Patron Group Attempts To Help Dislodge MOA From Orchestra Hall

The latest news out of the labor relations scorched earth that is the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) is an effort from the patron advocate group Save Our Symphony Minnesota (SOSMN) to pressure the city of Minneapolis to kick the MOA out of Orchestra Hall for defaulting on lease terms.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-124The 1/03/2014 edition of MinnPost.com published an article by Jake Anderson with additional details along with providing a copy of the 31 page SOSMN letter (28 of which are exhibits and reference material), which comes during a time when the City of Minneapolis is amid a 45 day review period to determine if the MOA’s multi-season lockout impacts whether or not the orchestra is in default.

According to Anderson’s article, the MOA claims that the SOSMN accusations are unmerited and that the organization has fully complied with all lease terms. The crux of the matter hinges on whether or not the City of Minneapolis determines if the MOA failed to provide accurate and complete financial information related to the recent renovation project.

This could go either way but it seems that the MOA is taking this seriously enough to issue statements making it clear that the orchestra’s leadership will play hardball with the city should things not resolve in their favor.

Anderson published an earlier article at Twin Cities Business on 1/2/2014 that includes a statement from the MOA that makes it clear they would pursue collection action against the city for renovation related expenses.

“Our attorneys advise that the charitable trust cases cited in the letter don’t affect the terms of the MOA lease. The lease expressly provides for reimbursement of a portion of the building costs paid for by MOA if the lease terminates under certain circumstances. MOA would comply with all donor restrictions applicable to any reimbursed funds.”

Worth noting is the lack of information regarding how much the MOA would expect to collect, nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if the MOA’s strong-arm approach will influence the city’s decision.

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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5 thoughts on “Patron Group Attempts To Help Dislodge MOA From Orchestra Hall”

  1. Is there any other business that would still claim to be in business after not supplying product for a year and a half, as well as not showing any signs of a reasonable business reorganization? From my perspective, with the Musicians of the MO presenting concerts on their own now, and the support of patrons it seems time to leave the MOA behind. It is now a completely toxic organization that will never recover to it’s former status. But I’m curious to hear reasons for continuing with the MOA…

  2. One huge problem here is that supportive patrons and donors have been completely ignored. Many have a lot to contribute, but there council is not sought. This whole mess and the impending messes elsewhere I have come to the conclusion are due to a fundamental lack of understanding of new realities. In essence the arts are confronting a new technology they don’t understand and have no clue how to embrace.

    In the old model, the audience not only buy tickets but support the organization with hard cash above and beyond the box office receipts. The way the patrons have been ignored in this dispute is a total disgrace. This whole episode is making me do some deep pondering about this model. I personally would like to see a fundamental change in law regarding this. I think there should be a subscribed membership level that allows for the creation of a large donor super boards for all of these organizations. These should have an annual general meeting and a nominating committee, nominate candidates for election to the governing board. The governing boards should elect their officers. We don’t want to be in this mess again with the Orchestra or any others. Bylaws could allow that a certain percentage of the governing board be for musicians and also put up for nomination by the nominating committee.

    However I’m now convinced more than ever that it is actually technological change driving this dispute, here and everywhere else. It is also causing the same problems in the sports world. Local TV audiences are having to go black for home games, as seats are unfilled because people would rather watch on their big screen TVs. This I believe is even more true of the musical and dramatic arts. Interest and audiences are larger then ever. The evidence builds for this assertion by the month. However, only a very small fraction of that audience will ever set foot inside a concert hall. The Guthrie makes a loss now, with declining attendance. Well UK theater groups including the National Theater are broadcasting to cinemas and have subscription YouTube channels.

    The TV broadcast of the New Year concert from Vienna had 58 million viewers. I watched it also, and I’m certain I had a better experience than the people paying enormous sums to attend in the Musikverein. In addition to superb audio and video from the Musikverein, viewers were treated to Ballet performances tastefully produced from the magnificent Lichtenstein City Palace. We had a crowd here at New Year and all agreed the experience here was wonderful. All this streamed without a glitch to a remote part of North Central Minnesota from the BBC servers in Salford England. Gustavo Dudamel, recently admitted to attending concerts via the big screen. He likes it and says it is a different experience form the concert hall but valuable a valid none the less.

    Times are changing fast. The Earth is shifting under our feet. The tragedy here is that I don’t think anyone on either side of the dispute has woken up to the fact. I have a lot of experience in recording classical music and have recorded a couple of operas. I recently met with a highly qualified video editor and producer. We were both of like mind. We are actually looking at the feasibility of getting the Musician produced concert up on a YouTube subscription channel to get more revenue coming in. Our frustration is getting people to listen and open their eyes to this wonderful evolving technology.

    If this community does not get its Orchestras, choirs, opera company and the Guthrie up on subscriber paid for Internet broadcasting with or without adverts, a massive economic opportunity will be lost. It is imperative, we tap that vast audience out there to fund the arts I have mentioned.

    Now stop the bickering and lead the way in real solutions to avoid the crisis in the American arts getting any worse and turn it around.

    The old model is dead and needs putting out of its misery.

  3. YES. Classical music needs friends in high places, but the survival of our culture requires it. Support the MN State takeover of the MN Orchestra as proposed by Rep. Phyllis Kahn to mek the Orchestra a community owned ensemble based on the Green Bay Packer model. The present MOA has to go.

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