Locked-out Minnesota Orchestra Players Go Rogue with 10-Concert Season

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The locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have announced a series of 10 self-produced concerts for the winter and spring, including programs with classical superstars Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell.

The Minnesota musicians have been locked out since October 2012 in what is the longest and perhaps ugliest labor dispute in the history of American orchestras. The Star-Tribune reports that “in addition to playing the concerts, the musicians are handling the complicated details of creating concert programs, securing guest soloists, renting halls, scheduling rehearsals and selling tickets.” The musicians have so far raised $600,000 towards the programs.

Osmo Vänskä, who in October resigned as the orchestra’s music director, will return to conduct four concerts, including two on March 20 and 21, to commemorate the orchestra's recent Grammy nomination with performances of Sibelius Symphonies No. 1 and 4. Bell will perform April 15 with guest conductor Michael Stern; Perlman will appear as conductor and soloist on May 14.

The musicians said that if the lockout ends they would work to merge their concerts with those produced by the orchestra association. 

The program announcement comes at the end of an eventful week in Minneapolis. On Wednesday, Minnesota legislators called for the resignations of the orchestra’s CEO, Michael Henson, and board chairman Jon Campbell. In a letter to the orchestra, the politicians said the current administration was "destroying the Minnesota Orchestra.” The next day, at its annual meeting, the orchestra’s board of directors re-elected both Davis and Campbell.

Almost simultaneously, the Minnesota Orchestral Association reported an operating deficit of $1.1 million for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31. That was down from the $6 million deficit from the previous year, when the orchestra was performing.