Opinion: Management and musicians must face financial reality together

Posted on: October 19, 2012

In an opinion piece on Wednesday’s (10/17) Minnesota Public Radio website, attorney Eric Nilsson, chair of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Governing Members, writes, “The labor crisis affecting the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra deepened Wednesday, as SPCO management announced a Sunday deadline for musicians to accept its latest offer or face a lockout. At both orchestras, the impasse can be summed up this way: Musicians believe that they’re underappreciated; that their skills deserve higher compensation than management wants to grant, and that management has been derelict in fundraising and too emulative of cost-cutting business executives. Management, in turn, claims that it does fully appreciate the musicians; that it doesn’t have the money to pay what the musicians want, and that raising dough for classical music is one tough job, and in time, if expenses aren’t aligned with revenues, the gig will be up. … There are three realities that all sides—musicians, managers and audiences—need to address. … However much it takes to become a top-flight classical musician, the performer can expect to earn only what the market is able and willing to pay. … Today, far more ‘people with money’ are inspired to give to charities meeting human needs than are willing to pay top-flight classical music performers … The first reality points to a second: to increase significantly society’s value perception of live, world-class classical music, greater exposure and appreciation … would need to occur in our schools, starting at kindergarten and continuing through college. … To keep live, top-flight performances of classical music afloat today, we need to devise new approaches to how music-making by the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO is presented, marketed and financed. … Personally, I’m in favor of trying any number of radically improbable ideas … Smash down the barriers—real and perceived.”

Photo of Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra by Rat Race Studios

Posted October 19, 2012