Musicians Picket Outside Minn. Orchestra Fundraiser

Updated: 09/27/2013 4:27 PM By: Stephen Tellier

On Friday night, pomp met protest, as the Minnesota Orchestra held its Symphony Ball fundraiser in the midst of a year-long lockout.

It was part celebration, part condemnation.

"The people who are in the hall are people who are deeply concerned about the future of the orchestra," said Doug Kelley, the vice chair of the orchestra board's negotiating committee.

Inside the Orchestra Hall, the Minnesota Orchestra held its largest annual fundraiser. Outside, the musicians are protesting the event -- livid its being held during a lockout.

"This is a horrific disaster for this town and for this state," said Tony Ross, a longtime orchestra musician.

It's a surreal scene.

"Can you imagine being locked out for a year and the management and board celebrating? This seems odd to me," Ross said.

"I find it a little ironic that the musicians are picketing the very people who are contributing to their salaries," Kelley said.

Kelley said management considered cancelling the ball. But it typically brings in $1 million a year.

"We need the money now more than ever to try to help break the logjam to get the musicians back to the table," Kelley said

The musicians have rejected two previous proposals. Orchestra management recently put forward a third, but one musician says it's more of the same.

"We realized that the offers that the management and board have put on the table would disassemble this orchestra," Ross said.

Both sides are working through a mediator and keeping the details confidential.

"All I can say is that it's in mediation and we want to respect that process," Kelley said.

The situation appears bleak, but the sound of music still blares.

"We are hopeful the musicians will come to the table," Kelley said.

"If I wasn't hopeful, I would have moved away by now," Ross said.

Meanwhile, the musicians are supposed to be rehearsing for November performances at Carnegie Hall, and the orchestra's director has threatened to resign if those concerts are canceled.

The lockout will reach the one year mark one week from Tuesday.