Reality Check – Negotiation FAQs

In response to your many letters and comments, we have updated our FAQs and will be featuring new ones regularly.

New Updates:

Should Musicians resign and form their own orchestra?

Decoding the “multiple” contract proposals from the Minnesota Orchestral Association

To whom is the Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors accountable?

Is it true that in a typical season – going back ten years – an average of three musicians leave to take jobs in other orchestras?

Thank you for sharing your questions, views, and support!

Do you have a question for the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra? Email us!


Previous Updates:

How does the management’s new business model square with the vision of the League of American Orchestras?


Why don’t the Musicians just embrace the “new business model”?

Don’t the Musicians feel entitled to their original salary and want raises?

Aren’t the Musicians just being led by union leaders?


Weren’t the Musicians involved with the strategic planning process for the new business model?

Hasn’t the demand for live classical music decreased?

What opportunities have been missed in Minnesota to increase attendance?


Is it true that only one musician has left the Minnesota Orchestra since this dispute began?

What positions are currently unfilled in the Minnesota Orchestra?

Is it true that orchestras that have undergone a “market reset” have not seen a major departure of their Musicians?

Can’t our musicians be easily replaced by talented graduates coming out of music conservatories?


Are the Musicians unwilling to face the reality of the fiscal challenges facing the Minnesota Orchestra?

Are all American orchestras taking large pay cuts?


Hasn’t the Management also taken cuts?

What is the difference between a lockout and a strike?

Thank you for sharing your questions, views, and support!

Do you have a question for the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra? Email us!

Should Musicians resign and form their own orchestra?We have heard from many voices in the community that the Musicians should resign and form our own orchestra, and we feel that those voices deserve a sincere response.

We are entering uncharted territory. As management's disastrous lockout enters its second year, the Musicians are launching our own self-produced season. The weekend of October 4th, 2013 was the end of an era; Osmo Vanska's farewell concerts for the community. It was also be the beginning of a new era; opening night for the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.
 
While we abhor the tactics used against us and the community, it would not help for us to resign at this time. The board and management of the Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) control the name, the hall and the endowment. They've already removed the word "orchestra" from their mission statement once before. If we resign, they are free to define and produce the Minnesota Orchestra brand in any way they choose. They could hire the wedding band that played their Symphony Ball last month and plan a season with them if they so desired. While we still hope to reach a resolution with the MOA as soon as is possible, we recognize that we cannot plan for the future based on hope alone now that so much has been lost.

What is in our power is to forge ahead and fulfill the mission that was put on hold by the MOA; providing the Twin Cities with the finest symphonic concerts and educational enrichment programs. By putting everything we have into launching our own season of great orchestral music, we actually take the future of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra into our own hands without resigning or abandoning the negotiation process.

We can't do it alone, and we know we are not alone. We thank you and all of our supporters and colleagues both in Minneapolis and around the world. If you cannot donate, please encourage others to do so. Like and share our Facebook page, sign up for our email newsletter, and participate in opportunities from letter writing to signing petitions to simply spreading the word. The faster we sell out every concert, the stronger our position. The more financial donations we receive, the more we can accomplish. Thank you for supporting us, and please continue to help us by keeping this a great orchestra.
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Decoding the “multiple” contract proposals from the Minnesota Orchestral Association
Management has repeatedly used press releases in the last few months to negotiate through the media and give the impression that they have made multiple offers. In fact, they have made essentially the same offer three times, while revising small details to characterize the offer as "new." Each time, the MOA trumpets small changes in order to give the impression that each offer is more generous than the last. But the underlying offer always results in the same gutting of the Minnesota Orchestra as an organization.

The latest offer included a signing bonus intended to lure musicians into accepting a regressive contract based on a 2008 economic climate that is no longer valid. The additional money raised through the hard work of board member Marilyn Carlson-Nelson suggests that management's claim that our community cannot afford additional fundraising has been incorrect all along and was simply a talking point intended to unequivocally "win" a labor dispute that they have now allowed to drag on for more than a year. This obsessive need for total victory at any cost is at the heart of the dispute between the musicians and the MOA.

All of management's offers call for the same changes to the business model that result in the same artistically unsustainable practices:

Total cuts to the artistic product of 35% to 40%
Permanent elimination of 12% of the orchestra
A 25% pay cut for staff musicians, with indications of further pay cuts in the future. This will result in a revolving door workplace for musicians and a highly unstable and diminished orchestra.
A 42% pay cut for extra and substitute musicians, which would insure that the best freelance musicians in the region will give other work priority over filling our depleted ranks.
A wholesale change of mission for the orchestra, which would allow the management to replace public orchestra concerts with private rental events and parties at which musicians would be compelled to perform background music

This is not a recipe for sustaining a vibrant and artistically superior orchestra. Furthermore, the MOA's claims that our community can no longer afford the world-class orchestra it has sustained for more than a century is belied by the continued thriving existence of major orchestras in other similarly-sized cities across the country.

The Musicians will continue to present counter-offers through the confidentiality process afforded by the independent mediator's office so that an environment for reaching a settlement can be maintained.
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To whom is the Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors accountable?The Minnesota Board of Directors is accountable to you! That is, to all the members of our community. As a nonprofit entity, the Minnesota Orchestral Association benefits from many, many generous contributors - large and small, ticket buyers, and tax dollars that support its non-profit status. We believe that music lovers throughout the state should have a voice in determining what kind of orchestra Minnesota wants and deserves.
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Is it true that in a typical season - going back ten years - an average of three musicians leave to take jobs in other orchestras?Is it true that in a typical season - going back ten years - an average of three musicians leave to take jobs in other orchestras?

Our current contracted number of musicians performing on stage is 95. During the years 2000-2010, a total of 33 tenured musicians left our orchestra. Of those who left our ranks during that 10-year time frame:

23 retired or left for other reasons such as medical, alternate career choices, etc.
10 left for jobs in other orchestras, 2 of whom returned, which is an average of less than one per year permanently leaving our ranks for other orchestras.

From 2011 to 2013, 21 Musicians have left our stage for retirement, (early in some cases), medical reasons, career changes, and jobs playing with other orchestras. This number is likely to grow. There are a number of one-year, leaves-of-absence that may very well become permanent. Never in our 110-year history have people left our orchestra at such an alarming rate in such a short period of time. Of those who have left our ranks during the past 2-year time frame:

10 retired or left for other reasons such as medical, alternate career choices, etc.
11 resignations or leave-of-absence to pursue careers with other orchestras.

If we choose to use the MOA's method for calculation of musicians leaving our orchestra, we are now averaging nearly a dozen departures a year. With 75 current members, we will be bankrupt of musicians in just over 6 years.
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How does the management's new business model square with the vision of the League of American Orchestras?
In summer of 2011 the Minnesota Orchestral Association hosted the annual conference of the League of American Orchestras in Minneapolis. The League “champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform” and has been a resource which prides itself on “helping orchestras meet the challenges of the 21st century.” Attended not only by the country's major orchestra managements, but by more than 400 orchestras and other organizations related to the industry (including ASCAP, Carnegie Hall, arts managements, conservatories, the NEA, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service), the League is the forum for issues facing our industry.

Conspicuously missing from attending this year’s conference, which took place June 18-20 in St. Louis was the management of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The Minnesota Orchestra’s management, far from setting an example for “resetting” the financial landscape of the American orchestral industry, has become an outlier, destroying what has made the Minnesota Orchestra a leader for award-winning programming, education, and internationally acclaimed quality.

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Why don't the Musicians just embrace the "new business model"?The "new business model" fundamentally changes the nature and goals of the Minnesota Orchestra. (See Old and New Mission Statements) The MOA has launched its drive to reduce our orchestra to a third tier team through public deception and without public debate to determine what kind of orchestra Minnesota wants or is willing to support. The details of the untested new business model remain shielded from public view even now.

We believe Minnesota deserves better.

Industry analysts and consultants across the country recognize the impact of this dispute on the future of the Minnesota Orchestra:

“It is too late to ask what the MOA thinks it is doing. We have a fairly clear idea where its priorities lie. The orchestra seems irrelevant to its future. The league of American Orchestras should consider expelling this rogue organization.”
- Norman Lebrecht, Slipped Disc Feb 9, 2013

“In his latest piece, (Graydon) Royce alludes to a column I wrote in 2010, in which I said, "For the duration of the evening of March 1st, the Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world." … I stand by the statement, at least as far as the musicians themselves are concerned. As for the board and the management, I am tempted to apply a superlative of a quite different kind. I'll simply say this: do the board and management actually wish to destroy the Minnesota Orchestra? So far, their actions seem to be moving steadily toward that end.”
- Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker, The Rest is Noise, May 4, 2013
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Don't the Musicians feel entitled to their original salary and want raises?First and foremost, the Musicians want to devote their careers to playing in a great orchestra. There is no example of an orchestra that has maintained its reputation and caliber following severe salary and budget cuts. Orchestras that go through prolonged work stoppages and draconian cuts to salary and benefits inevitably lose many of their best players to orchestras that value their Musicians.

The Musicians' goal is to preserve a well-respected, top-quality orchestra, and that cannot be done at bargain prices. Musician salaries exist in the context of our industry, just as nurses, teachers, social workers, athletes and professors do. If US Bank required all of its employees to take a 30-50% cut in salary, we believe it could not succeed in a global banking world.

Every peer American symphony orchestra in negotiations this past year (Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, DC, and now Pittsburgh) has recently settled contracts with modest increases. No other top tier symphony orchestra has insisted in its "final offer" that its musicians take a 30-50% cut in pay, along with extensive and drastic changes to their working conditions.
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Aren't the Musicians just being led by union leaders?To be clear: We, the musicians, ARE the union.

Union membership plays two roles in this negotiation. First, we have the right to bargain collectively. Second, the Twin Cites Musicians’ Union Local 30-73 supports OUR goals in whatever ways it can. Our efforts are channeled into preserving the exceptional orchestra we believe Minnesota wants and deserves. The only union members voting on the contract are the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.
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Weren't the Musicians involved with the strategic planning process for the new business model?Not at all. The musicians were never included in actual strategic planning decisions. At the Musicians' insistence, management did meet with our committees to hear musician ideas and views, but none of our suggestions or solutions appear among the broad generalities posted on MOA’s website as the new business model. The Musicians still are not privy to the details of the "new business model" cited in public statements.
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Hasn't the demand for live classical music decreased?The 2008 NEA Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, selectively quoted by management to suggest a negative view of the orchestral marketplace, actually shows that attendance at classical music events has remained relatively steady nationally. Approximately 20 million Americans attend classical music performances every year.

What is true is that the market for arts and entertainment has become more diverse and selective. In this environment, the MOA's strategy of reduced customer choice and curtailed marketing has resulted in a less competitive Minnesota Orchestra in an ambitious local arts scene.
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What opportunities have been missed in Minnesota to increase attendance?There are many signs that the Orchestra has missed opportunities to draw in new audiences and reinforce the loyalty of existing fans. These include:

● Multiple weeks of the season left dark, diminishing our impact in the community.

● A lack of innovative offerings and projects to excite and inspire audiences.

● Only a handful of classical performances scheduled between August 1 and January 1st, reducing awareness of our core product that serves our audience and the Minnesota Orchestra's fundamental purpose.

● Reduction of the marketing budget by more than 25% in recent years, crippling the orchestra's ability to reach the public.

● Large segments of the student and youth population being underserved, further impacting attendance and revenue trends.

● Highly successful national and international projects have not been promoted, and have remained invisible to local audiences.

We believe internal decisions over time have resulted in an organization that is not fulfilling its true potential in our community. Promoting Orchestra Hall as a venue for rentals and presentations does not substitute for championing the Minnesota Orchestra’s mission of great symphonic music.

Throughout the country orchestras are succeeding in bringing great music to new audiences. The Cleveland Orchestra, leveraging its distinguished reputation to attract capacity crowds, is but one example. Alan Gilbert recently announced a thrilling 2013-14 season with The New York Philharmonic.
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Is it true that only one musician has left the Minnesota Orchestra since this dispute began?No, this is incorrect. Musicians, including star clarinetist Burt Hara, have won and accepted positions in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Cleveland, and abroad. Many others are in the process of auditioning elsewhere or are considering leaving the industry. We are now at risk of losing our concertmaster, Erin Keefe, and our music director, Osmo Vänskä. Visit our Musical Chairs page for more information.

As of this writing, 75 musicians remain with the orchestra, down 23 from a full complement of 98. One third of our string positions, vital to the orchestra’s unique sound identity, are vacant. It can take 1-3 years to fill a single opening, even when an orchestra can boast a competitive salary and solid managerial reputation. Management exacerbated this unprecedented vacancy rate by refusing to hold contractually mandated auditions until threatened with legal action.

Every departing musician has stated he or she would have preferred to remain with the Minnesota Orchestra, but felt - in light of the "new business model" - there was no choice but to accept a position where excellence is valued.
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What positions are currently unfilled in the Minnesota Orchestra?Current vacancies include Associate Concertmaster, three section 1st violins, Principal Second Violin, Assistant Principal Second Violin, four section 2nd violins, four violas, Associate Principal Cello, one section cellos, Principal Bass, Associate Principal Bass, Principal Oboe, Principal Clarinet, Bass Trombone, Piano/Harpsichord, and Assistant Principal Librarian.
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Is it true that orchestras that have undergone a “market reset” have not seen a major departure of their Musicians?The MOA management misled the press and public by discounting the impact of work stoppages and budget cuts at other US orchestras. Following a bitter 6-month strike at the Detroit Symphony, 25 musicians left, including all five principal string players and the entire percussion section.

“A symphony orchestra internationally recognized for artistic excellence,” to quote the Minnesota Orchestra’s mission statement, must compete in an international marketplace to attract the highest quality candidates to the Twin Cities. Maintaining a first-rate symphony orchestra means offering a salary and benefit package that is competitive with the top orchestras in the industry.
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Can't our musicians be easily replaced by talented graduates coming out of music conservatories?To remain a world-class orchestra, we must hire the very best musicians available, and only those who have the right blend of musical experience, chemistry and style to fit with our team. Occasionally a recent conservatory graduate may possess these qualities, but most obtain years of professional experience before becoming competitive enough to succeed at one of our auditions. Arts lawyer Kevin Case makes a simple comparison to major league baseball:

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of talented young baseball players who can play the position of shortstop at a major league level. They all can hit, catch, and throw with great skill. But the New York Yankees would never view them as a “supply” of equally qualified options. The Yankees want the next Derek Jeter, with his unique blend of grace under pressure, clutch performance, and personal qualities that make him a great teammate. They will seek out that player – and when they find him, they will do their damnedest to keep him.

The following are the reviews of just such a skilled, well-tuned team:

Again, here is a classic case of maximum excitement generated by…incredible ensemble discipline. In this last respect, it’s impossible to overpraise the Minnesota Orchestra’s horns, woodwinds, and especially strings, whose ensemble work matches the best of anything out there.
David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com, Beethoven 2 & 7 BIS recording.

These fearless performances from Vänskä, magnificently played by the Minnesota Orchestra… now join that exclusive and elevated class. Superb performances - these go straight to the top of my list.
William Hedley, Music Web International, Sibelius 2 & 5 BIS recording.

As stated by three former Music Directors of the Minnesota Orchestra, it takes consistent and dedicated effort over many years to build an ensemble with the rapport necessary to become a leading symphony orchestra.
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Are the Musicians unwilling to face the reality of the fiscal challenges facing the Minnesota Orchestra?As proud stewards of a legacy of musical excellence, no one has a greater stake in the financial viability of the Minnesota Orchestra than the orchestra's Musicians. We cannot propose a solution based on deceptive and incomplete numbers, or put blind faith in an untested business plan. Unfortunately, our proposal to co-commission a comprehensive, comparative 3rd party analysis of the MOA's past business practices and future business model was rejected.

Over the past several years the MOA misled the public about its fiscal position and employed a public relations firm to make decisions on which aspects of its finances to disclose and which to hide from public view. As revealed in minutes of the finance and executive committees obtained by the Star Tribune in a November 25th article:

"Balances in 2009 and 2010 would support our state bonding aspirations, while the deficits in 2011 and 2012 would demonstrate the need to reset the business model." - VP of Finance, Bryan Ebensteiner

These are not the actions of a trustworthy or transparent management team.

The Musicians are being asked to make a $25 Million ($60,000 per musician per year) investment by leaders who have betrayed our trust and the trust of the community. We are deeply concerned that the MOA is building its financial future on quicksand, having lost sight of issues of trust, leadership, vision, collaboration, and a commitment to the Minnesota Orchestra's fundamental purpose - issues crucial to the success of any business venture. Without trust or shared vision, the Musicians are unable to verify or accept the MOA's version of reality.
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Are all American orchestras taking large pay cuts?No. Every peer American symphony orchestra in negotiations this past year (Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, DC, Pittsburgh) has recently settled contracts with freezes to modest increases. No other top tier symphony orchestra has insisted its musicians take a 30-50% cut in pay, along with drastic changes to their working conditions. Our management has isolated itself with this attempt, and its “final offer” is inherently destructive to the core identity of this orchestra and the international reputation it has built.

There is no example of an orchestra that has maintained its reputation and caliber following severe salary and budget cuts. Orchestras that go through prolonged work stoppages and draconian cuts to salary and benefits inevitably lose many of their best players to orchestras that value their Musicians.
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Hasn't the Management also taken cuts?Public records show recent increases in salaries for top management figures. When asked what cuts they have taken, management cites staff layoffs, yet not a single member of the management team has been laid off, nor have any of them been subjected to 30-50% pay cuts. While insisting on drastic cuts to the Musicians, management salaries remain competitive on a national level.
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What is the difference between a lockout and a strike?A LOCKOUT is a temporary denial of employment. It is a tool used by the management of a company during a labor dispute in order to force financial concessions and compliance from employees, in this case the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. This is different from a STRIKE, in which employees refuse to work in order to achieve gains in compensation and/or working conditions from an employer. A lockout is usually implemented by simply refusing to admit employees onto company premises and may include  actions such as changing locks and hiring security guards for the premises.

In the case of the Minnesota Orchestral Association, a lockout was initiated on October 1st and included the cancellation of all salary and benefits to the Musicians. Management has extended concert cancellations indefinitely, having cancelled the entire 2012-2013 season and our November 2013 Carnegie Hall appearance, thus triggering former Music Director Osmo Vänskä's resignation. This is an unprecedented failure in our industry. Industry analysts have observed that regular cancellation announcements are a tool used by employers to pressure employees into accepting sharply concessionary contract terms.

According to the New York Times, lockouts are increasingly being used by employers to gain concessions from their employees.  You may be interested to know that the Minnesota Orchestral Association has hired the same law firm responsible for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra lockout, as well as the American Crystal Sugar lockout mentioned in the article linked above.
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8 thoughts on “Reality Check – Negotiation FAQs

  1. Reading the summaries of the four proposals by the Musicians, all of which were rejected by Management, literally makes me weep.

    Our amazing Minnesota Orchestra is being dismantled and destroyed before our very eyes… I don’t know how the MOA can sleep at night. They, obviously, have “a plan,” which involves the destruction and demoralization of what was The Minnesota Orchestra, all the while destroying any trust the public had in the organization. What is management hiding?

  2. If anyone is curious what Michael Henson makes and how it compares to the pay of other orchestra CEOs, I wrote an entry about that here… (Spoiler alert: the Minnesota Orchestra CEO went from earning $338,000 a year in compensation in 2006 to $390,000 in compensation in 2011.) http://songofthelark.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/putting-michael-henson-under-the-microscope/

    I also recommend Drew McManus’s post The Minnesota 990s. There you can download many years of info to view for yourself and make your own decisions. Otherwise you can get the last three years of 990s at Guidestar.org for free. This will tell you how much the highest paid employees were paid. http://www.adaptistration.com/blog/2012/11/28/let-there-be-transparency-the-minnesota-990s/

  3. Excellent FAQ! Very well-written, clear, even toned, precise. An interesting read. I hadn’t known about the 4th proposal. I wish all the musicians well, bid fond and very sad farewells to those who are leaving, and hope that MOA management come to their senses, although if they haven’t gotten it by now, they probably never will. They don’t get that they don’t get it……

  4. Meanwhile, I drove by Orchestra Hall a few weeks ago and remodeling continues. Just what does management think they are going to put in there? We’ve been betrayed and I, for one, will not be enticed back to a lesser orchestra by fancy digs. Very sad day for the Twin Cities.

  5. It literally sickens me to see what has happened to the orchestra which is not only my favorite orchestra in the world, but perhaps the the finest orchestra in the world.

  6. One of the key reasons our family moved to the Twin Cities in 1969 was the Minnesota Orchestra. As full season subscribers and attendees since 1971, we have watched the orchestra evolve into one of the world’s best, only to now see its potential destruction. The orchestra’s management and board should realize that they have locked out years of achievement and they can not expect to reconstruct the orchestra as if nothing had happened in a year or two. I fear if this impasse goes on much longer, it might take another 40 years or so to get back where the orchestra was at the end of the 2011-12 season. I for one do not have that much time to wait anymore. Musicians of the caliber of our musicians are the cream of the highly skilled, conservatory and university trained crop. The orchestra management should not assume that they are unskilled day laborers who can easily be replaced by substitutes.

    I firmly believe that the Twin Cities community if approached can increase the orchestra’s endowment. Now that the Ordway has raised nearly $40 million to add an 1100 seat addition for the chamber orchestra, perhaps a suitable venue to resume St. Paul concerts can be found. More imaginative programming, scheduling and outreach can increase interest and attendance.

    Its time that the orchestra board and management act responsibly. They do not own the orchestra contrary to their beliefs, even recognizing their financial support, but have assumed the responsibility of managing and nurturing it for the better of the Twin Cities community. Their current course of action hardly befits their role as custodians.

  7. I am at home right now, listening to the Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. What exquisite beauty! I can’t believe that this great jewel, our Minnesota Orchestra, is being treated in such a stupid childish fashion by management – sort of reminds me of a 4-year old’s tantrum, with much longer staying power. Everyone I know supports the Orchestra – my neighbors, teaching colleagues, students. We cannot lose our MN Orch!

    My question is, who “oversees” the MOA? To make a business comparison, in a company, the shareholders would have some hold over the CEO. In my mind, all of us who love and support the orchestra are, in a sense, MN Orch. “shareholders”. Isn’t there some way, then, to give MOA “the boot”? They’re obviously inept and need to be tossed out. How can we that get done – QUICKLY?

    I have been attending MN Orch concerts since about the age of 7. My dad played trumpet in the Mpls Symphony with Antal Dorati years ago. This is one of the finest orchestras in the world without a doubt, and, unlike many of our highly paid sports teams, the MN Orch “wins” ALL the time. We must keep them in Minnesota!

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