to be wrong about it). I would love to hear inside stuff about the tenor of the board’s debates about the lockout, because it seems certain to me that the board regarded the orchestra’s “franchise” as their property, to do with what they pleased, and the musicians (including, and perhaps especially, Osmo) as an expendable nuisance, and the community as a bunch of dolts who would be satisfied with pop-star concerts and a docile, uninspired and CHEAP orchestra to decorate the board’s hall with. Henson’s departure is a necessary PR step, which perhaps gives the board a little breathing room to implement, over time, the same strategy they’ve employed all along: starvation, attrition, dumbing-down, and the end result of a much less demanding fundraising role for the board and the MOA. As always, their actions, not their words, will tell the tale, but their performance so far has amply justified cynicism.
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Thank you Emily for your unstinting efforts and inspiration. We need to push for organizational reform as indicated in some of the posts of Gina Hunter on Governance. The trust can be restored if the MOA truly listens to the musicians and patrons. Now let’s finish it….. bring back Osmo.
Organizational reform is desperately needed. And I actually believe it has some chance of happening this time around.
I don’t know if many who read the blogs of Emily or Scott C. are familiar with a gentleman in England name of Norman Lebrecht, however he recently wrote a short piece on reasons why Osmo Vanska should not return here. Despite my disagreement with this concept I read what Norman had to say and a few (but only a few) of his reasons made some sense. I don’t remember specifics and I would have to go back and dig for this particular article, but the one thing that surprised me was his statement that not every musician in the MO was “happy” with Mr. Vanska. THAT was news to me.
On Sun, Mar 23, 2014 at 10:04 AM, Song of the Lark wrote:
> Song of the Lark commented: “Organizational reform is desperately > needed. And I actually believe it has some chance of happening this time > around.” >
It wouldn’t surprise me. Not even the most beloved conductor has a 100% approval rating.
Alternate ending: Now let’s Finnish it….. bring back Osmo.
On its own, the Minnesota Orchestra is a very good orchestra. On his own, Osmo is a very good conductor. Together, they are the kind of electrifying, take-your-breath-away combination one rarely encounters, even in a lifetime of concert-going.
I’ve been going to concerts, listening to broadcasts and recordings intensively for 35 years, and I’ve rarely been privileged to hear the kind of music I’ve heard up in Mpls.
Seems like the tracks are starting to clear for the Osmo Train to come back. Henson’s got a firm expiration date. This week Osmo gave his first interview since his resignation last October to Brian Newhouse on MPR, where he clearly stated he wants to come back. The serious, dedicated, vocal part of the audience wants him back. The resumption of the Bis contract, the accolades of big city critics like New York beckon…..
The board would have to be *nuts* not to bring him back!
Hopefully all the “nuts” who were on the board have resigned and the people who remain on the board are intelligent enough to do the right thing.