Category Archives: Uncategorized

Speech on Peavey Plaza

Lots of people have asked me for the text of the speech that I gave at the Save Our Symphony rally on Peavey Plaza outside the Symphony Ball on September 20. So here it is.

Thanks to all who came and all who listened. It was a strange night, but a good night. I hope to write an entry describing the event in more detail soon.

***

As I’m standing next to Orchestra Hall, I have to remember the first time I came here. It was ten summers ago. I was just about to turn fourteen. My violin idol James Ehnes was playing the Beethoven violin concerto with the Orchestra. The staff at Orchestra Hall was so kind and so accommodating, and after James’s performance, they let me go backstage to get his autograph. After that experience, I went back to my room on the twelfth floor of the Hyatt over there, and I threw myself on the bed, and I sobbed like I had never sobbed before. I sobbed because I did not know that such beauty was possible.

My reason for being here tonight is simple: I want other thirteen-year-olds to be able to experience the same beauty of world-class symphonic music that I did.

The fact that I’m talking to you today is proof positive that ANY music lover can make a difference. It does not matter if you are young. It does not matter if you are poor. It does not matter if you don’t have a degree from Juilliard. ANYONE can make their voices heard in this struggle. If you can’t contribute money, you can contribute ideas. Because God only knows we need some more of those.

I hope the men and women attending the ball tonight – who have given so generously over the decades – recognize that we the broader community are willing to give generously as well, in whatever way we can. We will not be ignored. The Minnesota Orchestra will not thrive again until all voices are listened to. We are here to help. Let us help you. Talk with us.

We may have legitimate differences of opinion as to what this institution ought to be. But one thing is not up for debate: we deserve to have the debate. Honestly, respectfully, and face-to-face. You will notice there are several influential men from Orchestra leadership who are conspicuously absent here tonight. This must change. This is a public institution, and we are the public. The public is the entity the Minneapolis Symphony was founded for in 1903. In the words of historian John K. Sherman in 1957: ‘Minneapolis at last wanted something that no one man or organization could afford. It wanted something that could no more pay for itself or show a profit than could a public library or an art museum. So the device of the guaranty fund, a citizens’ subsidy, was adopted, amounting in essence to a self-imposed tax by people who were public-spirited and also wealthy enough to pay the assessment. Minneapolis would maintain its proudest cultural institution through deficit financing, but to the canny it constituted a civic advertisement well worth the cost.’

Despite this last year, I have faith in the future of orchestral music in Minneapolis. Our commitment to excellence runs deep. In fact, I believe it is our birthright. Will that commitment take hard work to sustain? Yes, it will. Are we up for it? You tell me. But as long as there is music, there is hope. I speak from experience when I say the impossible is possible. I mean, I’m on a speaker list with Tony Ross, the cello god. How much more impossible can you get?

The musicians have committed to presenting a fall season of their own, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking that leap of faith. I do not know where we will end up, but I do know that we will end up there together. I predict that our love of orchestral music will not die; in fact, I predict it will flourish. Love tested in battle is the strongest love of all. If we work together – all of us – we can keep the doors of some hall somewhere open, with some kind of great orchestra within. We have done so for 110 years, and with hard work, we will do so for another 110 more. Together, we will serve the next young teenager who comes to the hall to discover the beauty that only a great orchestra can provide.

4 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Save Our Symphony Rally

I was invited to speak at Save Our Symphony Minnesota’s rally “Ending the Lockout Will Be A Ball.” Details here. I mean it when I say it’s a tremendous honor to have been asked. I also mean it when I say it’s incredibly awkward to be asked to speak, when Michael Henson is going to be a few hundred feet away, not listening to any of us, and attempting to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a non-existent orchestra, and maybe coming up with a condescending soundbite to give to the press about us.

We have indeed entered The Twilight Zone.

This will be the weirdest Symphony Ball in human history. There will be no symphony. Michael Henson, Jon Campbell, and Richard Davis will be ensconced inside (obviously). There will be security personnel milling about to protect vulnerable donors from The Union. The tents have already sprung up in Peavey Plaza. Some of the wilder rumors circulating include suggestions that windows are being darkened and shrubbery is being rented to shield the people who are fundraising for the orchestra…from the orchestra. As I always say, what’s the use of a $50 million glass lobby if you can’t obscure it with shrubbery and dark window cling? Yeah, that’s right: there is no point.

Anyway, SOSMN is having a rally to show support for the…I don’t even know what to call it at this point. I want to say “the orchestra”, but there’s this idea circulating that the musicians aren’t the orchestra, so… We’re there supporting the people who play great orchestral music in Minneapolis; let’s say that. There will be musicians there, friends there, families there. Some people will be dressed in gowns and tuxes. Others will be in sweaters and sweatshirts. It’s not going to be that structured…just a fun time milling about in downtown Minneapolis with some really fabulous first-rate music in all sorts of genres. We’re not out to vilify anybody. Just want to have a great time, chatting, dancing, singing, and listening. If our presence makes the board uncomfortable, then that’s not our problem, frankly. It’s about time they remember there’s an audience out there, because they sure haven’t listened to us so far!

Here’s an approximate visual representation of how I’m thinking this party will go down.

  • Arrhythmic dancing
  • A band
  • A guy in a suit
  • A guy in a sweatshirt
  • More dancing
  • Singalongs
  • Random hugs

I can’t guarantee there will be scantily clad dancers, pyro, or an abominable snowman with Shake Weights, but other than that, I think it’ll be very similar!

“Partyin’ partyin’! YEAH! Partyin’ partyin’ YEAH! FUN FUN FUN FUN!!!”

Well, I’ve slipped in my token Colbert reference for the week. Hope to see you Friday night in Minneapolis.

10 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Prairie Fires

I find myself thinking of prairie fires today.

Fire has always been a partner with healthy prairies. In dry conditions early in the spring or late in summer and early fall, lightning could strike and set a prairie ablaze…

During each burn, non-native plants are removed, allowing prairie plants more nutrients and room to grow. Prairie plants can survive fires since they have deep roots and grow from a point underground. A prescribed burn is a crucial component in prairie restoration.

I don’t need to waste breath elucidating how this metaphor ties into the Minnesota Orchestra lockout.

If…sigh…when the lightening strikes, and the fire burns, this will be a horrible thing. There will be a lot of heat and a lot of sparks and a lot of smoke. Anything and anyone without deep roots is going to crumble to ashes. After it’s over, the prairie will be unrecognizable.

And yet, just beneath the soil, the roots will remain…

Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Idearaising

On Friday, representatives of Save Our Symphony Minnesota (SOSMN), along with a few dozen of their closest friends, came together on very short notice to rally outside Minneapolis’s Hall.

That evening, as the lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra musicians entered its twelfth month, the Minnesota Orchestral Association hosted an exclusive “Private Patron Party” in the brand new $50 million lobby. (You can see the white table and chairs set up above the “Orchestra Hall” sign.) If you paid $750 or more for a ticket to September 20th’s Symphony Ball, you also gained entrance to the Private Patron Party. On Friday night, the Private Patrons came via glass climate-controlled skyways, looked down on the plebian “malcontents” (as one party-goer called the crowd in the Minneapolis Star Tribune comment section), and continued onto their exclusive soiree.

The SOSMN event was not meant to disturb the party. (Trust me, SOSMN would have planned things very differently if disturbing the party had been the goal.) Rather, the event was meant to raise awareness of the situation, give supporters a way to network and make their voices heard, and inform the board that the community cares about this orchestra, desperately, and that we are ready and willing to have a substantive two-way conversation about what the audience can do to help, and what we think the board needs to do differently. Over the past eleven months, zero meaningful interaction has occurred between the community and board. The vast majority of the public’s emails, phone calls, and letters have gone unanswered. Therefore, many reasonable, level-headed patrons have come together, talked, and agreed that an energetic physical presence outside the hall is the next logical step to take in an attempt to engage with MOA leadership.

Well, Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson had something to say about this most recent development.

Continue reading

13 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Unveiling The Minnesota Orchestra’s Full Strategic Plan

I’ve just had the most fabulous conversation with the MOA on Facebook!

True, in order to get it started, the MOA needed a little nudging from David Assemany, from Save Our Symphony Detroit, because the MOA still has some trouble acknowledging I exist. But: a conversation nonetheless. Here’s a link to the full thing. (Until it’s taken down, of course.)

conversation1

(By the way, this independent financial review is completely bogus. Robert Levine explains why.)

Of course I, sensing an opening to be annoying, asked…

conversation2

When that wasn’t answered, I poked them a little more…but then thankfully David backed me up.

conversation3

Then… (Cue the trumpet fanfare.)

Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Picketing

I hate to rain on your Fourth of July parade, but I was part of a rather gloomy MPR article yesterday, along with Bill Eddins, Drew McManus, John Budd, and Norman Lebrecht. (Pretty heady company there.) An excerpt…

No union musician will play at the Minnesota Orchestra as long as the lock out continues, Hogstad said, and one shouldn’t forget what she calls rage among some audience members who feel their concerns have been dismissed by management.

“I would like to send a very clear message to the MOA and anyone who is planning on renting out the hall, that as long as there is no resolution of this there will be picketing and leafleting by patrons,” Hogstad said.

So. The cat is out of the bag. If the dispute is unresolved within the next few weeks, there will be picketing. Period. Anyone that books that darn hall will have to answer to angry patrons. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what day and time various events are likely to be scheduled. You want to book the hall for a wedding? Know your guests will have to deal with picketing. You want to have a Christmas party? Know your guests will have to deal with picketing. You want to have a corporate dinner on stage in Hall? Know your guests will have to deal with picketing. Symphony Ball? Know the board will have to deal with picketing. Yes, come Symphony Ball time, the board will either have to engage in meaningful conversation with patrons, or ignore us and watch our waving signs and wonder what we’re up to. I imagine that more than one banker or lawyer will wish the old blue tubes were up blocking the view of the streets. (Is it too late in the renovation process to install curtains…?) Picketing picketing picketing. Picketing. Peaceful picketing, and respectful picketing, but picketing nonetheless. Firm picketing. Resolved picketing. Picketing.

Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

The MOA Discusses Financial Review

Some of you have asked what I know about the upcoming audit, financial review, fundraising feasibility review, etc., etc., etc. Truth is, I know nothing more than what appeared in this WCCO article…and now, an email from the MOA that a friend forwarded to me. She always passes MOA emails along because I still never get them (or letters, or phone calls), despite the fact my family’s account with the MOA is still active and all our contact info is complete and up-to-date. But whatever. Here’s the note, with some of my interjections:

Dear [Patron],

Next week will mark one full year since the Minnesota Orchestra and the Musicians’ Union began contract negotiations. Our Board put forward a contract proposal (pdf) on the first day of negotiations—in order to allow time for active debate—and 12 months later we have yet to receive a counter from the musicians. This is an unprecedented action by the Musicians’ Union. Across the nation, musicians at other orchestras have respectfully submitted counterproposals to their boards, even in challenging situations where they have been asked for significant concessions.

Editor’s Note: According to industry expert Drew McManus, a counterproposal isn’t a prerequisite for negotiations.

Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Another Lockout Concert!!

Today the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra announced that they’re having another lockout concert!

All the cool kids online use reaction gifs to express their joy whenever they hear good news, so here’s one I found:

THE AUDITORIUUUUM WILL BE ALIVE, WITH THE SOUUUUND OF MUSIC...

THE AUDITORIUUUUM WILL BE ALIVE, WITH THE SOUUUUND OF BRUCKNER…

Details here. Program is Bruckner and Mozart. Tickets go on sale Tuesday at noon!

Will you guys be there? Maybe we should meet up beforehand (or after). Shoot the breeze. Celebrate our connections with one another. Vent. Bond. It’s really really tough being a locked-out patron, and feeling so powerless. Might be a cathartic uplifting thing for those of us who are feeling ignored and disrespected by management. What do you guys say? Feel free to brainstorm here. Where might be a good place to meet up?

Hope to see you there!!

3 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Some Dorky Musings on Endowment Sizes And Base Salaries

I worked up some charts yesterday, both to gain insight into the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s math, and to prove (once again) that I am a massive nerd with absolutely no life whatsoever. I used numbers gleaned from Wikipedia’s list of the population of American metro areas, this list the Strib published of orchestra base salaries, and a chart the Minnesota musicians made about other orchestras’ endowment sizes.

Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra, Uncategorized

Minnesota Orchestral Association Scam Alert, Part 2

[UPDATED JANUARY 5, 2015]

This issue at the Minnesota Orchestra has been completely resolved. At one point during the 2012-2014 labor dispute, my readers were concerned at the accuracy of some of what was being said in fundraising calls; hence the title. But nowadays, thank goodness, we are all on the same page and working hard toward a common goal. So please please donate to the MOA when they call or via their website at http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/give/personal-giving/give-now! I have.

***

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized