Finally, some good news from Minneapolis. The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have reached a settlement with their management. Concerts will resume in February.
But there is one big unanswered question. When the dispute was at its height music director Osmo Vanska resigned. Will he be asked to return? Will he want to come back?
The Minnesota Orchestra is one of the best symphony orchestras in the country. No doubt about it. But how much should its musicians be paid? That was the main issue in the conflict. On its side management pointed to a deficit that was huge and growing larger. It couldn’t see how it could continue operations without cutting musicians’ salaries. At one point it demanded a reduction of 30% from the musicians. In the final settlement musicians accepted a 15% cut. But will it be enough to enable the orchestra to function properly?
US orchestras get their revenue from ticket sales – anywhere from 40 to 60% – and the rest of the money comes from private donations. This formula has worked pretty well over the years. Problems develop when the economy is in a slump and businesses and private citizens don’t have the money to make their usual donations, and music-lovers don’t have the money to spend on tickets.
But these are not the only factors. In many communities musicians have demanded longer seasons and higher pay. Often those demands exceed what the community can afford. A balance must be found between the often legitimate demands of the musicians and what can be raised in ticket sales and donations. Musicians often forget that not every community is the same in terms of the number of ticket buyers and donors available. Managements often forget that musicians are entitled to be paid what they are worth.
Before the strike/lockout in Minneapolis the orchestra and its conductor were in the process of recording all seven Sibelius symphonies. In this video we see them at work on the symphonies 2 and 5.
Paul E. Robinson