In a situation more commonly known to occur in the professional sports world, players of the world-class Minnesota Orchestra have been locked out after contract negotiations with managers failed. Facing an almost $3 million budget deficit, managers proposed to cut the average salaries of the players by $46,000, lowering yearly pay from $135,000 to $89,000. The union unanimously rejected the proposal, and no deal was made before the contract deadline passed. All concerts through Nov. 25 have been canceled.
As the locked-out musicians took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis to rally support, other orchestras around the country are facing their own labor disputes as low ticket sales and declining private donations have had a damaging effect on revenue. Just across the Mississippi River, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra faces its own budget woes.
The Twin Cities is home to one of the most vibrant arts and cultural scenes in the country, and the nationally recognized orchestra is a huge draw to the state. If the budget impasse leads to musicians leaving for jobs in other cities, it could threaten the Minnesota Orchestra’s world-class reputation, which if lost would hurt Minnesota both financially and culturally.
The state’s benefactors and private donors, who feel it necessary and important that the Twin Cities sustains its vibrant cultural scene, should be compelled to help out the Minnesota Orchestra financially. With no talks scheduled between the musicians and management, it appears the lockout could last for a while. The Minnesota Orchestra is unlikely to solve the mess through cuts alone. Those who are able and willing should do what they can to help relieve the financial burden.