Thursday, January 16, 2014

Good News from American Orchestras

Two days ago, the Minnesota Orchestra finally approved a new three-year contract, ending a 15 month lockout that brought the major US orchestra to a standstill.  For those of us who were keeping watch throughout the impasse, this is definitely welcome news.  Although the orchestra can finally move forward and create music, it's important to look at the severe damage that has occurred.

To begin with, the return of the former music director, Osmo Vänskä, is still uncertain.  Aaron Jay Kernis also left his post as the Director of the Composer Institute, an innovative program within the Minnesota Orchestra that provided opportunities to up-and-coming composers throughout the country.  Kernis has previously stated he believes the Composer Institute will take a lot of reviving work to get it running efficiently once again, depending on whether or not the program is even continued.  His future with the program is also uncertain.  The lockout also resulted in more than 15 musicians leaving for other orchestras.  Finally, in spite of no concerts occurring and no musicians to pay, the Minnesota Orchestra managed to lose $1.1 million during its last fiscal year.

This is definitely a moment of truth for the Minnesota Orchestra.  It's plainly obvious they are a group of talented individuals (while the lockout was occurring, they were nominated for a Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance).  However, the key to their future is how the organization chooses to run itself.  The issues that created the deadlock revolved around a deep mistrust and lack of understanding between the administrative Board and the members of the Orchestra.  Only time will tell whether they can work together and help the organization safely get back on its own two feet.

In spite of this uncertainty, they can find inspiration out there from other American orchestras.  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra went on strike during the recession, and after what many saw as the death throes of a once great organization, everybody came out of talks with large pay cuts, but also more accessibility for the suffering citizens of the Motor City.  Last December saw the DSO finally balancing its budget for the first time since 2007.  And just yesterday, eight months ahead of schedule, the DSO ratified a new three-year contract

This positive work between administration and performers is just the vision the Minnesota Orchestra needs to take up.  Let's hope they can.

1 comment:

  1. Good news indeed! Let's hope our communities will continue to support the arts and that citizens realize how much they enrich our lives!