Minnesota Orchestra Elects Gordon Sprenger to Serve as Board Chair

The Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors today elected Gordon M. Sprenger to serve as its chair.  Sprenger, who joined the Orchestra Board in 2006, is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Allina Health System.

Since joining the Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors, Sprenger has chaired the organization’s Architect Selection Committee and its Board, Development and Governance Committee, as well as serving on its Executive, Audit and Human Resources committees, and as a Campaign Vice Chair for the Building for the Future Campaign. As President and CEO of Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Allina Health System, Sprenger led the state’s largest not-for-profit health care system and additionally served as board chair for both the American Hospital Association and the Minnesota Hospital Association.  He has served on the boards of corporations such as Medtronic and St. Paul Companies and non-profits including St. Olaf College, Luther Theological Seminary and the Midtown Global Market.

“I am privileged to have been asked to serve as chair during this important moment in the life of the Minnesota Orchestra,” said Sprenger.  ”Our collective work is now to restore trusting, respectful relationships within the organization among musicians, board and administration and to build broad bridges of support to our greater community.  By focusing on collaboration, and our shared passion for world-class performances of the classical music that gives our organization its mission, I’m confident we will launch a positive new era for the Minnesota Orchestra and its audiences and supporters.”

Said clarinetist Tim Zavadil, “The Musicians of the Orchestra are optimistic that the new leadership of the orchestra board has a commitment to world-class music and a deep connection to our community. The Musicians are eager to return to the stage next week and begin sharing music with our audience and classical music lovers in Orchestra Hall.  We look forward to working with the new board chair, Gordon Sprenger.”

Retirement Tributes

The Musicians celebrate the careers of three amazing individuals who have retired from the Minnesota Orchestra in recent months. Julie Haight-Curran, Personnel Manager, Tim Eickholt, Stage Manager, and Terry Tilley, Sound Engineer, are treasured members of our orchestra family who will be missed terribly. All three have served the orchestra and the music heard on stage with their myriad of talents, integrity, and dedication. They have stood by the Musicians during the lockout and helped us continue to bring music to our community. We honor them and wish them the very best in the future.

  • Tim Eickholt retiring Head Stage Manager
  • Terry Tilley retiring Sound Engineer
  • Julie Haight retiring Personnel Manager

Tim Eickholt

Tim Eickholt

Our legendary Stage Manager, Tim Eickholt, retired September 1, 2013.

Tim was drafted into the U. S. Army in March 1969 and served in Vietnam.  After 21 months serving his country, Tim was honorably discharged and returned home to Minneapolis and returned to his job with the Minneapolis Symphony.

Tim was Assistant Stage Manager until the retirement of long-time (and also legendary) Stage Manager Bob Gubbins.  Tim was appointed Stage Manager at this time.

It would be impossible to list Tim’s immeasurable contributions as stage manager, but it is well known and acknowledged he went well beyond any job description.

Tim grew up in a family of stagehands, with both his father and uncle as fellow members of the trade.  He has a unique and extensive history of the Minnesota Orchestra, show business in general, as well as managing a concert hall.  One would be hard pressed to find a stage manager with more musical knowledge and a greater love of music.  Tim especially enjoys Shostakovich.

Tim is a master designer, builder, and leader.  The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have great comfort knowing their valuable instruments are transported all over the globe in trunks designed and built by Tim and his colleagues on the Stage Crew.

Tim was masterful when handling a huge crew – planning and setting up any kind of “show”, or dealing with music directors, guest conductors, choruses, stars and divas, every member of the orchestra, and all departments of the management.  He anticipated and implemented all demands and potential problems, saving time and resources through careful planning, thus eliminating stress and heartache.

There have been the countless tours, from run-outs to major international tours with too many details to list.  Suffice to say, Tim is respected worldwide, from London to Vienna, Berlin to Paris, Hong Kong to Sydney, New York to Minneapolis and St. Paul, and all concert halls in between.

In Tim’s words, “My job is to make it happen.”

Tim made it happen, and it was always with class, dignity and professionalism.

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra stand up and applaud Mr. Timothy Eickholt – He will be missed by all!


Terry Tilley

Terry Tilley

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra wish to honor Terry Tilley, our esteemed sound engineer, who retired under duress this fall.  We have been lucky to work with Terry at Orchestra Hall since 1978, and we wish him well in the next chapter of his life.

Terry has led an impressively varied career, including work with artists as diverse as the Grateful Dead, Ella Fitzgerald, and Osmo Vänskä.  A twin cities native, Terry was born in Minneapolis and raised in Bloomington.  He grew up in a musical family with strong ties to the Minnesota Orchestra.   In the mid-sixties, his family included no fewer than five professional bass players!  Terry’s father, Lynn, played bass on the road with Minnesota Orchestra percussionist Elliot Fine in various big bands during the post-WWII years. Terry himself grew up playing bass, studying with both Art Gold and Jim Clute of the Minnesota Orchestra. He had quite a bit of success with the bass: in addition to playing in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and Minnesota All-State Orchestra, Terry started playing jazz and jobbing at age 12, making a living at this on and off the road for a decade starting in 1968.  He recorded 4 albums as the bassist with the avant-garde group The Whole Earth Rainbow Band.

1968 also marked the start of Terry’s work as an audio engineer.  A good sound engineer is hard to find, and is as vital to the finished product as any of the performers.  In addition to overseeing audio equipment (microphones, monitors, amplifiers, and audio lines), responsibilities include creating the right balance between various instruments and/or voices, adjusting to the different acoustics of each new venue, making sure the musicians can clearly hear what they need in order to perform well, and communicating and collaborating with the musicians: a necessity in achieving a great performance.

In the early to mid-1970s, Terry ran a small recording studio in addition to working as a teacher and musician at the Guild of Performing Arts on the West Bank and with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company.  He has also worked in theatrical sound design for shows at the Guthrie, Penumbra, and Frank Theaters.  Over the years, he has collaborated with an impressively long list of artists, the variety and quality of which make clear his excellence across a broad array of styles.  Besides the Minnesota Orchestra, Terry has mixed sound for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera, Sarah Vaughn, Rosemary Clooney, John Denver, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles, BB King, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, Rod Stewart, Dianne Reeves, Ray Brown, Dave Brubeck, Bob Hope, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, and many, many more!

From all of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra: Thank you, Terry, for sharing your time and talents with us!  You will be missed!


Julie Haight-Curran

Julie Haight-Curran

“I make sure that the right people, are in the right place, at the right time, with the right music in the right clothes!”  is the definition according Julie Haight-Curran, who retired in December of 2013, after 20 years as Minnesota Orchestra Personnel Manager. In reality, however, the extensive responsibilities of the Personnel Manager include just some of the following tasks:

She/he must have thorough knowledge of the master agreement, prepare and maintain payroll, scheduling of musicians, hiring of substitute and extra musicians, and coordinating auditions. The PM serves as a liaison between conducting staff and musicians; administrative staff and musicians; and the management and musicians’ union. In addition there is a myriad of professional interactions with the musicians on many levels including various committee meetings attended by both parties, coordinating and running auditions, monitoring recording sessions, and managing personnel for domestic and international tours, among many other duties.

Aside from all of this, Julie has consistently demonstrated so much more than the job description outlined above. The unique and special entity of the orchestra family was fully embraced by Julie. The individuals of the orchestra are a jigsaw puzzle of personalities and issues, many of which often appeared in the PM’s lap (not literally – hopefully). The potential for a perfect storm was always possible – and of course happened! It was always wise to peek into the small window in Julie’s door before knocking – better yet, make an appointment. From the moment a musician joined (her favorite task was introducing new players) or retired from the orchestra, she shared in the joy of births, and the grief of deaths and pain of illnesses. Everyone was treated with professionalism, respect, kindness and humor, the latter being one of the most essential qualities.

Her first day of work was the day after Thanksgiving, 1979, as secretary in the Artistic Department, working with Ron Balazs, violin (1954-1993), and PM for 29 of those years, and Ron Hasselmann, Associate Principal trumpet (1958-1999), and Associate PM for 12 years. On that first day of work for Julie, the orchestra was playing Johann Strauss’ Auf der Jagd, which calls for firing a pop gun (fortunately not by the Personnel Manager) coordinated with a rubber chicken flying through the air. Her first task with the Minnesota Orchestra required her to find conductor Leonard Slatkin’s rubber chicken. (One never knows the demands of the conductor.) It was a frantic search as she wondered what in the world she had gotten herself into….

“Ron Balazs was definitely one of a kind. He was always generous with his knowledge, patient with me when I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, inclusive and hard working. I loved double rehearsal days because Ron B and Ron H would include me in their lunches between services. The stories I would hear were fascinating, hilarious, scandalous and most amazingly, I found out later, true. Ron was addicted to the telephone. He rarely said hello, just started talking and rarely said goodbye – just hung up. There were no cell phones or voicemail in those days. Ron had a phone in every room of his house – and I mean every room of his house. I still consider it a privilege and honor to have worked with him. He taught me so much about the history of the musicians, the orchestra and the union struggles – why clauses were the way they were in the contract. The audition process and work hardening for musicians returning to work after injury are both models in the industry.”

Before Julie was hired as Personnel Manager in 1993, she had numerous jobs with the Minnesota Orchestra. She worked in the marketing department, was budget coordinator for non-classical concerts, ran YP concerts for one year, wrote advertising copy, and secured funding and locations for Symphony for the Cities performances. She also ran a telemarketing campaign for subscription concerts, which consisted of tables in the back hallway with about 20 black rotary phones and an order form and pencil at each station – that’s it! In 1988 she had left the MO to she attend the University of St. Thomas, receiving an MBA in 1990, and three years later returned to the Minnesota Orchestra in her new position.

Julie was supported through thick and thin by her late husband, Tom Curran, a great music lover and pianist. As an adult he studied with local classical players enhancing his lengthy jazz background. In another life, Julie was a double bass player studying at the University of Iowa. She and former Minnesota Orchestra bassist, Jim Clute, studied with the same teacher, Eldon Obrecht. Julie’s love of jazz goes back to her high school days starting when she was the bass player for the high school jazz band in Mason City, IA, home of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man! Archaeology has also been a long time interest starting with finding objects on the farm where she grew up in the newly plowed fields in the spring.  Recent digs have been to the Mesa Verde area in SW Colorado. Nothing like digging up 1,000 years of history.

She will be greatly missed by everyone. Please join us in wishing her the very best in the next chapter in her life.

Tribute written by Julie Ayer, Minnesota Orchestra violinist (1976-2012) and author of More Than Meets the Ear – How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History

Winter-Spring Season Announcement, Music For Minnesota: A Season of Shining Stars!

We are proud to announce today our plan to produce and host at least 10 concerts in a self-produced Winter-Spring Season, Music For Minnesota: A Season of Shining Stars!

The first concerts, Memory and Reverence: Minnesota Chorale in Mozart’s Requiem, are on-sale now.

In addition to the previously announced Echoes of History concerts with Osmo Vänskä that will re-open Northrop at the University of Minnesota, the Musicians will be joined by Maestro Vänskä for a second round of Grammy Celebration Concerts on March 20th and 21st to commemorate our second consecutive Grammy nomination with performances of Sibelius Symphonies No. 1 & 4. The Musicians and Vänskä were nominated last Friday for our second Grammy in as many years for Best Orchestral Performance.

Major Highlights include:

  • Superstar violinist Joshua Bell will perform with the Musicians Orchestra on April 15th.
  • Living legend Itzhak Perlman will play with the orchestra as well as conduct on May 14th.
  • The Minnesota Chorale will join the orchestra in January for performances of Mozart’s Requiem, along with former SPCO Music Director Hugh Wolff.
  • Fresh performances of the first-ever micro-funded symphony, Judd Greenstein’s lushly-scored Acadia (over 400 Minnesotans made small contributions in 2011 to have it written for the popular Inside the Classics Series in 2012), as well as noted pianist Kevin Cole performing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, conducted by former Minnesota Orchestra Associate Conductor Mischa Santora.

“Our goal is to maintain a world-class concert schedule for the community, and we are grateful for the community’s continued support,” cellist Tony Ross said. “We are grateful to these renowned musicians and conductors for their commitment to keep the music alive in Minnesota.”

More concerts in the Musicians’ Symphonic Adventures series, featuring full orchestral performances for area middle and high schools, will be planned in conjunction with the main-stage performances.

If the lockout of the Orchestra ends, the Musicians could work with management to merge any planned concerts produced by the Orchestral Association with those produced by the Musicians.

See the full season listing and on-sale dates here.

Grammy Nomination for Best Orchestral Performance!

Sibelius1-4We are very excited to share the great news that the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and our former Music Director Osmo Vänksä have received our second Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance in as many years for our recording of Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4, produced and recorded by BIS Records (Star Tribune review by Larry Fuchsberg).

We will have a limited number of the recording for sale at our Classical Concert for the Holidays: A Tchaikovsky Spectacular at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium on December 14th and 15th. The SACD is available at HBDirect.
High resolution downloads are also available at eClassical.

We were delighted to have been nominated last year for the recordings of Sibelius Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5, and were honored that our celebrated recording of Beethoven Symphony No. 9, also under the BIS label, was previously nominated.

For our last Grammy nomination, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Judy Dayton graciously invited the Musicians and Osmo Vänskä to perform a concert of the nominated works as a Community Celebration. The sold-out concert turned out to be a huge success.

We also congratulate the musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for their nomination in the Best Classical Vocal Solo category for their collaboration with soprano Dawn Upshaw, and in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category for their recording of Maria Schnedier’s Winter Morning Walks.

The Grammy Awards this year will be held on January 26th, 2014 in Los Angeles.

The nominees for the Best Orchestral Performance category are:

  • Atterberg: “Orchestral Works Vol. 1,” Neeme Järvi, conductor (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) [Chandos]
  • Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 1, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Track from: “Lutoslawski: The Symphonies” [Sony Classical]
  • Schumann: Symphony No. 2; Overtures Manfred & Genoveva, Claudio Abbado, conductor (Orchestra Mozart) [Deutsche Grammophon]
  • Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4, Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra) [BIS Records]
  • Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps, Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker) [EMI Classics]

We thank the Grammys for their consideration!

Musicians at the State Fair this Weekend

Visit Our Booth at the Labor Pavilion

Look for our green t-shirts and signs, join us and show your support for the musicians and great music!

pridelomomoThe Locked Out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will be at the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” from 9:30 am to 8:00 pm on both Saturday, August 31, and Sunday, September 1. Visit us at the Labor Pavilion at the corner of Dan Patch and Cooper (near Gate 5).

Special Events:

  • 4:00 pm on Saturday: Chamber Music! Tony Ross and Kate Nettleman play the Rossini duo for cello and bass followed by Dvorak “American” Quartet performed by Deb Serafini, Jean DeVere, Sam Bergman and Pitnarry Shin.
  • 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm on Sunday: Manny Laureano plays trumpet calls on the half hour
  • Hourly CD give-aways to folks who sign onto our email list over the weekend (sign up as close as possible to “13/14″ after the hour to win!)
  • The amazing Young Musicians of Minnesota perform chamber music throughout the weekend at the Pavilion! Six performances Saturday and three on Sunday (view performance schedule).

We need you support more than ever. We hope to see you there!

Management Abandons their Own Mediator

The board and management of the Minnesota Orchestra has abandoned the mediation process and the mediator they themselves selected. They have presented an offer to the Musicians which appears to be virtually identical to an offer that the Musicians unanimously rejected earlier in August, an offer that was made outside of the mediation process put in place by Governor Mark Dayton. As stated in management’s letter to the Musicians: “This offer is submitted outside the provisions of the Mediation Agreement between the parties and Senator Mitchell.”

The Musicians are in the process of studying this new offer in detail and will take appropriate time to understand it fully before voting on it.

In recent weeks, mediator Mitchell did present his own thoughtful proposal to both sides. The Musicians accepted his proposal. The MOA rejected it, disregarding Governor Dayton’s efforts to resolve this tragic situation.

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have offered management numerous paths to a solution, and at every point management has rejected or delayed a collaborative approach to the future of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Since management unilaterally locked out the Musicians on October 1, 2012, orchestras in Chicago, San Francisco, Cleveland, Washington and Pittsburgh have settled contracts with modest wage increases for their musicians.

We ask that you continue your efforts to let our board know that our community wants and will support a great Minnesota Orchestra. We call on the Governor, Mayor Rybak and other civic leaders to step forward and to support the preservation of a world-class orchestra for our globally recognized arts community.

Lockout Performances with Other Orchestras

Minnesota Orchestra Musicians backstage at the Chicago Symphony

Minnesota Orchestra Musicians backstage at the Chicago Symphony

During the 11 months of the lockout, the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have been in high demand, performing with great orchestras nationally and internationally. In an incredible show of support and solidarity, more than 70 orchestras have offered work to our musicians. While we continue to work exhaustively to bring music back to our Minnesota audience, we are grateful for these opportunities to perform great classical music for appreciative audiences. It is an honor to lend our voices to the exciting orchestral programs and communities that are thriving throughout the country.

We thank every orchestra that has invited us to join them during the lockout, especially the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which has hired half of our musicians in the past year. Bravo to all of the following orchestras:

Akron SymphonyMankato Symphony
Alabama Symphony OrchestraMemphis Symphony
Albany Symphony OrchestraMetropolitan Opera Orchestra
Ann Arbor SymphonyMill City Opera
Atlanta Symphony OrchestraMilwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Australian Chamber OrchestraMinnesota Opera Orchestra
Baltimore Symphony OrchestraNashville Symphony Orchestra
Boise PhilharmonicNational Symphony Orchestra
Boston Pops Esplanade OrchestraNew York City Ballet Orchestra
Boston Symphony OrchestraNew York Philharmonic
Canton SymphonyNorman Philharmonic
Charleston SymphonyOmaha Symphony
Chicago Lyric Opera OrchestraOrchestra Iowa
Chicago Symphony OrchestraOregon Symphony Orchestra
Cincinnati Symphony OrchestraOrpheus Chamber Orchestra
Cleveland OrchestraPhiladelphia Orchestra
Colorado Symphony OrchestraPittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Dallas Symphony OrchestraQuad City Symphony Orchestra
Detroit Symphony OrchestraRichmond Symphony
Duluth Superior SymphonyRochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Eugene SymphonyRussian National Orchestra
Florida OrchestraSaint Louis Symphony Orchestra
Grand Forks SymphonySaint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Grant Park Symphony OrchestraSan Antonio Symphony
Hollywood Bowl OrchestraSan Diego Symphony Orchestra
Houston BalletSan Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Houston Symphony OrchestraSao Paulo Symphony
Indianapolis Symphony OrchestraSeattle Chamber Music Society
Iris Chamber OrchestraSeattle Opera
Jacksonville Symphony OrchestraSeattle Symphony Orchestra
Kalamazoo SymphonySioux City Symphony
Kansas City SymphonySWR Stuttgart
Kennedy Center Opera House OrchestraSyracuse Symphony Orchestra
Los Angeles PhilharmonicToledo Symphony
Louisiana PhilharmonicTonhalle Orchestra
Louisville OrchestraToronto Symphony
Lucerne Symphony OrchestraUtah Symphony Orchestra
Malaysian PhilharmonicWorld Orchestra for Peace