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 this two-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.
I was just about to fall asleep when I jolted wide wide awake with the realization:
I DIDN’T BLOG ABOUT THE MPR CALL-IN PROGRAM YET! I only mentioned it on my Facebook page! Argh! I’m dropping the ball! *wink*
So here’s the deal… Courtesy of the musicians’ Facebook page…
Minnesota Orchestra Principal Cellist and Negotiating Committee member, Tony Ross, and CEO Michael Henson will be guests on MPR’s The Daily Circuit tomorrow, Friday the 15th, at 11AM to discuss the lockout with host Tom Weber. Please tune in and call in with your questions!
You can listen online by tuning into MPRnews.org.
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.
Yes, I’m still alive. Yes, I took a brief Internet hiatus. Yes, I went to the concert. Yes, it was fabulous. Yes, I will be writing about it. Give me time.
In the meanwhile…
When I was in the Twin Cities, a fellow patron and I were perusing vintage programs, because we are nerds. We found this gem from February 2008…Michael Henson’s introductory column in Showcase! We read it aloud for maximum dramatic impact, and then laughed together at its utter absurdity.
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.
No. It’s not.
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.
For part one of this series, click here.
This was testimony given to the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives on 23 January 2013.
You can listen to Mr. Henson’s testimony here. It begins at 22:15.
Rep. Atkins: There was I think a good reference to the fact that there are other lockouts taking place. Each time this issue seems to be talked about it’s in the context of the NHL lockout. Whenever I’ve spoken about it, however, I’ve talked about there’s a number of additional lockouts involving musicians, involving American Crystal Sugar up in Moorhead, and we’ve been joined next by Michael Henson, who’s the President of the Minnesota Orchestral Association. I appreciate your joining us this afternoon. Look forward to hearing your testimony, as well.
Michael Henson: Mr. Chair, and Representatives. Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to address the committee today, and I will offer a brief statement.
Dear Mr. Henson,
So. About this Grammy concert.
I was going to be good and accept the spirit of a one-night truce. I really was. I was going to say, “Yes, my personal rhetoric has been heated (and to be perfectly honest, I don’t regret that); HOWEVER, I’m going to follow the example of our political and philanthropic leaders and, at least when it comes to discussing this particular show, tone the rhetoric down. I am going to view this concert the way its hosts have said they want me to: as a celebration of the Orchestra’s excellence, not as an opportunity to advance my own deeply felt agenda.”