Dick Bernard: An Open Letter to Minnesota Orchestra fans who purchased tickets for 2012-2013, or have ever attended even a single performance of the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis MN

UPDATES will be included as received at the end of this post. One particularly interesting link about Orchestra finances has already been added. Take a look within Molly’s comment.
There are other responses at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. You can read them here.
Here is a very interesting blog site directly related to the issue.
MinnPost has hi-lited this post as one of its every Friday BlogCabin, posted yesterday here. Thanks, MinnPost.
Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors here. Contact address here.
Minnesota Orchestra Musicians website here.
(click to enlarge)

Locked Out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra Concert Oct 18, 2012, with Maestro Skrowaczewski

Locked Out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra Concert Oct 18, 2012, with Maestro Skrowaczewski

Dear Friend: I ask that you consider forwarding this letter to anyone you might know who can connect the letter with someone who’s heard the Minnesota Orchestra at any time at Orchestra Hall.
I write as an individual, expressing my own opinion.
Succinctly, the entire 2012-13 season for the Minnesota Orchestra is cancelled due to a Lock-Out of the Orchestra. If settlement is reached today, or yesterday, or tomorrow, my personal opinion will remain as stated below.
I have been active in the Lock-Out issue all year, and this letter is simply a continuation of that action. Within the externally imposed limits (lack of access to “truth”, “facts” which can be trusted, etc.) I am very well informed.
Prior posts begin here. There is an additional post here.
Personal Comment:
For many years I have attended concerts at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis MN. (The Wikipedia entry about Orchestra Hall, as it appeared on June 5, 2013, is included in text form at the end of this post.)
For perhaps the last dozen years we’ve been six-concert Subscribers, almost always attending some additional events at Orchestra Hall during the year. Our usual location was about Row 4, directly behind the Maestro.
February 8, 2012, we were among those who received an e-mail from the Minnesota Orchestra for a “one-of-a-kind concert season”: MN Orch Feb 8 2012002 We attended the special concert at the Convention Center. We re-subscribed, as always.
“One-of-a-kind concert season”? 2012-13 has certainly been one of those. There have been zero concerts.
Like the Orchestra itself, we Subscribers have been Locked Out.
There are some basic facts I think are important to know:
1. Best as I can gather, an average of 1,600 of us attend each and every concert at Orchestra Hall.
2. The Board of Directors of the Minnesota Orchestra – the perpetrators of the Lock-Out – number about 80 people who, unless you are lucky enough to know one personally, are essentially anonymous, unelected by and unaccountable to either ourselves or the Orchestra.
3. The Orchestra, the target of the Lock Out, currently numbers fewer than 75 members, and this number has decreased markedly in the last 12 months, and will continue to decrease.
4. I have yet to meet an Orchestra goer who comes to Orchestra Hall to hear the Orchestra Board; I don’t recall ever actually seeing in person an Orchestra Board member, though I may unknowingly have run into one in the old lobby of the Hall. They are names without faces to me.
To those of you who feel helpless in this situation, I understand. I feel helpless too.
But if each one of us in some directly affirmative way get into action, there is no way that the Board can continue its current posture, which is to stonewall, and blame the Orchestra Union for the stalemate which the Board, itself, created.
If we don’t act, we are complicit in the destruction of this World-Class Orchestra.

Additional thoughts follow.
You can respond to this post. I get first look, which includes your e-mail address (which does not appear in public). I pre-approve and will approve all responses that are not spam. My contact information is found on the About page of this blog.
Do something!
We are a small but essential constituency. We need to be heard, loudly, in diverse and very strong ways.
I am reminded of the famous Rev. Martin Niemoller quote, which he repeated in slightly differing ways in hundreds of speeches after Hitler was defeated and he was released from prison after WWII: “First they came…”
Destruction of a World Class Orchestra is not the Holocaust, but the general dynamic is the same.
Our silence is NOT golden.
Some closing random thoughts:
1. Almost certainly, there was a “Point Zero” in this catastrophe – a place and time when the Power Actors who began the road to this tragedy held their very first conversation, thence beginning the process of bringing their Board(s) along.
Someday, the details may come out about who, what, when, where…, but these will likely never be revealed by the perpetrators themselves. Somebody(ies) coordinated the idea of locking out five major U.S. orchestras, one of which was the Minnesota Orchestra, at about the same time for the same general reason.
All but the Minnesota Orchestra are back to work with, as best I can tell, negotiated agreements.
2. Orchestra Management holds all of the traditional tools of Power here: Money, Media, Mailing List (we have received at least 17 e-mails from the Orchestra Management this year, plus additional letters.) They don’t hold either the Music or the Audience.
3. The Musicians have not had this advantage.
4. As a long time subscriber, and one whose career was labor relationships, it is difficult to envision anything approaching a full recovery from this disaster. Permanent damage has been done.
A. We in the seats – the customers – have been ignored and dismissed.
B. Whether the shrinking body which is the Orchestra itself can recover its morale and esprit is very doubtful.
C. There is no good reason for Maestro Osmo Vanska to remain here, or for successor world class conductors to come to this community after he leaves.
These three, Orchestra, Conductor and Audience, create the synergy which makes the difference.
5. The pot of money called an endowment, and new lobby – are, from all appearances, the priorities of this Board, and make no difference in the long run. Hypothetical guesses about when the Orchestra would run out of money are self-serving guesses. It is interesting to note the Wikipedia article about Orchestra Hall. Its premise was to be non-elitist, welcoming to all….
For us, personally, the lowest point occurred a few months ago when the November 30 Rachmaninoff concert was cancelled.
Cancelled Concert Nov. 30, 2012.  This was a special event including our 83 year old friend, and his friend.

Cancelled Concert Nov. 30, 2012. This was a special event including our 83 year old friend, and his friend.

This concert was not one of our subscriptions. We purchased four tickets for this one specifically to take our 82 year old neighbor and his friend to the concert. November 30 was to be a high point life experience for him.
There is no way to recover from such a loss.
The Orchestra Board – all of them – should resign, giving an opportunity to recover.
Of course they won’t, and perhaps they can’t as there is no mechanism to start from scratch.
But they should leave, or at minimum publicly apologize, putting a face and a voice to their public apology.
They are a disgrace.
2012-13 will be the true “legacy” of the current Minnesota Orchestra Board and Management.
What a disgusting legacy it is.
Personally, for me, the Union of the Minnesota Orchestra will be the one who has to invite me to resume my subscription to this Orchestra.
October 18, 2012

October 18, 2012

Orchestra Hall (Minneapolis)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Entry as it appears June 5, 2013
Jump to: navigation, search
Lobby and box office seen from 11th Street
Seen from Peavey Plaza
Fountain, Peavey Plaza
Orchestra Hall, located at Nicollet Mall and 12th Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, is home to the Minnesota Orchestra. The Hall was built in 1974 (along with the adjacent Peavey Plaza) and opened for the 1974 concert season. It is a major landmark of the southern portion of the Nicollet Mall and home to many events throughout the year in addition to the Orchestra’s home base.
The auditorium seats 2,450, seating 1,500 on the main floor. The remaining 950 seats are placed in three tiers above the main floor, and along the side of the hall. The auditorium is actually a second building separated (for acoustical reasons) by a one inch gap from the “shell” which contains the lobby and offices. The stage is unusual due to the large cube motif in the rear wall, which continues along the ceiling of the hall all the way to the back of the hall. The cubes were added for acoustic reasons (with great success), but turned out to be visually striking as well.[1] The great acoustical design has been attempted to be duplicated in many other concert halls.
Built in 1975, Peavey Plaza was designed by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg who also designed the Loring Greenway. The plaza which holds an amphitheater and water fountain is considered one of the endangered historic properties in Minnesota.[2][3]
Originally noted for its Modernist design, chosen to represent an orchestra for everyone, not what was then perceived to be the formal “elitist” designs of the past.[1] The exterior of the building is recognizable by its large, blue ventilation ducts. Their unusual size was chosen to reduce air velocity and hence noise. The lobby area’s original “power plant” design was meant to remove tones of class and privilege from the symphony-going experience; it was upgraded in the late 1997 and includes several bars.[1] Expansive windows overlook the street.
In April 2007, it was announced that the hall would be undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation.[4] This renovation had a heavy emphasis on the lobby and patron areas.
On April 9, 2010, plans were revealed for a $40 million renovation and expansion. The lobby and public areas will be doubled in size and the current utilitarian exterior will be replaced with stone and glass. A grand new entrance will also be added. KPMB of Toronto are the architects and MBJ of Minneapolis are the structural engineers. Construction began in June 2012 and will reopen in late summer of 2013.
See also
List of concert halls
^ a b c Millett, Larry (2007). AIA Guide to the Twin Cities: The Essential Source on the Architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 30. ISBN 0-87351-540-4.
^ Metzger, Michael (May 1, 2008). “Peavey Plaza makes list of endangered historic sites”. MinnPost.com (MinnPost). Retrieved 2008-05-01.
^ Bruch, Michelle (May 1, 2008). “Peavey Plaza on list of endangered historic places”. Downtown Journal (Minnesota Premier Publications). Retrieved 2008-05-01.
^ “What Sounds Great at Orchestra Hall? A $90m Facelift” St. Paul Pioneer Press, 30 April 2007.
External links
Orchestra Hall from the Minnesota Orchestra’s website

UPDATES as received:
from Molly R, June 5: Did you see this post yesterday? I thought it was excellent. Detailed but quite clear. [about the Finances of Minnesota Orchestra, from MinnPost Community Voices]
From Carol T, June 5: Did the subscribers have their money refunded? I have not been to a MN Orchestra concert in years (sorry to say), but this is a disaster nevertheless. And what is the Twin Cities’ motto these days anyway – love our stadiums, hate our musicians?? Response from Dick: Money was refunded if requested. If not, could be used for tickets next season. We opted for refund. We didn’t pay to have our season cancelled.
From John B, June 6:
The orchestra mess reminds me that historically, in Europe, musicians held the same social level as servants to the rich. If the MN Orch was proficiently artistic at a level of say, 95 and even 25% of the members left, management could probably hire replacements at lower salaries and maintain a level of artistic proficiency at 94. This is my opinion, but the available and qualified pool of highly capable professional musicians is very deep and wide. Supply and demand rules again.
To state the obvious: the MN Orch Board has the power, the musicians union does not. It is Walkerism on the cultural level. Truth be told, I bet the 80 Orch board members couldn’t discern the artistic differential between a proficiency level of 95 and 90. Also, truth be told, I think most rich arts supporters don’t know squat about the fine points in the arts. They have the money to donate big time and love the power and want to look good and get the payoff of being on the Board.
I am reading a good book titled The Org, about the why and ways of organizations in our society. Some great insight by Fisman and Sullivan.
From Anonymous, June 6, in Twin Cities Daily Planet: I admit I have been following this issue from a fairly distant perspective. I have attended a small but few concerts at the Hall. Yet I’m still unclear of the reasons the 80 member board to request members of the orchestra to take a 20 to 35% pay cut other than they do not have enough money to support the orchestra at its current level? Could be as simple as they actually do not have the money? Is it because they are inherently evil and are bent on destroying an orchestra? Or are they not inventive enough to attract additional revenue to support existing budgets? Someone help me out … if there is enough money why is the board holding out?
Dick, responding to anonymous: Molly (Minnpost link comment above) provided a link to an excellent analysis of the money situation with the MO. As one who spent most of my working career in and around collective bargaining, I know that the “truth” was often false, in the way that it was presented. The numbers were accurate, but one was foolish to take them at face value. My understanding, and this is only my understanding, is that from early on the Union only wanted to see the documentation of the supposed money problems. For whatever reason, the Orchestra Management declined – and may still be declining – to reveal the kind of things suggested in the MinnPost article. In my own pretty extensive history with bargaining, including working with many staff people who had the same job as I did, all of us working over the years with thousands of contracts, money was almost always the stated public issue; most often, though, the primary issue was not money at all. People could understand $’s (whether the numbers were true or not made no difference); they had more difficulty with conceptual things, often things like being treated with basic respect. From what I know, and I don’t know the entire story here, because no one will ever tell me that, “money” is not and has never been the issue in the conflict between the Orchestra Management and its Union. Money has been the excuse, but not the reason. It also interests me that Minneapolis Star Tribune has twice passed on columns from me about this issue. This is not a matter of writing ability: I’ve been published frequently in the STrib. They aren’t interested in my dissonant voice on this issue. (The President and CEO of the STrib is also on the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra.)
Comments also found at my June 1 Post:
From Alan S, June 2, 2013: I just cannot believe how disrespectful this board is towards their musicians and their patrons. I cannot believe that they have any understanding about what these musicians go through to get to the level so that they can perform in the blind auditions and get acceptance to be hired at that level.
What kind of management would spend 50 million dollars to improve their plant, Orchestra Hall, which I believe is the most pathetic building that houses a major orchestra in any city in the country for a city of our size. Over 10 % of the seats cannot see the entire stage. On the third tier, close to the stage, you have at the most a 20 to 25% view of the stage, and the sound there is pathetic.
The building should have been built like the Ordway, not as deep and twice as wide so that every seat in the auditorium would have a straight on view of the magnificent orchestra that we used to enjoy. The plaza could have been designed to be in the rear of the building. After this building was built, and it was discovered that all of the seating did not have a complete view of the stage, the words architectural blunder appeared in the paper just once, and then never again.
4th row is great seats. We used to have seats in the center section on the left aisle in that row for many years. I myself never went to hear music, but to watch music being made. That location allowed me, if there was a pianist, to see his or her hands on the keyboard.
My own daughter performed as a sub (violist) with that orchestra when Leonard Slatkin was the conductor. One of the letters stated that only 52% of the seats are filled for concerts, Are they blaming their marketing shortcomings on the orchestra members? It appears that to me.
Cancelled Concert Nov. 30, 2012.  This was a special event including our 83 year old friend, and his friend.

Cancelled Concert Nov. 30, 2012. This was a special event including our 83 year old friend, and his friend.

from John G, June 4, 2013:
Beginning last September when I got first word of this lockout I have been
“on this case.” Likely you have the MOMO website, and there you can see
among “replies” my letters there. From the outset of this mismanagement’s
lockout it has been clear that they own no loyalty to our musicians and to
Osmo Vanska. For me this string of lockout cancellations has been one of
the major disappointments of a life that has been, since my mother’s
teaching of music, altogether fascinated by the world of classical music.
Anger about this is mine as well. I am also fully embarrassed by the
inaction of the powers that be, including our governor whose former wife has
been such a loyal supporter of the MO.
From the start the faceless Board has aimed to destroy the musicians’ union.
Years ago I served on the Board of the Inter-Faculty organization, a
thoroughly weak representative of faculty on the then-seven campuses of the
Minnesota State University System, and I have seen mismanagement in church
settings as well. Dick, the barbarians are storming our gates. Perhaps not
even the group of attorneys that I have repeatedly invoked, could turn
around this situation.
In any case, there is no publicly visible effort to
do that. Not only are we losing our Minnesota Orchestra as we have known it
under Osmo Vanska superb world-class leadership as Music Director. We are
also witnessing another terrible blow against unions and workers’ necessary
right to organize for their own right to exist.
Many thanks for your outrage and its effective expression. John
From Jane P, June 10, 2013: I couldn’t agree more. However, there is so little we can do. Not really anyway to contact them, is there? They are in an ivory tower – it is the newly remodeled hall that is useless.
To me this is a giant example of two very dangerous attitudes I see constantly in art and academic institutions: 1 . buildings are more important than programs 2. the labor and skills of most people have little value and can be easily reproduced by eager hungry new hires.
This is the path to the stone age!
Dick’s reply to Jane: I don’t agree that there is little we can do. If the audience, the subscribers, were to say we won’t be back unless the Orchestra itself asks us back, there’d be movement, fast.
Of course, a subscriber revolt is a very unlikely scenario, but it is possible. You are in the arts. This is an important issue for you, too!
Note additional comment(s) in Response section, below, and at Twin Cities Daily Planet posting (link at beginning of this post).

1 reply
  1. Catherine Apostle
    Catherine Apostle says:

    Eight years ago I moved from rural upstate NY to Minneapolis. In NY in the summer I felt blessed to be able to attend concerts in Saratoga Springs by the wonderful Philadelphia Orchestra- -only there for 3-4 weeks!
    After I moved to the Twin Cities I discovered the Minnesota Orchestra – what a miraculous, rich experience. I have been a subscriber for the past few years and planned to attend this year – again subscribing. I can’t help wondering about the coincidence of all the orchestra lockouts occurring almost simultaneously. My experience (I am over 75 years old) has been that unions have improved the lives of all of – yes, even management! I sincerely hope that a solution can be found that is not more devistating to either musicians OR the music lovers in MN!


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