Timeline shifts in Minnesota Orchestra dispute

This post has been updated

For months now observers of the Minnesota Orchestra deadlock have focused on the Sept. 9 deadline set by Music Director Osmo Vanska for a rehearsal to prevent his resignation.

But today things shifted again. According to a release from the Minnesota Orchestra Vanska now says rehearsals must start by the week of Sept. 30. So what has changed?

Let's walk through this. In his letter to orchestra management back in May, Vanska focused on an upcoming recording session with BIS Records, and two concerts scheduled for Carnegie Hall in early November. In his letter, he said if the Carnegie concerts are cancelled he would resign. In the months since the Sept. 9 date has become a focus point in the heated rhetoric swirling round the ongoing contract dispute between management and musicians.

However now the recording session is postponed until the spring, which gives a little wiggle room, although not much.

Orchestra officials said in their release that, taking the logistical issues of recalling the orchestra into account, there needs to be a deal with musicians by Sept. 15 to have rehearsals begin on Vanska's timeline.

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Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson said the timeline laid out at a Minnesota Orchestra Board meeting today is the result of discussions between Vanska, Carnegie Hall officials and himself.

"Carnegie's priority has always been that the Minnesota Orchestra appears at the highest quality with our music director," he said this afternoon. "We've mutually agreed this timeline  in order to give a practical focus of how we have to get a contract agreed in a timeline in a way that Osmo feels comfortable having the orchestra up and running to give those concerts at Carnegie in November."

When asked if there needs to be a full contract by Sept. 15, or whether an interim agreement would suffice Henson said, given "the practicality of how that operates, I think that's a conversation that we are trying to have in order to expedite this process as effectively as possible."

Vanska's statement to the board was delivered in writing. When asked if the change in the deadline means any change in the resignation threat, Henson said that was not a question for him.

"Osmo would be the appropriate person to discuss any of the content of that letter or any of his thoughts on the matter," Henson said.

When asked about contacting Vanska, another orchestra official said the music director is not available for interviews.

Locked out musicians had been hoping for other news from the board meeting today. They issued a call on their website Tuesday for supporters to contact board members to ask them to reconsider a rejection of a play and talk proposal from former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, called in to mediate the dispute.

"The mediators independent proposal laid out a timeline that would have had the musicians back to work next week," musicians representative Blois Olson said. "The musicians accepted that timeline and we urge management to accept that timeline."

Olson said the proposal would have also have secured Vanska's tenure, and the Carnegie sessions."

"I think Minnesotans and the world are watching to see  whether or not the new Orchestra Hall will indeed have an orchestra to fill it," Olson continued.  "And that is in management's court, as well as the future of the quality and the class of the Minnesota Orchestra. We look forward to any new proposal that they put forth - or them accepting the mediators proposal."

Management has declined to talk about the talks led by Mitchell, citing a confidentiality agreement. All information about the talks which has been made public has come about through anonymous leaks.

While the musicians call did apparently result in e-mails to board members, Henson was not prepared to report any more than general details of other discussions at the board meeting.

"We obviously continued to review our financial position, but obviously spent most of the meeting, as we have done throughout the last 18 months and the preparation before that discussing the negotiations," Henson said. "And obviously the board remains intent on doing the right thing for the long term future of this institution and to make sure we are both artistically vibrant but critically financially viable. "  Henson said the board is focused on the long term viability of the orchestra.