Double The Fundraisers, Double The Fun

Dear friends,

We can all agree: the Minnesota Orchestra lockout pissed us off. There was no louder critic of the Minnesota Orchestral Association than this blogger (although Robert Levine, Norman Lebrecht, Alex Ross, and Bill Eddins all gave me pretty fierce runs for my money).

Was I wrong in taking such a critical stance? Nope. I’m convinced the lockout will be studied for years to come as a textbook example of how NOT to conduct productive negotiations. (Unit Eight will cover “For God’s Sake, Don’t Buy The Domain Names of Audience Advocates.”)

But here’s a more important, more relevant question: Does the Minnesota Orchestral Association still deserve my ire?


The truth is…..

No. Probably not.

I’ll acknowledge that being pissed off does wonders for the page views, but here are the facts.

  1. Michael Henson is leaving. He has about seven weeks left on the job and then he’s off to…a Bournemouth beach house? memoir writing? consulting with the Met’s management? Point is, his reign of incompetence is nearly over. Halle-fricking-lujah.
  2. Richard Davis and Jon Campbell are gone (well…officially; one assumes they have influence in the philanthropic and business communities, but – that’s the nature of the beast). Even more impressive? The remaining board representatives are now working with audience advocates.
  3. Osmo is back. Repeat: Osmo is back.
  4. The 2014-15 season is the best the Minnesota Orchestra has presented in years. It’s big, bold, ambitious, beautiful. This is the first time that I’ve looked at other big city seasons and thought, you know, Minneapolis’s season reigns with the very best. Yep, mark my words: the best orchestral music in North America will be happening at 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, ZIP code 55403. And you don’t want to miss it.
  5. Kevin Smith, the Minnesota Orchestra’s interim CEO, is giving every indication of being The Anti-Henson. Seriously. Everything Michael Henson did, Kevin Smith is doing the opposite. Just one example: Henson scurried with bodyguards through the back door of Orchestra Hall during Save Our Symphony’s “Ending The Lockout Will Be A Ball” rally in September 2013. Kevin Smith, on the other hand, has actually already talked with SOSMN, and has even scheduled two listening sessions that will be open to the public in August 2014 (follow Save Our Symphony Minnesota’s Facebook page for details as they become available). I have also heard some great things about new Vice President of Advancement Dianne Brennan. Mr. Smith will be here for anywhere from six months to a year; Ms. Brennan is here long-term.
  6. I think every rational outside observer believes that the Minnesota Orchestral Association is brimming with untapped potential. But here’s the flip side: that potential needs time to blossom. It won’t – it can’t – flower overnight. And as every gardener knows, you have to take care of a plant before it blossoms to enable it to blossom.

Yes, I acknowledge that MOA executive committee board member Doug Kelley is still having trouble coming to grips with reality, but I admit there’s a part of me that wonders… If he’s representative of hardliners on the board… And if the hardliners are waiting to bring his attitude into the next negotiating cycle… Might his words actually be an inspiration to give? To prove him wrong – to weaken his position in whatever way possible – to cut his arguments off at the knees? I genuinely don’t know the answers to those questions. In the end, you’re likely going to give in spite of his viewpoint, not because of it.

COMPLETELY understand if you don’t want to give to the Minnesota Orchestra yet. Concerned patrons have been BURNED, with a capital B, U, R, N, E, and D. But I also encourage you to send a small amount of money with a promise of more once benchmarks of your choosing are met. Or perhaps you could send an email to the Minnesota Orchestra explaining why you aren’t contributing yet. If you don’t have faith that your emails will be read (and yes, it is true that many negative emails went unacknowledged during the lockout), CC Save Our Symphony Minnesota (saveoursymphonymn at gmail dot com), and I can offer you a personal guarantee that they will get to the people within the MOA who need to see them.

So. I’m saying all this because it’s a lead-up to some news…

Thank you

My mom and I gave!

Yep, the Minnesota Orchestra is in the midst of its #CommUNITYinConcert fundraising effort, in which every dollar up to $100k will be matched in July. My mom and I really liked the idea, and we discussed the pros and cons of the investment, and then we gave.

I followed the Minnesota Orchestra lockout from the beginning (well, from before the beginning). I’m pretty sure there’s not another “civilian” who knows the ins and outs of the conflict better than I do. I milked the negotiating incompetence of the Minnesota Orchestral Association dry. Hell, I came close to making a career out of it.

So if I, the loud poor skeptic, gave what is a lot of money for me… If even I am optimistic that the flower of potential can indeed bloom here…

Will I regret the decision this time next year? Maybe. But right now the MOA is moving in a positive direction, one that was unimaginable six months ago. And I feel it’s important to send the message in my own very small way: this change is good.

Of course I sincerely hope you join me – but I also understand if you’re not ready yet.

And while you have your wallet out…

The Young Musicians of Minnesota (YMM) are hosting their own Kickstarter fundraiser this July to cover the cost of renting Ted Mann Concert Hall on August first. DETAILS HERE! These entrepreneurial teens and twentysomethings have  already reached half of their $4500 fundraising goal in a few days, so that’s hugely encouraging, but of course there’s still work to do! A gift to YMM might be an alternative investment if you’re still leery of the MOA. If you support YMM, you’re also supporting an outreach partnership with the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, as there will be a variety of musicians sitting in for the performance, granting these hard-working young musicians priceless exposure to world-class virtuosos. I honestly can’t think of a worthier musical organization to give to. To prove it, I gave to that fundraiser, too… Not as much as I wish I could, but I gave. Even a donation of $5 or $10 helps! If you aren’t in a position to donate, or if you’ve already blown your philanthropic budget this July due to the MOA challenge grant, then please, come one, come all to the concert on August first at 7pm! (And while you’re there, keep an eye out for my program notes!)

Okay. So despite the topics of my last few entries, it’s not my intention to turn into a promotional arm for the Minnesota Orchestral Association. But I did want to talk one-on-one, friend-to-friend, about these two hugely important initiatives, and offer you a chance to give if you feel so moved. I hope I’ve given you something to think about. If I haven’t, well, then sit tight, because there’s a lot more content coming. And if you want to chat about this whole big ambiguous topic, the comment section is open, as always.

Anywho! I’ll see you at Orchestra Hall this fall, as we all commit together to making a fiscally stable world-class orchestra in Minneapolis a reality.

With deepest warmest sincerest gratitude for your time, thoughts, and readership –




Filed under Minnesota Orchestra

10 responses to “Double The Fundraisers, Double The Fun

  1. ArthurH

    Emily, Bravo! Your posts during the lockout were profound. Our comments perhaps were even more vituperative, labeling you know who, as the “Axis of Evil” etc. They are history. Mr. Davis suddenly has not accepted the chair at the MIA according to my latest informant. (Perhaps the offer was withdrawn when he wanted the MIA to host a Thomas Kincaid retrospective.)

    We have re-upped at our usual level at the Maestro’s Circle. We have attended nearly every full season subscription concert since the orchestra started playing at St Kates. We are honorary members of the Eiji Owe fan club after our tour to Japan with the orchestra, and have gone with them to the Proms, Vienna, Berlin, etc. You get it we are hangers on.

    The idiots who unknowingly tried to destroy our 110 year old orchestra (thinking they were doing good) are (mostly) gone.

    Now its time for all of us to show we deserve one of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras.

    Its time to contribute, and its time buy tickets. To lose the Minnesota Orchestra would be worse than losing the Vikings!

  2. eedman2013

    No, You did not write too harshly. What was desperately needed during the whole sorry process was transparency and light in a dark corner of Nicollet Ave. As one who has studied, watched, researched organizational management and change, I was – all along – predicting what could happen. And I was correct in most of my predictions and concerns. What is still needed – if it is not happening is a restructuring of the board with musician and public supporters positions. If it stays the same – unless the interim and/or new CEO will find the same or similar obstructions to change.

    • Yep. And I’m actually relatively confident that will happen. The timing just has to be right.

      You may want to bring your questions/concerns on this important topic to one of the listening sessions that Kevin Smith will be holding in conjunction with SOSMN this August. I genuinely believe he wants what’s best for the organization, and if that is indeed true, then he will appreciate hearing from you.

  3. eedman2013

    An edit to my post – the last sentence should read – ‘If it stays the same – unless the interim and/or new CEO is a very strong articulate professional manager – there will be the the same or similar obstructions to change at the next contract time.

  4. Thank you for your positivity. It is certainly needed as we all move forward together. I am cautious, yet optimistic that the changes at the administrative level are good for the whole organization.

  5. John Davenport

    Emily, thanks for this deeply insightful analysis of the status of orchestral support in the corporate age. I’ve read through it twice and would suggest for discussion these topics:
    1 Symphony orchestras, and any other fine arts organizations, should not be dependent on charity, on fundraising campaigns directed to—let’s call it out—the Wealthy. It should NOT be a High Society Benefit Ball kind of thinking. That topic-du-jour small proportion of US society which Has [Most Of] The Money has taken over control, and this is one of the effects, as evident in the strategy of Mr Davis as financial leader of the MOA Board. Your June posts nail this noblesse oblige attitude of the high-X% that gets into most discussions of our society’s problems. Mr Davis is the classic overpaid finance industry CEO who can say unreasonable/counterproductive things and get away with it. He’s good at finance; does he know anything about music and its performance? We don’t know, and we are not challenged to care about his true appreciation and passion for music. It’s just another deal, ya know? Another feather in his cap.
    2 The Orchestra will succeed or fail on its presentation of great music, played by artists who are acknowledged by the engaged and critical music society [like music reviews in the papers/media]; who play for reasonable fees in unpretentious spaces. It will be a truly popular success. So then we have the multi-million buck, cold-as-ice [but in its architecture, beautiful] Symphony Hall, which the Board would suggest is their grande success. When one thinks about it, it is as if we were re-inventing the salons of the 18thC where Count Rassoumovski is supporting Beethoven to write some nice music for his elegant nobility friends and relations, who comment that it was “indeed, quite . . charming music.”

  6. Barbara Hodges

    Thanks, Emily! You’re right on track, as usual.
    I am cautiously hopeful – hopeful enough to have donated to the challenge grant – looking forward to the August meetings with Kevin Smith, and soaking up glorious music from MY Minnesota Orchestra in the coming season!

  7. Manny Laureano

    You and I were of the same mind at about the same time, Emily. I rolled the idea of dropping my anger on the shore of a wide river around in my head for quite a while before I took a breath and swam across the Great Divide. I hope that between our messages and the inner networking abilities of those who are connected will yield significant results.

    It’s time to move and get on this fast plane to progress. Yes, I’m keeping my parachute under my seat at the ready, that’s reality. But if they do the right and show me they care about this as much as I do, I’ll stay on and even be a damned flight attendant… once again… for them.

    Thanks for giving strength to my decision by acting likewise. Here’s to better days.

    See you at the hall.

  8. Elizabeth Erickson

    History will show that you, Emily, were a key player in saving this orchestra. Through exceptional journalism (the old fashioned kind where people actually dug a little) you broke most of the major stories. And somehow, you also managed to make us laugh uncontrollably with some of your entries. This was most welcome, given the buckets of tears most of us cried. Your passion ignited us and helped rally the troops. We all became more active on behalf of the orchestra we love but had maybe taking for granted.

    I, too, am cautiously optimistic. I believe things are starting to get back on track. It feels good to put my Mahler Hammer in the closet and use my energy for something else. But by God, it’s going to be there. I hope I don’t have to use it, but I will if I have to.

    Closing with Manny’s “Here’s to better days.”

  9. Robert Levine

    You did the right thing. No institution is perfect, but it’s impossible to succeed (or even improve) without donors and ticket buyers. And thanks for the shout-out.

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