The board of the Minnesota Orchestra failed to reach an agreement with the musicians’ union on a new contract, and yesterday announced that they were locking the musicians out and canceling two months worth of performances.
Continued increases in musicians’ compensation over the past few years combined with declining revenue have been cited by the board as the reason that austerity measures are needed. It’s poor timing for the board, as they’re in the middle of a multimillion dollar renovation of Orchestra Hall and many have asked why such a project was undertaken at a time when the board were claiming salaries and benefits were unsustainable. This is a perfectly reasonable criticism of the board. But! These are middle class white liberals, so reasonable is far from the last stop on this train. Let’s wade into the fun from the comments left on the Minnesota Orchestra’s Facebook page.
Our first entertaining comment comes as a reply to this photo:
One commentator says, “Stop building it, go back to the old one, and give the musicians a pay increase.”
Look at the state of the hall’s lobby in that photo. The old material was long demo’d and carted away. The lobby as it stands is far from meeting code. It’s well past the point of no return. This doesn’t mean the board hasn’t mismanaged the orchestra’s funds, but the suggestion to hit the reset button this far into the renovation is idiotic. It also got five likes in one thread and fourteen in another.
Another can’t resist making this about how society doesn’t weight its entertainment preferences identically to her’s. She says, “ If the arts were valued as much as professional sports, this wouldn’t be an issue. Management has further slapped these artists in the face. Shame on you.” It’s worth noting the Orchestra received public funding for the renovation.
Continuing along with trying to shoehorn in professional sports, a third quips, “Management needs somehow to learn to respect the players. What’s next, three second violin players getting traded to Boston for two minor leaguers and a future draft pick? (There is money in the endowment fund to help compensate for the deficit, isn’t there? Let’s insist that it be used here and now.)” Coupling a complete non sequitur with a request to wipe the balance of the orchestra’s endowment? Aces.
I could pad the word count of this post considerably by quoting all the folks using adjectives such as horrified, outraged and appalled. However, I think this fourth commentator set herself apart from the rest in terms of hysterical emotional one-upsmanship. She writes, “I and so many other patrons are so disappointed in you, Minnesota Orchestra management. It’s absolutely humiliating to be a part of the same community as you. Humiliating.” Oh, whatever will she tell her friends from Chicago, whose symphony orchestra only went on strike for a day? Can she bring herself to show her face across the river in St. Paul where their chamber orchestra is continuing to play without having reached agreement on their next contract? There is no more degrading force in modern life than the board of a metropolitan orchestra. Courage, young lady, courage!
A fifth says, “I don’t think ‘Decimated a Symphony Orchestra’ or ‘Destroyed a century of Classical music In MN’ looks good on the future resumes of the board and management. Shame.” Two month lockout, a century of destruction… what’s 1,198 months between friends, right?
Perhaps the high of stupidity was the person who called the situation a, “war on the arts”. That description is better suited for an orchestra facing external over internal conflict. Also, the orchestra does not comprise the entirety of art.