State of the Arts Blog

Minnesota Orchestra risks audience, future

The Minnesota Orchestral Association is holding its annual meeting today. This year it's taking place behind closed doors, without the typical performances by orchestra musicians to punctuate the proceedings.

In an interview with Morning Edition's Cathy Wurzer, Chicago-based arts consultant Drew McManus said that, compared with many other orchestral negotiations across the country, the Minnesota Orchestra's situation is "particularly bad."

McManus said that at this point the orchestra is risking the loyalty of its audience. But there's still hope for resolution.

"When it's gotten to this level of animosity it's not unusual for the dispute to become more about winning the fight than whatever the issues were to begin with - it becomes personal on both sides. And it's very difficult for individuals in both stakeholder camps to step back from that. The thing I talk about a lot with clients in this situation is you have to find a way to provide an opportunity for both sides to save face with a solution, so that somebody doesn't have to lose in order for someone else to win."

Meanwhile, Russel Platt writes in The New Yorker that the trouble in the Twin Cities points to a shift in culture:

For decades, the situation for classical-music lovers there has been almost impossibly generous. Minneapolis-St. Paul is the only major metropolitan center in the country that boasts not one but two world-class symphony orchestras: another way in which Twin Citians, who sometimes speak of their home with an affectionate affliction that even many in-state call Shangri-La Syndrome, can claim to be "above average." (There is also the Minnesota Opera, a prominent regional-level company, a bevy of superb choruses, and a vibrant new-music scene.) In truth, they have much to boast about: one is indeed lucky to live in a metro area where, to paraphrase Garrison Keillor, you can have your pick of great restaurants and world-class cultural events but still live on a tree-lined street and send your kids to a public school. (It is also an attractive place to be a working-class composer, hence my long residency.)

Platt charges today's wealthy aren't as interested in classical music as their parents were. And the liberal golden age of Hubert Humphrey has given way to "the brave new world of Michele Bachmann."

...the Twin Cities musicians need to remember that their peers were forced to give in in Detroit, Atlanta, and Indianapolis, all comparable institutions. Only a mutual love of the art form will keep players and management on the same map; beyond that, there be dragons.

Do you see any hope for resolution between the musicians and the management?