More Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Move On

Management’s lockout and lack of a realistic offer continues to damage our community’s reputation as a leader in the arts.

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are heartbroken to announce the loss of more of our amazing and talented colleagues. We congratulate them on their new positions, and thank them for sharing their abilities with our orchestra and our community. We wish them well in their musical journey ahead. They will be deeply missed.

Musicians who have left:

Gina DiBello, Principal Second Violin since 2008, has won a section violin position with the Chicago Symphony. Highlights of Gina’s career with the Minnesota Orchestra have included solo performances of Mozart’s Violin Concertos Nos. 3 & 5 with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Andrew Litton conducting. Known for her gentle leadership and lyrical playing, Gina was previously a member of the Detroit Symphony and is married to percussionist, Ian Ding.

Violist Kenneth Freed will move to Seattle this summer with his wife, Gwendolyn Freed. While continuing his position as the Music Director of the Mankato Symphony, Ken will take this opportunity to pursue new career options. Both Ken and Gwen have been significant leaders in our community, in both arts and education. In addition to his contributions to the Mankato community, Ken was the Founder and Board Chair of the Minneapolis non-profit, Learning Through Music. Other board service included the Yale Alumni Association of the North West, St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts, the McNally Smith College of Music Foundation and the American Composer’s Forum. Ken played 2nd violin in the McKnight-winning Rosalyra String Quartet. Gwen served as the Executive Director of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, Vice President for Marketing and Communication for Gustavus Adolphus College, and most recently as the Executive Director of Wallin Education Partners.

Matthew Young has been granted tenure for his position as violist with the San Francisco Symphony and has resigned from the Minnesota Orchestra. A winner of the Grand Prize in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, and as a recipient of a McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians, Matt visited many Minnesota and Wisconsin public schools, teaching and talking about his love for music and the Minnesota Orchestra.

First Associate Concertmaster Sarah Kwak has assumed the post of Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony and has resigned from the Minnesota Orchestra. She served as the acting concertmaster for two seasons and performed numerous lauded solo works with the Minnesota Orchestra. Sarah has also performed as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony, and was awarded a McKnight Artist Fellowship as a member of the Rosalyra String Quartet.

Vali Phillips served the Minnesota Orchestra as Principal Second Violin for eleven seasons before joining the first violin section. Vali was featured as soloist on many occasions, including performances of the Bruch First Violin Concerto, the Dvorak Romance, and Bach Double Violin Concerto. He has resigned from the Minnesota Orchestra and has joined his wife, Sarah Kwak, in the first violin section of the Oregon Symphony.

First Violinist Peter McGuire has begun his position as Second Concertmaster with the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, under the direction of David Zinman. Solo performances with our orchestra included works by Kreisler, Massenet, and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. A native Minnesotan, Peter moved with his family to Switzerland in February.

Cellist Pitnarry Shin will move to New York with her husband, Kyu-Young Kim, who is leaving his position as Principal Second Violin with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to join the New York Philharmonic. A Fulbright winner and accomplished chamber musician, Pitnarry has the unusual distinction of having won two national auditions for the prestigious cello section of the Minnesota Orchestra; when she first joined the orchestra in 2001 and when she returned as a member in 2012. Pitnarry and Kyu had planned to raise their two young children in Minnesota.

As the Musicians and legislators continue to wait on a full-disclosure of the financial status of the Orchestra, most Musicians are continuing to find work in other orchestras throughout the world.

Legislative Investigation:

“It has been nearly one year, and management still has not shared all of the financial information we have requested. Endless delay followed by regular canceling of entire blocks of concerts cause us to suspect they never wanted a season. Now, of course, 100 legislators are asking those kinds of questions as well,” Tim Zavadil chair of the Musicians negotiating committee and clarinetist.

The Musicians have offered binding arbitration to the board and management as well as three other counter proposals to try to break the stalemate created by management’s October 1st, 2012 lockout of the “world’s greatest orchestra”.

“Perhaps the Henson scheme to move the Minnesota Orchestra out of the Top 10 to a regional minor league Orchestra is acceptable to the Board,” Zavadil said. “We know it’s not what Minneapolis leaders want, and is totally unacceptable to our dedicated fans.”

While each side has agreed to the independent financial analysis, the scope and depth of the review will now be explored by outside parties. The Musicians have been trying to come to an agreement since January with management about which outside party will conduct the joint-independent financial analysis. The Musicians first asked for the joint-independent financial in August 2012 and management finally agreed to discuss the agreement in January 2013.

Meanwhile, on March 7th, 100 legislators wrote to Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles:

“Therefore, in representation of the state’s interests and assurance of the value of and return on its investments we the undersigned members of the Minnesota legislature request that the Legislative Auditor audit the books of the Minnesota Orchestra Association, including a review of its feasibility study for the remodeling of Orchestra Hall, a review of the use of all public funds, and of testimony of Orchestra principals before legislative committees for and about securing of those funds.”

7 thoughts on “More Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Move On

  1. If this fills you with unspeakable sadness– the loss for the orchestra, patrons, and musicians who leave behind family, friends, and respected colleagues; fills you with disgust towards those who were entrusted to care for this orchestra, please make a commitment to sign the petition on and send out the information to everyone you know. This is not just for people who go to concerts, this is for people who have children who benefit from the extensive educational outreach and would like to leave a state treasure for their children to enjoy as they grow into adulthood.

  2. All of these musicians were a part of the priceless fabric of the Minnesota Orchestra tapestry; their talent, musicianship, dedication, and hard work all colors in the larger sound picture and artistic achievement. They will be missed.

    I’m not a huge lover of unions, folks, but I think the redline agreement proposal from the MOA is an example of management behavior and thinking that makes unions necessary and valuable to workers. While I understand that it’s especially difficult financially the more time passes for the musicians, I urge you to stand firm and united, continue to involve the community and connect with your primary stakeholders, and taking the high road. Your example inspires musicians all over the country and the world.

    I love the Minnesota Orchestra!

  3. First of all and most importantly, I thank all the musicians including those who have left and are leaving. May my wholehearted gratitude reach you! Without a doubt, though you may decide to move on, my appreciation and admiration never change. Congratulations on your new journey, and may your new life be kinder to you! It’s been so harsh and excruciatingly painful. It’s been frustrating and way too disrespectful. You never, ever, deserve to be treated like this. My hands are shaking as I type these words.

    Let me also express my deep gratitude to those who are still staying with us and for us. I feel sad and frustrated; I am so sorry I am so powerless and I can not do anything at all. I need you and your art so much, and I can not do anything … I do not know what I am going to do … well, let’s not think about that scary thought now.

    Though I desperately need you, how can I possibly blame those who have left or are leaving? You should be treated as the world greatest artists that you are. That is my wish. If you can get treated right elsewhere, I can only be happy for you and wish you all the best for you.

    I love you all so much for the art you have been making and for who you are.

    In deepest admiration,

    Eriko, your humble fan

  4. I still believe the best and perhaps only truly lasting resolution of current problems is for orchestra upper management to have the grace to resign and for the administrative structure of the orchestra to be fundamentally reorganized in order to give players and public a larger voice in decisions affecting its present and future status.

  5. We are now on month #7 of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, yet nothing has really changed. Why?

    The whole situation is a total joke, since the musicians are letting themselves be played for fools by CEO Michael Henson and other senior orchestra officials. Without the musicians, Michale Henson has nothing except an empty concert hall.

    There was no unexpected giant recession or stock market crash between last season and this season, so how did the orchestra suddenly have such a giant budget deficit? Did ticket sales or donations suddenly drop?

    The only real plausible answer, is that the Orchestra was cooking the books, by borrowing or spending money it didn’t have. This could be why Henson and other board officials are so reluctant to release the financial documents.

    If the orchestra execs are even semi competent, then they should have been able to see that this budget deficit was coming, and planned ahead or at least told the public in advance. They should have been looking at projected revenue and seen the possibility that 2012-2013 was going to be a down year and planned ahead.

    CEO Michael Henson and the other orchestra officials either have terrible business skills (in which case they should be fired), or they intentionally planned this budget crisis (in why case they should be prosecuted if possible).

    On the subject of other orchestra officials and board members, are we to believe that none of them saw this budget crisis coming? Did the entire 60+ people on the board not notice the orchestra was heading for financial trouble?

    Where were the musicians? Their jobs depend on a financially solvent orchestra, so they should have been keeping a close eye on the orchestras bottom line and finances. They dropped the ball here. You don’t ask for financial documents after a budget crisis begins, you get them beforehand, so you can predict what’s coming and try to stop it. They should have been demanding yearly documents from the orchestra, to check for any funny business.

    Even worse, Orchestra officials have no real stake in the orchestra itself, since they are still getting paid big bucks. Why is management collecting a paycheck during the lockout? There is no concert revenue currently, so who is paying their salary?

    It still gets worse. During the lockout, Henson and other officials keep talking about a budget deficit, but the only solution they seem to offer is a pay cut or reduced orchestra size. Why? Why isn’t Henson looking for ways to raise more revenue? Is he going to take a paycut himself?

    The musicians should be actively proposing or searching for ways to raise more revenue, so they can avoid the big paycut management is proposing.

    When management refuses to make any meaningful attempts to raise more revenue, but keeps demanding pay cuts, something is wrong. They are refusing to find to revenue sources, because they want to force the musicians into taking a paycut.

    The best way for musicians to beat Henson is as follows:

    1. Demand that all the orchestras financial documents be made public and have them analyzed by people who have no political or economic interest in the matter. Gets every document you can find from Hensons tenure with the orchestra, and heavily scrutinize it.

    2. Get the board members to testify in court what they knew about the orchestras finances and when they knew it. Someone must have been intelligent enough to see the budget trickery going on.

    3. Form a new (temporary) Orchestra. The musicians are not under contract right now, so they are free to take their services elsewhere. Start a new Orchestra composed of locked out musicians and recruit a conductor to lead the orchestra. Rent whatever church or gymnasium you can find for a given week.

    If the musicians can form a new group and make even a little money, Henson loses his main bargaining chip, which is locked out musicians with no paycheck.

    4. Run the new orchestra under a pay as you go approach, with yearly reviews of every single financial document related to the orchestras operation. Hire a management team that is not beholden to any lobbyists or politicians (left or right). In fact, refuse to accept any big donor money if it comes with strings attached.

    No lavish pay or benefits for anyone, management or musician. No down the road payments either, a strict pay as you go approach. If people want a higher salary, then find a way to make more money for the orchestra.

    5. Tie managements paycheck and job to the success of the orchestra. If the orchestra does well, the CEO keeps his job. If the orchestra does poorly, the management gets fired.

    6. Cut all the waste. Any spending not related to the presentation of the music, educational / historical purposes or the generating of more revenue, should be cut.

    The Minnesota Orchetsra page lists 60+ names for management and administration and a similarnbumber for the board. How much money could be saved by outsourcing or cutting some of those positions? I realize some of them may be unpaid positions, but a board with 60 people on it?

    8. Run the orchestra like the old German school model, where everything was focused on education and the rest was outsourced. Focus on the presentation of music, and cut the waste. The management at the Minnesota Orchestra seems rather worthless, so might be better off to go without to much in this area.

  6. Pingback: - How management’s self-inflicted wounds are killing Minnesota’s two world-class orchestras — and what to do about it

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