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Marissa Lingen

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Other people saying smart stuff about the orchestra [Sep. 6th, 2013|06:40 pm]
Marissa Lingen

If you care about the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, you should probably be reading Emily anyway, but here’s a really good one. Her incredulous rage is my incredulous rage. Other letters are worthwhile, too.

In the last week, the Orchestra Board has openly declared their willingness to treat us as commodities. I don’t mean “us,” the orchestra patrons, although honestly I don’t doubt that we’re pretty fungible in their minds too. I mean us, people who work in the arts. Artists. (I get a little squirmy about declaring myself an artist. But muttering things like “I tell lies to strangers for money” only gets you so far.) Anyone who’s an avid reader or a fan of music or the visual arts or dance or–hell, anyone who watches television–we all know that these things are not like cans of Campbell’s soup. Not even the extra-fancy super-chunky cans. You may like my short stories and Alec’s short stories, or mine and Bear’s, or any of a number of other combinations, but everybody knows that liking both does not mean that they’re interchangeable.

I’m sure the Minnesota Orchestra could get some young, desperate musicians. It could even get immaculately trained young, desperate musicians. And the thing is, sometimes young musicians are the right answer–the Orchestra needs a range of ages not to fall into a variety of problems. But leaning heavily on the young and desperate–the people who need some orchestra job to pay off their conservatory loans–is not going to get you the same quality as focusing on the best. It’s not going to get you Burt Hara. It’s not going to get you Douglas Wright. It’s not going to get you Wendy Williams. I play the flute. If you want to hear a demonstration of what you’re paying Wendy Williams for, you can have me as a flutist for the Orchestra for a weekend. I promise, nobody will ask for me back.

I’m really afraid at this point that even if some kind of official settlement is reached, the musicians are going to have to look for better options as soon as they can find them. And I mean that: have to. I would. I would advise them to, unless we can get this Orchestra Board changed. I will be sad and in some cases devastated to see them go, but I work in the arts, too, and I have seen what happens to people whose publishers do not value them. It’s not pretty. I cannot recommend it. If we do get a settlement–which became even less likely the minute they started treating Osmo like he was a can of tunafish or a pair of sneakers–the first priority has to be ousting this board. Because they don’t have a plan, they don’t have a clue, and their attitude towards the musicians is scary and toxic.

This is not a difference of attitudes on one contract. This is a difference of attitudes on the value of art and artists.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: minnehaha
2013-09-07 06:37 pm (UTC)
I am not following along with this issue very closely, because my interest in supporting the arts as a philanthropist or as a customer is (almost) entirely below the level of endowed institutions, but can you clarify "the Orchestra Board has openly declared their willingness to treat us as commodities"?

What is this open declaration?


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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-09-07 06:44 pm (UTC)
When they started talking about how musicians and conductors could be replaced, as though the kind of replacement they're talking about is completely trivial and would have no effect on the orchestra.
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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2013-09-08 03:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you for these links.

This situation seems to be a remarkable* distillation/microcosm of the general arrogance and incompetence of the financial masters of our society.

*In the sense of clarity, not uniqueness.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2013-09-09 12:54 pm (UTC)
I've been following your posts and contrasting what I hear from you about the Minnesota Orchestra with what I know about what's been happening at SFO where my mom sings with the chorus.

What just kills me is the same issue with Netherlands RFO... an institution founded in the ashes of WWII that broadcast live orchestral music when so much was in ruins. Those were times of true austerity, and yet NOW we're having trouble with funding?

One of the area orchestras just celebrated its 100 year anniversary, but is in the worst financial situation of its life. Imagine surviving 2 WWs an the Great Depression, and only now are people not thinking this is an institution worth supporting?

Where are our priorities? It just kills me that professional musicians, people who have skills that are rare at their level, have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Obviously, I'm a little biased in this issue, but it's a crying shame.
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[User Picture]From: cissa
2013-09-14 02:30 am (UTC)
I am reading all this with sadness, because i grew up with the MN Orchestra. And also i work in the arts.

My own teaching gig went from great to pear-shaped when the admin took a similar tack. I was able to quit; some were not. But- it was like studio management- VITAL so things actually WORK!- and organization were seen as irrelevant, and when the "new blood' did a piss-poor job, admin shrugged.

And the school pretty close to died as a result. Not that they learned from this.

I am sorry to see it happen with the Orchestra.
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