After orchestra lockout, U still stinging

Minnesota Orchestra musicians worked with students before the lockout, but it’s unclear when they’ll return.

by Fernando Nunez

Since the Minnesota Orchestra’s 15-month lockout ended in January, the University of Minnesota’s School of Music is preparing to once again have musicians teach its students.

But it’s unclear when the orchestra’s musicians will begin working with University students again, which has some music majors upset.

School of Music Director David Myers said that before the lockout, some orchestra musicians taught classes at the University and worked with orchestra students in the Pennock Program, which offered specialized coaching to students on orchestra literature and repertoire. Some students also got to sit in on Minnesota Orchestra rehearsals.

He said these partnerships will be active again, but it’s unclear when.

“We continue to work very hard to provide opportunities for students,” he said. “But with the orchestra lockout, some students were at a disadvantage.”

The orchestra’s musicians and management couldn’t agree on a contract for more than a year, which halted all performances and once-frequent interactions between the professional musicians and University music performance students.

Music performance junior Kathryn Yuill was in the Pennock Program during her first two years of school, but once the lockout began, she and other students stopped working with the orchestra musicians.

She said it’s disappointing to see world-class musicians out of work because she hopes to find a career in a professional group after graduation.

“I want to perform in an orchestra someday, and to see that happening to one of the world’s most famous orchestras is really disheartening,” she said.

“That makes me think, what if that happens to me when I’m trying to get a job?”

Music performance sophomore Charles Renk volunteered with the Minnesota Orchestra during his freshman year.

Renk said that during the lockout, he went to fewer classical music concerts. He said he and other students “lost a bit of faith” in the orchestra’s board of directors.

“It was a little bit daunting to think about how money can control the arts in such great fashion,” he said. “The motives aren’t just for the arts.”

Renk said the lockout made him think differently about his future work. Instead of becoming a professional musician, he said, he plans to look outside that industry for jobs to fund his art.

Myers said students will have a better learning experience once the orchestra’s musicians return to campus.

“Students will benefit from having a stable orchestra in place to see how playing in a professional orchestra is like,” he said.