Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Gone Rogue

Today the Minnesota Orchestra, which has been working through contract talks and a lockout for months now, have not made visible progress even as their September 30 deadline creeps closer.

The musicians of the orchestra, allowed management's most recent offer to expire on Monday without any response. It appears that the musicians are no longer willing to negotiate with their own organization, which is refusing to ask for donations this year. Management says that continuing to ask for supplementary funds during contract years is only prolonging the larger problem.

But the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra may have a good reason for being picky about their offers. The musicians have created their own organization, rehearsing independently and putting on a Fall concert series. They appeal to the public to continue paying their way through tickets and donations. They have picketed at Symphony events. They even have a Facebook page, which serves both to advertise their upcoming Fall concerts and to ask for donations. The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are doing everything in their power to inform the public about the ongoing fight, and they appear to anticipate success in their endeavors. Could this be why they are reluctant to accept management's contract offers? With their own ticketed concert series in the works, they are not under threat of unemployment.

I am interested to see how this all works out. If the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra can put on their own concerts without salary from management or even an official concert venue, can other failing orchestras also do this? Do symphonies really need to be so institutionalized, or can such a large group of musicians manage themselves? Chamber musicians do this for a living. They handle their own advertising and income. Can this concept be expanded to cover a whole orchestra? I know that I would feel better about paying for an orchestra ticket if I knew that all of my money would pay the musicians directly. In fact, I think holding concerts in public places instead of in a fancy concert hall provides far greater public access to classical music in general. Good luck, Minnesota Orchestra Musicians.

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