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Light in Minnesota: A veteran leader returns

Bruce Coppock, who ran the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra from 1999 to 2008, is returning as president and CEO. The orch had been locked out for six months until the mayor of St. Paul brokered a resolution, has been headless for the past year.

Coppock, 61, quit to deal with cancer five years ago. Lately, he has been running the Cleveland Orchestra’s successful Miami residency. He is said to be the musicians’ choice. He has a huge task on his hands but the auguries are good. Graydon Royce breaks the news in the Star-Tribune.


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  1. From the Star Tribune article, he seems like an ideal choice, with his background, experience, philosophy and management approach. Orchestra musicians and managers should watch this one closely. It he pulls the SPCO through and it experiences a rebirth, how he does it could serve as a model for other orchestras facing the same problems. It sounds like the MOA should be looking for someone of his caliber.

    • Yes, it’s all about perception. And here’s something to chew on – I heard about this on MPR and read the Star Tribune article online before several of the musicians had heard the news. In other words, the spin machine was just waiting to get revved up. What a great way to launch a new-old regime, NOT!

      My plans to resume contributing are still on the shelf.

  2. tom logeland says:

    This is encouraging news. His tenure as music director resulted in truly great and interesting programming. I often found myself leaving a concert and sending them an extra check. However he has been a silent board member during the lockout and tenure of Dobson West. I do not anticipate becoming a donor again until they have turned out the executive committee of the SPCO board

  3. Folks on the ground are hugely disappointed. I hear from multiple sources that Mr. Coppock was not in fact the musicians’ choice, despite quotes in the Strib. But I’m not involved in this situation at all, don’t know Mr. Coppock, and claim no special knowledge.

    • Why does that not surprise me? The BOARD wanted Bruce Coppock back. He would never have left had it not been for health problems. Bruce Coppock engineered the whole “new model” which has caused so many problems and sent the orchestra on a downward spiral.

      New leadership would have been great. This is not new leadership.

      • Sarah- Thank you for your comments here and above. I confess, as someone who is an outsider, I’ve only learned about this latest development from the article. I have no first hand knowledge of Mr. Coppock and what did previously with the SPCO, so if I’ve been snookered by spin I’d like to know more. I hope you will enlighten us further. Maybe it is time for the musicians to design, propose and make the case for the model or paradigm for the orchestra and its management they want and feel would succeed.

        • The “new model” drove ticket prices and revenue down to unsustainable levels. Thousands of audience members would pay more for tickets, but mgmt will have none of that. They insist there isn’t a revenue problem but an “expense” one; that is why they went after the musicians. May I add that the same NY law firm has counseled the mgmts of the SPCO, Minnesota Orchestra, MN Wild hockey team, and Crystal Sugar, all of which have locked out their workers in the past few years. Coincidence? Absolutely not.

  4. I suspect that the new contract renders all of this moot, but have the players thought of leaving and forming their own ensemble? That would allow them to establish a new artistic and business model. Maybe an orchestra like St. Luke’s or Orpheus could provide some input and assistance in setting it up. Obviously it would need good counsel to navigate all of the legal and business obstacles, and enough financial backing, it is not inconceivable that some of the still disaffected heavy hitter donors would support a new orchestra, knowing it was in essence the same group of players that they had supported in the past.

    • This has been thought of – in fact, there is an audience advocacy group which started as Save Our SPCO and is now Sustain our SPCO ( We have announced the formation of an exploratory committee to look at just this opportunity.

      Unfortunately, over half of the now-28 member orchestra (down from 34) are eligible for retirement. Given that Coppock was approved by a 3-musician committee which was hand-picked, this announcement may spur a loss of half of the experienced musicians.

  5. A Musician says:

    I am prompted to write in response to the rehiring of Bruce Coppock as President and managing director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

    I am curious to learn why the “working capitol” of the SPCO dropped from $34,693,285 in the fiscal year ended 2008 – Coppock’s last year before leaving – to $2,569,086 the following year, according to the Charity Navigator reports online at (You will need to register for a free account in order to access this report.)

    This staggering drop apparently led to an extra audit that resulted in a sharply downward revision of the SPCO’s rating. In 2008, the SPCO reported an “excess income” (or profit) of $3,757,497, followed by a deficit in 2009 of $-4,037,796, which is a difference of well over $7 million.

    Since the situation leading to this financial collapse appears to have occurred under Coppock’s watch, it seems appropriate to explore the reasons behind it as the SPCO struggles to regain its footing with him once again at the helm of the organization.

    Furthermore, according to the IRS reports Coppock’s salary in 2006 was $225,819. In 2007 it was $335,334 – an increase of $110,000, or nearly 50 per cent in one year! This unjustifiable increase alone leads one to question whether his priority has been the financial health of the SPCO and whether he is qualified to lead it during this critical time of financial and artistic crisis.

    • Part of it was the drop in endowment value, and also (mostly corporate) contributions. The market is up, however, and giving has resumed, but mgmt does not wish to acknowledge this. They also slashed ticket prices further, and so obviously had a revenue issue. They like to be cute and say “net revenue”, meaning that they got rid of marketing and a lot of development costs.

      It could also be timing – like the MOA and their hiring of a PR firm to best determine when to announce deficits.

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