National Art News
A weak economy, compounding the longstanding challenge of a dwindling audience, have brought about a massive identity crisis in the classical music world. Orchestras have high overhead costs, and they simply aren't as popular as they once were. 'We see them going, one after another, either into a wall, or to war,' says classical music writer Norman Lebrecht (one of whose books is titled The Life and Death of Classical Music). Lebrecht blames many of the problems on poor management and the fact that 'both sides are frightened of change.'
Negotiations for a new contract began last April in the Twin Cities, but the two sides can't seem to reach any agreement. The management contends that it has cut costs by laying off administrative staff and reducing their pay, among other measures. 'We've been very transparent with the musicians about these challenges for the last several years,' said Minnesota Orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson. 'To continue operating at these losses would not be sensible.'
Musicians' salaries—which ate up nearly half of the orchestra's $32 million budget last year—are a huge part of the equation. The players make $135,000 on average, not including benefits that include insurance policies for their valuable instruments, plus up to 26 weeks paid sick leave (to protect injured players) and 10 weeks paid vacation leave."