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.
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.
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.