Orchestra lockouts bring opportunity, concern for music educators

Teaching flute
Julia Bogorad-Kogan, the SPCO's principal flutist, and David Wright III work through scales and pieces during a lesson in her St. Paul home. Bogorad-Kogan and many more locked-out musicians at both the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra are taking on extra students as a way to earn some income during the lockout.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

While the cancellation of concerts is the most public result of the lockout of musicians at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, music educators are concerned about the lockouts' long-term impact on their students.

Some musicians who already teach on the side are looking for new students. SPCO principal flutist Julia Bogorad-Kogan wouldn't mind taking on a few more.

"The market actually is kind of tight now," she said. "I think fewer parents are paying for their kids to take lessons."

One of Bogorad-Kogan's current students, David Wright III, plays jazz saxophone in a lot of bands and venues around town. He's looking to polish his skills on the flute.

"As a sax player you really have to double if you are even going to play in jazz big bands," he said.

"My kids don't have any concerts to go to ... This is like having a class that studies Shakespeare, and never taking them to plays."

And if you are going to learn the flute, why not take lessons from a musicians who won her position at the SPCO when she was just 22?

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"I've seen her play a number of times and will continue to see her play, as well as a number of other players in town," Wright said. "I mean we've got some great musicians in Minnesota."

Bogorad-Kogan said if you are a music student now is a really good time to sign up for lessons.

"I have seen some of the major flutists in the two orchestras placing ads in [a flute society newsletter] to take on more students," she said.

Bogorad-Kogan said music lessons from grad students can start around $30 an hour, and she believes some musicians may charge $100 an hour. Her rates aren't that high.

"I mostly teach at the [University of Minnesota]," she said.


A lot of the locked-out musicians work in higher education around the Twin Cities. Paul Babcock, the president and COO of the McPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis said he's got quite a roster.

"Our teachers here with the orchestras range from Erin Keefe, the new concertmaster for the Minnesota Orchestra, to some who have been with the orchestras for decades," Babcock said.

Manny Laureano
Minnesota Orchestra principal trumpeter Manny Laureano (center in fringed jacket) at a rally for locked-out musicians. Laureano, who is also co-music director of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies says he has had to miss sessions with the youth symphonies because he has had to travel to other cities for work during the lockout.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

And he said since the lockout he's been hearing from a lot of others.

"Many of them are considering their options and they are looking at McPhail as one of their options for teaching," he said.

However Babcock said being a great musician doesn't always translate into being a great teacher. He also wants to make sure individual students, whether they be future classical stars, or people learning to play for their own pleasure, get the teaching which is right for them.

And for some musicians availability is becoming a challenge.

At a recent rally for locked-out musicians at the Minnesota Orchestra, several musicians talked about having to take jobs playing as subs in other towns. For trumpeter Manny Laureano, it's meant missing work at his other job as co-music director of the Minnesota Youth Symphony.

"I have already had to be absent three times," he said.


However Laureano sees a bigger problem than his occasional absence. An important part of being in the Minnesota Youth Symphony is regularly hearing the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO play.

"My kids don't have any concerts to go to," he said with a frustrated laugh. "This is like having a class that studies Shakespeare, and never taking them to plays."

Laureano acknowledged that missing a few weeks won't hurt, but he worries about the dispute dragging on and the orchestras not playing for months.

Back at McPhail Center for Music Paul Babcock is worried too about the long-term impact of the contract fight. He sad if the orchestras are weakened, it's going to hurt everyone in the arts.

"If the two orchestras end up in a less-desirable state than they are today, or for some reason the orchestras don't exist, that will be a real tragedy for the Twin Cities," he said. "The whole ecosystem of the arts community needs both of those orchestras to exist and to be strong."

But with concerts at both the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO cancelled through the end of the year, and no negotiations currently scheduled at either, there is little to ease Babcock's concern.