Even with Agreement, Minnesota Orchestra and Musicians Have Much Damage to Undo

By Grow, Doug | MinnPost.com, January 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

Even with Agreement, Minnesota Orchestra and Musicians Have Much Damage to Undo


Grow, Doug, MinnPost.com


There are no winners in the the Minnesota Orchestral Association's 474-day lockout of musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

What remains to be seen is whether losses can be minimized now that the two sides have ratified a three-year contract.

What will the mood of the public be? Will superb musicians who left, or took leaves of absence, return or be replaced by equally talented players? Can that chemistry that helped propel the orchestra into one of the best in the country somehow be rediscovered?

And will Osmo Vanska, the conductor/chemist who seemed to bring it all together, be brought back?

The lockout may officially be over, and terms of the contract may be agreed on. But it will be at least months, perhaps years, before we'll know if the damage done can be repaired.

Orchestra's return not simple

Just bringing the orchestra back together under the Orchestra Hall roof will not be simple.

It took four and a half hours for the musicians to vote on the contract, which was tentatively agreed to in written form by management and musicians last Friday, following an oral agreement reached last Tuesday.

Part of the reason for the long vote process is that musicians have scattered across the globe since being locked out. On Tuesday votes were coming from the Canary Islands, Japan and all parts of the U.S.

Even now, with the contract ratified, musicians will have commitments to fulfill elsewhere before returning full time to Minnesota.

For example, Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, French horn player in the orchestra, spoke of how she has engagements ahead with the Kennedy Center Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and the Cleveland Orchestra. Many other members of the orchestra are in a similar situation, she said.

"We had to plan out as far as we could because we had no idea if this was going to end," she said.

Even when all -- or at least most -- performers are back in Minnesota, it's hard to know what sort of frame of mind they'll be in. Being locked out of the workplace for more than a year doesn't help most people's attitudes.

Tensions, too, don't end the moment the ink dries on a contract.

Of course, leaders of the musicians' negotiating team were trying to be as positive as possible at Tuesday's late-afternoon media event announcing the contract ratification.

"We took care of business,'' said Tim Zavadil, clarinetist and a negotiating leader. "We need to work as hard as we can with leadership to make sure the orchestra thrives."

But there was a "minder" at the musicians event Tuesday. It appeared to be her job to remind musicians who were watching the media event that they had agreed to let negotiating team leaders do all of the talking on their behalf.

Presumably, there was concern that, if left to their own devices, some musicians might have some off-key comments to make about the long, long process.

Emotions still running high

There were other indicators that emotions are running high among musicians.

The MOA, whose board members had ratified the contract earlier in the day, opened the doors to the Orchestra Hall lobby around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Musicians were invited to cross the street, from their meeting room at the Hilton, to join the MOA in issuing a joint media conference.

That offer was rejected by musicians. They explained that they chose not to go to Orchestra Hall because they were under tight timelines. (At least a couple of members of the musicians' negotiating team had flights to catch to other cities for performances.)

More likely, though, it was too soon for an all-is-forgiven moment with the MOA.

'Good old days' may be elusive

The final indicator that transition to the "good old days" will not be easy was the simple reality that the vote to ratify the contract was not unanimous, though musician negotiators would not say what the final vote was.

In the past, all rejections of MOA offers had been unanimous. …

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Even with Agreement, Minnesota Orchestra and Musicians Have Much Damage to Undo
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