Minnesota Poll

Sure, the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) has a full four minutes left on its Doomsday Clock, but most colleagues I talk to think they’re already done for. At the same time, there’s a good bit of divergence of opinion when narrowing the discussion down to specific items. As such, let’s see what you think about the more common questions surrounding this situation.

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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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23 thoughts on “Minnesota Poll

  1. I don’t know what more Osmo could have done that would have any effect – because it appears that the MOA leaders don’t really care what he thinks about the situation.

  2. With the last set of questions that were sent to the board from the musicians lawyer, I would say there is not a lot of hope for any talks. The tone of the questions would put anyone on the defensive right away. It is time for both sides to put aside their egos and come to some compromise here. I have been with the musicans all along but am concerned that the mud slinging has to stop before any progress can be made.

  3. It’s interesting to see the number of respondents who think the CEO and executive board are culpable vs. the number of people who think the musicians should just start their own orchestra. Why not eliminate the middle man and start a new organization? There’s a good chance that the musicians will find themselves without jobs anyway, so why not take a chance and break new ground? It has worked before.

  4. The questions were attached to an article on MPR filed under music. the headline for the article was “Proposed MnOrch talks next week now unlikely” The questions may be reasonable but it is the tone in which they were written. In today’s society we have gotten by with communicating by text or email and in doing so make statements that may not be said directly to a person.

  5. The city will take years to not snarl at the thought of the word “orchestra” or “musician”. Our city’s old orchestra folded after 49 years leaving $8M in debt and wages and subscription/single tickets. Twelve years later, I regularly run into potential donors and companies who immediately walk away at the words “symphony” and “orchestra”. You will never ever ever come out looking like the greater wronged party….ever. No exception. Most people are ticked off at the whole drama fest that has plagued the national media. They don’t give a care about who did what to who and why and when.
    I have to stop getting sucked into these stories just makes me want to scream unpleasantries and crack heads.

  6. A replacement orchestra would probably run afoul of the AFM, and no AFM musician could play in it – ? That alone would cause serious problems.

  7. As of 5:27 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday, May 16, your site shows responses to the most-culpable-stakeholder question totaling 141%. Those blaming either the board or the president and CEO are 124% of the people who answered. I like these numbers, since they indicate that most respondents share my opinion of the causes of this historic fiasco, but I’m afraid they’re not actually mathematically sound.

  8. Actually, it’s quite sound. There are actually a few reasons why the percentages will produce a total other than 100; the most common reason is none of the poll questions are required so if some respondents skip a question, it will throw off the percentages. Questions that are answered more frequently end up with higher percentages.

    The other reason is even though the system does implement measures to prevent one individual from voting multiple times, it isn’t foolproof.

    The only way to produce a outcome that generates a result without a variable percentage is to make each question required and require each respondent to create an account and be logged in in order to cast a vote.

  9. Drew, this may seem like a dumb question, but what exactly does, “already done for” mean? The orchestra is never brought back, and the MOA gets to keep all the money and do whatever they want with it??

  10. That’s the question I was trying to get at the other day.

    Is there some mechanism to stop the MOA from doing that? If so, what would it be?

  11. One indication for me that there will be no summer season is that the tickets are one-price, general admission, which is NOT the usual way tickets are priced/offered. My feeling is that these concerts are just “placeholders” so that people will roll cancelled season tickets into them so that the money isn’t refunded before 6/30/13.

  12. Savannah Symphony Orchestra – defunct January 2003. The chorus went out and formed the Choral Society, which transformed many years later into the Savannah Philharmonic. We are approaching the 5th season, but we still find several of the old large donors (individuals or corporations) won’t attend a concert; let alone donate $5.

  13. As a quick reminder to all readers, anonymous comments are allowed; however, any comments submitted without a working email address to verify legitimacy will likely be deleted without warning or subsequent notice.

    Consequently, if you send in a comment with an email address of gustav@mahler.com, you have a 100% likelihood that it won’t get published, regardless of how terrific your comment is so in order to prevent any delays in your having your comment appear, use your real email address and be prepared to verify who you are.

  14. Based on what I hear from colleagues, so take it secondhand information, it has more to do with the orchestra’s artistic stature. Meaning, it is beyond the point of no return and even if they returned to work today, it would not be capable of measuring up to previous levels of artistic accomplishment.

    If you subscribe to that perspective, then the business impact comes in the form of lower patrons and donor interest which ultimately results in lower revenue. You can then begin to see how everything has the potential for spiraling into an uncontrolled institutional decline.

  15. It is certainly worth everyone’s time to think about what happened to opera in Boston after Sarah Caldwell’s wretched management of her company. The art form is more or less dead. I mean, it doesn’t help that there isn’t an opera house, but potential donors are understandably wary of supporting a new organization.

    If the MO folds, it could easily be decades before there’s another professional orchestra. Shame on the orchestra’s management, that they could raise $47 million to refurbish the concert hall but can’t do the fundraising necessary to pay a great professional orchestra what it’s worth.

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