Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Public Ownership for Minnesota?

In the face of continued stalemate between management and musicians, Minnesota’s government is working on a bill that would make the Minnesota Orchestra a publicly owned corporation. Theoretically, this would solve budget issues temporarily and would involve the public directly with funding the orchestra.

Even though this bill hasn’t become law, it appears to be the first new idea for a solution to the lockout since former director Osko Vänskä resigned a few weeks ago. When so many orchestras are involved in fights between privately-funded management and musicians, the concept of a publicly owned orchestra could solve many problems in the disconnect between public interest in the orchestra and the management of the orchestra’s budget. Instead of depending on private donors and tickets to stay afloat, any individuals or groups can choose to buy stock in the corporation. Hopefully this would represent more stable funding, and would also better reflect the public’s interest in the success of the orchestra.

The orchestra’s management would continue to exist, but would have more money in the budget to work with. This bill could jumpstart negotiations again, if management is receptive to the idea and if the bill passes. According to Phyllis Kahn, the author of the bill, the intent is to start the conversation, and not to declare that the bill is the perfect solution. Regardless, I think that public involvement is a step in the right direction, and this could become an example for failing orchestras across the country.

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