2014-15 Concert Season and CommUNITY Challenge

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Summer has finally arrived in Minnesota, and Sommerfest concerts return to Orchestra Hall starting this Thursday, July 10. Stop by for free coffee and donuts from 9-11, prior to the opening concert featuring Rachmaninoff and Brahms. Order your tickets now - online, by phone at 612-371-5642 or by visiting the Hall box office, now open Monday-Friday, 10-5.

While we are all busy with warm weather activities, it’s also time to think about the recently announced Minnesota Orchestra 2014-15 Season! If you formerly had a subscription, please renew it. Consider expanding it, or inviting friends to newly experience our cultural jewel.

The community will be treated to a full 25 weeks of programming developed collaboratively with Music Director, Osmo Vänskä and the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. This season has been described by Pamela Espeland in MinnPost as, “fresh and varied,” and one that “should draw you back in.” Along with a Gala event featuring Renée Fleming on September 5, and opening concerts appropriately focused on Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, we can look forward to a Strauss celebration, concerts inspired by Shakespeare, and the resumption of the Sibelius recording project, with the performance of Sibelius Symphonies 3, 6 and 7. There are too many high points to cover, but you can find the full calendar here.

As the community happily turns to the future, it’s very important to remember the promises we made to ourselves and to others, to support the Minnesota Orchestra. Lee Henderson and other music lovers have combined their gifts to the orchestra to launch a one-time offer – a $100,000 CommUNITY in Concert challenge grant. If you’ve been meaning to donate to the orchestra, now is the time! We need to earn the challenge grant with matching funds totaling $100,000 by July 31. To date almost $40,000 has been contributed, so we’re well on the way – but with only a few weeks left, we have to keep momentum going.

Enjoy this warm weather and respite from the rain! We look forward to seeing you at a concert soon!

Posted in General, Weblog

Kevin Smith Named Interim President and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra

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Kevin Smith will be taking over as the interim President and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra starting in July.

Smith served as president and CEO of Minnesota Opera from 1986 to 2011, a period in which the company expanded its season from three to five productions, doubled its attendance and grew its annual budget from $1.5 million to $9 million. During his tenure, Minnesota Opera was recognized for artistic excellence, a commitment to the development of new works, an innovative approach to production design, a highly successful Resident Artist Program, and progressive educational and community outreach programs.

Smith’s other accomplishments include the 1991 creation of the Minnesota Opera Center, which houses the company’s offices, costume and scene shops and rehearsal facilities. He helped to establish the Arts Partnership, which ushered in a new era of collaboration among Minnesota Opera, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Schubert Club and the Ordway, and served as its first president. Throughout his career, Smith has been active in statewide arts advocacy, serving on the board of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and as a member of Vote Yes Minnesota, the steering committee for the campaign for voter approval of the Minnesota “Legacy” constitutional amendment.

A prominent leader on the national opera scene, Smith has served on numerous panels at the National Endowment for the Arts and been a board member of the American Arts Alliance. He is a past board chair of the national service organization Opera America and was instrumental in establishing its counterpart, Opera Europa. Smith has been working as Opera America’s field consultant, specializing in extended consultations with opera companies in transition.

We are thrilled that Kevin Smith is now going to be spearheading the rebuilding effort for the Minnesota Orchestra.

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Osmo Returns as Music Director: Rebuilding Begins

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Orchestrate Excellence wishes to take this opportunity to offer congratulations and thanks to the Minnesota Orchestral Association for insuring that Maestro Osmo Vänskä will continue to lead our great Minnesota Orchestra. This represents a major commitment to artistic excellence, a concern we share with music lovers in our community and throughout the world.

We look forward to working together with all who embrace our passion for the preservation and support of this venerable institution with its legacy of world-class music.

Its future remains with all who share this common vision—conductor, musicians, staff, Board members, patrons, and audience. Orchestrate Excellence renews our pledge towards working with all constituencies as the process of healing, restoration, and rebuilding begins in earnest.

Posted in General

Rebuild our World-class Orchestra: Bring Osmo Back

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Orchestrate Excellence is delighted that a settlement has finally been reached and that our Orchestra and its incomparable music are returning to Orchestra Hall. During the past difficult months, at our Community Forum and in recent comments, hundreds of people indicated their commitment to keeping a world-class orchestra in Minnesota. The orchestra’s recent Grammy award offers an additional incentive to regain that stature.

Key to rebuilding is hiring a music director. Osmo Vänskä has played an incredibly important role in elevating the quality of our Orchestra and its performances. Participants at our Community Forum last August expressed their strong desire to retain Osmo as our Music Director, and many in the community have been devastated by his resignation.

We strongly believe that the most effective way to rebuild our world-class orchestra is to bring Osmo back.   

On January 29, Orchestrate Excellence sent letters to influential Board Members with whom we have had personal contact, highlighting this position and our rationale. We have also shared this message with our Musicians.

  • Osmo already has a powerful rapport and history with the Orchestra and with the community. He is uniquely capable of stepping in to rebuild the Orchestra at this challenging time.
  • Members of the community have weighed in repeatedly on the importance of having a world-class Minnesota Orchestra. Osmo’s return would be the fastest way to rebuild the orchestra to that world-class stature.
  • After 15 months of turmoil and strife, Osmo’s return would be a positive step toward reconciliation and a strong signal that the new Board leadership is listening to the community. It would likely be a great help in both public relations and fund-raising going forward.

We strongly urge the Board to invite Osmo to return to help rebuild our world-class orchestra. We believe that if we all work together — Musicians, Board, Osmo Vänskä, MOA staff, Community — our Minnesota Orchestra can rise to even greater heights than those acknowledged by their fantastic 2014 Grammy win!

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Minnesota’s Moment of Opportunity

The 15-month-long lockout is over! We are relieved and delighted that the music we all love is finally returning to Orchestra Hall.

We look forward to learning more about how the Musicians and Board will work together going forward and how our newly energized community can be involved in the huge task that lies ahead.

If there is a bright spot in the difficult months we’ve just lived through, it’s been the outpouring of letters, blog posts and messages, showing how deeply people care about the Minnesota Orchestra. Hundreds of people have offered their thoughts and ideas – their commitment to keeping a world-class orchestra in Minnesota and their willingness to help classical music and this 110-year-old institution flourish in the future.

Just as we celebrate Tuesday’s agreement, let us also capitalize on this moment as an unparalleled opportunity: an opportunity to bring new voices and ideas into dialogue with the MOA, an opportunity to develop and execute creative solutions to systemic issues, an opportunity to come together as a broader community to put the Orchestra on a new trajectory for the future.

The orchestra world and the national and international media have been watching us for the past painful 15 months. Now we have an opportunity to demonstrate another kind of “Minnesota Miracle.” Musicians, Board and community have a chance to come together to build an organization that is not only world-class in its artistry but also in its integration with the community and its commitment to recognize and address ongoing financial challenges.

Let’s all get to work – and let’s start by filling Orchestra Hall for the rest of this season! We will be back in touch as we get a sense of how the Minnesota Orchestra wants to engage with the community going forward.

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A Tale of Two Orchestras

A Comparison of Two Major Midwestern Orchestras

Orchestrate Excellence, an independent group of community members who support the Minnesota Orchestra, is releasing a benchmarking report, A Tale of Two Orchestras, that compares the 2008 – 2012 trends experienced by two Midwestern orchestras, our Minnesota Orchestra and The Cleveland Orchestra. This report was completed last spring and distributed to MOA management, Board, the musicians’ negotiating committee and some civic leaders at that time.

Orchestrate Excellence undertook this benchmarking exercise to enhance understanding of the industry. The report was intended neither as a critique of the past nor as a prescription for the future, but an opportunity to understand strategies a similar organization leveraged to drive growth. The Tale of Two Orchestras report was prepared by financial, investment, and audit professionals based upon analysis of the two organizations’ annual reports, federal tax returns, and audited financial statements.

The Tale of Two Orchestras study focused on revenue trends. There are sufficient commonalities between Cleveland and the Twin Cities — top tier orchestras and musicians, non-coastal but culturally vibrant cities of similar size, significant business model challenges and operating deficits — to make a trends comparison relevant and potentially instructive. The trends each organization has experienced over the five years are clear: The Cleveland Orchestra has achieved growth in operating revenue, contributions and endowment over the five year period, while the Minnesota Orchestral Association has experienced declines.

The Cleveland Orchestra continues to confront significant business challenges, most notably an operating deficit that required special fundraising and revenue generation each of the last two years, but the organization has tackled the challenges with growth strategies leveraging their primary asset: music played at the highest levels of artistic excellence.

In Cleveland, all constituencies – management, Board, musicians and donors – are committed to making their orchestra the best in the world, and their financial strategies are based on this commitment.

Important Caveats

This assessment is:

  • Based on publicly available documents, and did not benefit from any additional information or input.
  • Focuses exclusively on revenue trends, and does not delve into absolute differences in size, into expense analysis or into deficit comparisons.  It does not address additional measures such as the organization’s long-term financial stability related to debt and draws on funding sources such as an endowment.
  • Confined to the 2008-2012 time-period. This report does not evaluate any future plans or business models.
  • Only one benchmarking exercise; it would probably be fruitful to undertake similar comparisons to many other orchestras.

When we provided A Tale of Two Orchestras to the MOA management and musicians last spring, we hoped the report would spur conversations between the parties and broaden thinking about a future path that would make the Minnesota Orchestra both artistically excellent and financially secure. Our Community Forum in late August brought even more ideas forward, showing the commitment of our community for the Minnesota Orchestra.

Now, despite our efforts and those of many other community groups committed to the orchestra, the scheduled recording contracts and Carnegie concerts have been cancelled and our esteemed music director, Osmo Vänskä, has resigned. After an entire year, the lockout continues, Orchestra Hall is still silent and contract talks between the Board and Musicians seem to be at a standstill.

We are releasing A Tale of Two Orchestras now in hopes that it will convey the message that there are possible solutions to the dilemma we face. Our community is at a crossroads, not the end of the road. Like any benchmarking exercise, A Tale of Two Orchestras outlines not one correct path, but a number of possible paths forward for our Minnesota Orchestra and our community. We are still hoping for a solution that will enable the orchestra to be successfully rebuilt.

Orchestrate Excellence: The Minnesota Orchestra enriches and inspires our community with a heritage of artistic excellence spanning more than a century. It has made Minnesota synonymous with musical greatness worldwide. We believe that the orchestra plays an important role in Minnesota’s rich cultural life and that it is possible to fund its musical brilliance going forward. We are concerned citizens who have come together to find ways to assure the high quality of the music that we love. Orchestrate Excellence can be found online at www.orchestrateexcellence.org.

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Posted in General, Weblog

Difficult Days

The last few days have brought with them great loss, anger and sadness.  With true regret, we have all witnessed the withdrawal of the Minnesota Orchestra from its Carnegie Hall residency, the subsequent resignation of our Maestro, Osmo Vänskä, followed by that of the Director of the Composer’s Institute, Aaron Kernis. These losses are real, for Minnesota, for music lovers, students, businesses large and small, touching our entire community,

While we have experienced a significant ending, it is important to remember that this is not the end. A contract must still be negotiated, musicians must play, and the community must have its orchestra.

Orchestrate Excellence remains committed to the idea that the Twin Cities can, and will support a world-class orchestra as a part of our deeply rooted cultural framework, now and for the years to come. We are ready to work, to contribute to rebuilding a world-class orchestra in this community.

Posted in General, Weblog

Community Forum: Future of the Minnesota Orchestra Summary Report

This report of the August 20th Community Forum was sent to Minnesota Orchestra management and Board, to the musicians, to the media and to key elected officials, including Mayor Rybak and Governor Dayton.  Included in the report are an executive summary and key findings, recommended next steps, transcript of Alan Fletcher’s keynote speech, and a complete transcript of the notes from the breakout discussion groups. We hope that all constituencies will heed the urgent call for community action that is our key conclusion.

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Introduction

Imagine spending your summer evening in a room packed with an audience of enthusiastic supporters of the Minnesota Orchestra. During a lockout that has now lasted nearly a full year, our community hasn’t had such an opportunity… until August 20, 2013.

The Community Forum hosted by Orchestrate Excellence provided a singular opportunity for more than 600 citizens to come together and voice their support for our Minnesota Orchestra. Founded on the idea that the audience and community are impacted by this lockout and also need a voice in the outcome, Orchestrate Excellence orchestrated an evening intended to get the community talking and thinking about how to support our Minnesota Orchestra after the lockout has ended.

Dr. Alan Fletcher, President and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School, traveled to Minnesota to serve as the keynote speaker at the forum. Through his own unique and sometimes rancorous experience at Aspen, Dr. Fletcher’s perspective on the current situation facing our community was especially relevant, instructive and poignant.

We hope you will heed the call to action contained in this report.  The Minnesota Orchestra is, after all, our orchestra and this community will play a vital role in securing its future.

Executive Summary and Key Findings

The community is anxious, confused, frustrated, angry and disillusioned. Their Minnesota Orchestra hasn’t played in almost a year. Many never knew the Minnesota Orchestral Association was facing financial difficulty prior to the sudden silence. In short, community members are embarrassed and dismayed by the lack of action by individual board members, individual musicians and our elected officials.

While allowing community members to voice these deeply held feelings, the Community Forum was focused on fostering dialogue among community members about what they, as individuals, could do to support the Minnesota Orchestra after the lockout has ended.

In our effort to focus the discussion on the future, Orchestrate Excellence asked the audience to reflect on and discuss, in small groups, two key questions:

First: “Does Minnesota want a world-class orchestra, and why?

Second: “What will you, as a community member, do to support a world-class orchestra, and how?

The following are key sentiments expressed while discussing the community’s desire for a world-class orchestra, question one:

  • Having a world-class orchestra is important to the quality of life in Minnesota.
  • Talented people don’t relocate to Minnesota for the weather. Our network of world-class cultural institutions plays a pivotal role in making Minnesota a sought out destination to live, work and play.
  • Our community has invested in and built a world-class orchestra for more than a century and we must find a way to maintain support for such an institution.
  • The world-class Minnesota Orchestra distinguishes the Twin Cities and represents our community around the world.  Participants voiced their fear that the threatened loss of our world-class orchestra is communicating an equally powerful, and quite opposite, message to the world about our community right now.

The following are key sentiments expressed while discussing the community’s support of the orchestra, question two:

  • Community members need to contact and influence decision makers to get the two sides to the table and reach a settlement.
  • Individuals need to step up and support the orchestra financially.
  • Unique and innovative programs should be developed by orchestra fans that enable them to support the orchestra in their own way.
  • Community members should help educate the community, especially the young people and students, about classical music and what the Minnesota Orchestra offers.
  • A variety of participants offered to take part in organizing grassroots efforts to help with community engagement, audience building and fundraising.
  • Participants wanted transparency and communication between orchestra and community members.

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Recommended Next Steps: An Urgent Call To Community Action

Despite the Forum’s focus on the future of the orchestra, Forum participants were vocal throughout the evening in their desire to take action immediately to drive resolution to the current crisis.  While Dr. Fletcher pointed out in his remarks that this crisis can only be resolved by the Board and the musicians talking directly to each other, community members repeatedly sought the opportunity to take positive action themselves.   

We, of Orchestrate Excellence, believe that there is, in fact, a role our passionate and committed community can play now:  community members can let their calls for resolution be heard, with the urgency and passion they expressed at the Forum.

  • Community members can call for local government leaders to engage aggressively and persistently in helping to bring this crisis to resolution.
  • Community members can call for the musicians and the Board to get to the negotiating table now and ask that they continue discussions non-stop until they have achieved a workable resolution.
  • Community members can encourage all parties to work together now until the job is done.

Clearly there is much work to be done to revitalize our orchestra – and, as demonstrated by the hundreds of passionate voices at the Forum, many community members are eager to engage in meaningful ways to help – but before the rebuilding can begin, there must be an agreement in place.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä has threatened to resign if the Orchestra’s November Carnegie Hall concerts are cancelled.  A settlement must be reached by September 15th in order to maintain that concert schedule. With that deadline only two weeks away, individuals and organizations of this community can make a difference:

Community members can contact, without delay, individual Board members and management, and musicians and elected officials.  Call for them to get to the negotiating table immediately, without preconditions, and find a solution to the current situation.

  • Call for political leaders, as our representatives, to actively engage in the effort to get the musicians and Board members to start negotiations immediately.
  • Call for musicians and Board members to stay at the table indefinitely and continuously, without wasting a moment, until music is being made.

Talking points for your message:

  • Your inaction is squandering one of the greatest cultural assets our community possesses and has invested in for more than 100 years.
  • We are dismayed by the lack of progress made by both individual Board members and musicians.  Our state is widely regarded as a role model for education, doing the right thing, supporting a vibrant arts community.  This situation is humiliating, embarrassing, a disgrace.  Minnesota is better than this.
  • (if you are addressing an elected official) Elected officials are the official guardians of all that is best about our community, including our treasured cultural institutions.  As a representative of government that has spent tax dollars on this entity, it is your responsibility to actively engage to help resolve this desperate situation.
  • You must immediately get to the negotiating table, without preconditions, until an agreement is reached and our Minnesota Orchestra begins playing again.

Board Members & Management
Contact Board and Management
List of MOA Board members
List of MOA staff members

Musicians
Contact Musicians
List of Minnesota Orchestra musicians

Elected Officials
Governor Mark Dayton
Mayor RT Rybak
Minneapolis City Council

Posted in Community Forum, Weblog

Community Forum Draws Huge Crowd

Thank you to everyone who attended the August 20th Community Forum!

A full report, including a summary of ideas from the breakout discussion groups, will be posted on the website as soon as these can be compiled.

If you have further ideas to share, you can write to Orchestrate Excellence at orchestrateexcellence@gmail.com. Please send these by Monday, August 26, for inclusion in the report, although we always welcome ideas and input.

Forum participants indicated an interest in writing to the MOA BoardGovernor Dayton and Mayor Rybak. While we are all passionate about the Minnesota Orchestra and want the lockout to end, letters that are clear and respectful may have greater impact.

If you were not able to attend, you can listen to the live stream recorded by The UpTake, which includes Alan Fletcher’s speech, the Q & A, live interviews, and abbreviated reports from a few of the breakout groups.

Norman Lebrecht’s blog, Slipped Disc, includes a transcript of Alan Fletcher’s speech.

Here are some press reports of the event: MinnPostMinnesota Public RadioStar Tribune

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Over 600 people attended the Orchestrate Excellence Community Forum at Westminster Presbyterian Church on August 20th.

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The Community Forum was well covered by the press; here are MPR reporter Euan Kerr and a videographer from The UpTake, which provided live streaming of the event.

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Alan Fletcher, President and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School, spoke about the difficulties the Minnesota Orchestra is experiencing and the necessity for the Board, musicians and community to jointly find a way forward.

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After Dr. Fletcher’s speech, participants gathered in small groups to discuss those two key questions: “Does Minnesota want a world-class orchestra, and why?” and “What will you, as a community member, do to support a world-class orchestra, and how?”

Posted in General, Weblog

If you can’t attend in person…

Live Streaming

The community forum will stream live via The UpTake, at www.theuptake.org. starting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 20. Look for an icon on The UpTake’s home page. Click the “Live coverage” tab.

 

MPR Interview with Alan Fletcher

MPR will broadcast its interview with Alan Fletcher on the Daily Circuit between 9:00 and noon on Tuesday, August 20. Click here for details. If you miss hearing it, you can check the archive for “Alan Fletcher interview.”

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