Cellist Yells at Cloud

I’m supposed to be practicing.

Three very bad things happened today, and because of them i’m in a bit of a funk, and focusing on scales, octaves, and cadenzas just aren’t happening right now. Those three things are:

1. One year after the Minnesota Orchestral Association locked out its musicians, Osmo Vanska announced his resignation as Music Director.

2. The US House of Representatives, in an attempt to change an already existing law, has chosen to shut down the government in an attempt to win a futile battle over the Health Care Law. Yes, LAW.

3. NY City Opera announces it is filing for bankruptcy.


I have kept myself out of the fray on these topics, not because I am ambivalent, but because so many have written and spoken so eloquently on these topics. Maybe its the doomsday feeling, or just that they all happened at once, but I feel that I have to get this off my chest. I doubt many people will read this, but  I have that “old man yells at cloud” feeling, and I think that old men yell at clouds for a reason.


The doomsday thoughts about MNOrch have been with me for a very long while; as far back as January of this year I can remember having conversations with Alyssa along the lines of “this won’t end well.” With Osmo’s resignation, it can’t end well. Mr. Henson and the Board of the MOA have been so paralyzed by their own self preservation that, with Osmo as a bargaining chip, upholding the artistic integrity – the sole purpose and product of the organization – is less urgent than that of having their demands met.

As a student at St. Olaf, I was fortunate enough to get to know the orchestra, both at Orchestra Hall and when they came and played on campus. A performance of Beethoven’s 4th Symphony still sticks with me as one of the greatest live orchestral performances I have ever heard – counting them only among Boston, and the Concertgebouw. The sheer fact that the MOA is allowing this product to be squandered is evidence enough that the Minnesota Orchestra as we know it will not emerge from this.

Since those doomsday thoughts arose I still was (and am) confident that the musicians of the orchestra will survive. They are an amazing group of people who will continue, in some form, to produce exceptional concerts, and I am certain that they will be successful.

They are the real casualties of this ordeal; during this lockout (and government shutdown) the leaders still get paid as their organization (and government) continue to lose money; it is the musicians – the product – that are left to fend for themselves.

What continues to nag me is that those with power (Mr. Henson, House Repubs) willingly refuse to perform their basic duties of governing and producing an artistic product for the sake of retaining their own (real or perceived) power. Their refusal to listen to the people who elected them and, in the case of the MN Orchestra, attend their concerts, makes me want to start a communist uprising. That is, a communist uprising where democratically elected officials actually govern and the leaders of arts organizations actually produce art.

Who’s with me?