Henson Out But Not Until August

It looks like there is finally some news in the saga that is the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) that may allow the organization to enter a genuine period of recovery. Late last night, the MOA announced that Michael Henson will step down as CEO in August, 2014.

Adaptistration Guy Out The DoorKristin Tillotson has all of the initial details in an article from the 3/20/2014 edition of the Star Tribune and since I’m still away for on-site client work, head over to her post for details and some more insight from me in the form of a quote about the departure time line. We’ll examine this in greater detail next week once I’m back in Chicago.

In the meantime, what do you think Henson’s departure, not to mention the time line, means for the MOA?

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 “Henson Out But Not Until August”

  1. I’m rather shocked – though not surprised – people in Minnesota think Henson’s departure only means the return of Vänskä. Henson’s fundraising tactics and results are not going to be easy to replace, and if the next CEO falls short of Henson’s average even once, those musicians are going to have even smaller paychecks. Besides, if the reason (ever-shifting as it was) to get rid of Henson was to bring back Vänskä, why? How much more Sibelius can they take?!

    • There are definitely even larger issues involved than bringing back Mr. Vanska in the departure of Mr. Henson. MOA will certainly be working to prevent another ‘revolt’ by the players. Part of that will be to make sure any future music director knows who is signing his paycheck and does not, in effect, strengthen the ‘revolt’ as Mr. Vanska did.

  2. I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction but that it is way too early to conclude what this may portned for the currently and officially vacant Music Director post, not to mention how the make-up of the board of directors (which in my opinion could stand some real shakeup) may change in the next few months, if at all.

  3. A long road ahead – bringing back Osmo, replacing departed principal players and bringing total player complement back to the orchestra of Grammy-winning quality. Also, returning to salary and pension of pre-lockout amounts. Not easy and next to impossible with the retention of Henson.

    • Seems to me Mr. Lebrecht’s position on the return of Mr. Vanska is tough but objective. The public seems to have an emotional connection to his return that MOA does not. In addition, Mr. Vanska made himself part of the ‘revolt’ and MOA will want to prevent another one.

      At the same time, MOA should want to make money, and it will be interesting to see how much value they place on all the demonstrations to ‘bring back Osmo’ that the concerts this week will undoubtedly include.

  4. Regarding Pamela Brown’s characterization of the MN Orchestra players actions as a “revolt.” The players were the ones locked out for 16 months after turning down a “last offer” demand of a one-third pay cut and an enormous range of work rule changes. The revolt came from the top down, not the other direction. In reaction, a social movement arose fueled by players, supporters in the Twin Cities and around the country, and digital media. Management never did have a response to this movement.

    The “revolt” characterization reminds me of Lady Bracknell’s observation about the state of being a foundling in a handbag in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” (Look it up.) Vanska’s sympathies were with the players, but then so were every other living former MN Orchestra music director (Skrowaczewski, Marriner, deWaart, and Oue). The orchestra mgmt has to announce a 2014-2015 season before long, so they had better have a plan. The abbreviated “season” they put on since ending the lockout has been unimpressive on the whole mixed attendance, although individual concerts have been excellent.

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