Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO musicians learn to play the field – Graydon Royce, StarTribune


Tim Zavadil normally plays clarinet with the Minnesota Orchestra. This week, he will pull out his saxophone and join the Minnesota Opera orchestra for a production of “Hamlet” at Ordway Center in St. Paul.
It’s a welcome chance for Zavadil to play at home after chasing gigs across the country since he was locked out at the Minnesota Orchestra on Oct. 1.
He is one of about 120 out-of-work Twin Cities musicians caught up in unprecedented labor disputes dragging into their fifth month. For the first time in their professional lives, they are patching together a living from unemployment compensation, union welfare benefits, friendly donors and freelance work.
Musicians at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have been locked out since Oct. 21. Like their Minneapolis colleagues, they are watching expenses and racking up frequent-flier miles.
“One week I moved three times,” said Rebecca Albers, a violist at the Minnesota Orchestra, describing how she relies on friends in other cities for lodging. “The travel can be expensive, but I’m extremely grateful for the work.”
The two major Twin Cities orchestras, with combined annual budgets of about $40 million, sell about 380,000 tickets annually.
While orchestras elsewhere in the country have had labor disputes recently, few have lasted as long as the ones here, and the Twin Cities is the only metro area to have experienced two lockouts at the same time.
In St. Paul, bargaining continues in hopes of reaching agreement. Salary and artistic control remain thorny points of contention. The Minnesota Orchestra situation — where management has proposed base salary cuts of 32 percent and musicians have refused to make a counteroffer — is more polarized. Concerts are canceled through April 7, and no negotiations are scheduled.
The lockout is also having an impact on the 1,300 union-represented musicians in the Twin Cities.
“Anyone who is locked out is going to be looking for employment anywhere,” said Brad Eggen, president of Local 30-73 of the American Federation of Musicians. “There is a domino effect on the whole arts scene.”
Hustling for work
While Albers and Zavadil (who estimated he’s worked about 11 weeks since Oct. 1) have been fortunate, others have struggled.
Asked about his experience, bass player William Schrickel said, “My story won’t be a long one.”
He played one week last October in Milwaukee. Schrickel, who has played with the Minnesota Orchestra since 1976, said he has sent out résumés and let his colleagues in other cities know he’s eager to play.
“I’ve had to really, really tighten my belt, and that’s a challenge I never thought I would have to confront playing in the orchestra here,” he said. “I was never unemployed for a day in my life, and it’s a very sobering experience.”
Based on an annual average of $135,000, Minnesota Orchestra musicians have lost an estimated $56,000 in salary each, a figure certain to rise as the lockout drags on.
“It is quite difficult to ever regain lost income except in very short [work stoppages],” said John Budd, a labor relations expert at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “I think union leaders realize that it’s very difficult to recover, and thus work stoppages are about much more than money, such as establishing or defending a principle.”
Maiya Papach, acting principal violist with the SPCO, was downcast for another reason last week. Violinist Kyu-Young Kim had just announced that he was leaving the SPCO for the New York Philharmonic. Kim cited the labor turmoil in the Twin Cities as a motivator, although even in the best of times, New York is a prestigious opportunity. Uncertain is whether Kim’s wife, Pitnarry Shin, a Minnesota Orchestra cellist, would leave for New York also.
“I believe in the Twin Cities and the musicians and everything that’s here,” Papach said. “I pray we don’t lose any more.”
Julia Bogorad-Kogan, principal flute with the SPCO, just returned from five weeks of work with the National Symphony, including a tour to Europe and Oman. Bogorad-Kogan, who is married to Minnesota Orchestra timpanist Peter Kogan, said, “I was very fortunate to get this. It’s been difficult, and we’ve cut back expenditures.”
Unemployment and union benefits can fluctuate from week to week, with Zavadil estimating those figures might amount to anywhere from a quarter to one-third of a musician’s usual pay.
“People are all over the spectrum,” he said. “We have a welfare fund called Working Partnerships that is handled anonymously.”
Albers — who has traveled to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta — was in San Francisco on Thursday.
“San Francisco just started calling our musicians” she said. “They don’t want to take work away from their local people.”
Impact on freelancers
That issue is an important one for freelance musicians, who often work as substitutes for orchestras. When the Minnesota musicians played a concert on Feb. 1, subs made up about 25 percent of the ensemble.
In the Twin Cities, there are more bodies vying for positions in a tightening market.
Steve Lund, a union orchestra contractor who hires players for theater shows and special events, estimated that opportunities are less than 10 percent of what they were in the mid-1990s.
“Broadway touring was huge then, with more than 30 weeks of live performance,” Lund said. “Now a lot of those tours bring their own orchestras. And ballet has almost completely gone away.”
Cellist Rebecca Arons plays with Four Voices String Quartet, the Minnesota Opera orchestra, and also produces records. She said there was a large orchestra hired at the Orpheum Theatre for a production called “The Legend of Zelda” last fall that included many Minnesota Orchestra musicians. She felt those jobs would normally have been filled by freelancers.
“It’s difficult because we all support each other,” Arons said.
The answer for musicians, Arons believes, is entrepreneurship. Four Voices struck a deal with restaurateur Vincent Francoual to play an evening in his restaurant, a haunt for musicians and patrons just across the Nicollet Mall from Orchestra Hall. It was successful enough that the group is doing it again on May 5.
“That freelance mentality is that you make things happen,” she said. “This is the beginning of a shifting landscape for musicians, and you have to look to the future and think about reinventing yourself. That’s the silver lining, here. Otherwise, it’s too depressing.”

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

Local businesses support the Musicians of the SPCO

Cadenza Music has been active in its support for resolution to the lockout of the SPCO Musicians.  At the Minnesota Music Educators’ Association weekend, they paid for and gave away 85 buttons to teachers and students.  There are lots of new SPCO Musicians buttons on backpacks!

Cadenza Music also supports musicians of both the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra with sales of buttons and lawn signs, and has sponsored “house parties” with locked-out musicians to raise awareness and funds.  Many thanks to Nancy Vernon and her husband Gene Monnig, and all their friendly staff.

The SPCO Musicians also thank Claire Givens, who testified at a State legislative hearing regarding the lockouts and has donated goods and services to locked-out string players, and Groth Music for selling buttons and signs.

SPCO violinist wins job with the New York Philharmonic

SPCO Principal Second Violinist Kyu-Young Kim won a position with the New York Philharmonic in their most recent audition held on Saturday February 16.  The SPCO musicians have been locked out by their management since October 21.

“While I am thrilled at this opportunity to play with one of the world’s great orchestras,” said Kim, “I am saddened to be leaving the SPCO under these circumstances.  In the space of four months, the lockouts of both orchestras have changed the Twin Cities from a destination metropolis for musicians to a place that many of us are actively trying to leave. ”

Kim and his wife Pitnarry Shin, a cellist who won a job with  the Minnesota Orchestra in April 2012, moved to the Twin Cities in the fall of 2011.  “The last thing we wanted to do was displace our family again so soon after moving here, but this is the reality of the lockouts,” said Kim.  “Our friends and colleagues throughout the music world are shocked at what’s going on here.  It really feels like the managements of both orchestras are just ripping the heart out of the cultural life of this great community.”

Kim was also very actively involved with the negotiations at the SPCO.  Said Carole Mason Smith, chair of the Musicians Negotiations Committee, “It’s a great loss for the SPCO. We’ve said repeatedly to management that we will not be able to recruit or retain the talent that this orchestra needs to remain world class, and this is just a textbook example of that.”

The Musicians of the SPCO have been locked out for 122 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.”

Musicians have played their role to put ISO on its feet: Richard Graef, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra– Indianapolis Star

I am not a born Hoosier. Twenty years ago, as a young horn player I was an
audition finalist for orchestras in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Columbus,
Ohio. I had already held positions in the orchestras of Memphis, Honolulu
and Durban, South Africa.

I chose to come to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and play under
Maestro Raymond Leppard for the people of Indiana. The ISO was known as a
“destination orchestra,” one of the top 17 in the nation – one of the few
orchestras that toured, recorded and performed year round.

I chose Indianapolis. I chose to live here, to raise my family here, and to
make music here. I am now a Hoosier.

My story is similar to other transplants within our community, including
many of the musicians of the ISO. We are part of an international talent
pool that chose Indianapolis. The ISO musicians come from all over the
world, yet we are now Hoosiers.

When the ISO musicians were locked out for five weeks last fall, the
community support was uplifting and sustaining. Countless individuals signed
petitions, wrote letters, attended our concerts and offered encouragement
during our lunchtime concerts outside Hilbert Circle Theatre. It became
clear that our community wants, needs – and deeply values – a full-time
major symphony orchestra.

In order to return the music to the people of Indiana and to avoid a
protracted lock-out that threatened to permanently damage our great symphony
orchestra, the musicians agreed to a five-year contract that took effect on
Oct. 15, 2012, and will end on Sept. 3, 2017. It represents $11.5 million in
concessions by the musicians. This contract includes a 32 percent pay cut in
the first year. Five years later, we will be making 10 percent less than we
made at the beginning of this year. Our salary in 2017 will be what we
earned in 2002. We will perform fewer weeks, and there will be a smaller

This is not the first time that the musicians have taken concessions to
solve the financial problems of the ISO. We accepted $7 million in
concessions in our three previous contracts. The musicians have given back
more than $18 million in an effort to preserve our great institution.

While the fiscal issues the ISO faced were real and required immediate
attention, we still believe, based on extensive independent financial
analysis, that the severity of the restructuring was not necessary. The ISO
has a viable financial future. In order to preserve its future artistic
quality and cultural viability, the current reductions in personnel,
performance weeks, salary and benefits must be seen as temporary. We all
have to work together to move forward and regenerate Indiana’s full-time
major symphony orchestra.

The ISO musicians want to be a part of the solution. It is an opportunity
for the organization to rebuild financially and return the orchestra to the
level we once held.

Recently, the ISO announced it had raised $8.5 million, which included $5.4
million from new donors. The ISO musicians played an unprecedented role in
helping raise the funds deemed necessary by our board for a long-term
contract to take effect. Under the leadership of percussionist Paul Berns,
the musicians worked hand-in-hand with our board and management to attract
new donors and engage our existing supporters.

To those who supported the ISO during this critical time, you have our
heartfelt appreciation. You have been essential to keeping your musicians on
the stage, playing the music we all love.

The ISO musicians are hopeful as we move forward. We are pleased to welcome new CEO Gary Ginstling to Indianapolis. We are energized to create music under the direction of Maestro Krysztof Urbanski, Maestro Jack Everly and
ensemble-in-residence Time for Three. We will continue to create an
unparalleled cultural experience for the people of Indiana.

Our community deserves no less.

Graef is assistant principal horn with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
and Orchestra Committee chairman.

A string of orchestral developments–MPR


A string of orchestral developments

Posted at 5:20 PM on February 19, 2013 by Euan Kerr (0 Comments)
Filed under: Music
If ever there was a day you needed a scorecard to follow the wrinkles of the Twin Cities two orchestral conflicts today was that day.
Early on came news that the American Federation of Musicians has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the Saint Paul Chamber Society, the formal name given to SPCO management.
A release from the AFM put it this way:”The SPCO has demanded the AFM agree to permit the unlimited use of all recorded audio and video content made since the inception of the orchestra in 1959, but the employer has repeatedly refused to identify the titles of the recorded works and the identities of the musicians and artists who performed the recordings. The AFM is the exclusive collective bargaining representative for electronic media services for SPCO musicians, and for all other union orchestras throughout the US and Canada.”
“Apparently, the SPCO board is more interested in withholding wages, health care, and pension benefits from the orchestra than answering questions about its contract demands,” said AFM International President Ray Hair. “Rather than nurture and protect an artistic treasure, the SPCO board has inflicted pain and suffering, destroying the lives of musicians who have brought beauty to the Twin Cities area for more than 50 years.”
It took SPCO management a while to respond to this, and before they did came the next orchestral nugget: the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will play two concerts tomorrow in Forest Lake High School, under the baton of Assistant Principal Bass William Schrickel who is an experienced conductor with both the Minnesota Orchestra and the St Cloud Orchestra. The Young People’s Concerts replace similar events cancelled as part of the ongoing dispute between management and musicians.
“One of the most devastating things about this lockout is the impact it has had on our educational concerts. The musicians feel it is vital that we do whatever we can reach as many kids as possible while this lockout continues, and we’re happy to bring music to the entire state of Minnesota again.” Principal cellist Tony Ross said in a release.

Even as the dust was settling on that announcement, Interim SPCO President Dobson West put out more news in another release to SPCO patrons:
“As you’ll recall, we asked the Musicians for a response to our recent play and talk proposal by yesterday at 5 p.m. We did receive a response from them in the form of a request for further information. In this response they also agreed to additional in-person meetings. Last night we provided answers to their questions and offered to resume meetings next Monday, February 25. We look forward to continuing the discussions and remain hopeful that we are making progress toward a solution.”
This is actually a much simplified account of what happened. Musicians, who initially questioned whether the management was offering a true play and talk proposal where musicians present concerts while negotiations continue, responded with no fewer than five pages of questions. It’s indicative of how many issues are yet to be resolved. The musicians also asked for management to respond to some of their suggestions which have not yet been discussed.
The ball is now back in the musicians court, and they have yet to formally respond to today’s offer. However last week they offered to meet with management at any time after Thursday 21st at any time in an effort to prevent the cancellation of more concerts, so it seems likely they will agree to meet next week.
It was only later in the afternoon that the SPCO management responded with a statement about the AFM complaint.
“The SPCO views electronic media as a means of furthering its long-term commitment to reach as many people as possible through its music. Electronic media covers a variety of topics, from our Minnesota Public Radio broadcasts to our innovative free online Listening Library. With the longstanding support of its musicians, the SPCO has been a leader among orchestras in reaching new audiences through media.”

“We have consistently requested that the American Federation of Musicians bargain with us over issues important to our negotiations for a new contract. The AFM has refused to do so and its actions in this regard violate the Union’s duty to bargain in good faith under the National Labor Relations Act. We look forward to presenting our case to the NLRB and expect our position will be fully vindicated.”
In an interview with MPR the AFM’s Ray Hair said he expects the NLRB will gather information and decide whether to act upon the complaint within 45 days, unless there are developments in the meantime which change the situation.

AFM charges St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Society with unfair labor practices

New York, NY – The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) filed Unfair Labor Practice charges today with Region 18 of the National Labor Relations Board in Minneapolis against the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) Society for failing to provide relevant information and for refusing to bargain in good faith toward a successor agreement covering SPCO musicians.

The SPCO has demanded the AFM agree to permit the unlimited use of all recorded audio and video content made since the inception of the orchestra in 1959, but the employer has repeatedly refused to identify the titles of the recorded works and the identities of the musicians and artists who performed the recordings. The AFM is the exclusive collective bargaining representative for electronic media services for SPCO musicians, and for all other union orchestras throughout the US and Canada. For other subjects of bargaining, SPCO musicians are also represented by the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union, AFM Local 30-­‐ 73. A lockout imposed by the organization’s Board of Directors will enter its fifth month on Thursday. The other major Twin Cities orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, was locked out by its employer at midnight, October 1, 2012.

“Apparently, the SPCO board is more interested in withholding wages, health care, and pension benefits from the orchestra than answering questions about its contract demands,” said AFM International President Ray Hair. “Rather than nurture and protect an artistic treasure, the SPCO board has inflicted pain and suffering, destroying the lives of musicians who have brought beauty to the Twin Cities area for more than 50 years.”

“We have been locked out for 125 days,” said SPCO bassoonist Carole Mason Smith. “During that time, we have spent many hours in the unemployment lines. Some of us have sold our homes and moved out of the community we love.”

Public information documents obtained by the AFM have revealed that total SPCO assets stood at $44.5 million on June 30, 2011, an increase of $2 million over the prior year.


Founded in 1896, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM), AFL-­‐CIO, is the largest organization in the world dedicated to representing the interests of professional musicians. With more than

90,000 members, the AFM represents all types of professional musicians, including those who record music for sound recordings, film scores, videogames, radio, television and commercial announcements, as well as perform music of every genre in every sort of venue from small jazz clubs to symphony orchestra halls to major stadiums. Whether negotiating fair agreements, protecting ownership of recorded music, securing benefits such as health care and pension, or lobbying legislators, the AFM is committed to raising industry standards and placing the professional musician in the foreground of the cultural landscape. For more information, contact the main number at (212) 869-­‐ 1330 or visit the Web site at http://www.afm.org.

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