Musicians offer fourth proposal

Musicians of SPCO Fear Lockout will continue for weeks due to Management’s Reluctance to compromise

Saint Paul, Minnesota ( January 30, 2013 ) – The Musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) said today that they fear the 101-day old lockout will likely drag on for weeks because of Management’s unwillingness to compromise, its continued refusal to change its draconian salary offers and its reluctance to even respond to the Musicians’ concessionary proposals.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute, Carole Mason Smith, a bassoonist with the SPCO for more than 30 years and co-chair of the Negotiating Committee, said the Musicians have agreed to numerous concessions, including cutting their salaries and reducing the number of musicians (from 34 to 28).

Mason Smith said the Musicians’ latest proposal, presented to Management on January 22, 2013, would save the SPCO $3.6 million through 2016. In addition, Management will have saved over $1 million if the lockout ends by February 10, 2013. Despite the dramatic savings, Management has yet to respond to the offer.

“The refusal of Management to compromise on any major economic issues is what has prevented the end of the lockout and our return to performing great music for our audiences,” said Mason Smith who added that Management has barely changed the financial terms of its offer since September 7, 2012.

In their latest proposal, Mason Smith said the Musicians have agreed to reduce their annual salary 20% for the 2012-2013 season, 17% for the 2013-2014 season and 15% for the 2015-2016 season.

In addition to guaranteed salaries, Management’s insistence on a two-tiered salary system is another point of contention. Under Management’s plan, all new musicians would be paid an annual salary of $50,000 with no guaranteed overscale. Mason Smith said this two-tiered system, which no other major American orchestra uses, would make it impossible to attract musicians of the caliber capable of preserving the performance level of the SPCO.

Finally, the Musicians’ latest proposal includes the establishment of a special committee of musicians and management representatives who would together determine the instrumentation of the orchestra. Such a system would ensure that no musician was involuntarily terminated except for just cause or through a formal review process.

Mason Smith said Musicians are “extremely troubled” by Management’s lack of response to their latest offer and are requesting that Management responds no later than Friday, February 1, 2013. “We want to resolve our remaining issues as soon as possible and return to playing music for this community,” she said.

SPCO Musicians Press Release 1 30 13 (PDF)

SPCO Musicians Press Release 1 30 13 (DOCX)

Memorandum to West and Dawson 1-30-13 (PDF)

Fourth Proposal from Musicians to SPCO 1-22-13 (PDF)

Fourth Proposal from Musicians to SPCO 1-22-13 (DOC)

Management Response to Fourth Proposal 1-27-13 (PDF)

Management Response to Fourth Proposal 1-27-13 (DOC)

Management’s questions answered

Attached is a Memorandum containing the Union and Committees’ answers to the questions posed in a Memorandum from the Management dated January 24, 2013.  Also attached is a spreadsheet which contains the answers to question 11.  Since they had posted their questions, the Union and the Committee  extended the deadline on our January 22, 2013 offer until 5 p.m. CST on January 27, 2013.

Management’s request for a 33% reduction in guaranteed salary and overscale for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons has remained unchanged since September 7, 2012.  The Managements’  January 17, 2013 proposal only changes the amount of reduction to more than 31% in 2014-15 and 29% in 2015-16.  All of their proposals since September 7, 2012 have included the establishment of a two-tier compensation system in the orchestra.  All of these items are unrealistic as a basis for a resolution of this dispute.

Memorandum to West 1-26-13

January 25 2013 Spreadsheet

Like destroying the Louvre– Thomas Zehetmair, Pioneer Press Opinion Page
What a shock: highly qualified musicians forming one of the best chamber orchestras of the world fight for their existence. Minnesota, proud host of a world-class chamber orchestra and a world-class symphony orchestra, is silent — both orchestras are basically jobless. The SPCO is the absolute cultural highlight of St. Paul. Threatening to make them smaller and give them less money and work is like destroying the Louvre by throwing away its treasures. I have rarely worked with an orchestra being so versatile, learning the most difficult repertoire within few hours of rehearsal time — thanks to their virtuoso players. Less money and work will destroy these qualities.

High-quality culture is a condition for a healthy economy — the human brain needs artistic inspiration to do clever calculations! Cutting down on arts is a huge boomerang — not to speak about important human values being transmitted to people through masterpieces of music.

Thomas Zehetmair, Berlin, Germany

The writer is an artistic partner of the SPCO.

A different artistic model–Letter from Chris Brown to Pioneer Press

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra lockout is not based primarily on the long-term financial stability of this organization. It is instead based on the desire of a few key people to produce a completely different artistic model. The reductions are not so much about budgetary matters as they are about turning the SPCO into something like a smaller St. Paul Chamber Music Society. Such a society would promote a chamber music mentality, but lack the cohesion of the established chamber orchestra we have today. This would likely bring in musicians with few or no ties to our community.

The new model is based on the opinion that what we have here musically is not good enough, and that the SPCO needs to be run from the top down. Yes, the new model would schedule chamber orchestra concerts by hiring younger, inexperienced players. However, hiring such players en masse would not produce the depth and quality of music that the orchestra currently is known for.

Our audiences support the current configuration of the SPCO. It could soon disappear. This is not fair to our patrons, the majority of our funders, our city or any of the communities we serve. This proposed new model is not a worthy replacement for the great chamber orchestra we already have.

Let’s play.

Chris Brown, Mahtomedi

The writer plays principal bass with the SPCO.

Musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra call Management’s latest contract proposal “unrealistic”

St Paul, Minnesota (January 25, 2013 ) –  At a legislative hearing earlier this week, the Musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra announced their latest contract offer, which includes more than $4.6 million from the lockout in savings and concessions through 2016.

SPCO Management is still insisting on a two-tier salary level structure, which will make it impossible to recruit and retain world-class musicians. Management’s proposal also calls for base pay salary cuts over the next three years: 33% (2013-14), 31% (2015) and 29 % (2016). A proposal that is “unrealistic,” according to Carole Mason-Smith, co-chair of the SPCO Musicians Negotiating Committee.

Smith said the Musicians have offered to cut 20% of base pay and 15% of individual over-scale during the balance of the 2012-13 and entire 2013-14 season

“We are extremely disappointed that Management continues to demonstrate such an unwillingness to move any closer to a solution,” said Mason-Smith. “Management’s latest counter-proposal is unrealistic, and they continue to mislead the public with claims that the stalemate rests in our hands.”

Management’s last proposal remains unchanged from Sept 7, 2012.

The Musicians of the SPCO have been locked out for 95 days. Their contract expired September 30, 2012. Management imposed the lockout on October 21, 2012 following three weeks where the Musicians continued to “play and talk.”

Carole Mason-Smith –SPCO Musicians Negotiations Committee

Legislative Testimony

Carole Mason Smith testified before the Minnesota Legislature this afternoon. Here is her testimony.

Chairman Atkins and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

The Musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are very grateful for your interest in this issue, and we are hopeful that you can help us get back to work – get back to doing what we love…and that is playing world-class orchestral music for our loyal audiences here in Minnesota.

In addition to being a member of the musician’s Negotiating Committee, I have been playing the bassoon with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than three (3) decades.  Over the years, we have had our share of contract challenges, but, working collaboratively with Management, we were always able to overcome our differences. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.

We are sad. We are disappointed. And we are frustrated by the negotiations. In addition to giving back more than $2 million in salary concessions over the last 10 years, we have made several concessionary offers, including our latest proposal, delivered yesterday to our Management- a framework for an agreement through 2016 which would save the Management $3.6 million… $4.6 Million, when we include the spending saved if the lockout were to actually end on Feb. 8.   Unfortunately, Management has canceled concerts through March 23rd, which while decreasing their costs even more, will increase the damage done to these Musicians and their families.

We have previously agreed to play more concerts and be paid less money, but that was not enough. Management wanted to cut more.

Management wants fewer musicians, more artistic control and lower salaries. Combined, these changes could cut the heart out of the Orchestra. Today Musicians will agree to go from 34 to 28 players, but only if Management commits to giving us a real voice in decisions about the rebuilding of our complement…having no background or experience, this interim management does not have the ability to make those decisions alone, and without Musician input, the ability to recruit and retain world-class musicians will be impossible.

We propose a Committee of 7 members, our Concert-master, 3 Musicians and 3 Management… a committee to decide the artistic future of the Jewel of St. Paul, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

We await Management’s response to this latest proposal.  It could allow us to get back to making music within the framework of a play and talk format… to settle major issues of pay and the number of musicians so Management can sustainably control costs.

For the record, as of today we have been locked out 93 days. During that time, we have spent many hours in the State of Minnesota’s unemployment offices. We have spent a great deal of time looking for new jobs and even for new careers. Several of us are no longer working as professional musicians and some of us have sold our homes and moved out of the community we love.

I speak for all the Musicians of the SPCO when I repeat we want to be part of the solution. We want to return to the stage, and make music for our community.  We want our Management to end this lockout, even while we continue to talk through any remaining contract differences.

Thank you, Chairman Atkins and members of the Committee.

A Musical Offering to benefit SPCO Musicians

Dear Friends,

Please join us for a musical benefit by and for SPCO musicians.

LOCATION: Saint Paul’s University Club, 420 Summit Ave., Saint Paul
DATE: SUNDAY, FEB 10, from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Arrive at 2:30, Music starts at 3 and continues for around 40 minutes

SUGGESTED DONATION: $50 or what you wish.
(To write a tax-deductible donation, make the check out to LSRC with “Musicians of the SPCO” in the memo line. This is the hardship fund for musicians’ medical and other expenses. Address: LSRC, ATTN: Laura Testor, 411 Main Street, Rm 202, Saint Paul, MN 55102.
Otherwise, to help with PR and concert costs–but not deductible– make the check to SPCO Musicians Association Accnt #2. Send to Carole Mason Smith, 2190 Carter Ave., Saint Paul, MN 55108.)

SPONSORED BY Margot and Fran Galt, Helena Kriel, Carol Connolly, Ray Hathaway and Michael Stoughton

Take 94 and exit at Dale. Come south on Dale, cross major stoplights at Marshall Avenue and Selby Avenue. Then at Summit Ave, turn left toward downtown Saint Paul.

The University Club is on the right hand side of Summit Avenue, just before  Summit Avenue curves to the left. Park along Summit Avenue, taking care not to block driveways. It is also possible to pull up to the door for easy access.

For more information: Margot’s email:, phone: 651-644-1697. Address: 1177 Laurel Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104

Thank you so much for your support. We hope this concert
helps tide over the musicians during their management lockout.

PARTICIPATING MUSICIANS: Daria Adams, Christopher Brown, Steven Copes, Kathryn Greenbank, Joshua Koestenbaum, Sarah Lewis, Alicia McQuerry, Brenda Manuel Mickens, Carole Mason Smith


Negotiations update

We are deeply disappointed in our Management’s unwillingness to compromise on key issues in these negotiations.  We had hoped that the mutually agreed upon media blackout and negotiating in private would result in significant progress that would have permitted the balance of the 2012-13 season to be presented.  Since that has not happened, we decided to end the off-the-record negotiations and the media blackout.

The Musicians of the SPCO remain committed to presenting world-class concerts to our loyal audience and community, and will be performing an evening of Italian Baroque Concertos on Thursday January 24 at St Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, and Friday January 25 at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.  Both concerts are at 7:30 PM and will feature soloists from the orchestra.  More information can be found at


SPCO Musicians’ Negotiating Committee