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Musicians flee Minnesota, one as far as Switzerland

The five-month lockout of musicians by the organisation that was once the Minnesota Orchestra is causing a mass exodus of talent.

Peter McGuire, locally born and a member of the first violins, has begun work this month as second concertmaster of the highly-regarded Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich.


Three others – Sarah Kwak, Vali Phillips and Matthew Young - are playing with other orchestras in the US. Many more are seeking jobs elsewhere.

Michael Henson and his board continue, against all logic, to defend their lockout.

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  1. I know Manny Laureano, the principal trumpeter of the Minnesota Orchestra, a little. He posts every day about what he’s doing during the lockout… it’s heartbreaking. Just a year or two ago Alex Ross of The Rest is Noise fame heard the MSO at Carnegie Hall and said, “they sound like the greatest orchestra in the world.” It was at around the time of their Sibelius 2nd and 5th CD release. Manny has been subbing with other orchestras including Detroit and Dallas this season… heartbreaking to think they’ll never again have the orchestra in Minneapolis they did just a year ago.

  2. Terry Carlson says:

    Thank you, Peter, for your terrific work here in Minnesota. Best wishes in Zurich!

    According to my February 1, 2013 concert program (the Grammy Celebration Concert), Peter was most recently Acting First Associate Concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra.

  3. The latest departures were announced yesterday – SPCO principal second violin Kyu-Young Kim has won a section violin position in the NY Philharmonic. His wife, MN Orch cellist Pitnarry Shin, will be leaving with him.

  4. Terry Carlson says:

    I have no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more from the Oregon Symphony in the future, now that Sarah Kwak has been named Concertmaster there. She was Acting Concertmaster (Leader) of the Minnesota Orchestra prior to the arrival of Concertmaster Erin O’Keefe, and is billed as such on their recent Grammy-nominated CD of Sibelius Symphonies 2 & 5.

    From “Her teachers are three legends of the instrument, all now gone: Ivan Galamian, who taught superstar Itzhak Perlman; Szymon Goldberg, who became concertmaster of the famed Berlin Philharmonic at 19; and Josef Gingold, who taught Joshua Bell.”

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      And Sarah, as a student, once understudied the Berg Vln Concerto for Henryk Szeryng. Who refused to play for a run out concert and sat in the first row watching as Sarah played the Berg! This was around 1983 in France.

  5. Osmo Vänskä was interviewed in Helsinki last week. He was teaching at the Sibelius Academy and rehearsing with the student orchestra for a concert that was on February 14th (Sibelius 3, Song of the Nightingale, La Mer). He also said that he’s having an apartment renovated that’s located five minutes from the new concert hall in Helsinki, but refused to comment on any speculation about a new position.

    • Terry Carlson says:

      Oh. My. God. (unless he just wants to have a nice apartment in Helsinki, and why not?)

      But, it was bound to happen. His contract with Minnesota is through 2014-2015 season, but did he really sign up for this lockout madness? No rehearsals, no concerts. I wouldn’t doubt that his lawyers will try to get him out of it even sooner.

      • “unless he just wants to have a nice apartment in Helsinki, and why not?”

        Yes, I wouldn’t read too much into it. It’s probably just an apartment. The chief conductor positions of the two symphony orchestras in Helsinki are not going to be open any time soon. The Finnish National Opera is looking for a musical director and the Sibelius Academy for a professor of conducting. I guess Vänskä would be a more likely candidate for the latter, but I suspect he’s not interested.

        • Konstanze says:

          My dear friends from Russia – are Principal Dancer;s with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet – They are out of the Kirov! The BEST! I worked with then in Italy! Heads UP!

  6. Marko Velikonja says:

    While I am certainly disappointed by the situation in Minnesota (and St. Paul) and alarmed by the prospect that s narrow-minded boards and managements are dismantling two great orchestras, I wonder if any of these recent departures are related to the lockouts. In every case the people seem to be leaving for jobs that would arguably be better jobs even in normal circumstances. When you start to see people leaving for jobs decidedly inferior than those they held in Minnesota, you’ll know it’s really bad.

    • Terry Carlson says:

      Well, one hears comments from Minn Orch musicians like “meeting with management was like meeting the school bully on the playground at lunchtime” and “they’ve treated her very poorly from the moment she arrived”, so things have been bad under Henson for quite awhile.

      And now this: Henson did not appear at the Grammy Celebration Concert (hosted by the Mayor) because “the City of Minneapolis does not provide any funding to the Minnesota Orchestra.”

      • @Terry Carlson says, “And now this: Henson did not appear at the Grammy Celebration Concert (hosted by the Mayor) because “the City of Minneapolis does not provide any funding to the Minnesota Orchestra.””

        My husband and I happened to be seated near Judy Dayton, who co-hosted the concert. I have little doubt that she was looking for him too, as were the rest of us. I anticipated that there might be a cadre of bodyguards and an undercurrent of whispers as he was escorted to his seat. But, sadly, that was not to be. Maybe he just couldn’t face her.

    • Marko, those jobs are no longer necessarily “inferior”…as the situation under Michael Henson and board chair Jon Campbell becomes more depressing. The work climate has changed. If you read the red-line contract changes, there is SO MUCH going on in terms of what management expects the musicians to give up. And at every step along the way, Henson’s team hit low and hard, rather than acting as true partners in the arts.
      My prayers go out to the next performing arts organization that has him at the helm…

    • Having spoken with Peter, yes, these are directly related to the lockout.

  7. For decades, American musicians, especially opera singers and brass players, have been leaving America for Europe where there are far more jobs. These American musicians are essentially economic refugees.

  8. They are related to the lockouts.

    Peter McGuire’s wife Kimberly wrote on my blog: “Peter and I were both born and raised in southern MN. All of our family is in Minnesota. Peter absolutely would not have taken the Tonhalle Orchestra – Zurich Audition had management and the Board submitted a respectful offer in April 2012.”

    And Kyu-Young Kim just came from New York less than two years ago. He would not have taken the audition if the lockout at the SPCO wasn’t happening. He will be leaving Minnesota with his wife, who is a cellist with the Minnesota Orchestra.

    Keep an eye out for people leaving for smaller orchestras. The feeling on the ground is that wave will begin soon… Mr. Henson, Mr. Campbell, and Mr. Davis are just that tyrannical and unpleasant to work with.

  9. Konstanze says:

    This is NOT what my grandfather “Karl Scheurer” had in mind when he came from Germany to build this Orchestra in 1909! A pupil of Joachim in Berlin, not even 20 years old! He as first at BSO after Joachim passed in 1907 and eight members of my family once Graced this stage – My heart is broken over what has taken place! I opened the 100 year season and was published – my grandfather Karl was honored at the 75th Season and once again I watched him! He lived to be 97 years old! Look him up in “Music and Maestro’s” by John K. Sherman! I was trained in piano, violin and viola by my grandfather and then chose a career in classical ballet. I hold the archives of this family – way back to the 17th century — Heart Broken – I knew Dorati and was on stage with him at age three! My father “Fritz” on the first stand of the Bass section — Osmo made this Orchestra sing as my dance colleagues would say! Such talent – gone – and for what?

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