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

All Together Now! Minnesota Orchestra Community Celebration

All Together Now!
Join the Minnesota Orchestra Community Celebration

Opening Weekend Poster

Here’s a party you won’t want to miss!  Orchestrate Excellence and SOSMN are jointly organizing a Community Celebration – All Together Now! Come before the concerts on September 26, 27 and 28 to celebrate the orchestra’s return and the opening of an exciting new season.

Community Celebration –All Together Now!  Sept. 26-28
Starting at 6:00 on Friday, the 26th and Saturday, the 27th and at noon on Sunday, the 28th, you’ll be able to hear talented community musical groups performing in the Orchestra Hall lobby and on the mezzanine, take a tour of the hall, try for a prize in an orchestra trivia contest and post a message to the orchestra.

Become part of a giant Minnesota Orchestra Photo Mosaic
Be sure you are one of hundreds of orchestra fans included in a huge banner that will hang at Orchestra Hall. Come to the Atrium during the community celebration to see a mosaic that already includes photos of the musicians, Board members and staff. Get your photo taken so it can be included with them in Mosaic 2.0. We want to acknowledge your support of the orchestra in this graphic reminder that we truly are All Together Now!

Get your season opener concert tickets right away
There are great tickets left for the Sept. 26-28th concerts. You may have assumed that one of these concerts was included with your season subscription, but tickets need to be purchased separately. You can participate in the community activities without a ticket – everyone is welcome. But this is a program you won’t want to miss! Soloist Alisa Weilerstein plays the Barber cello concerto, followed by Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, the work that Mahler described as “so tremendous that I don’t know myself, now that it is over, how I ever came to write it.”

Invite your friends and family to come to the opening concerts and the celebration — and help us get the word out. Click here for a poster you can download and distribute.

Lake Harriet Concert, Sunday, Sept. 14
We hope there’s a record crowd to welcome back the orchestra and kick off the season at the free concert at Lake Harriet next Sunday. You may have thought you’d seen the last of Minnesota Orchestra lawn signs, but sources tell us there’s a new one that will be offered free to the first 500 concert attendees who request them. Come and pick up yours, as well as buttons and posters for the Community Celebration to put up in your neighborhood.

We’re excited about all these upcoming concerts – hope to see you there!

Posted in General, Weblog

Special Ticket Prices for Fans, Old and New


If you don’t yet have your tickets for the September 5 Gala with Renee Fleming, there’s still time.  But don’t delay; Starry, Starry Night tickets are almost sold out at some price levels.

If you can purchase tickets at the $250 level, did you know that you’d also be helping to build a more secure Minnesota Orchestra?  Your $250 ticket includes a $150 tax-deductible contribution.

You’ll experience the dazzling artistry of our Minnesota Orchestra and special guest, Renee Fleming as well as the Grammy® Award presentation – and you can celebrate with the orchestra at a post-concert party with a champagne toast and dessert.  In addition, you’ll receive tickets to a special, invitation only chamber concert with Music Director, Osmo Vänskä, and Principal Cello, Anthony Ross.   Don’t wait – get your ticket online or call today.

There are many ways you can help the orchestra; some don’t cost anything.  Share your enthusiasm for the Minnesota Orchestra with your friends, neighbors and family members.  Call and make sure they have their tickets for this season.  If not, suggest that they try the Create Your Own series, available now at a savings of 25% off individual ticket prices by using the the code EXCELLENCE15.

Do you know someone who’s new to the Minnesota Orchestra?  For first-time concert-goers, there’s a really special deal:  up to four tickets at only $5 each!  To order, click here.

We all need to help build the orchestra’s fan base and make sure every concert has an enthusiastic audience.

Going to the State Fair?  Look for the Minnesota Orchestra there:

  • At the Minnesota Orchestra booth, in the MPR area, corner of Judson and Nelson, Fri., Aug. 29, 8 am-5 pm.
  • At the AFL-CIO Labor Pavilion, corner of Dan Patch and Cooper – FREE performances by Minnesota Orchestra musicians, Sat., Aug. 30, 10 am and 11 am, Sun., Aug. 31, 11:30 am.
  • On the KARE 11 Morning Show, corner of Judson and Nelson, FREE performances by Minnesota Orchestra musicians, Sat., Aug. 30, 9 am-10am.

See you there!

Posted in General, Weblog

Minnesota Orchestra Gala, Challenge Grant, Upcoming Season

starry_ordertixpageDo you have your tickets yet for the September 5 Minnesota Orchestra Benefit Concert, Starry, Starry Night? This Gala with Renée Fleming is an event you won’t want to miss. Tickets at the $250, $100, and $75 level are available now. But hurry – almost half the seats have already been sold!

All tickets include a celebratory champagne toast, Grammy® Award presentation, starry desserts and musical delights at the post-concert party in the Orchestra Hall foyer.

In addition, the $250 Supernova tickets include stellar seating for the Gala, plus tickets to an exclusive chamber concert with Music Director Osmo Vänskä and Principal Cello Anthony Ross on October 16, 2014. These tickets also include a $150 tax-deductible donation to the orchestra.

If you can make a larger donation (which would be very welcome), please consider buying sponsor tickets at the $1,000 or $500 level, which include $800 and $300 tax-deductible gifts to the orchestra. Benefits at these levels include premier seating, pre-concert cocktails and dinner at Orchestra Hall, a private reception with Renée and Osmo, and recognition in the evening program, plus tickets to the October 16 chamber music concert.

CommUNITY in Concert Challenge
We’re happy to report that the goal for the CommUNITY in Concert Challenge has not only been met but surpassed!  The $100,000 collected by Lee Henderson as a matching grant at the beginning of July resulted in contributions of $170,000 from 749 generous donors (including 43 Minnesota Orchestra musicians) in gifts ranging from $10 to $10,000 – for a grand total of $270,000 as of August 4! If you haven’t had a chance to give, it’s not too late. Listen to Osmo explaining why it’s important. Let’s see if we can push that total even higher.

Tickets for Next Season
We all said we wanted a world-class orchestra and were willing to support it; the orchestra has been running annual operating deficits of about $5 million. To help whittle down that deficit, we need to fill the hall for each and every concert – and the 2014-15 season will open in just eight weeks. So don’t forget to check out the exciting concerts the musicians and Osmo have planned. You can now buy tickets for individual concerts through November 1, but also consider the many subscription options.

  • Are you already a season subscriber? You can renew those same seats or choose new ones now.
  • Did you select a Create Your Own series last season? Renewals for CYO series start August 8.
  • Not sure of your schedule? Try Easy Passes – flexible ticket vouchers are redeemable for great seats at a 10% discount and are valid a year from the date of purchase.
  • Want a really great deal? Try the new Friday night Forte series. Take $25 off the regular price when you enter a special Orchestrate Excellence discount code (EXCELLENCE15).

If you have questions, call 612-371-5656 (1-800-292-4141) and talk to one of the helpful representatives. You can even make an appointment to have a ticket agent call you so you don’t have to wait.

We hope to see you at Orchestra Hall next month!

Posted in General

2014-15 Concert Season and CommUNITY Challenge


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


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.

Posted in General, Weblog