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Friday June 19, 2020

Minnesota Orchestra and Musicians Outline Cooperative Actions to Contain Costs During COVID-19 Pandemic

Organization-wide salary reductions take effect at the end of June

Digital initiatives continue to connect Minnesota Orchestra and audiences at minnesotaorchestra.org/athome

The Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians today announced that musicians have volunteered to temporarily reduce their salaries by 20 percent, as part of a series of compensation reductions across the organization to contain costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall salary reductions, which impact all full-time employees, will take effect at the end of June. Minnesota Orchestra At Home, a host of new digital initiatives launched by the Orchestra this spring to connect virtually with audiences, families and students during the pandemic, will continue without pause.

The salary reductions will be tiered throughout the organization and run through the end of the fiscal year, with Music Director Osmo Vänskä and President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns taking a 30% reduction; musicians and administrative leadership team members taking a 20% reduction; and all other full-time staff taking reductions at a lower level. 194 part-time events staff members have been on hiatus since the Orchestra stopped performing in mid-March and will only return to active schedules when the Orchestra is able to resume concerts. Orchestra musicians had previously agreed to re-arrange and reduce contracted vacation weeks. All full-time musicians and staff will continue to receive full health-care benefits.

“Taking care of Orchestra employees as best we can is our priority in the pandemic, and we are grateful that the Orchestra received funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program that allowed us to fully compensate full-time musician and staff employees for a period of time,” said President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “As we implement cost containment strategies for the duration of the fiscal year, I am gratified by the leadership role that musicians played in coming forward to contribute to the effort. These are trying times and difficult measures, and our colleagues in the Orchestra and on staff have responded with great understanding and support.”

“The musicians want to express our sincere thanks to board members and donors for their ongoing support,” said Musicians’ Negotiating Committee Chair Tim Zavadil, “and to acknowledge the hard work of our staff colleagues who have been great partners in re-imagining our work in the digital sphere and on so many other projects. We know these salary reductions are necessary for the longer-term viability of the Orchestra as our organization navigates this unprecedented situation, and musicians are committed to doing our part. Mostly, we cannot wait to perform for our audiences again, and we look forward to thanking them in person for their support.”

New programming on digital platforms continues 

The Minnesota Orchestra last performed at Orchestra Hall on Friday, March 13—a concert that was played without an in-person audience for radio broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. Despite not being able to gather since then due to pandemic restrictions, the Orchestra has maintained an active schedule, pivoting to connect with audiences through new programming on digital platforms. Digital projects and releases include: 

  • More than 30 “at-home” performances (with more on the way) from Orchestra musicians, recorded from living rooms and home studios;
  • A compilation video with Dessa and the Orchestra featuring a “lock-down” edition of her hit single Skeleton Key;
  • Osmo Vänskä leading musicians in the popular graduation march, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, as a free video and audio download for schools to use in 2020 virtual commencement ceremonies. (To date, more than 1,000 people have registered for the download from across Minnesota, the U.S. and the globe, spanning countries from Canada to Ghana);
  • Sound Check, an informal weekly opportunity to chat online live with Orchestra musicians and learn about upcoming Minnesota Orchestra radio broadcasts on Classical MPR;
  • A variety of educational programming, ranging from “Practice Tips from a Pro” videos geared for advanced student musicians to family-friendly music activities for younger listeners. July digital programming will focus on education activities designed for family audiences.

In April, the Orchestra restructured the remainder of its 2019-2020 season to move a set of spring concerts into August and early September. The organization will announce in early July if any changes will be made to that revised concert calendar based on the latest health and safety restrictions. 

Said Board Chair Margaret A. Bracken, “This is a resilient organization, and we are witnessing that resolve from the Minnesota Orchestra in many forms: from our leadership, musicians and staff who are adapting their work and taking salary cuts to help protect the institution; from our dedicated donors who continue to support the organization and its ‘At-Home’ initiatives; and from our audiences who have donated tickets to cancelled concerts, purchased subscriptions for next season and committed to joining the Orchestra when it is able to perform together again. This significant support will help the Minnesota Orchestra emerge with strength on the other side of the pandemic.”