After lockout ends, some say orchestra fans must step up

Renovated Orchestra Hall
A newly renovated Orchestra Hall will soon host its main tenant, the Minnesota Orchestra. Will the audience be there to meet it?
Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

Now that the labor dispute at the Minnesota Orchestra is resolved, it's up to the audience to show its support, say two prominent voices in the music industry.

"Like many people, what I really am concentrating on is how to make that Feb. 14 concert and the season that follows it a huge success," said Alan Fletcher, president of the Aspen Music Festival and school. "And I think the public that really rose up in support of having a great orchestra in Minneapolis, that public should crowd those halls and just show a tremendous amount of love for the musicians onstage."

"If you are within the sphere of influence of Minnesota Orchestra and you think they should be playing this great repertoire in a great hall, just flock into those concerts and support them," he said Wednesday on The Daily Circuit. "And show that that should be a core mission and that the audience understands the importance of a community being on the stage."

Both Fletcher and Randall Davidson, administrative director of the Minneapolis-based National Lutheran Choir, agreed that the community of people who spoke up in support of ending the 15-month dispute should stick around and take a larger role in the orchestra's affairs.

"How the reconciliation goes forward has to that wider circle of engagement for support," Davidson said.

Fletcher suggested that the circle could include "community groups like Orchestrate Excellence ... [that] rose up to say, 'We care about this organization and we care about its excellence.' And I think it would be very smart if the Orchestra Association invited those people in to some kind of new community council, some kind of ongoing input to what is happening with the orchestra, because there was a lot of positive energy shown there," he said.

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Both Fletcher and Davidson suggested that an excellent tool to help the orchestra's musicians, board and audience pull together would be the return of former Music Director Osmo Vanska, who resigned last fall in frustration over the prolonged lockout.

Davidson said his wish is "they will address this as one of the highest priorities. I think he can play an incredibly important role in drawing together all of the folks — management, the board, the musicians, and the broader community. I think the community looks to him for that role, and if there's any way to attract his attention ... . He's on everybody's dance card now, around the world. He's a very highly sought guest conductor. He's an artistic leader of the highest order."

Fletcher, who has been through labor strife at the Aspen Music Festival, cautioned that musicians and management may find it difficult to start working together again.

"Those of us who'd had very profound and sometimes quite ugly disagreements did acknowledge to each other that we all cared about music in Aspen," he said. "And that's a hard thing. I'm not saying that can be easily done in Minneapolis. I don't think there's any situation harder than what everyone's gone through there. But that's going to be the key — especially for the audience to pull in."

People around the world are watching, he said.

"Minnesota is one of the most important orchestras in the world," he said. "What was happening was heartbreaking. I think I join thousands and thousands of people who are applauding this."

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Musicians will return to work on Feb. 1. Under the terms of a three-year contract, they will have to take a 15 percent pay cut in the first year, but they will receive raises in the second and third years, resulting in a total pay cut of 10 percent over the term of the contract.

However, they will also be paying increased health care expenses that orchestra mangers said will make the musicians' total concession about 15 percent.

"Keeping our salaries in the top ten was a critical issue for us, as it allows us to attract and retain the finest musicians in the country, and continue building the tradition of excellence that has been cultivated by the community over the past 110 years," cellist and musician negotiator Marcia Peck said.

Other orchestras see bright future despite Minn. lockout
Lawmakers call for resignation of Minnesota Orchestral Association leaders
Standing ovation, tears for Vanska's farewell concert
Orchestra lovers left wondering about the future after Vanska quits
Without Vanska, some say orchestra could lose its way
Photos: A new Orchestra Hall is ready -- and waiting