Minn. Orchestra, Musicians Talk through Mediator

Updated: 09/27/2013 4:29 PM KSTP.com By: Scott Theisen

File photo of the Minnesota Orchestra.
File photo of the Minnesota Orchestra.
Photo: Photo: KSTP File Photo

Minnesota Orchestra management and musicians traded information through an independent mediator in recent days as deadlines loom over the institution's future, nearly a year into a musicians' lockout over a contentious labor dispute.
Representatives for both the Orchestra's board of directors and locked-out musicians confirmed late Sunday that they had been exchanging information with the mediator, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell. The lockout that started last October stemmed from management's proposal to trim musician salaries.
The board had set Sunday as the deadline for a deal, in order to fulfill a request from conductor Osmo Vanska. He wanted the orchestra available for rehearsals starting Sept. 30 for long-scheduled Carnegie Hall performances in November, and said he would resign if those shows had to be canceled.
In a statement Sunday, orchestra management pledged to give an update Monday about how talks were progressing. Orchestra spokeswoman Gwen Pappas said Monday that she had no information to share on the status of the Carnegie Hall dates.
The orchestra musicians, who performed Sunday for several thousand people at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, said Monday that they would produce their own fall concert series. The performances, which would start with Oct. 4 and 5 shows at the University of Minnesota, would feature noted piano soloist Emmanuel Ax.
Mitchell, who got involved as a neutral mediator in recent months, had advised both sides to end the lockout while continuing to negotiate new contracts, but the orchestra board rejected that proposal. By revealing Sunday that it made its latest proposal through Mitchell, though, management may be signaling that it's more open to Mitchell's idea.
Blois Olson, a spokesman for the musicians, said both sides recognize Sept. 30 as a hard deadline in relation to Vanska's future with the orchestra. Vanska is widely hailed as one of the best conductors now working, and losing him could leave the orchestra's future in doubt.

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