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What do you call an orchestra manager with no orchestra?

Michael Henson.

The president of the Minnesota Orchestra has called off the rest of the season. His musicians are locked out, without pay. He need to revise his job title.


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  1. itrinkkeinwein says:

    The villain here isn’t Henson. It’s the board chair, Jon Campbell. Wrong mentality.

    It is not his company, not HIS institution, to destroy, which is what he is doing.

    The Minnesota Orchestra is a public franchise, in the old sense of that word, on symphonic music in that state.

    There is no private corporation here, no Baroque court, no princely line of succession, no single potentate or benefactor, no right of one man to shut things down or shut people out.

    From what I read here in Germany, the finances are dire and Minnesota’s politicians, who ought to be rising in defence of this state asset and world-renowned entity, are sitting on their thumbs. Shame on them.

    Obviously some sharp adjustment is needed, but bringing that about requires consensus and realism, not a CEO-type intent on breaking the backs of the artists.

    Many resignations are needed.


  2. Hasbeen says:

    Why demonize the manager when it is the Board that makes the decisions ?

    • Any person of conscience would resign over suc decisions. He has free will. He, and you, cannot blame the board.

      • I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to expect him to resign. Somebody has to manage the organization, such as it is, and perhaps he thinks his departure cause even more disruption.

        • Amy Adams says:

          The musicians cast a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in Michael Henson. He has created the disruption himself.
          Really, the only reason for him to stay…who in the orchestra industry is looking at him as a great serious candidate for CEO?

  3. Wing-chi Chan says:

    Who was the person proposing to cut musician’s wage up to 30% but raise up management staff’s pay?
    What is the nature of a 501 c (3) tax-exempt corporate structure?
    Why the citizens can let their Governor be a clown in this incident?
    When the private and public sectors start to file legal complaints regarding the liability of the “Board”?
    Where is the unspent money that has been saved from not paying musicians for this fiscal year?
    How much the Board has spend in operations while not a penny to the whole team of musicians for this fiscal year?

    • It seems like the answer may have been part of the Board’s strategy from the very beginning, i.e., if the musicians wouldn’t give in to the 32% cuts, then the MOA was prepared to shut down the operation and, in effect, take 100% from the players, and then wait until the new hall was built.

  4. It seems that there may be some sort of script in play here. MOA knows the updated hall will be a big draw to the players and everyone will want to be a part of its re-opening. MOA may be trying to use this as the means of bringing the players to their knees and getting them to submit a counter.

    With the canceling of the remainder of the season, it seems that endgame strategies are in place. I would love to be mistaken.

  5. PK Miller says:

    The Manager SHOULD fall on his sword. However, that assumes he’s a man of integrity. I don’t know the man. What I know of this terrible, painful, embarrassing debacle is what I have read here in Slipped Disc & occasional articles in the NYT & Arts Journal. But anyone with integrity who cared about his (or her) musicians would find his/her position untenable and resign. Yes, the problem is primarily the Board. I’d be interested in the Symphony Board’s composition–my bet is bakers, “beautiful people who like to show up and act like beautiful people, who find such boards helpful to being ‘beautiful people.’” as a friend once said of the Board of a long defunct area opera company whose spectacular demise was the stuff of (soap) operas. And obviously, the City & its officials do not care. I am, again, no fan of unions, if I may belong to one. But I am a “fan” of, DO believe in FAIRNESS. The arts always get short shrift. And the answer to Wing-Chi Chan’s questions is “When people start caring.” IF they every do. An editorialist in a local paper once asked, “Have we lost our souls or did we never have them to lose?” (regarding the arts & their funding).

  6. Amy Adams says:

    As of today, the MOA no longer wishes anyone to know who is on the board of directors. The entire list has been removed from the website. (Although it can easily be found, if you look around, a bit.)
    Is this in the name of community outreach? Transparency?

    I agree, Michael Henson cannot stay – he represents so many setbacks that the Minnesota Orchestra will not heal from until he’s gone.

    • This is REALLY circling the wagons. Of course, if this is a nonprofit, isn’t the Board roster public information? I suppose they are all yelling “I didn’t get on the Board to have people actually try to CONTACT me” . . .

    • MacroV says:

      I can’t see how Michael Henson can stay. I imagine that to a large extent he is implementing a strategy endorsed by the Board (no matter who proposed it), but if he strongly disagrees with it, he should have resigned at a time when another might want to hire him – now I suspect he’s severely damaged goods.. But I can’t see how the musicians will ever trust or want to deal with him. This seems like the time for Henson and several high-profile board members to resign, some Minneapolis elder statesman to take over the Board on an interim basis, and then hire a retired legend like Peter Pastreich, Henry Fogel, or Zarin Mehta to come in for six months and try to re-establish faith with the musicians. They might even make some concessions that, just as a matter of losing face, they would never consider with Henson.

  7. And of course the fake summer concerts (general seating!) are a way to persuade gullible people to either order tickets (cash flow) or roll cancelled subscriptions into the summer concerts so that the MOA doesn’t have to pay out refunds.

  8. Our little orchestra would lose all of our public funding if we acted like this, and probably all of our private funding. Who is paying current expenses to not perform?

    In grant applications, my orchestra has to prove that we can meet our programming for which we request funding. When we submit final reports, we have to prove that we accomplished the programs for which we received the money.

    I don’t understand how or why that would be different at a multimillion dollar organization. Is public scrutiny only for us really little organizations? In business, it would be as if Wall Street got a pass, but Mom and Pop businesses got the scrutiny and carried the burdens. Hmm…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Unless the management gives some indication this month that they are willing to budge from their financial cut demands, I see no benefit to the musicians negotiating at the end of the month. If the management’s offer remains final, as it has all season, what is there to discuss?

  10. Raffael Bietenhader says:

    in general; management should work FOR the orchestra! Nowadays, orchestras working for the management and this is absolutelly wrong….!!!!!

    • With all due respect, the organization needs a new business model. The guarantor/patron model has failed; that seems to be faily evident to just about everyone.

      Bill Eddins has proposed a governance idea that might actually work, and could give the players the involvement they need to have a say in every aspect of the orchestra. The next challenge would be to determine how to make a transition from one model to the other. There might need to be a group or organization to oversee the transition.

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