Tag Archives: minnesota orchestra

Minnesota Orchestra Extends Contract with COVID-19 Terms

Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have extended their current contract for two years, while also agreeing to a 25% pay cut via a side letter. The extension maintains existing medical and dental benefits. The side letter, with terms to address COVID-19, went into effect October 1 and continues through August 2022. However, if audiences are able to return to the concert hall by fall 2021, without limits to audience capacity, the pay cut will be reversed a year early.  Overall, the organization is reducing costs by $5 million for fiscal year 2021. Music Director Osmo Vänskä is taking a 35% salary cut for the current fiscal year.

Musicians had earlier agreed in June to decrease their salary by 20%. Negotiations for the contract extension and side letter were productive and respectful. Minnesota Orchestra musicians are represented by Local 30-73 (St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN).

Minnesota Orchestra Tours South Africa

The Minnesota Orchestra became the first professional US orchestra to visit South Africa with its five-city tour of the country in August. The tour was connected to a worldwide celebration of the late South African leader and human rights advocate Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birth.

The orchestra’s itinerary included performances in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Soweto, and Johannesburg, with concerts taking place at colleges, city halls, and churches. Musical exchange was also a key component to the tour, with Minnesota Orchestra musicians playing side-by-side with South African artists and students.

Funded by generous contributions from an anonymous couple, the tour showcased music derived from the traditions of South Africa, America, and Europe, ranging from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 to a world premiere by South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen—a tribute to Mandela.

The township of Soweto, seen as the bedrock of South Africa’s freedom struggle, was the most anticipated tour stop. There, 1,300 people packed into a Catholic Church for a program including Sibelius, the premiere by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, and a series of traditional South African songs. The landmark performance concluded with the orchestra, the Minnesota Chorale, and South African vocal soloists and choristers performing the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 together.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians are represented by Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN).

Minnesota Orchestra Plans Trip to Cuba

Minnesota Orchestra may be the first US orchestra to play in Cuba, following the announcement of normalization of relations with the country. Musicians agreed to postpone a vacation week in order to schedule the trip, which was funded by board member Marilyn Carlson Nelson and her husband, Glen Nelson. The orchestra has two concerts programmed at the Cubadisco Festival in May. Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the most recent US orchestra to perform in Cuba. That trip took place in 1999.

Minnesota Orchestra Announces Small Deficit

The Minnesota Orchestra ended its fiscal year with a deficit of $650,000 on its $29 million budget. This deficit was lower than expected and was welcomed as good news. The orchestra is working to rebuild its financial health following the musician lockout that ended in January 2014.

The $29 million budget is much smaller than prelockout seasons, which typically saw budgets of more than $32 million. Musicians’ salary and benefit cuts account for a $1.7 million budget reduction. The orchestra attributes its stronger financial performance to appreciation of investment funds, as well as to several large gifts totaling $13.2 million. Ticket sales remained similar to prelockout seasons.

Minnesota Orchestra Hires Executive Director

The Minnesota Orchestra has announced the hiring of Kevin Smith as President and CEO. Smith was named interim executive director after the orchestra’s previous CEO, Michael Henson, stepped down in August, in the aftermath of the 16-month musician lockout. Previously, Smith was executive director of the Minnesota Opera.

The board, overwhelmingly impressed with Smith’s work, offered him the position through the 2017-2018 season. During the interim period, Smith faced the great challenge of repairing internal trust following the bitter lockout. He has built strong relationships with all constituencies of the organization and the musicians are pleased that he will take on the position.

He has made progress in restoring the orchestra’s financial health, as well; the organization expects its deficit for fiscal year 2014 to be under $1 million.

Kevin Smith New Minnesota Orchestra President

It was only a year ago that the Minnesota Orchestra was locked out, but with a new hire they are getting back into the swing of things. Kevin Smith – currently the interim president and CEO – agreed to stay on through the 2017-18 season as the official Minnesota Orchestra president.

Smith took over from Michael Henson, the former CEO who became the main target and criticism for many issues in the organization. The board was searching for a new president, and Smith wasn’t even in the running. However, he turned out to be so extraordinary the board asked him to remain in his position.

“It was not in my original plan, but I thought: Why not, it’ll be an adventure,” Smith commented.

Board Chairman Gordon Sprenger said, “Kevin exceeded my expectations and we felt that if there was anyone who could help us find solutions, this was the guy right now.”

Smith has to deal with new contract talks with the musicians whose deal ends in 2017, and music director Osmo Vänskä. While Smith said he enjoyed working with Vänskä, it is the board’s decision whether he stays or goes.

Either way, it sounds like Smith is working hard for the orchestra.

“We want to start sooner rather than later with the musicians.” He said, “We need to have a clear financial picture moving forward to show what we can offer. They know that, we know that.”

Principal cellist Anthony Ross said in a statement regarding Smith’s hiring that “the musicians are delighted.”

This all sounds like good news for an orchestra that hasn’t been having the best time recently. Hopefully, things will only improve from here on.