Is There Anything Stronger Than Divorce?

Divorce is a messy business. All parties face daunting legal, economic, and psychological difficulties. And much like a knife fight, there’s no way to go through one without getting cut but it looks increasingly like the labor equivalent of divorce is the option of choice in Minneapolis where the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) leadership and musicians have all but determined that there’s little chance to move forward unless the other side leaves.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-129According to a 12/09/2013 Star-Tribune article by Graydon Royce, the musicians announced that they intend to begin giving regular performances and are even in the process of filing for their own 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of “inspir[ing] an ever-widening audience to seek a lifelong relationship with great symphonic music.”

Forming their own nonprofit organization poses some potential legal challenges and if the MOA decides to file an unfair labor charge, it will be fascinating to see how the Region 18 of the National Labor Relations Board rules.

Potential rulings notwithstanding, that doesn’t change the nature of the relationship and the 12/11/2013 edition of the Star-Tribune, once again from Graydon Royce, reports that 10 state legislators sent a three page letter addressed to the full MOA board calling for the resignation of CEO Michael Henson, Chairman Jon Campbell, Past Chair Richard Davis along with “any others in MOA leadership involved in the public deception and the financial mismanagement of the organization.” (full letter, h/t Star-Tribune).

Therefore, and to continue along the divorce analogy path, think of the situation like this:

  • Spouse A no longer cares for the way Spouse B looks and in order to improve the situation, insists that Spouse B submits to a series of cosmetic and gastric bypass surgeries while simultaneously contributing more to the household’s bottom line. Oh, and Spouse B should stop complaining so much.
  • Spouse B will have none of and gets kicked out of bed by Spouse A.
  • After a prolonged separation, Spouse B makes public the intent to begin seeing other people along with keeping all of their former, mutual friends. But at the same time, they don’t want to file for divorce.
  • A group of mutual friends begin telling anyone who will listen that Spouse A should grant a divorce and get out of town so Spouse B can find a new partner. They go so far as to write to Spouse A’s family suggesting that they should disown Spouse A for being such a dishonest cheapskate and abusive partner.

From this perspective it is easy to see why expecting both parties to compromise and get back into bed with one another to make beautiful music as an idyllic family is an increasingly unrealistic expectation.

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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7 thoughts on “Is There Anything Stronger Than Divorce?”

  1. Drew – I think a few more details on Spouse A are probably in order: Spouse A was probably hoping all along that Spouse B would pick up and leave, but didn’t want to lose the newly renovated house or the bank accounts in the settlement.

  2. Similarly, the screaming non-sequitur in the chairman’s statement yesterday that the $1M deficit incurred during a no-concert year somehow supports management’s position reinforces the impression that they have gone around the bend. I think it is quite fair to say that there are a lot of successful and sophisticated people in the community and around the country who are quite offended by the management’s lockout strategy. Not just because of the hardship for the musicians but also because as a strategy it was stupid to begin with. Their “double down” is further evidence of a remarkable tone-deafness and insularity.

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