As has been true over the past two years, the Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) played its most recent decision close to the vest. That may be because the outcome remained unpredictable. Ever since productive negotiations began in earnest last December, we were told that the steps needed to mend a broken organization would have to follow a sequence. And indeed, the three foundational bricks crucial to rebuilding the Minnesota Orchestra after a two-year trauma are finally in place.
We have no words to express the difficulties we have faced, the gratitude we feel toward all who have journeyed with us, and the hope with which we now face the future.
The first brick, of course, was the contract settlement reached in January, which allowed us to return to work February 1—after a full 16 months locked out. In March the MOA announced that, by mutual agreement, CEO Michael Henson, will be stepping down on August 31.
But the third brick remained frustratingly elusive. Finally, on April 24, the board approved a new two-year contract with Osmo Vänskä, returning him to his post as music director. As you no doubt know, he had resigned last fall when our Carnegie Hall residency was canceled, and then he immediately conducted the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra in three sold-out, moving programs.
Clearly, there is still much work to do. The lockout together with the (fortunately) failed attempt to change the mission has cost the organization dearly. The musicians are extremely grateful to the true heroes on the board who devoted themselves to the seemingly impossible task of rescuing a Minnesota artistic icon.
The return of Osmo, with whom we have experienced such success during his tenure, was critical to our immediate future. We must hire musicians, rally a battered institution around a vision, and we are in urgent need of organizing the 2014-2015 season. Tony Ross and the artistic advisory committee will now be able to go into high gear to help with artistic planning, both near term and long range.
We see other signs that the new board leadership is working hard to right the ship. A new vice president of advancement has just been appointed. Most significantly, Kevin Smith, who led the Minnesota Opera successfully for 25 years, has agreed to serve as the orchestra’s interim president and CEO.
If anything good comes from this debacle, we hope it will be a reinvigorated, watchful public and an institutional commitment to the mission, transparency, and health.
It’s clear to us that over the past two years our most powerful weapon and most powerful defense has been our unity. We are bruised, but I have never been prouder to be part of a team. Now, at last, we have the pieces in place to begin the arduous rebuild- ing. We could not have endured without the help and support of Brad Eggen and Local 30-73 and our ICSOM colleagues across the country. Thank you all.