Nearly 100 Composers Call for End to Minnesota Orchestra Lockout

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 05:42 PM

The longest labor dispute in U.S. orchestral history witnessed a new salvo on Thursday as 91 composers sent an open letter to the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians, administrators and board urging a “call for immediate resolution” to the nearly year-long lockout. Among the signatories are John Corigliano, Philip Glass, David Lang, Nico Muhly and Kevin Puts.

The letter, which was also sent to Minnesota’s governor and the mayor of Minneapolis for good measure, was prompted by, among other reasons, the cancellation of the 2013 Minnesota Orchestra Composer’s Institute, an annual event that gives young composers a chance to work with the ensemble. The institute, which is co-sponsored by the American Composers Forum, is in its 12th year.

“We know – with certainty – that the cancellation of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute will have a lasting and negative impact on American music,” the composers wrote, “and we urge you to act now to resolve the lockout and reinstate this essential training ground for the cultivation of talented composers.”

The two sides have been fighting for more than 10 months, resulting in the cancellation of the orchestra's 2012-13 season and its summer season. Fourteen musicians have left the ensemble during the lockout, including two that were announced just this week: assistant concertmaster Stephanie Arado and principal horn Michael Gast, the latter of whom is requesting a one-year leave of absence to play with the New York Philharmonic.

In May, music director Osmo Vanska threatened to resign if the dispute was not settled soon. Last month, George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator from Maine, was enlisted as a peacemaker.



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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

As a composer myself currently still uninvolved with purely symphony matters, IMHO it verges on the tragic that so much talent for composing will have with Minnesota no financial or performance outlet. Must our nation bear the stigma of crude greedy commercialism destroying the fabric of culture which unifies and enthuses still greater achievements in all endeavors. We see it in the ravages to our former industrial preeminence and to our overall supremacy in all the arts. Our nation has a large number of professional musicians and talented enthusiastic young musicians yearning while training to become orchestra members of symphonies an opera and ballet companies. We need to encourage their efforts by subsidizing our cultural organizations, including the fine arts museums which more and more are becoming the venues for presentations from chamber music to symphonies to operatic productions. In the status of singing and specifically of singing artists there is a dramatic drop in the numbers and quality of obtainable talent. The troubles that tear asunder the prospect of REAL "echt" talent in opera singers generally and specifically those big voices required for WAGNERIAN PERFORMANCES are primarily based on the total lack of singers with squillo, ping, ringing "juicy', not dry secco , delivery, WAGNERIAN BARKING rather than legato full-throated singing, strained, forced and flat singing, unsupported, undersized and underpowered singing, WITHOUT impressive carrying power and with throaty or nasal ugly voice production. Today's news deals with deficits and declining support for the arts. Tandem to this predicament for the talented is the perception that the current situation will continue for a long time to come. Speaking specifically how this precludes the motivation for young operatic singers who must early on choosing their life's work, many have turned to Broadway or the business world. Nowadays Broadway musicals are out for show-stopping sensationalism with laser distractions, monster sets, acrobatic feats and space age technical projections and featuring dancing over singing. So, for the real thing opera singer, Broadway musicals, outside of Phantom of the Opera and an occasional Les Miserables there is little prospect of a sustainable career . The Wagner oeuvre has suffered the most. Husky physiques, witness the iconic John McCormack, do not offer similar size singing voices in power or stamina. We suffer to hear miniscule, non-charismatic, non-distinctively memor able singing voices essaying roles far beyond their underpowered, thin not orotund, singing potentialities. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer [SHAKESPEARE and THE POLITICAL SHAKESPEARE] and director of The Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where all the Wagner and all the Shakespeare roles are taught as well as vocal technque for singing and declamation.

Aug. 31 2013 01:22 PM

Over the years, the Minnesota Orchestral Association has lost many millions of dollars in foolhardy investments. Often in scenarios such as these, the organization's financial management borders upon--if it does not indeed step over the line of--the criminal. It would not be the first time that this has happened in the music world and it certainly will not be the last.

The Roman historian, Suetonius, states that Nero played the lyre while watching Rome burn (The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Nero); and though the Suetonius account is historically questionable--Nero was not even in Rome when it burned--one nonetheless gets the point.

Millions of dollars in MOA investments were sold over the years at a great loss. To date, no one has done the one thing which would probably end this matter quickly-—specifically, FOLLOW THE MONEY! Who authorized the sale of the securities and what persons and/or entities benefited from the process—there are significant commissions and benefits to be had when more than 28 million dollars changes hands.

No one should be misled to believe that the current situation began a year ago. Rather, it started more than five years ago. It has all the makings of a classic financial scam.

Aug. 23 2013 02:44 PM

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