An Orchestra and Its Community

Great orchestras gradually develop a unique sound and style of playing. This process takes place over time as conductors come and go, leaving their mark and new players are gradually assimilated. In the days when I was traveling between many orchestras as a free-lance violinist I could sense the “soul” of each organization. The ongoing lockout at the Minnesota Orchestra is tragic and frightening because it may ultimately show how quickly a great orchestra with a 110 year tradition can be destroyed. If you’re not familiar with the situation, take a look at this list of recent blog posts:

[box]The Minnesota Orchestra cross-blog event is a collection of more than a dozen bloggers, musicians, patrons, and administrators writing about the orchestra’s devastating work stoppage. You can find all of the contributions in the following list and the authors encourage everyone to participate by sharing, commenting, or publishing something at your own culture blog.[/box]

Managers and board members should view their orchestras as cultural treasures which belong to the community. They are entrusted with the sacred responsibility of nourishing the organization and investing in its future. This takes passion, determination and creativity. For a few thoughts on the importance of the management-musician relationship in regards to organizational success, read my 2006 article, Moving Beyond the Music: Why An Orchestra Musician’s Job is Not Over After the Last Note.

In honor of the great tradition of the Minnesota Orchestra, here is the orchestra playing the end of Stravinsky’s Firebird suite:

3 thoughts on “An Orchestra and Its Community”

  1. The blog mentioned in your text above : makes a great point. Artists are not only artists, but business people as well. It is a business run by a board. The biggest point of issue with your bullet points would be, what is considered ‘fair compensation’ for artistic work. That is an elephant in the room if there ever was one, because that doesn’t seem to really be discussed. PAY is discussed, but I don’t think the activities on what the pay is based have been effectively addressed. If the orchestra was paid less, would they also do less? I am wondering because I don’t hear any discussions on this point. As a dancer/choreographer, I have ideas around this issue.

    • Unfortunately, the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) chose to lock out musicians rather than negotiate, cutting off discussion of these issues. The fact that the MOA bought up 13 domain names in advance that might have been otherwise purchased by the community or musicians association suggests that the current situation was calculated. “Fair compensation” in collective bargaining is where both sides end up, assuming both are negotiating in good faith. Obviously, that isn’t the case here.

      • Thank you Timothy for the additional information. I work for a Fortune 500 company where a few years ago, there were job eliminated, including mine though I slid in backwards to be able to stay. The CEO of the company after the massive layoffs for the year got a bonus of 12M. A BONUS. I was very surprised to hear of this but they will most likely cite the law of Fair Competition in the Marketplace for whom they install for such functions.


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