Minnesota Orchestra Lockout Drags On

Updated: 11/06/2012 10:47 AM KSTP.com By: Jennie Olson

There’s no end in sight for the Minnesota Orchestra lockout.

Musicians asked to speak to the entire board at their regular meeting Monday, but the board said no. The board says they made an offer to the musicians back in April and haven’t heard back.

The musicians say they can’t make a counter-offer until they get an accurate idea of the orchestra’s financial health.

They have been locked out since Oct. 1. Musicians expect more concerts will be canceled. On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor RT Rybak unanimously supported a resolution urging both sides to get back together.  

The Minnesota Orchestra has already cancelled concerts through Nov. 25 as negotiators argue over a proposal to trim the performers' average salary by $46,000 a year.

Musicians have demanded an open audit of the orchestras' finances, complaining about an ongoing $50 million renovation of Orchestra Hall's lobby. Michael Henson, the orchestra's president, said renovation funds come from dedicated donations and are needed to keep drawing audiences and big donors.

The Minnesota Orchestra has seen its reputation grow in recent years under conductor Osmo Vanska. The Finnish-born Vanska has become something of a celebrity in a state that treasures its Scandinavian heritage, and he's won international acclaim for pushing the orchestra to new heights.

But the orchestra's leaders have said even as its reputation grows they've seen flat attendance, declining corporate and individual support, and poor results from investments. Meanwhile, salaries grew by 3 to 4 percent annually under the previous contract.
Jesse Rosen, president and chief executive officer of the League of American Orchestras, which doesn't take sides in labor-management disputes, said orchestras are struggling with the economy like many other businesses that depend on discretionary spending.
"These are big cultural trends that are affecting the movie business, and professional sports, and the way our culture operates now," he said. "So it's not surprising that we're likely to see a period of visible experimentation in American orchestras and the way they operate."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.