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Apr 9, 2013
Listen MPR's Euan Kerr talks about the SPCO's failure to reach agreement
The future of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is up for discussion after management and musicians missed a deadline to prevent cancellation of the remainder of the current season.
As a final note on Monday to orchestra supporters, Interim SPCO President Dobson West did not actually announce the season's cancellation. Instead he promised what he described as "formal announcements of next steps" after the SPCO board meets Tuesday afternoon to discuss options.
Early on Monday, the SPCO musicians negotiating committee rejected an offer made Friday from management, saying the offer did not resolve outstanding issues, including Internet and broadcast rights to SPCO performances.
Instead, the musicians called upon management to consider their own offer from April 2.
After a day of letters, calls and attempts to prevent a total loss of the orchestral season, West on Monday quietly watched the clock tick down to the 5 p.m. deadline. It didn't look good.
"There have been a number of discussions that have been going on," West said. "Unfortunately none of them have led to a breakthrough."
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who for the last three weeks has been trying to broker a deal between the two parties, on Monday urged the musicians to reconsider the rejection. Coleman said he believed the musicians' concerns were all covered in the latest offer from the SPCO management. West weighed in with a letter rejecting the musicians' April 2 proposal, just as he did last week, this time saying the proposal added hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra expense.
After all that, the deadline passed quietly. West said it is now time for the SPCO board to consider its options at a meeting this afternoon.
"We will be in executive session and we will be looking at all of the alternatives that are available in front of us, given where we are today with respect to these negotiations," West said.
West had recently said one of those alternatives may be to suspend operations. The contract conflict has prevented the announcement of the 2013-2014 orchestral season and the SPCO has not been able to sell subscriptions or tickets. It also hampered fundraising.
The musicians are also discussing what to do next. Musician negotiator Carole Mason Smith said musicians will likely issue a formal statement Tuesday after discussing what happened at various meetings on Monday. She believes the season is still salvageable and that the musicians' proposal continues to make the most sense.
"We do still remain hopeful that the management will accept our current offer... which includes money saved through the 22-week lockout, will save this management more than $5 million by the end of June 2016," Mason Smith said.
Save Our SPCO is a group which originally formed to try to bridge the gap between the musicians and management, but after watching the developments closely has become firm supporters of the musicians.
Jon Eisenberg of Save Our SPCO describes himself as an audience advocate and says that the audience is not happy.
"You know the audience members are feeling hurt and angry and frustrated," Eisenberg said. "But we also know that what we are going through probably pales in comparison to what the musicians are going through."
The group's exploratory committee to create an alternative administration for a world class chamber orchestra in St. Paul held its first meeting last night, Eisenberg said. They aim to produce a support structure for musicians should a deal at the SPCO fall through. Monday may be remembered as an important day for the orchestra, Eisenberg said.
"Certainly if this season, the rest of the season is canceled and the management does what they threaten to do -- which is to suspend operations -- then certainly this would be a pivotal day, or a black letter day in SPCO history," Eisenberg said.