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Could New Minnesota Orchestra Contract Offer be Last Chance Saloon?

By James Inverne on Sep 27, 2013 01:32 AM EDT

More from the turmoil at the Minnesota Orchestra. A press release has gone out announcing a fourth contract proposal for musicians from management. They--both sides presumably--will be earnestly hoping that this gets them back to work. But that will all depend on the detail where, as the saying goes, the devil is often to be found.

The headlines are a $20,000 one-off signing bonus and an average per musician of $104,500--plus $33,000 per musician in benefits. And further down (but in fairness, underlined), it is revealed that each musician has an average salary reduction over three years of 17.7 per cent once bonus pay is included. The salaries themselves would range from $89,000 to $150,500.

That would break down as an 18.6 per cent reduction in year one, 21.2 per cent in year two and 25 per cent in year three. There is a revenue sharing element in the scheme as budget goals are surpassed, and 10 weeks of paid vacation is included. Minnesota Orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson has offered to take the same proportional reduction as the rank and file musicians.

So, what would this mean for the orchestra's over-arching financial picture? A $3.6 million deficit over the three years, not quite the $6 million deficit wipe-out management had hoped for (partly through a mooted 32 per cent salary cut). Says board chair Jon Campbell in a statement, "We have moved our position considerably in hope of getting our musicians back on the stage and audiences back in Orchestra Hall in October."

The dispute has been ongoing since the first contract proposal in April 2012. If this proposal is adopted--and the musicians' reactions will be of great interest to an industry for whom the Minnesota dispute has become somehow representative of difficult times for orchestras in the U.S.-- the release states that the entire 2013-14 subscription season would be saved, as would the upcoming Carnegie Hall concerts in November.

This could be the last chance saloon to keep much admired music director Osmo Vänskä, who has said that if rehearsals don't go ahead in the week of September 30, 2013, there won't be time to prepare for Carnegie. In which case his resignation is widely expected. So, only days before that deadline, could this be the silver bullet? Followers of this great orchestra will wish both sides luck and a speedy resolution.

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TagsMinnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vanksa, Michael Henson, Jon Campbell, Orchestra Hall, Carnegie Hall, MinnPost

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