Overflow Crowd Cheers Locked-Out Orchestra Musicians -- and Plans for More Concerts

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The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra mixed some Beethoven and Mozart with what appeared to be a shot across the bow of the Minnesota Orchestral Association at a unique Monday morning meeting with the media and the public.

Although there were frequent comments from musician leaders that their No. 1 priority is a contract settlement to end the 14-month- old lockout, they also announced plans for as many as 10 concerts for the winter/spring season.

This news was greeted by big cheers from an overflow crowd -- perhaps 200 -- who came to hear a status report from the musicians. The gathering was at the Hilton Hotel, which, of course, is only a few steps away from Orchestra Hall.

At the meeting, musicians announced that they had organized into 13 committees, which do everything from raise money -- to date, more than $600,000 -- to organize concerts. The funds have come from more than 1,200 donors, according to the musicians.

"We've learned so much about each other,'' said harpist Kathy Kienzle, who heads their members committee. "This is a very smart, multitalented group."

The musicians' education committee has arranged a substantial number of orchestra performances at metro-area schools -- which always has been part of the orchestra's mission. Additionally, the orchestra has performed in such unusual venues as a YMCA in north Minneapolis and at a club, the Rodeo, on Lake Street, which is a particular favorite of Hispanics in the Twin Cities.

At least one MOA board member reportedly was seen at Monday's meeting, although she was not available for comment. It's impossible to say whether her attendance shows at least a crack in the unified position of the MOA board. That board, by the way, meets Wednesday.

The MOA responded to the musicians' meeting with a statement, emphasizing its vast resources:

"We are pleased to hear the musicians referenced today their desire to reach a negotiated settlement. The Minnesota Orchestral Association raises millions of dollars each year to support the musicians' salaries. It offers hundreds of performances in the community to audiences reaching more than 350,000 people and organizes outreach events for 85,000 music lovers each year. Clearly, we are a stronger organization with much greater reach when we are together. We very much hope the musicians will soon agree to join us at the bargaining table."

Does the scheduling of a wide variety of school programs and full- blown concerts mean that the musicians are moving toward a complete break-away from the MOA?

"Our No. 1 goal is to come to a contract agreement," said Tim Zavadil, clarinetist for the orchestra and the head of the musicians' bargaining committee. "But short of that, we have to have plans."

The MOA made a similar announcement via its report to the city of Minneapolis last week. The MOA said that it had a Plan B, if a settlement with the musicians is not reached.

Separating from the MOA -- starting with a new name -- is a huge step. …

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