testimony
Laurie Greeno testifies before the House Commerce Committee

Testimony on the effects of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, given by Laurie Greeno, Co-chair of Orchestrate Excellence to the MN House of Representatives Commerce Committee, January 23rd 2013

Chair Atkins, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee, thank you for considering the impact of lockouts on our communities and the state of Minnesota.

I am Laurie Greeno, co-chair of Orchestrate Excellence, an independent coalition of over 1000 community members, donors and concertgoers. In the last few weeks, this group of concerned citizens has formed to give voice to the tremendous economic, educational and artistic repercussions of the MN Orchestra lockout.

On the economic front, the impact of the lockout is significant and far-reaching. According to estimates by Meet MPLS, the convention and visitors bureau, visitors who attend classical music concerts spend almost $30 million dollars annually — and much, if not all, of this revenue will be lost as a result of the Mn Orchestra and SPCO lockouts.

Already, a single parking facility is reporting a $70,000 shortfall due to concerts cancelled to date.

The Convention Center, the orchestra’s home for this season, has lost over a quarter million in revenue, with a potential of $600,000 lost for the year.

One Minneapolis restaurant manager is reporting revenue shortfalls of $3,000 to $10,000 per concert evening, with revenue reductions expected to exceed $100,000 for the 54 concerts cancelled so far. Multiply that times the number of restaurants on south Nicollet Mall, and the shortfall exceeds a million dollars for this sector alone.

The economic ripple effects of the lockout are perhaps most significant for the countless individuals affected. Musicians, stage hands, ushers and others are out of work. Servers are seeing their hours cut. Luthiers – small businesses that maintain string instruments – report significant revenue shortfalls. The Minnesota Chorale has lost 20% of this year’s revenue. Bemidji’s community-wide Orchestra project for this spring is at risk.

And, then, there is the “double whammy” effect the lockout has on public funds. Not only are City, county, and state tax revenues down as a direct result of the lockout, but, at the same time, the government is paying out tens of thousands in unemployment every week that the lockout persists.

Clearly the economic impact of this lockout is significant; a thorough analysis by the State Auditor would be revealing.

The lockout is having a negative impact on the education of MN students as well. In a typical year, the MN Orchestra reaches over 50,000 students. Many of these events have already been cancelled, and the public funding spent planning them wasted. For example, the Orchestra was not able to spend two days with Osseo Public Schools children last week. The Forest Lake schools’ orchestra residency has been cancelled. Students in districts throughout the metro area are waiting to learn whether their MN Orchestra events will be cancelled as well.

Lastly, the artistic impact of the MN Orchestra lockout is impossible to quantify, but is potentially the most significant long term repercussion. What we do know is that we have a world-renowned, world class orchestra that is sitting idle — whose musicians are having to leave Minnesota to earn money to support their families, some permanently — and a tremendous state asset, built over generations by dedicated and far-sighted donors, orchestra board members, corporations and state officials, that is in danger of withering away.

We of Orchestrate Excellence, this nascent group of concerned citizens, recognize the significant financial challenges facing the Minnesota Orchestra, and understand that a new path must be forged. We believe that it is possible to identify solutions to the current impasse that preserve our world-class orchestra while creating a path to a secure financial future. We encourage management, the musicians, and the entire community to end the lockout, to engage in productive dialog, and to begin to work together to build for the future.

Thank you.