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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Osmo Returns as Music Director: Rebuilding Begins


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.

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Rebuild our World-class Orchestra: Bring Osmo Back

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

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