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Wretched news: Two more musicians flee Minnesota

Assistant concertmaster Stephanie Arado has quit after 21 years to teach at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. She tells colleagues: ‘My decision to undertake this career change now grew out of my sense that the institution that I have devoted my creative energy to for the past two decades — the Minnesota Orchestra — has lost its way.’


Word is also out that principal horn Michael Gast is joining the New York Phil. He has put in a formal request for a year’s absence.

One by one, the locked-out orchestra is voting with its feet.

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  1. Mark T. Lundholm says:

    I know I am not alone in my desire to see the management and board of directors of the Minnesota Orchestra terminated for what they have done. What are the options here and how can this be done?

    • George London says:

      What would a change in management and the board do, besides make the financial situation worse since they make up a third of the revenue.

      Facts are facts, the math doesn’t work.

      Revenue doesn’t meet expenses. Management has the duty to be good stewards and they are by not letting the orchestra go bankrupt due to over paying the musicians and letting the union bleed it dry.

      Everything has been above board with the finances according to all government records and oversight despite what the unions is trying to make the public believe.

      But hey bankers make good scapegoats for declining interest in classical music and the behavior by the union doesn’t seem to be want to grow the classical music audience.

      • Mr London,

        Fortunately, music itself is not based on facts. Music makes a community richer, not in a banking sense.
        Money, revenue, and perhaps bankers are important. But the importance of music in a social context is being disregarded. The players deserve so much more respect than they are getting and that includes compensation. Also, music is a collective experience. The musicians are doing nothing wrong bargaining collectively. They do things together. Your business outlook is unfortunately and in my opinion narrow minded.

  2. James Brinton says:

    I hate the thought, but this may be just what (mis)management wants.

    • I agree with you, unfortunately.

    • It’s a playbook that has worked consistently these last few years and is scalable to any size as well as transferrable to any medium. It is a house of cards, a contrivance and at the end of the day maybe collusive.

  3. Tom Gossard says:

    I am so sad for the musicians, stage personnel, staff members, volunteers. For those who may lose their jobs, their livelihoods, taking pride in their years – decades for some – their collective hard work and achievement/accomplishment, whatever it has taken 110-150-200% or higher to present to music lovers and many many more; it’s a total slap in the face. But you knew that already…

  4. George London says:

    Nice to see the musicians determined to drive the orchestra into the ground by not wanting to negotiate and not wanting to take a salary adjustment to meet what our community can afford.

    This is similar to only having $0.80 for bread and telling the village baker that we can only buy the $0.90 loaf for $0.80 and if you don’t want to sell it to us, I guess as a community we need to find a different solution.

    But hey the union doesn’t care if the endowment runs dry filling the operating losses each year and then a few years later the orchestra goes out of business.

    • Boy, you sure want to bait someone into talking about unions here…

    • Mark T. Lundholm says:


      According to my sources in the Minnesota media and elsewhere in the state it’s the management that won’t negotiate. Also, as to finances, the state legislature has found discrepancies in the organization finances, namely that the management has hidden and misstated the reality. The ramifications of this malfeasance are yet to be determined. However, you seem all to willing to take the management side and remark with an anti union agenda. Arts organizations are not for profit “free market” businesses. The banksters ruined the world economy, see 2008. This situation is just the latest ramification of their greed.

      • George London says:


        Sorry but your facts are wrong. If you looks at the local media and facts.

        The union has yet to make a counter offer. There has been no findings at all about finances.

        I know this destroys the narrative, facts are facts. Jut like revenue doesnt meet expenses.

        Yes I am very anti union in the public sector, 100% for private sector for profit unions.

        And yes arts orgs are subject to the free market rules, if people don’t want to buy tickets and pay for something that interests them, what other options do you have? Confiscate property to pay for something that didn’t interest them? Use tax money just for the interest of a few, wait we already do that with pro sports arenas.

        And how this is linked to bank failures I have no idea, but hey it makes a great narratives I guess. But the bottom line is people as interested in classical music anymore.

        • George,

          A counteroffer is not necessary. And it’s not just the money; there were 250 changes proposed to the working conditions. TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY. Mgmt basically wants to make indentured servants of the musicians.

          When you offer a scorched-earth contract and say “we can talk about this all you want but we’re not budging”, a counteroffer is futile at best.

          • George London says:

            Yes a counteroffer isnt needed for a negotiation. Just like an opponent isn’t needed to play a game of tennis.

            I guess the musicians would rather stand off to side and hold their breath and toss a tantrum rather then face reality that revenues doesn’t meet expenses.

            The math is the cold harsh reality.

      • James Brinton says:

        Mark, don’t bother. London is a “free-market,” anti-union conservative, frozen in time around the 1890s.
        Unfortunately, there are more unicorns in the world than free markets, and the malignant role of management here can’t be understated. But he saw the word “union,” and began doing the Limbaugh.
        And whoever compared musician wages with college professors needs to do some homework. Musicians aren’t in their league, not in the US anyway–except those that are also professors of music, and many are.
        Finally, nobody is giving the musicians credit for the decades of training (beginning in childhood) and practice (lifelong) required to do their jobs. Musicians spend more years than physicians learning their trade, and doctors don’t need to practice and rehearse daily.
        World-class musicians have a world class workload, and worked decades to acquire skills that quickly rust. Any one of the board members in question could take a year off and return to work none the worse; musicians don’t have that freedom.
        They didn’t have the freedom to lock out the board either.
        World-class musicians deserve a world-class wage, and I see no wrong in unionizing to balance the scales.

        • George London says:

          Wow James, that was quite the list of insults and assumptions.

          The essence of your argument strikes at the heart of free will. I guess if the public doesn’t value something or want something, it should be forced to pay for it.

          So if American football isn’t popular in Ireland , but those players practice hard and had alot of schooling, but people don’t show up for the games. We should find some way to pay for it.

          Your argument about the work they put in is meaningless. If they aren’t providing something of value to other people they won’t be paid.

          James you know what the musicians had freedom to do, is walk away, find somebody who is will to pay them what they are worth, this magical free market that you say doesn’t exist.

          Labor always has the power to walk and guess what customers of the orchestra always have the power to say I don’t want to pay that much money to hear them play.

          And surprise the board isn’t paid, in fact they are customers they donate a large chuck of the revenue. Sure the board could walk and donate their money to something they feel is more worthwhile.

          So perhaps James instead so repeating the same tired narrative and lob insults based on assumptions you actually should understand the problem at hand and you will see the musicians are very irrational.

          • Mark T. Lundholm says:

            George London was a reasonably good opera singer in the 1950′s or so. I doubt that your real name is the same. You are undoubtedly a “right wing troll” and I’ll take the advice of James Brinton, above to ignore your future posts.

      • James Brinton says:

        I think it’s good to note here that the “real George London” died in 1985.
        No telling who or what this person is.
        For all we know, he could be a crisis-management flak trolling the site for the Minnesota board; certainly he seems to reflect their ideas and attitudes.

    • With all due respect, there is a lot more at stake here even that the wellbeing of the MO players, in that orchestra management all over the US will use this situation as a benchmark for negotations from now on. The union is just doing its job, which is to step up to the plate and be assertive regarding the best interest of the players. Anything can be negotiated. It just takes two sides to do it.

      • James Brinton says:

        Agreed. The board is applying a managerial toolset to this situation which is not appropriate to a non-profit arts organization. If they succeed they could destroy the orchestra, and in doing so, tip the first domino in a nationwide chain of similar organizations.

        • I agree. It may be that the MO is a test case for orchestras in the future. A watershed, so to speak.
          As in, “welcome to the 21st century.” :-0

  5. Robert Eshbach says:

    I don’t know, George. It appears that these musicians have other better options. If Minnesota doesn’t offer them what they’re looking for, why shouldn’t they go to the New York Phil? What would you do in your job?

    • George London says:

      I agree they should take advantage of the free market and seek whoever will pay them what they believe they are worth.

      But to form a bully mob as a union and to set out to destroy the orchestra, which is an entity that is nonprofit and exists on charity, is not classy.

      To slander management and the donors, just shows how ungrateful the musicians are.

      If the salary isn’t what you want, walk away and allow others to play for the amount being offered. The amount of musicians of quality that exist is very much a surplus.

      Being one who has worked with “talent” unions, the inflexibility and desire not to change with the times and adapt to the new markets and channels for classical music is what is driving down patron growth.

      But like all unions that serve labor interests in the public and non profit sector , they care not about the kids, the citizens or the public and thus prove FDRs point.

      • The musicians have not…repeat, NOT slandered management or the board. If anyone has, it’s the infuriated patrons of the orchestra, who are watching their beloved band break up.
        “…prove FDR’s point…” ??? have you time-traveled here from the distant past?

        • Bullying? Oh yeah, when management gives the workers an ultimatum, namely take drastic pay cuts or be locked out, the workers are “bullying” when they refused to be pushed around.

          And the musicians did make two counter-offers: “pay and play,” that is, keep going under their current contract during negotiations, and arbitration, with an impartial third party looking at the books.

          Management DOES share the blame. They pretended that all was well when they were looking for a state grant. They raised $50 million to remodel a building that doesn’t need remodeling, and now many of those people who contributed are saying that they wouldn’t have contributed to the building program if they had known that it meant the musicians would suffer. Management’s marketing program consisted of advertisements in their own concert programs and on classical radio (in other words, reaching people who are already audience members) and badgering subscribers to hurry up and get their subscriptions in and give more money. Back in my hometown for the past ten years, I saw NO efforts to broaden the audience base.

      • One of the pet phrases of one of these players is “In order to succeed in this business, you have to have the killer instinct.”

        Wonder if that includes neutralizing all the opposition, even the hand that feeds you. :-0

  6. What qualified the chief officers as CEOs of other companies to lead the Minnesota Orchestra? It would seem wiser to have a manger or arts organizations with prior experience than a TARP bank CEO lead an orchestra as president. If this standoff continues there will be no donors, concerts, or organization left.

  7. Prof Doug Grant says:

    It seems to me that in the US, symphony musicians think they should be paid in line with university professors.

    In Australia, or the UK, the comparison is with high school teachers.

    The latter may be sustainable. The former is not. Time for a reality check.

    At the same time, the executives are vastly overpaid, and if they do not take at least the same percentage salary cut, there is little hope for agreement.

  8. Samuel Adler says:

    In complete agreement. It seems to me that the one thing people are not demanding is an answer to why the musicians don’t want to negotiate. I guess when people choose sides in an argument the mumpsimus mind’s only safety is in numbers.
    It pains me to see yet another business fall by the hands of a union. I would think by now Minnesotans, of all people, would’ve learned of the inevitable when a union is involved.

    • George London says:

      Good point. It is very strange following this in the media why the union won’t negotiate or make an offer.

      It is very puzzling, from a labor relations standpoint it is unheard of for this path to happen.

      And if the union is choosing Minnesota as a place to have a national fight the question is why. I would hope the rank and file realize that union management does not have their interests on mind.

      • The “media” is controlled by the corporations – the publisher of the StarTribune is on the MOA Board. MPR has been told to “stay out” of any actual investigating reporting.

        The Union is NOT “choosing” Minnesota for this fight – the Board and mgmt chose it, years ago. It’s part of the failing “reset” as dreamed up by those controlling the League of American Orchestras. The same thing went on with the SPCO.

        The Union has the musicians’ interests at heart – no one else does (except for thousands of locked-out audience members”.

        • James Brinton says:

          Good reply.
          When I think of this situation, and the union blaming going on, I ask myself, “How would an orchestra lock out management?” This usually resolves any lingering doubts about the balance of power.

          • The musicians have been putting on concerts. The MOA hasn’t; instead, they’ve been concentrating on their new “stadium”. And they’ve locked out the audience as well.

          • Mark T. Lundholm says:

            If this organization were located in Germany it would have never happened. In Germany corporate boards and, I assume arts organization boards, are required to have 50% membership by unions. The corporate rule as practiced in this country could never get away with this kind of extortion of the orchestra members. Also, the German people, i.e. “donors” wouldn’t stand for it either. Only one commentator in this blog seems to be blatantly pro management/anti union at all costs. Have you noticed? It’s George London. George, who are you? His comments appear anti-democratic and in support of the wealthy elites with unsupported or misleading information. I say fire the MOA management and the board of directors. It is they who are responsible for this problem and they are destroying a world class ensemble. I never would have thought such a thing could happen in Minnesota. The management must go!

    • With all due respect, I doubt that the union is forcing the players to stand their ground. It would seem that it is their choice, and the union is just supporting that. Historically, the union has been a good thing to maintain balance against the overbearing presence of management. The president of the TCMU is a lawyer. The players would be rudderless trying to negotiate without the union, imo.

  9. James Brinton says:

    The Board is playing the bully: “My way or the highway.”
    Looks like the musicians aren’t the Untermenschen George London thinks they are, and the board members aren’t the benign Übermenschen he seems to believe in.
    Links to mediator’s proposal.

  10. Tom Gossard says:

    Make no mistake: I’m a musicians union member, having played in symphony orchestras for more than 30 years. But there are Symphony Orchestra Managements which have what it takes to attain and sustain the life and health of their organizations, and also those which are not. Where there aren’t business and financial types to help the board with proper guidance for surviving lean times as well as fat, the organization will suffer and players may be put in a bargaining position they’re unable to defend because there is no fallback position. I’m not familiar with any of the details of MSO and the Board’s empasse, but it sounds to me like there isn’t – or isn’t any longer – a substantial enough tax base and a cache of money from endowments and well-healed donors to pay the musicians their well deserved and earned salaries, while at the same time paying to keep the lights on, the floors vacuumed, programs printed, etc. etc. It is very very expensive to run a top-tier world class orchestra with all the financial responsibilities and commitments.

    I decline accepting applause or approval from any self identified Libertarian, but there are times (rare though they are) when even Libertarians make sense. It’s purely happenstance but in the MSOs predicament I would have to agree with what the resident Libertarian says. The smug satisfaction of having world shattering non-ideas, dubious principles, theoretical knowledge, and gratuitous concern are all too familiar with me. I know the type very well. A few are friends of mine, we just don’t discuss economics, politics or the human condition whenever we meet. I wish y’all with yours.

    • James Brinton says:

      Management did raise tens of millions of dollars to fund a questionable remodeling of their hall. It would seem that when they need cash, they can get it.
      Meanwhile, there is a vast literature which refers to employees as costs, with both their numbers and pay to be minimized. There may be some credibility to this in a profit-making enterprise, but in a real sense, the musicians are the product in Minnesota–or at least so involved with the product that one separates the music from the musicians at great risk.
      The profit-maximization model (and the managerial attitudes that accompany it) does not apply to all activities. Some it disserves terribly, others it destroys.
      I suspect one the major problem here is that the orchestra is being run by a misinformed board which acts as if its only tool is a hammer, and every issue is a nail to be pounded down.

      • A couple of months ago, MOA board member Jo Ellen Saylor wrote a commentary for the Star Tribune which had the headline: “Musicians Are Half The Cost, And That Can’t Continue.” It’s a great example of the way in which this board values their orchestra. Heaven forbid that such a significant portion of the budget go to the artists who actually produce the art! Let us protect the future of the Minnesota Orchestra…at the expense of the present!

  11. Tom Gossard says:

    wish you all well w. yours.

  12. These latest two departures (though I guess if the impasse gets resolved soon they could still return) seem more clearly related than some previous ones to the lockout.

    As for the thread “George London” started, every U.S. orchestra is a nonprofit institution that depends on the ability to raise non-earned revenue from the community. Minnesota apparently managed to do this for years, and it is not clear what has changed of late that has prompted the board and management to push through a substantial pay cut as well as major work rule changes. Minnesota is hardly the most hard-hit community from the financial crisis of the past five years.

    As for the musicians’ refusal to negotiate, the problem with making a counteroffer to an egregiously bad offer is that it essentially legitimizes that offer, and creates a midpoint, one that in this case the musicians probably find unacceptable. The only way to avoid that is for the musicians not only to insist on keeping their current terms, but to demand even more generous terms – management proposes a 20% cut, musicians demand a 20% increase, and they settle at where they are now.

    I am sure there are many work rules that impose higher costs on the organization and don’t even benefit the musicians much. But you can’t both come in demanding major wage cuts AND work rule changes, not if you want it taken seriously. Usually you need to offer some offsetting benefit to get those work rules changes, which clearly isn’t the case here.

    And why bash unions? Even without one, I would imagine most of the musicians would have banded together to oppose management’s efforts to change their terms of employment so significantly.

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