Minnesota Burnout

Anyone else getting burnt out over Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) news? It’s bad enough that newsworthy developments are perhaps better defined as regifted spin; consequently, today is the last MOA post at Adaptistration until something profound transpires such as Vanska resigns, an agreement is reached, or something equally shocking takes place (keep in mind, I’m jaded so this will need to reach levels of nuclear powered swine aeronautics to cross my threshold).

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-131It seems that traditional media is getting a bit strung out over this too as evidenced by the remarkably short article by Graydon Royce in the 9/12/2013 edition of the Star-Tribune reporting on the MOA’s renovation unveiling.

What is typically one of the largest PR draws for an orchestra saw nearly as much white space devoted to the labor dispute and controversy as the remodeling details and the only real item of note was a statement from MOA Vice President and General Manager Robert Neu that the hall won’t be used “to present any artists…until the contract issues are resolved.” At the same time, Neu indicated that statement excludes rentals.

Interestingly enough, and what some might define as ironic, the renovation relocates the administrative offices (sans the artistic admin department) off premises thereby separating managers from musicians. This is a rare move in contemporary concert hall design as history has demonstrated that putting musicians and managers in as close of proximity as possible facilitates healthier working relationships.

Now the MOA and its musicians will be separated in both body and spirit.

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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12 thoughts on “Minnesota Burnout

  1. On a positive note, today is the fifteenth anniversary of Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Conceived, financed and constructed under the stewardship of Deborah Rutter, Gerard Schwarz and Patricia Isacson, it is filled with music as Ludovic Morlot leads the Seattle Symphony into its 110th season.
    It looks and sounds terrific, thanks to the work of acoustician Cyril Harris and architect Mark Reddington. …and yes, we have been hosting a number of wonderful artists from the Minnesota Orchestra, both during the SSO regular season and during this past summer’s three cycles of Wagner’s Ring. It can be done when musicians, board, staff and community communicate often and honestly. Congrats to Simon Woods, Leslie Chihuly, Tim Hale and countless others.

    • Since the Seattle SO is the only major US orchestra whose members are covered by a non-AFM contract, I’m curious about the logistics of inviting MN Orch/AFM members to play with you.

      • Having guests from non-IGSOBM orchestras is not problematic, nor it is problematic for the reverse to happen…as it frequently does. Non-IGSOBM members are assessed only the portion of union dues which directly apply to representation or contract maintenance expense.

  2. Several of my friends have commented with surprise on the relatively modest $300,000 annual revenue expected from the new $50 million hall. As one put it, “that’s the problem, right there! The board and management can’t do math!”

  3. I am very burned out on this story. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one. I think this is the right decision. As far as collapsing-cultural-giant news, I’d rather read about City Opera. 🙂 (Speaking of NYCO, did you see they have a Kickstarter now? They’re trying to raise $1M by Sept. 30. No big deal, though, right?)

    • It’s easy for people to say they’re burnt out, but keep in mind there’s a whole major metropolitan area that is getting completely burned by the board and management here. They’re destroying our orchestra!! Just because it’s sad and tragic for outsiders to follow doesn’t mean you guys should stop paying close attention. If anything, you should be paying even closer attention now. The chapter we’re entering now is actually going to be the most interesting of all, and the repercussions will echo far outside of Minnesota. Will there be a bankruptcy? What form will it take? Will the state attorney general get involved? Will the musicians re-organize? How? Will part of the board gets antsy and resign? How will Osmo react? Will he be able to come out swinging against the board? Will US Bancorp and Wells Fargo’s PR departments yank Campbell and Davis out of the spotlight? Will the new mayor of Minneapolis insert him or herself into the dispute, and if so, how? What will fundraising for the orchestra do? What will fundraising for the musicians do? Will audience advocacy groups flounder in despair, or will they be integral in building a unique partnership between musicians and audience? Will another super-conservative anti-union orchestra board lure Henson away from Minnesota? Will the board start moving to accept Mitchell’s proposal once Osmo is out of the way (my gut has been for a very long time that once he’s gone, and they don’t need to pay his salary, they’ll start to move)? Who is going to be the new music director? Who is going to sub as a conductor in the next two years? Will anyone rent that hall for weddings? To tune out now strikes me as watching Titanic and then just as the lights start flickering, saying, well…I’m burnt out of disaster movies; I think I’ll go watch something else for a while. From here on out is going to be the most interesting part of all…

        • I think it’s self explanatory but to expand on that a bit for you, not publishing something until there’s a substantive event doesn’t mean I’m not following events via my sources and contacts. As for your second question, there’s a long standing history here at Adaptistration with examining public observations.

    • It’s interesting you mentioned the Kickstarter campaign; I’m not certain ow the NYCO distinguishes a general fundraising campaign as a project and since Kickstarter prohibits general fundraising, I’ll be interested to see if that ever becomes an issue.

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