On 12 February, Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson testified before the Legacy Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives. About 75% of his testimony was word-for-word identical to the one he gave at the 23 January hearing of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on the effects of lockouts, so I’d like to mention I discussed that January testimony in-depth in thistwo-part essay, if you’re interested in reading that.
Henson’s January performance was by no means strong, but his February performance was disastrous. As soon as he was asked to answer questions off-the-cuff, he had great difficulty expressing himself. There was incredulous giggling in the audience, as well as spontaneous applause when Rep. Alice Hausman expressed her concerns. Several legislators were clearly unsatisfied by the answers that Mr. Henson gave, saying things such as “That doesn’t answer my question” and “so you’re not sure.” So I wanted to review the questions that were asked, remind everyone exactly what Mr. Henson said, and then discuss why certain of his answers were so problematic…and, when I can, answer the questions more fully.
And here’s a rather fascinating coda to what went on after the main body of the testimony… Mr. Henson was actually called back from the audience to answer a few questions from lawmakers. This concluding portion of the hearing can be heard starting at approximately 1:35:00 in this mp3.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn was the chair. Other representatives who spoke include Anna Wills (R), Jean Wagenius, John Ward (DFL), Leon Lillie (DFL), Dean Urdahl (R), and Mike Freiberg (DFL). This meeting occurred on 12 February 2013 in front of the Legacy Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
PK: Thank you, all. Are there any quick questions for Committee members? And again, we’ll…Rep. Wills…again, we will be continuing this discussion; I don’t want to stop it here, but…
Here is Orchestrate Excellence’s testimony from the February 12 hearing before the Minnesota House of Representatives Legacy Committee. Orchestrate Excellence’s portion begins at roughly 1:15:30 into this mp3. The committee was chaired by Phyllis Kahn. The representatives from Orchestrate Excellence were Paula DeCosse and Laurie Greeno.
PK: Next up, Paula DeCosse, the co-chair of Orchestrate Excellence. Is that person here? Okay, yes. Paula de Cosse and –
LG: Laurie Greeno, the other co-chair of Orchestrate Excellence.
Several Minnesota Orchestra musicians – Cathy Schubilske, Tony Ross, and Doug Wright – testified in front of the Legacy Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in a hearing on February 12. The chair of the committee was Rep. Phyllis Kahn. Other representatives who spoke in this portion of the hearing include Rep. John Ward (DFL) and Rep. Joe McDonald (R).
You can listen to their testimony in this mp3. Their portion begins at roughly 1:02:00.
PK: The next person on our list is, um, Cathy Schubilske. I apologize if I mis-pronounce words. Cathy Schubilske the violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra and some musicians from the Orchestra. And each of you should say your name for the tape and identify yourselves.
DW: I’m Douglas Wright; I’m the principal trombonist of the Orchestra and I’ve been in the Orchestra for eighteen years.
Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson appeared in front of the Legacy Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives the afternoon of 13 February 2013. The audio of this hearing can be heard here. The section having to do with the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra begins at 42:45.
The legislators who spoke at the hearing were Rep. and Committee Chair Phyllis Kahn, Rep. Mary Murphy, Rep. Dean Urdahl, Rep. Alice Hausman, and Rep. Mike Freiberg.
PK: The next issue which has been brought to my attention from a lot of people and have also been brought to us I think – I hope to other members of the committee, too – is the, um, public comment on Legacy funds and perhaps general funds. This is – you know, we talk vaguely about the arts at some point, but this is also specific public problem that seems to be before us at this time, which is the issue of the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. And I wanted to – and you know, whenever I talk to someone I realize that I know much less about this than I think I know, from reading in the newspaper, reading newspaper articles and reading people’s, um, comments to me. So again, hopefully this is the start of our conversation on this to see if there’s some role – the state, as I’ve pointed out, is a very large donor to some of these organizations and see what our role can be as that donor. So. Going to start now with the first person for comment is Michael Henson, who’s the President and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestral Association. Mr. Henson? Thank you. And you need to say who you are for the tape. Thanks.
MH: Um. Madame Chair, and Representatives. I’m Michael Henson, the President and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra. Thank you very much and I very much welcome the opportunity to address you and answer any questions you have today.
It seems you can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting yet another politician looking into the Minnesota Orchestral Association. Here’s the latest…
On Tuesday February 12 at 2:15pm, there will be a committee meeting discussing Minnesota Legacy funding in Room 5 of the State Office Building in St. Paul. The Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will be subjects of discussion. Representatives from both sides of the Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute (including Mr. Henson) have been asked to speak. Community voices such as Orchestrate Excellence will also be present. The public is welcome to attend. The Legacy Committee is chaired by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who, as you may remember, was the first lawmaker to sound the alarm over the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s behavior toward musicians and taxpayers back in early December. It’s worth re-reading her editorial to get a vibe for where she stands on this issue. Needless to say, it ought to be one of the more gripping Legacy committee meetings in recent memory.
You can read the first half of my rebuttal here. Here’s the second.
Music and musicians are the very center of our organization,
Interesting! Mr. Henson could prove this by addressing musicians’ concerns about sustaining artistic quality in a substantive public fashion, something he has not yet done.
and we are seeking to negotiate a contract with our musicians that is aligned with what our community can afford. This point is worth emphasizing. The Minnesota Orchestra is entirely supported by the generosity of this community, and our expenses need to be based on what this community is willing and able to give. That is the issue at the center of our talks.
Well, it took months, but we’ve finally heard more than a sentence or two from Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson.
On 23 January 2013 Mr. Henson testified in front of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in a hearing dedicated to exploring the impact of lockouts on communities.
And as you can imagine… I have some things to say.