A Tale Of Twin Cities

I don’t know if it is anything more than a coincidence but two stories came out in Minneapolis media outlets that couldn’t do a better job at pointing out opposite ends of the fortune pole. One reported on an 11.3 percent pay cut for St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) musicians while the other reported on a $5 million gift to the Minnesota Orchestra’s Building for the Future capital campaign. It is difficult to imagine more diverse news pairing for a city that boasts two large budget performing arts organizations…

I’ll forego the obvious Dickens quotes and simply state that the SCPO’s cut, the second in as many seasons for the players, brings the base pay to a level lower than it was a decade before. The MinnPost.com blog post by Joe Kimball goes on to report that senior management will continue a 10 percent pay cut from the previous year and that the organization has no accumulated deficit. At the same time, there is no word of a recovery plan or revenue projects for earned and unearned income for next season. So the message in Kimball’s post is things are dark for the SPCO and there’s no pinpoint of light in the distance.

On the other side of the river, KSTP.com reports that Minnesota Orchestra’s $5 million gift is not only the largest single corporate gift to the campaign but it brings the group to within $18 million of its $100 million goal. Good for the Minnesota Orchestra. This latest gift from Target will likely springboard the group to its final goal and hopefully a little more.

If nothing else, this pair of articles serves as a good example that things aren’t all bad and they aren’t all good.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “A Tale Of Twin Cities

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Drew. It’s important to remember that there is still money to be raised out there for orchestras who inspire people and offer something unique.

  2. The contrast points out a couple of other things, as well.

    First: even though the SPCO musicians have continued, once again, to “do their share” for helping to see the orchestra through the hard times, the lack of any new revenue projects shows that the SPCO Management is still treating the issue as a ‘cost’ problem and not one of ‘revenue.’ With this band-aid approach, the musicians are, in fact, seem to be THE ONLY recovery plan the SPCO Management has been able to cobble together.

    A further irony is that the SPCO Management became ‘famously trendy’ within the League the past few years for their stab at a New Business Model for the 21st Century. St. Paul’s “Patron Continuum Model” which claims to be a fresh, new, out-of-the-box approach for fundraising and marketing, unfortunately, is nothing more than a ‘belief system’ made up of a patchwork of tired old ideas rehashed to appear new. It DOES manage to change the conversation away from the importance of endowment and earned income building (ergo its attractiveness to orchestra CEOs and various department heads). But in light of the continued concessions musicians have been forced to take to bail out their Management, this model doesn’t appear to be quite the 21st century panacea League members have chosen to believe.

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