Letter from former concertmaster of the SPCO, Romuald Tecco

This is in support of my former colleagues at the SPCO. As you may know, I was the concertmaster of the orchestra for 26 years (1972-1998). For a long time the orchestra was considered a jewel, not only in the Twin Cities but in the US and all over the world where we toured frequently . I will only mention Eastern Europe, USSR, Japan, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, most of South America and so on.
Most of the extraordinarily talented musicians of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra have been there for a long time through thick and thin, performing superbly and deserve much better than what is being proposed at this time by the Board and Management. A poorly compensated, quasi part-time orchestra, which would not attract talented musicians in the future, is no way to honor the city and the public of St. Paul which for years have supported the orchestra and have been the privileged recipients of the best music-making.
I hope that the Board and Management will come to an agreement with the musicians that would satisfy both the economic reality and the artistic integrity of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Romuald Tecco

Audience member, Donald Gault, makes the case for higher ticket prices


The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra keeps bringing me to tears.  Two months ago it was their stunning playing of Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony; last month it was a collection of Bach pieces put together as has never been done before.  This week, I was brought to tears reading the impasse between the Orchestra and their Board, who want to reduce the SPCO to a part time orchestra and significantly reduce their pay.  There is an old saying you get what you pay for.  In the case of the SPCO, we do not pay for what we get.  I pay more for a movie ticket than I do to see the finest chamber musicians and orchestra in the world.  The SPCO board chair and interim president says he is sure that people would not be willing to pay more for tickets.  Mr. West, I promise you I stand willing, and in fact ask you, to increase ticket prices so that we can begin to pay these incredible musicians something close to what they are worth.  A more current composer penned the words “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you got ‘til its gone.”   Let us all please work together to save our SPCO.

Donald Gault

St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 29 – Caring for St. Paul’s “jewel”


Evelina Chao and the SPCO deserve a standing ovation for years of musical excellence ( “Fearing for ‘our orchestra as we know it,’ “ Aug. 26 ).  No one in Minnesota should take this “Jewel of St. Paul” lightly.

I have been professionally connected with orchestral and/or chamber music wherever I have lived, including London and Washington, D.C. I now live across the border in Eau Claire, Wis., and have held a season subscription series tickets for the SPCO for more than 15 years.  (This includes winter concerts. )  Each trek my husband and I make to a concert includes a meal before or after the concert and often a stop at a store along our route.

If I were not able to see and hear the regular musicians I have come to respect so greatly, I would have no reason to put forth the effort of the long miles to attend a second-rate concert.  I would be better off at home.  Take care, St. Paul.  Don’t tarnish your crown jewel.


Jana Lind, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Letter to the Musicians from David and Lisa Rolf

Dave and I talked about this at breakfast, so one last attempt to
 say this. Our life is not perfect, we have college age kids, so struggles 
there, our work is not perfect, we have to mow the lawn and take care of the
 house. BUT a couple of time a month we get to step inside the hall where the 
SPCO is playing and for a couple of hours it is as close to perfection as we
 can get in our lives. We listen to music that is so well put together with 
an orchestra that seems to think like one in creating this beautiful break 
from our ordinary lives. For us it is like riding in a Bentley. It is such a 
great experience to hear the SPCO play. I see the faces of the regulars I 
usher to their seats in the balcony at Wooddale. I know them. They feel the 
same way, I can see it on their faces.  I don’t want the board to take the 
Bentley they have the privilege to manage, and turn it into a Yugo.  This 
is a vital community asset.

Best regards,
    Lisa and David Rolf

StarTribune /Letters CHAMBER ORCHESTRA A Twin Cities treasure — not just a business

I live in Minneapolis and regularly attend St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts. As a child studying classical music in Boston, I admired the SPCO. Forty years later, I still regard this orchestra as one of the finest. What an enormous source of Twin Cities pride — such talent right here in St. Paul.

It seems contract negotiations are damaging the orchestra’s reputation, and may cripple its future. The management position reflects pay cuts to musicians of more than 50 percent.

You cannot outsource the arts. An orchestra is a unique environment relying not only on talent, but on years of experience, balance, chemistry, passion and commitment, uniting individuals to play as one. I pay to see this seasoned SPCO in concert, not a random group playing for temp pay.

I am a musician, and have worked professionally in arts management. I understand the challenges of supporting, promoting and sustaining artists. That said, I urge the orchestra’s management not to put business priorities above all. Implementing corporate negotiating priorities, tactics and outsourcing models will kill the very soul of what the organization is attempting to provide.

MEGAN SMITH, Minneapolis

Letter of Support from Helena Kriel

Dear SPCO Board Members,

I am writing to thank you for your service to the SPCO and the community. As a thirty-year SPCO patron, I am also writing to express concern at the recent contract negotiations as described in Evelina Chao’s Pioneer Press article.

In previous generations, orchestra boards and managers focused on building something great: a vibrant, strong orchestra that would endure beyond the present era and leave a legacy to enrich the community. This was true even during economic times much graver than ours. Sadly, your focus now is on dismantling the orchestral greatness that previous generations have built.

Your job is to protect and to serve the orchestra. I believe you fully capable of doing that. With the talent, ingenuity, and experience represented on the current SPCO board, you are more than able to steer this outstanding orchestra into financial stability and even higher level artistic excellence.

Surely, this current budget issue is a solvable problem. Surely, you are capable of solving it without making financial concessions where they never should be made–on the backs of the musicians (who have already extensively conceded personal salaries to help you meet budgets) and at the expense of this orchestra’s size and exceptional quality.

Many of the SPCO musicians could have chosen ensemble or solo careers in larger, highly competitive cities such as Berlin, New York, Vienna, etc. Yet they chose to work here, in your company, because they value the Midwest and living in the Twin Cities. How lucky we are to enjoy talent of such caliber right here in Minnesota! And these musicians, some of whom have dedicated their entire, multi-decade professional careers to the SPCO, deserve our community patronage and your best stewardship.

Please give them the best you’ve got.

If this orchestra’s quality and size are dismantled, the community will lose. I, and many other current and future orchestra patrons, will lose. These incredibly talented musicians will lose, after years of dedicated service, which is not what they deserve. And you will lose, too.

I don’t believe that you intend your legacy to be the destruction of a cultural treasure that took decades to build. Yet this will be the unfortunate byproduct of a misguided managerial decision. As business people, you are probably familiar with the Abilene Principle. It’s even more aptly described as the Abilene Paradox.

As you likely remember, the Abilene Paradox is enacted when a management group becomes entrenched in making a decision that is not the best decision. As more members of the group agree to the decision despite their reservations, the firmer it becomes. At a certain point, no one in the group dares say, “You know, actually, I think we should choose a different course.” Even though everyone in the management group has unspoken doubts, the suboptimal decision becomes policy and a defining condition of the company and employees.

Thus the paradox: although the decision defies logic or reason, the management group chooses it, and everyone must live with the consequences.

You may recall instances of the Abilene Paradox in companies where you have worked. Perhaps you have even been part of a management group enacting such a paradox. It’s not a fun place to be. As the unwise decision is being made, one is often deeply uneasy. But that discomfort is nothing compared to the consequences one must deal with as a manager after making such a decision. The discomfort is only the beginning of what can be years of problems and regret.

Leaders make mistakes–it’s often how those in managerial roles learn. Mistakes need not be a big deal. They can be an opportunity to revise, rethink, replan, make things better for the company and the employees. But mistakes become catastrophic when they are endorsed and solidified into policy rather than stopped and questioned.

Please stop to question your current plan about the SPCO contract. You are endorsing a policy that does not make artistic or financial sense: if you strip the artistic quality of the orchestra, you will not be able to support future fundraising, and this will create a cycle of decreasing funds and diminished product. Some of you must be feeling concerns about this plan, or have doubted if this is really the best course. You are wise to have those doubts–listen to them.

You absolutely still can make this right. But you must speak out about finding a different way out of this challenge before it is too late.

The mark of truly great leaders is the ability to look at a suboptimal plan and say, “We explored this, and now we realize it is not the best option. Based on what we have learned, we are going to choose something better.” You still have the opportunity to be great leaders in this situation, to restore the orchestra’s trust and the community’s support, and to leave a legacy that would make you and the community proud.

Thank you again for your time, support, and service to the SPCO.

Helena Kriel

Saint Paul, MN

SPCO Pride

Members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra share their thoughts on playing  with some of the most gifted musicians in the world and for the Twin Cities community.

Members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra share their thoughts on playing  with some of the most gifted musicians in the world and for the Twin Cities community.

Letter of Support from Drs. Kenneth Klein & Teresa Quinn

Dear SPCO administration and board,

We are long time patrons & SPCO friends, not able to be significant benefactors. We are troubled by what we’ve heard about “hardball” contract negotiations with your world-class musicians.

We’re hoping you can convey to those who are directly involved in these discussions how devastating it would be for the community to risk losing the “heart” of this orchestra, to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg” as it were, nurtured over many decades.

We feel that focusing upon a short term budgetary shortfall, real as it is, and only secondarily upon the SPCO’s mission, its identity, the careers and lives that have been devoted to the orchestra’s growth and success, is somewhat myopic. Not only can Minnesotans of all ages ill afford to lose this world-class orchestra, the SPCO will be far better if residual hard feelings are minimized in the negotiations taking place. (You’re not dealing with sports stars and Chicago agents in this matter, but extraordinarily gifted and devoted artists).

We truly hope for a wise amicable resolution. While each “side” has its own perspective, all orchestras, as you well know, do best when they perform together.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Best wishes,

Drs. Kenneth Klein & Teresa Quinn