Letter of the day 9-22-2013

Today’s letter is part of an ongoing communication with a Minnesota Orchestral Association Board Member:

Thank you for your reply. And thank you for your volunteer work and generous donations to the Minnesota Orchestra. As a music lover and an elementary music teacher, I am grateful for the way past and current generations have nurtured the orchestra. My concern is that the direction set forth by the current management of the orchestra is short-sighted and will erode the artistic and financial health of the organization.

There are school music programs in our state and around the country that have seen a large increase in the number of students studying orchestral instruments. The affluence of the upper middle class has allowed many parents to pay for private lessons and youth orchestra dues. My son, a violist in his high school orchestra, a National Merit scholar and University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering graduate of the class of 2012 chose to stay in Minnesota for his education even though he was admitted to every other college he applied to, some of them private, very highly regarded institutions. He is employed as an engineer in a local firm. When he began his working life a year ago he planned to buy tickets to the orchestra and with other young friends, attend orchestra concerts regularly and become involved in the young adult group. He was so disappointed when the orchestra was locked out. I believe his story is the story of many young people of his generation. They have been exposed to great music and do not envision a future with a simply “regional” orchestra in this city. They know fine music and have heard the Minnesota Orchestra repeatedly at the height of its artistry under the baton of Osmo Vanska. The young people can become the future of the orchestra if you offer them a compelling musical experience. They know the difference. As Richard Florida has pointed out, talented young people cluster in metropolitan areas that offer outstanding quality of life.

While our generation can boast many noteworthy accomplishments, we are also leaving a number of complex problems for the next generation to resolve. The Minnesota Orchestra does not belong to the current generation, we are its stewards. I understand that the management and board believe that their plan will preserve an orchestra of some type for the future, but I submit that if this plan is followed, the product will be degraded, people will notice and the audience will contract, further exacerbating the current financial problems. If the leadership chooses to focus on becoming another entertainment and catering center rather than fulfilling the mission of presenting the world’s greatest music performed by artists of the highest caliber, the Minnesota Orchestra will become just another of many entertainment venues in this city, competing for a fraction of different clientele than the orchestra has historically attracted. Other cities such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Houston have discovered different ways of supporting top tier orchestras to the benefit of their region’s economies. Please do not let Minnesota become an also-ran.

Again, thank you for your service to the orchestra. Thank you for listening to a voice from the community. There are many of us out here who are counting on the board to partner with the artists to create a compelling vision for the future of world-class symphonic music in our city. I remain hopeful that the lockout will be ended and the partnership will begin.

Esther Cook

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4 Responses to Letter of the day 9-22-2013

  1. Marie Cooney says:

    Thank you for your insightful letter, Esther Cook. Although I do not have children of my own, I agree that we as an artistic community are stewards for the next and many more generations. Unfortunately, Hamons among us would rather totally destroy the musical legacy of generations. May the sons and daughters, friends and ambassadors, and past and future musicians prevail, as did Esther and Mordecai!

  2. Rich says:

    “The affluence of the upper middle class has allowed many parents to pay for private lessons and youth orchestra dues.” Here’s another issue that needs to be addressed: outreach and lack of diversity in local orchestral music. Everyone, regardless of their financial status, should be able to participate in orchestral music. I rarely ever see a person of color attending or performing in a MO concert.

  3. ssarich says:

    Excellent letter. If this situation is ever resolved satisfactorily and we get our orchestra back, I hope that SOS continues in some form to support the orchestra — maybe a “Friends of the Orchestra” group similar to “Friends of the Library” groups could be formed.


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