Minnesota Orchestra: Creating Connections Internationally and Locally

Have you heard the exciting news?  The Minnesota Orchestra catapulted back into the national and international spotlight with its February 12 announcement that the Orchestra would play two concerts at a music festival in Havana in May. Who better to help thaw relations between the two countries than a world-class orchestra from Minnesota?

Cuba Tour

The Minnesota Orchestra will be the first major American orchestra to play in Cuba since President Obama moved to normalize relations between the two countries.  Orchestra members are looking forward to connecting with the people of Cuba, as well as with their artistic counterparts.  At the moment, the Orchestra staff is working hard on all the arrangements, made even more complicated by a delicate diplomatic situation and a very short timeline.   We hope to share more details later.  If you missed the original announcement, you’ll find more information in articles in the Star Tribune and New York Times.

Mosaic Revealed

If you didn’t get to see the unveiling of the giant All Together Now! mosaic on February 20, be sure to look for it in the lobby next time you’re at Orchestra Hall.   We’re thrilled that the mosaic, which symbolizes the connection of all parts of the Minnesota Orchestra family — Music Director Musicians, Board, Staff, Donors, Audience and Community — will be displayed at the hall.  It clearly represents what the Orchestra and community can accomplish All Together Now and in the future.

In his comments at the post-concert celebration, Osmo Vänskä expressed his deep appreciation that “we all are together now” and his hopes that audiences would continue to grow until we sell out every concert:

“For all of you, thanks for coming to listen to us. Thanks for coming to listen to us again! And thanks for coming to listen to us again and again, because we need you!  … The orchestra has prepared things in rehearsals and all of us, every player, we have done our homework….  And then you come and then we can be there together and we can enjoy what great music and great playing, great art!  And that is why we are here.  So I would be happy if we can fill the Hall evening after evening so that it is constantly sold-out. … thank you very much for all you have done and let’s continue together.”

See photos and a video of the mosaic unveiling on the Orchestrate Excellence Facebook page and if you are on Facebook please share with friends and ask them to “like” the page.

To find out how the 12-foot-square mosaic was created from over 1,600 separate “thumbnail” sized photos, including those of 1,300 audience members, read an interview with Cy DeCosse, the artist who designed and produced the piece.


Cy DeCosse and Osmo Vänskä

Take home your own Mosaic poster, available for $10 at the box office.  Note:  if you found your photo in the large mosaic and are looking for it in the poster image, it may appear in a different place. See interview with Cy to find out why.

Successful Launch of Symphony, Suds and Cider


A Brass Quintet from the Minnesota Orchestra has been connecting with enthusiastic crowds at Sociable Cider Werks.

On February 19 and 26, musicians chatted with patrons who were also offered exclusive concert discounts and invitations to behind-the-scenes Minnesota Orchestra concert experiences at Orchestra Hall.

Check out photos on our Facebook page and watch for details of more brewery performances planned for this spring and summer – and please alert young friends.  We’re trying to attract the next generation of classical music fans to Orchestra Hall.

Great for New Connections:  Casual Pass and Inside the Classics

March 13 marks the kick-off of this year’s popular Inside the Classics series, with a concert intriguingly titled Beethoven’s 10th.  It’s a perfect way to introduce and connect friends young or old to the Minnesota Orchestra and you can do it economically with a $99 Casual Pass, a flexible voucher for 6 concerts at a 40% savings.  If you hurry, you can be one of 100 Casual Pass purchasers invited to an after-concert party on March 13 with conductor Sarah Hicks and violist-host Sam Berman.  For details, click here.

Interesting Articles

  • In a wide-ranging MinnPost interview Osmo Vänskä tells why playing softly – almost to the point of inaudibility — is important, as well as discussing Sibelius, the Cuba tour and the Minnesota Orchestra today.
  • Is classical music dead?  This satirical and thought-provoking article by Alan Fletcher, keynote speaker at our 2013 Community Forum, explores current proclamations about arts and culture and whether they are true.

We hope to see you soon at a concert by our very own headline-making Minnesota Orchestra!

Posted in Mosaic, Weblog

Creating the Mosaic


Cy DeCosse and Osmo Vänskä

The “All Together Now!” mosaic was unveiled at the February 20th Minnesota Orchestra concert. Here’s an interview with mosaic creator, Cy DeCosse:

How did the idea for the mosaic come about?

“Paula was looking for something to symbolize All Together Now! — the theme of the community celebration at the orchestra’s opening concerts in September. We came up with the idea of a mosaic. I researched computer programs and found one that worked.”

How did you choose the image for the mosaic?

“We got a number of photos from the orchestra staff and chose this one because it had to have large, easily identified elements. That’s why we couldn’t include the whole orchestra in the large image.”

How many photos are in the mosaic?

“In order to create the mosaic effect with thumbnail-sized pictures, it took over 35,000 photos to fill the 12 foot square. We had a little over 1,600 to start with — about 300 photos of the staff, board and musicians and around 1,300 photos of audience members shot at the opening concerts. The computer multiplied those 1,600 photos and used what it needed for contrast and color. Each person appears an average of 21 times. So you won’t find yourself in the mosaic just once.”

Was it easy to do the computer work?

“I had to size all the photos — make them square. And I did a lot of color correction. Because of the enormous size of the mosaic, the computer kept crashing. In order to get the mosaic that big, I had to work on the image in quadrants and put the four pieces together in Photoshop. It took quite a bit of work to get the image ready for printing on that huge banner, making sure that each small photo was sharp.”

Will my photo be in the mosaic on the poster?

Yes, but perhaps in a different place than on the large banner. I had to run the program four different times to produce the 12-foot mosaic (see previous question). The mosaic on the poster was much smaller, so I ran that program only once. Consequently the mosaic poster contains all the photos, but in a different arrangement than on the large banner.


The “All Together Now” mosaic was the brainchild and artistic/technological creation of artist/photographer Cy DeCosse. Cy is married to Orchestrate Excellence Co-chair, Paula DeCosse. He is also a dedicated flutist who studies with Minnesota Orchestra Principal Flute, Adam Kuenzel. After an early career in advertising, where he was the only Minneapolis “Mad Man” to win a Cleo, Cy started a publishing firm and a creative business that furnished ideas to major U.S. corporations. Since selling the business, he has returned to his first love – fine art photography.

Posted in General, Mosaic, Weblog

Minnesota Orchestra Excitement Continues: Giant Mosaic, Suds and Cider, Carnegie Hall!

Excitement at the Minnesota Orchestra continues…

All Together Now! Mosaic Unveiling and Reception on Friday, February 20

We hope you’re planning to come to the February 20th concert (The Tempest) for the unveiling of the giant All Together Now! mosaic of Osmo Vänskä and the orchestra. The final mosaic banner is 12 feet tall and includes photos of all the musicians, board and staff, as well as over 1,300 audience members whose pictures were taken at the late September Community Celebration.


Find your photo in the All Together Now! mosaic!

  • Join us at intermission for the unveiling, and be one of the first to see it.
  • Attend the post-concert reception in the Target Atrium, with Osmo and Musicians. Free treats, and drinks available for purchase.
  • Bring your phone so you can snap a selfie with the mosaic and perhaps an orchestra musician and/or Osmo.
  • Plan to take a mosaic home with you – limited edition posters will be available for purchase.

Tickets for all The Tempest concerts Feb. 19-21 are available for a special 50% discount (coupon code: MOSAIC50) but the unveiling happens on Feb 20 only.

Symphony, Suds and Cider

As part of a broader initiative to connect twenty- and thirty-somethings to the Orchestra, Orchestrate Excellence is helping to create a new partnership between the Minnesota Orchestra and one of the leading micro-breweries in Minneapolis, Sociable Cider Werks.

  • video shoot01

    Shooting a video promo of Minnesota Orchestra Brass Quintet at Sociable Cider Werks.

    A Brass Quintet from the Orchestra will perform “flights” of great music at Sociable’s Taproom (1500 Fillmore St. NE) on Thursday, February 19 at 7:30 pm, and Thursday, February 26 at 8:30 pm. to entice microbrewery patrons to attend an orchestra concert at Orchestra Hall.

  • The musicians are looking forward to sharing their artistry and chatting with patrons who may not yet be dyed-in-the-wool Orchestra fans.
  • The MOA will offer on-the-spot ticket discounts to Orchestra concerts as well as special Orchestra Hall extras like a backstage tour and discounts on microbrew purchases at the Hall.

Please encourage microbrew fans, especially those in their twenties and thirties, to take advantage of this unique opportunity to hear world-class music at the Cider Werks and at Orchestra Hall!

Listen to the Brass Quintet at Sociable Cider Werks.

Minnesota Orchestra returns to Carnegie Hall

Have you heard the exciting news? The Minnesota Orchestra has been invited to be a part of Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary season.   On March 3, 2016, they’ll play an all-Sibelius program that will feature Symphonies No. 1 and 3 and Hilary Hahn performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Here’s a New York Times article that includes the announcement.

Minnesota Orchestra Volunteer Opportunities

If you are able to donate some time to the orchestra, consider the Fanfare Volunteer program. Jobs include daytime, evening and weekend ushers; bus captains for Thursday Coffee Concerts for buses leaving from various metro locations; hosts for the complimentary coffee and donuts served at Coffee Concerts. Volunteers get tickets for the concerts they work and can accrue credit for vouchers to future concerts.   If you want to apply, click here; the next interview for applicants will be February 18.

Music Makes Us Whole

Studies have documented a myriad of ways in which music stimulates the brain and helps learning and social skills. While Minnesota schools have been adding teachers since 2006, the trend in music is the opposite – a decline. Several dozen Minnesota nonprofits, including the Minnesota Orchestra, MPR, the SPCO and the Minnesota Opera have teamed up to advocate for a rich music education for every child — Music Makes Us Whole. Click on the link to find out how you can get involved.

Hope to see you at Orchestra Hall – or at Sociable Cider Werks!

Posted in General, Mosaic, Weblog

Minnesota Orchestra Kicks Off 2015!

1415_fullorchestraThe Minnesota Orchestra is generating lots of excitement and positive energy to kick off 2015!

New Symphony in 60 series begins on Thursday, January 29
Do you know anyone who is curious about classical music but hasn’t yet tried a concert at Orchestra Hall? Or people who enjoy great classical music but would like more time to socialize? Symphony in 60 is a new Thursday night series with concerts that last just one hour – perfect for first-time concert-goers or for groups of friends who’d like time for conversation before and after the music. Right now, tickets for these concerts cost only $29, or as little as $16.50 if bought as part of a series.

Osmo Vänskä will conduct the inaugural Symphony in 60 concert on Thursday, January 29 at 8 pm — a one-hour exploration of music from Romeo and Juliet by Prokfiev and Bernstein. Even in the shorter format, Osmo expects to deliver maximum musical value. As he put it, “Opting out of starters and dessert, this is purely the main course – a one-hour performance of great works that we want to share with audiences.”

Besides the main course – the music – there will be an opportunity for concert-goers to socialize with each other and with musicians. The evening will begin with a happy hour at 7 pm during which drinks will be 50% off, and an informal on-stage gathering with members of the orchestra will follow the concert.

Please tell your family and friends about Symphony in 60; we want to make sure to fill the hall for the launch of this new series!

Mosaic Unveiling on Friday, February 20
During the All Together Now! Community Celebration accompanying the Resurrection Symphony concerts in late September, we took over 1,300 photos of audience and community members. These photos are being added to those of musicians, board and staff to make the final version of the mosaic, All Together Now! The mosaic will be unveiled at the last Friday night concert in the Shakespeare Winterfest series, The Tempest, on February 20. Watch for more details closer to the date, but make sure you have your concert tickets now.

Update on December 2014 Board Challenge
Thank you to everyone who contributed to last month’s Board Challenge! Great news: the community-at-large donated more than the Board challenge match of $125,000, and a total of $53,000 was raised from 62 known Orchestrate Excellence members! Way to go!

We are especially grateful for your support of the orchestra now, as we truly believe in their new vision, leadership and actions. In case you missed it, Paula and MaryAnn Goldstein summarized the reason for our confidence in a recent MinnPost Community Voices piece.

Hope to see you soon at Orchestra Hall!

Posted in General, Mosaic, Weblog

Minnesota Orchestra Challenge — Almost There!

1415_fullorchestraThe Minnesota Orchestra got top billing as the “Comeback Kids” in Sunday’s Star Tribune 2014 arts year in review. If you missed the article on the best of the 2014 art scene, take a look now.

The orchestra has lots of exciting plans for next year, including reviving its recording and touring schedule, but one of the most important goals is to continue whittling down the organization’s structural deficit.

There’s good news on that front: the Board Challenge announced at the beginning of December is only $10,000 short of its goal of $125,000 in community contributions. All new and increased donations will be matched up to a total of
$125,000, which is the amount of Board members have contributed over and above their annual commitments.

If you have already sent your Board Challenge contribution, thank you so much!

If you have intended to send a gift but haven’t yet done so, please hurry! The challenge ends at midnight on New Year’s Eve and we don’t want to leave any of that match on the table.

For more information on the Challenge and to donate online, click here. You can also donate by phone by calling 612-371-5600 or mail your donation to MOA, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., MN 55403. Gifts in any amount will be gratefully welcomed and will be matched through December 31.

As Board Chair Gordon Sprenger emphasized at the annual meeting, it will take all of us to ensure the financial health of our great orchestra. Thank you in advance for helping to keep great music alive in our community.

Happy New Year from all of us at Orchestrate Excellence!

Posted in Uncategorized

Minnesota Orchestra: Great Momentum, Financial Issues, Board Challenge

The Minnesota Orchestra’s annual review on December 2 was a joyous occasion, with Board members, musicians, staff and community members all gathered to celebrate the amazing resilience of a beloved civic institution – and also to hear the challenge for the future. If you weren’t able to be at the meeting, here are links to reports from the Star Tribune and MinnPost, as well as to the annual report.

Board Chair Gordon Sprenger called 2014 a “remarkable year of rebuilding.” A first time Grammy award underscored the orchestra’s artistic excellence, and the post-lockout financial results were also encouraging, with expenses under control, contributions higher than expected, a lower than expected deficit, and a prudent draw from investments. Everyone who spoke at the meeting, including CEO Kevin Smith and the orchestra’s flute and piccolo player, Roma Duncan, highlighted the new sense of trust and collaboration felt throughout the organization.

However, despite the good news, all speakers also emphasized that we can’t become complacent.

“I don’t want anyone to think we have solved all of our financial problems, said Gordon Sprenger. “We have not.” Though less than expected, the orchestra still reported a $650,000 deficit in 2014, a year of partial operations. A larger deficit is projected for the next full year.

The orchestra announced a new community challenge: a special $125,000 Board Challenge Match. Board members have contributed these funds over and above their annual commitments and they are asking orchestra fans to do the same.

During the month of December, all new and increased donations will be matched up to $125,000.

If you have already contributed to the orchestra this year, thank you so much!   Now we’re asking if you could give just a little more – and encourage others to do the same. For more information on the Challenge and to donate online, click here. You can also donate by phone by calling 612-371-5600 or mail your donation to MOA, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403. Gifts in any amount will be gratefully welcomed and will be matched until December 31.

During the lockout, many people remarked, “If I had known the orchestra was in trouble, I would have dug deep.” We hope you will help maintain the orchestra’s amazing upward trajectory with a year-end donation.

At the annual meeting, Gordon Sprenger said, “A great orchestra truly hinges on the generosity of the community … it takes a village to support a great orchestra.” Kevin Smith amended that assertion by saying “It takes a major metropolitan area.” Let’s fill the concert hall, bring new visitors to Orchestra Hall and work to ensure the orchestra’s financial health going forward.

Posted in Weblog

Minnesota Orchestra Names Kevin Smith as President

1364309491Have you heard the news?  Kevin Smith has agreed to stay on as President and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra through the 2017-18 season!

Since taking over on an interim basis in August, Kevin has won the confidence of the musicians, Board, staff and community.   The Board voted unanimously to extend Kevin’s tenure.  Many of the musicians were in a meeting when the decision was announced; they sprang to their feet and cheered!   Here’s a link to a Star Tribune article with more information and comments by Board chair Gordon Sprenger and cellist Tony Ross.

Kevin has welcomed the involvement of Orchestra Excellence, SOSMN and other community groups.  He has been willing to meet with us, to speak at public forums and groups that we have hosted at Orchestra Hall, and he was enthusiastic about the community celebration held in conjunction with the opening concerts in September.   We are all thrilled that he will be staying on to continue the openness, transparency and collaborative spirit he’s brought to the organization.

Extending Kevin’s appointment through the 2017-18 season will give the orchestra consistent and trusted leadership through the next contract negotiations with the musicians in 2017 and for more immediate talks with Osmo Vänskä, whose contract extends only through 2015-16.  It will give Kevin, together with Osmo, the Board, staff and musicians, more time to explore new artistic options and stabilize the orchestra’s financial situation.

Congratulations to Kevin for the amazing work he’s done already and to the Board for their wholehearted support.  It feels as if we are truly All Together Now!


Posted in General

MOA President Thanks Community for Stellar September


Posted in General, Weblog

Become Part of the Photo Mosaic – It’s Not Too Late!


If you couldn’t come to the opening concerts this weekend, you can still submit your photo to be part of the All Together Now! Mosaic.


Here’s what you need to do:
• Take a “selfie” or have someone shoot your photo.
• Focus in on your head.
• Email your photo with the subject line “Mosaic” to social@mnorch.org.

Please send your photo now – the deadline is Monday, October 6!
By emailing, you imply your consent to participate in the All Together Now! photo mosaic.

Posted in Mosaic, Weblog

Next Weekend: MN Orchestra All Together Now!


This prototype Minnesota Orchestra photo mosaic, composed of photos of the musicians, Board and staff members, will be displayed in the Atrium as part of the Community Celebration for the opening concerts on September 26-28. Photographers will be taking pictures of orchestra fans to be included in the permanent version which will hang in Orchestra Hall as a graphic reminder that we are truly All Together Now!

Don’t Miss the Season Opening Concerts and Community Celebration — All Together Now!

Tickets for the Minnesota Orchestra opening concerts  are flying out the door! If you have delayed getting yours, don’t wait any longer! The concerts are coming up next weekend, Sept. 26-28. Call the box office or order online right away.   Check for special offers with the ticket representative or on the website.

Plan to come early for the community celebration All Together Now! starting at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon on Sunday:

  • Treat yourself to a glass of complimentary champagne when you arrive.
  • Get your picture taken for the giant Minnesota Orchestra photo mosaic. Here’s a sneak preview of the prototype mosaic  you’ll see in the Atrium. It is made up of photos of the musicians, Board and staff – but we want the next, permanent version to include images of you and all the other orchestra fans, as well – a graphic reminder that we are truly All Together Now!
  • Enjoy a variety of music by talented amateur musicians – just a few of the more than 100 Twin Cities large and small musical ensembles practicing and performing in our community.
  • Take a tour of the Hall – 6:15 or 6:45 on Friday and Saturday and 12:15 or 12:45 on Sunday.
  • Compete in a Minnesota Orchestra Trivia Contest. There will be prizes for trivia winners and door prizes too.
  • Post a message to the musicians next to a photo of the orchestra in the Atrium – and talk to the musicians who will be circulating in the hall before and after the concerts.
  • Pick up a “Minnesota Orchestra — Keep it Growing” lawn sign in the Atrium after the concert. Here’s your chance if you didn’t get one of these brand new signs at Lake Harriet.
  • Sample the new Minnesota Orchestra beer from Boom Island Brewery and enter a contest to name the new brew.
  • Stay after the concerts to listen to jazz groups – the bar will be open serving special snacks and desserts.

During these past few years, we could only dream about the musicians, Board, staff and community being All Together Now! and about the kind of celebration that’s happening next weekend. Be sure you are there with us at Orchestra Hall to experience the jubilation first hand!

Posted in General