Orchestra, musicians respond to report

Henson
In this photo from 2009, Minnesota Orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson announces the Orchestra Hall expansion proposal. Of recent financial decisions, Henson said the orchestra was responding to one of the worst recessions in American history and its decisions were geared toward inspiring confidence and preparing the orchestra for a new financial future.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

Locked out Minnesota Orchestra musicians say a report by the Star Tribune shows that the orchestra's board and management may have misled the community on its financial health.

The report raises questions as to whether the orchestra covered deficits with money from its endowment to help win public funding for an Orchestra Hall lobby renovation. The report says the orchestra later drew less from investments and declared a $2.9 million deficit when it was demanding deep salary reductions from its players. The newspaper's report is based on hundreds of pages of financial information and board meeting minutes the orchestra provided to its musicians.

Minnesota Orchestra President Michael Henson said the orchestra was responding to one of the worst recessions in American history and its decisions were geared toward inspiring confidence and preparing the orchestra for a new financial future.

"All of us, whether you're running a for profit, or not-for-profit, have had to manage through tumultuous times, and find your own solutions as to how to maintain confidence, and at the same time facilitate change in all aspects of your organization, or in this case, the orchestra," Henson said.

Negotiator Tim Zavadil, chair of the musicians negotiating committee, said the report illustrates the need for an independent financial analysis of the orchestra. The musicians have been locked out since Oct. 1 because of a contract dispute with the orchestra.

"In order for us to get to the bottom of where the orchestra's finances are, we have to have an independent third party come in here, someone that is trusted by both sides that can verify where the actual true financial position is," Zavadil said.

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