The demise of the Minnesota Orchestra

Willy Shapira, Daily reader

Minnesota may have averted the demise of its orchestra if Gov. Mark Dayton devoted as much energy to finding a compromise as he has done to the new Vikings stadium.

The public needs to know why Dayton failed to call a special one-day session of the Legislature to pass emergency legislation, providing funds for the 2013-2014 orchestra season. In other states’ legislatures, special sessions cost about $25,000 to their states’ taxpayers.

While there wasn’t a guarantee that a settlement would be reached, the additional time for negotiations might have kept music director Osmo Vänskä here for good, saved the now-canceled Carnegie Hall dates and preserved the regular-season recording and touring schedule.

Now we face Vänskä’s probable resignation and with it, the end of the Minnesota Orchestra. I do not blame Vänskä; I’m actually doing quite the contrary.

The Board of the Minnesota Orchestra and the musicians have been unwilling to compromise enough to save the music. They put themselves ahead of saving the Orchestra, which seems to be the ultimate in stubbornness and self-defeating behavior.

A special session could have laid the groundwork for creation of long-term funding via private-public partnerships. This would not only benefit the Orchestra, but other arts organizations desperately in need of a new business model. We have finally realized these organizations simply no longer can sustain themselves and need public help to survive.

If Dayton could cheerfully give millions of tax dollars to the Wilfs’ Vikings stadium — their legal problems notwithstanding — why couldn’t he have used taxpayer money to save what is arguably the crown jewel of Minnesota arts organizations? These are not rhetorical questions.

The public deserves some answers and maybe even an apology from Dayton for letting us Minnesota Orchestra fans down.