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Orchestra musicians must concede

Amy Mihelich, Contributing Writer
October 29, 2013 • 1,388 views

Even the cacophony of tuning strings has a magical quality inside the newly renovated walls of Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, this year there have been limited opportunities to hear the world-renowned Minnesota Orchestra in action due to their lock-out, which began on Oct. 1, 2012. One year later, on Oct. 1, 2013, Osmo Vanska resigned from his position as conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra after a decade of dedication.

While his resignation was shocking, this upsetting news should not have been a surprise. Vanska threatened to resign around the time the strike began, saying he would leave if a consensus could not be reached.

The problem is not a matter of an overly fiscally conservative board clashing with greedy musicians. The situation is much more delicate than that.

The board has an allotted amount of money that it can pay out to musicians, and musicians have many costs they must cover with their paychecks. The problem began because the Minnesota Orchestra’s expenses are not sustainable, and it persists because the board and the musicians cannot agree upon a compromise that meets the needs of both parties.

It is time for the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra to come to an agreement with the board. I understand that professional musicians work hard, often at great cost to themselves. They devote countless hours each week to their instruments, practicing on their own, attending rehearsals and performing. In order to play their best, they also need to own quality instruments.

Some of the musicians’ instruments are worth as much as a home mortgage, and the instruments require expensive adjustments and repairs periodically to maintain their value.

However, I am concerned that the artists are becoming so centered on making a living from their passions that they neglect to remember why they were passionate about the arts in the first place. It frustrates me that these musicians, who have earned the opportunity to be part of such an incredible and elite ensemble, are forfeiting opportunities to create music rather than taking advantage of such privileges.

Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of this shutout is that the musicians are depriving the public of their music, a valuable service which they believe to be worth more than a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Yes, in a perfect world, musicians would be paid more. They provide a valuable contribution to society, and in an ideal world everyone would be lavishly rewarded for their services.

However, this is not a perfect world, and right now, while the members of the Minnesota Orchestra refuse to come to a compromise, it is a rather quiet world as well.

The musicians and the board must come to some kind of agreement, and it is going to require give and take from both sides.  Perhaps the best solution could come from the outside. Maybe the best way to solve this disparity of funds is to find a way to bring in more funding.

The Minnesota Orchestra is going to have to get creative with ways to draw its loyal followers and season ticket holders back in after such a great disappointment. Whatever they decide to do, they need to make a decision soon.

The lock-out has gone on for far too long, and it is time to start filling Orchestra Hall with music rather than debate.

 

Amy Mihelich ’16 (mihelich@stolaf.edu) is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English and political science.

Graphic Credit: LAURA WHITAKER/MANITOU MESSENGER
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