The Fiscal CLEF!

I was fully prepared to leave the Minnesota Orchestra posts to my partner in Blog Bill, and Drew at Adaptistration, but something I read really ticked me off!…..this is about attitude….

This article in the Tribune focused on the endowment, whether or not the musicians are “affordable”.  Take their new $52M lobby for example:  if half way through construction the board voted to pay the construction workers half of what they were told they were initially promised, but they still expected them to do an excellent job and finish on time, wouldn’t they have been justified in laying down their tools and walking away?  So how is it different for a musician, who did not walk away!

With all this focus on macro economics with the massive numbers being thrown around in the article (along with the now projected deficit reported here), there are two micro economic issues that are being ignored.

1.  The musicians are being told that their work is excellent but it no longer has the same value monetarily i.e be just as great for less…..what a morale booster!

2. They like most of us have fixed costs such as a mortgage and a car payment, long term commitments that they can’t simply reduce because they are not being paid enough anymore to make all their ends meet.  I am certain the wealth management CEOS/advisors on the board will attest to the fact that they don’t give discounts because someone falls on hard times, and forget refinancing which is typically only available to those who are doing well.

Ad these two things up and essentially the MN musician is being told that their work although exemplary, is now worth less and because of this they need to personally downsize or default, but show up and continue as if everything’s the same.  What’s the incentive?  Is it that they still get to go to far off lands to play? That “glory” is hardly an incentive anymore when instead they might just prefer to be teaching/freelancing more at home to make up their own personal deficit created by their employer.

Now whilst I think it’s good that their Music Director said something publicly, he focused primarily on music, recordings, touring and excellence as the reasons to end the crisis.  One less Sibelius recording (regardless if it’s nominated for a Grammy, kudos for that) or Carnegie Hall appearance wont not result in a catastrophe for the orchestra, but this devaluing of the musicians combined with their missed mortgage and car payments and the fact that they are not performing at all just might.

This is not only a musical tragedy, this is more a human tragedy and the board needs to consider that the musician’s wealth is in their talent which they and the patrons are already the beneficiaries of for pennies on the dollar.  Bottom line:  That sound they (used to) make is priceless and should be seen as a fixed cost that should never be valued lower, only higher.  The overall problem is the attitude that the musicians talents are seen as a line item rather than the reason for all the other line items, and by pouring in millions into a lobby, it shows that the board is more interested in the cover than the book.


5 thoughts on “The Fiscal CLEF!”

  1. I respect your position, Ron, but given the gravity of the current situation it seems to me the MO players need to find a contract negotiation that is comparable with the current financial situation and use it as a cookie-cutter to get back to the table to negotiate. Drew has mentioned Pittsburgh. I also think they should ask for cuts across the board. That is only fair.

    For the future, an alternative to the current business model needs to be developed; something that empowers the players, not leaves them as pawns in the hands of a disrespectful management. The NYPhil began as a player-coop. A new paradigm can be found.

    In the meantime, in the snowy TC, let’s curl up with the Grammy nominated MO/Vanska Sibelius 2+5 CD and their scores. :-)

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