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Strikebreakers of Minnesota start to feel the heat

A band called Belladiva are getting a good deal of backlash from fellow-musicians after deciding, injudiciously, to entertain the Minnesota Orchestra Association, which has locked out its players for more than a year.

Here’s one response from a member of the Houston Symphony:

To Lisa Marie Furth of Belladiva in Minneapolis, 

I just heard that your group performed for the Minnesota Orchestra Ball. I’m shocked and saddened that any living musician would stoop so low as to cross the picket line of a fellow artist just to make a quick buck. Either you’ve been living under a rock for the past 12 months or you are simply a cold and ruthless woman. Either way I feel certain you’ll reap what you’ve sown. I for one will encourage my numerous family members and friends in the Twin Cities to avoid using your despicable organization when they are looking for the entertainment you provide. Integrity counts in any business – and you should be ashamed for having put your own musicians in such a deplorable situation.

Belladiva have shut down  the comments facility on their Facebook page. First sign of remorse?


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  1. Agreed! I sent my comments to her email

    I am sure she is only safeguarding her own survival, and needs to make a living doing what she loves to do, has learned to do well, and wishes to be recognized for it with continued performance opportunities and the appropriate level of financial reward.

    Well…that happens to be exactly what our colleagues of the Minnesota Orchestra want to do, and deserve.

    Shame on her, but also shame on the Minnesota Orchestra Association for readily paying outside musicians, recognizing the value and presence of music – to whatever style or fee, but fail to consider the same for their house musicians.

    I just can’t fathom how Lisa Marie’s musicians walked into that building knowing that those people picketing could well be themselves…

  2. Oh, come on now. If the MOA hired replacement scabs, then fine, have at them, but leave this poor woman alone. This isn’t about union solidarity for the sake of union solidarity. This is about sustaining the artistic quality of the orchestra, an issue which Lisa Marie has nothing to do with on either side. Please focus on Henson/Campbell/Davis etc. and leave this poor woman alone.

    • Sorry, but Bella Diva is no longer neutral once they agreed to perform. As long as vendors such as Bella Diva and Vincent’s (the restaurant that catered) allow the MOA to carry on as usual, the MOA will continue to delay negotiations and starve out the musicians. Only if people have the courage to say no to the MOA will they act with any sense of urgency.

      • The people you refer to (in such a manner as to suggest they are collaborating with the Vichy government) have no real dog in this fight, unless you consider the old “all citizens have a right to an excellent orchestra [even if they never go to hear it]” thing. The operators of the restaurant are thrilled, in a thin economy, to get such a great gig. Same for the band. Why should they make their own livelihoods more precarious? Why do you assume they should find solidarity with the orchestra players? I’m not denigrating the players; this is a genuine question. The entire world is not obligated to “support the musicians” in such a way that directly impacts their own economic well-being.

        • Do you not understand that it is like ‘dating’ a married man or woman? What makes them think management would be above treating them the same way eventually? They ARE making “their own livelihoods more precarious” whether they see it coming or not.

          I have turned down gigs. Yes, it does not put me in an immediately better financial position, but I’m not so desperate that I would put my conscience up for sale.

  3. Sadly, there is no more solidarity among musicians, than there is in any other profession. And I suppose, musicians in different styles and genres don’t see the need to cross boundaries to help their fellow artists. How many classically trained symphony orchestra musicians would spend 5 seconds worrying about the fortunes of a band known as “Belladiva”"?

    • Interesting insight, Roy, and unfortunately, perhaps accurate. A player they locked out by their colleague, for example, could be dying in front of them, and I wonder if they would even bother to take notice?

  4. Where was all that outrage by orchestra musicians (such as Lisa Furth) when the Florida Philharmonic was closed and replaced by yearly, extended guest residencies of the Cleveland Orchestra? A scab orchestra is a scab orchestra.

  5. This is hardly a “poor woman”. Her website states that “she is a dynamic performer with an incredible drive to succeed”. Some musician’s drive to succeed allows them to justify whatever rationale they come up with to make morally ambiguous decisions in their work and/ or personal lives. Twas ever thus. They usually DO succeed.

  6. Darin Kelly says:

    Just to clarify… the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are not on strike, they are locked out. The title of the post is not quite accurate. But the content is spot on. I believe I was the first person blocked from their Facebook page yesterday morning. In a time when those of us in the arts are seemingly at war with the powerful ones who devalue what we do, it’s more important that all of us stand together, whether classical or not, union or non.

  7. I do think this band deserves to be called out for playing the MOA’s Symphony Ball. Go for it, but please keep the tone respectful and do not resort to insults and name-calling, as it will only reflect poorly on professional musicians. Belladiva is in the wrong, but also let’s not lose sight of the REAL problem(s): Michael Henson, Jon Campbell & Richard Davis.

  8. bratschegirl says:

    I wonder if the MOA demanded a 30-50% reduction on their customary fees…

  9. Sarah Schmalenberger says:

    I tried to contact the group’s leader; I received an email response from her attorney instead. We had a cordial enough conversation, and my concern was that the band was young or otherwise unawares of the implications of playing the gig. The attorney assured me that the band is experienced with “rowdy” crowds from Vegas and the like. Not sure if that meant he expected us rallyers would be the rowdy disruptive ones. Oh well.

    • The Belladiva lawyer seems to be a little short-sighted. The band’s choice to perform at the ball during the lockout will not be soon forgotten by either the players or their thousands of supporters.

      (I put a comment on their FB page asking, “what were you thinking?”)

  10. Although I’m completely on the side of the MO musicians in the lockout, I would like to point out that Belladiva was hired to entertain at a fundraising event for the Minnesota Orchestra, the purpose of which is to raise non-earned income to support the organization and, I hope soon, the musicians who comprise the heart of the organization. You can’t very well put on such an event without live music (and I imagine playing recorded music would have raised any number of other objections). Now, I can’t imagine what MO patron would want to attend this event when the orchestra is locked out and the management/board don’t seem worthy of much support. But if they are able to raise a substantial amount of money under these conditions, I suppose that’s a good thing.

    This is not a “scab” situation; that would be if the Minnesota Orchestra were to go on giving concerts, calling itself the Minnesota Orchestra but with “replacement players” (something I would note the Minnesota Vikings have engaged in on or more occasions in the past).

    That said, I think it would appropriate for her to donate her fee to the musicians as a show of solidarity.

    • Unlike musicians who earn well over $100K a year, I would tend to think the members of this band might not be able to afford such charity.

      (I guess it’s possible that this is a hugely successful act and its members are flush, but it seems unlikely that they are all raking in 6 figures.)

    • MacroV: Before they bought up domain names, locked the orchestra out and canceled concerts is when the fundraising should have happened, not after. It is too little, too late because at this point nobody trusts them to use the money wisely.

      DrewX: your disingenuous, puerile, and aggressively confrontational remarks are hardly contributing anything useful to this discussion.

      First of all, this is not an exercise in agreeing to disagree; choices like these have real repercussions for real people.

      Second, I would be more willing to forgive a young unknown desperate for cash and press than you seem willing to consider that a mortgage, children, health issue, elderly parents, etc. could make that salary seem surprisingly tight.

      Call me late to the party, but I recently learned of “Wheaton’s Law.” If you can’t follow it, I humbly suggest you reconsider posting.

  11. Alicia, The point is she doesn’t deserve any backlash. I agree with Pete. This is about sustaining the artistic standard of the orchestra and not about union solidarity. Direct your frustration elsewhere.

  12. Why do I have the feeling that the MOA wants this type of music 24/7 in their new Edifice?

    • Perhaps because you subscribe to the bogus theory that orchestra administrations all somehow hate orchestral music?

  13. Contrast this with the Chicago Symphony ball, where the entire orchestra played and the musicians were celebrated.

  14. I fail to see how anyone would care what someone from the Houston Symphony would have to say on the matter. They have their own problems.

    • MpR, firstly I fail to see how the status of the Houston symphony has any relevance to the comment, which was regarding about solidarity in honoring the picket line of locked out musicians. Secondly, as a musician’s board representative, I can tell you that Houston has indeed faced steep challenges like most other orchestras in the US, and I’m sure there will undoubtedly be more to come in the future. But we have dealt with our challenges a different way here. I was not the original poster referenced in this article, but let me share with you something I did post a few weeks ago:

      “8 years ago when I left the NY Phil, I had to sign up for google news alerts to make sure the Houston Symphony wasn’t going to go bankrupt before the movers arrived. Finances here seemed hopeless, and musicians suffered cutback after cutback. Morale and musician/management interactions had been almost uniformly un-trusting, accusatory and negative. Tonight, as we launch our centennial season with a sold out concert with Renee Fleming, our gala will smash old records, ticketed income is setting new records, donations are more than doubled, we’ve returned to some touring and recording, both the orchestra and the city are excited about our hugely talented incoming music director. Our orchestra is actively reaching out to all segments of the community, and the atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation between musicians, management and board is as good as I’ve ever seen, anywhere. I don’t want to jinx this, because there is still a long way to go and many big challenges ahead, but we’ve been fortunate to have good leadership during my time that understands that the organization is not made up of warring interests, but that we all rise or fall together. And so tonight, there is truly no place I’d rather be in the world than onstage with my extraordinary colleagues, representing all of our organization, presenting Renee Fleming and great music for our patrons and our city. Happy 100th season Houston Symphony. Michael Henson, if you’re out there somewhere, please think on this…”

      We would love to be in the financial position of Minnesota with a large endowment and already completed and paid for hall renovation. But we are happy to be working together to provide great music for our city (and employing some MN orchestra musicians in the interim as well)

  15. That’s right, Lisa Marie Furth and the other “members” of the band/act Belladiva have no right to make a living as long as the MO members have decided that they’re not happy with the living provided to them. Yes, she/they should have boycotted the board’s shindig. Had she done so, I’m sure, once the labor dispute were settled, the Orchestra would have warmly welcomed her into their ranks, rewarding her for her solidarity, and been thrilled to have her and her crew draw their equivalent salary and playing whatever type of music Belladiva plays.

    As for the money raised at this event, it should be returned to the donors/attendees… or sent to Houston for their orchestra’s musicians’ pension fund.

    • Dave T says, “As for the money raised at this event, it should be returned to the donors/attendees… or sent to Houston for their orchestra’s musicians’ pension fund.”


      I must say that it would have been good for the MOA to feel the heat if at least all Twin Cities bands had declined to perform at the ball. Then they might have had to import someone or find a good disc jockey.

      • I think Dave T forgot to hit the sarcasm button on his keyboard.
        Please, PLEASE tell me you are aware of this.

        • How do you know that?

          It is my opinion this band, especially since it is local, did not make a wise choice. They could perhaps have corrected that by giving some or all of their fee to the MO players.

          There seems to me to be a disconnect between the MOA and the players, and hiring another local band to play at the ball which is supposed to benefit the players while the players are locked out is tacky, IMO.

        • A, Penner has correctly identified the use of sarcasm.

          Let me try a different tact: would one advocate that the vendors dispensing booze and beer at this event donate their pay to the poor, downtrodden MO musicians’ strike fund? How about the plumbers who keep the toilets flushing, or the guys who haul the tables and chairs around the ballroom? Does the fact that Belladiva and the MO are both involved in music, in the broadest sense of the word, mean that the former can’t work while the latter doesn’t? Or are the musicians (by that I mean the classical ones) saying that NO ONE should cross the picket line to work at this fundraiser? Because, surely, the board should not be raising money to help, some day, PAY FOR THE MUSICIANS’ SALARIES, while the musicians are not working. That would be just plain wrong (written with sarcasm button firmly pressed)..

          • Sometimes, that is exactly what happens, because bad faith is bad faith and it’s not all about the bottom line. Just because it isn’t the norm to turn down a gig doesn’t mean the majority are right and the minority wrong.

    • “the band/act Belladiva have no right to make a living”

      I didn’t hear anybody say they have “no right to make a living.” This has nothing to do with any such right. In any case, it was ultimately their choice to accept, but let’s not pretend there aren’t good and bad choices.

  16. The reactions to this situation exemplify the melodrama of the whole lockout. This woman and her band are trying to support themselves like any other musicians, and something tells me they don’t have the benefit of a union and medical coverage and a $100whateverK base annual salary. For all we know, Lisa Marie has never seen the Minnesota Orchestra and knows little about its situation (like the majority of Minnesotans who don’t, particularly, care about the Orchestra and are not breathlessly following its labor disputes). She was probably thrilled to be offered a well-paying gig. What solidarity exactly do you think she would find with musicians who are striking because, among other things, their pay is being cut to a base in the $70-80K range, which might be twice what she makes in a year?

    I too support the musicians, broadly speaking, but I haven’t turned off my critical thinking skills. The entire world isn’t lined up in support of one side or another in this dispute, and in fact, most of the world couldn’t give a flying squirrel about the whole thing.

  17. Gene Loves Jezebel. Jezebel Loves Speedmetal says:

    The SOLIDARITY! comments show a little bit of a disconnect between the world of well-paid classical musicians with insurance and the cover band circuit. It’s a terrible cover band doing what terrible cover bands do. They aren’t going to go in there and suddenly present a Shostovsky sonata while a record executive waits in the wings to give them the record contract he was going to give the orchestra. Most of them are going to go home afterwards and likely go back to their cubicle jobs or clearing tables at a local dive bar.

    Maybe if the orchestra/classical musicians wanted support from the local community of musicians (and really for a band playing covers of pop music that term should be used lightly) then they should have been out there advocating for better pay and insurance from clubs. The whole THE ARTS BENEFIT BECAUSE I BENEFIT stance is just elitism.

    • That is nonsense. Do you want to see how much (or I should say, how little) I make after taxes? I still say my conscience is not for sale. I just consider it that my wealth is not all monetary, but consists also of the respect of my colleagues and the lack of a guilty mind.

      I will grant that they may have been ignorant of the situation.

  18. So much nastiness from the Minnesota musicians makes me wonder if this lockout isn’t such a bad idea. Maybe it will give them some time to mature into fully functioning human adults who can cope with the fact that the world doesn’t owe them anything.

    • It is ironic that everyone is getting an insight into just how the players think as a result of this prolonged lockout. “Nice” is not part of the job description. One of those players even said to me, “you have to have a killer instinct to succeed in this business.”

    • It’s called stress. While I do not believe it is helpful to the cause either, better people than any of us here could perhaps be excused for being a little snippy under the pressure of being unemployed for almost a year.

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