No doubt you’re wondering what is happening with the Minnesota Orchestra contract negotiations. In the last few months there has been plenty of orchestra news: a flurry of op-ed articles, letters to the editor and public statements by the MOA Board and musicians culminating in last-month’s full-page newspaper ads setting forth their respective positions. And then in the last few weeks – only silence. We’re hoping that in this case, no news is good news.

The costs of the lockout continue to escalate — entire 2012/13 season cancelled, many musicians going or gone, acclaimed music director threatening resignation — and yet, from the community’s vantage point, the situation continues to appear to be intractable. In this increasingly desperate situation, anger and tension on all sides has only escalated, making a satisfactory settlement of the contract dispute increasingly challenging.

Orchestrate Excellence has tried to meet this challenge by focusing our efforts in three main areas.

Facilitation of productive dialogue
It has seemed to us that a calmer atmosphere is a precondition for any kind of productive dialogue, so for the past few months Orchestrate Excellence has been trying to diffuse tension and help the two sides understand each other. We have talked with Board members and with musicians about the broader interests underlying their bargaining positions (musicians’ insistence on maintaining the artistic stature of the orchestra relative to others; Board emphasis on long-term financial sustainability). We tried to convey to each side the needs and motives, as well as the interests of the other.

In-depth benchmarking
Orchestrate Excellence completed a thorough analysis of positive trends in an orchestra in a city with similar demographics. The report captured the attention of the MOA management, Board, musicians and community leaders, and we believe that it has been helpful in illustrating strategies that can drive growth even during difficult times.

Charting a path forward
Given the length of the orchestra lockout and the degree of tension it has generated, conflict resolution may be necessary to get all the parties working together productively again. We have identified and have been in contact with two expert conflict resolution facilitators who are accustomed to working in similarly difficult situations and who could help either during negotiations or after a settlement is reached.

Now that we are no longer hearing public statements from either the Board or the musicians, we are optimistic that positive steps are being taken and that substantive talks will soon begin.

We are looking forward to the time (hopefully soon) when the musicians are playing again. When that happens the orchestra will not be the same. It will need rebuilding. After this terrible year, all of us (Board, management, musicians and community) will need to come together to work toward a common goal – a revitalized Minnesota Orchestra that is both artistically excellent and financially secure.

Watch in the coming weeks to see how that goal can be achieved and what you can do!

Sincerely,

Laurie Greeno and Paula DeCosse
Co-chairs, Orchestrate Excellence

Update: No News is (perhaps) Good News