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Wednesday January 25, 2023

Minnesota Orchestra Shares Artistic Highlights and Operating Results for 2021-22 Season

The 2021-22 season encompassed both the conclusion of Osmo Vänskä’s celebrated 19-year tenure as music director and the announcement of Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård as the Orchestra’s next music director.

In a season that saw the return of weekly concerts, the Orchestra significantly reduced its deficit and increased net assets over the prior season.

The Board of Directors has elected Nancy E. Lindahl as chair, succeeding Joseph T. Green in the role.

The Minnesota Orchestra today released its operating results for the organization’s 2021-22 season, a year running from September 2021 to August 2022 in which the Orchestra bade farewell to Music Director Osmo Vänskä through 10 months of special concerts and initiatives; returned to its Mahler Symphonies recording project for the first time since the pandemic began; unrolled Summer at Orchestra Hall, a new July and August festival lighting up downtown Minneapolis; and introduced Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård as its 11th music director. As the organization rebounded from the most challenging period of the pandemic with a return to weekly concerts, it reduced its operating loss to $655,575 and increased its net assets to reach $183 million, according to audited results.

At the Board of Director’s January 19 meeting, Life Director Nancy E. Lindahl was elected chair of the board, succeeding Joseph T. Green, who completed a two-year term.

“Two years ago, we were facing a different reality,” said Green. “The Orchestra was offering concerts in our Digital Concert Hall but we weren’t able to seat in-person audiences. We were in the middle of a music director search, but we weren’t able to invite guest conductors to appear, and we were facing one of the greatest financial challenges in the organization’s history. The 2021-22 season marked a turning point, bringing a gradual easing of pandemic precautions and a return to performances for in-person audiences. With audiences returning to the concert hall and donors showing remarkable generosity, the Orchestra has continued to make steady progress in emerging from the pandemic with our financial position solid and our connection to this community stronger than ever. It has been my honor to serve the organization through this period.”

Said incoming Board Chair Nancy Lindahl, “I am inspired by the mission of the Orchestra and awed by the music, and it is my great privilege to chair the board as we look to write the next chapter in the Orchestra’s story. There is so much joy and magnificence in this art form, and I look forward to exploring the many ways in which we can bring new friends into the fold.”

Lindahl’s own history with the Orchestra runs deep. Chair of the 1994 Symphony Ball, she joined the Board in 1998, served as honorary co-chair of the 2010 Symphony Ball, was named a Life Director in 2016 and co-chaired the President Search Committee in 2018. Founder of Creative Strategies, Lindahl previously worked as a teacher and community affairs director for KARE-TV.


Artistic Report

“It was gratifying to see audiences return so enthusiastically in the 2021-22 season and touching to hear how much Osmo and the Orchestra have meant to many over the last two decades,” said President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “Artistically, the 2021-22 season offered us a rare chance to look both backward and forward, and we witnessed a beautiful lineage in the passing of the baton from Osmo Vänskä to Thomas Søndergård.” The Orchestra performed 110 concerts for in-person audiences; 11 of those performances were also offered as part of the This Is Minnesota Orchestra series for TV, radio and online streaming audiences. Milestones of the season included:

  • A season-long celebration of Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s 19-year tenure, including opening concerts with superstar violinist Joshua Bell; a mid-season Sibelius Festival showcasing all seven of the composer’s symphonies and two versions of his Violin Concerto with Elina Vähälä; a MusicMakers concert featuring works by seven of the nation’s top emerging composers as the capstone to the week-long Composer Institute; and a large-scale finale featuring Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand with the combined forces of seven vocal soloists and four choirs;
  • A return to recording, with Vänskä and the Orchestra collaborating with BIS Records to record both Mahler’s Eighth and Ninth symphonies as part of the organization’s initiative to record all ten Mahler symphonies;
  • The Orchestra’s first-ever Lunar New Year celebration, conducted by Junping Qian and featuring performances by Assistant Concertmaster Rui Du, Peking Opera virtuoso duo Zhengang Xie and Mei Hu, and pipa player Gao Hong, who performed the world premiere of her own concerto Guangxi Impression, among other soloists;
  • The Minnesota premiere of composer Joel Thompson’s moving cantata Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which sets the words of seven Black men who were killed by police and other authority figures in the U.S. In conjunction with the performances, which featured the Minnesota Chorale, 29:11 and Twin Cities choral partners, the George Floyd Global Memorial installed an exhibit, Everything is Someone’s Offering, in the Orchestra Hall lobby—sharing a touching collection of offerings that were given to the space at 38th and Chicago in response to George Floyd’s murder;
  • A June concert collaboration with the Sphinx Virtuosi, the Sphinx Organization’s flagship performing entity. Comprising 18 Black and Latinx classical soloists, the group played chamber works by Xavier Foley and Alberto Ginastera, and performed alongside Orchestra musicians in a world premiere of the late Finnish composer Jaakko Kuusisto’s Symphony;
  • The Brilliance Ball, marking the first in-person Symphony Ball in three years, chaired by Lisa and Bruce Paradis and featuring Grammy-nominated guitarist Cory Wong in a performance with the Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä;
  • Performances with Minnesota-based indie rock band Cloud Cult, led by Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall Sarah Hicks, that were also offered as a livestream, radio broadcast on The Current and television broadcast on Twin Cities PBS; hosted by actor-writer Josh Radnor, the broadcast was subsequently honored with a 2022 Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award in the Long Form Entertainment category.
  • Eleven performances released as part of the Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall, in partnership with Twin Cities PBS and YourClassical MPR. Performances featured artists from pianists Ingrid Fliter, Jon Kimura Parker and Juho Pohjonen to conductors Karina Canellakis and Thomas Søndergård, among others, and brought audiences closer to the music and musicians. Sarah Hicks led a special online Young People’s Concert featuring a collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota that has been viewed more than 11,000 times to-date. In total, these digital concerts have received over 300,000 digital and broadcast views during the 2021-22 season.
  • The launch of Summer at Orchestra Hall, a redesigned summer season featuring performances indoors and out that drew 25,000 people to downtown Minneapolis over four weeks in July and August. Curated by pianist and Creative Partner Jon Kimura Parker, the programming explored “The Beethoven Influence” and featured collaborations with BRKFST Dance Company, The Moving Company, City of Bells, The Cedar Cultural Center and In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre; and
  • Two revelatory sets of performances with Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård, one featuring Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben and the other Claude Debussy’s La Mer, that ultimately led to a July 2022 announcement of Søndergård as the Minnesota Orchestra’s next music director. He begins his new role with the start of the 2023-24 season.

“The 2021-22 season was pivotal in so many ways. We returned to full-time, live performances for our enthusiastic audiences, saw a passing of the baton from Osmo Vänskä to Thomas Søndergård, welcomed several new musicians into the Orchestra, and came out of the pandemic with renewed energy and focus on the future,” said bass clarinetist Timothy Zavadil, chair of the Minnesota Orchestra Members’ Committee. “We could not be more grateful to our entire board for their enduring support, to the staff and management for their tireless efforts, and to our audiences for coming back and seeing us again every week. We thank Osmo Vänskä for his nearly two decades of dedication to the organization, and we look forward to continuing the legacy of the Minnesota Orchestra in partnership with our new Music Director Thomas Søndergård.”


Financial Report

The Orchestra reduced its operating loss from $6.3 million in Fiscal 2021 to $655,575 in Fiscal 2022, and its overall financial position held strong with total net assets increasing by $3 million over the prior year to reach $183 million.

The return to a full season of performances brought operating revenue back to more typical levels, although facility rentals and food and beverage sales continued to be limited at Orchestra Hall due to COVID-19 precautions. Total operating revenue for Fiscal 2022 reached $8.2 million, compared to Fiscal 2021 when the Orchestra only performed 13 ticketed concerts and brought in total operating revenue of $661,735. Total audience capacity for the 2021-22 season reached 79 percent, not yet returning to pre-pandemic levels, but indicating a steady return of concertgoers.

Philanthropic giving continued to be foundational to the Orchestra’s successful operations. Total contributions—comprising annual fund donations, major gifts, Symphony Ball gifts, trust distributions and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG)—reached $28.8 million in Fiscal 2022, compared to $18.3 million in the previous year. The increase in contributions was driven by an increase in major gifts and federal SVOG funding through the Save Our Stages Act that continued to provide critical support in a season still marked by COVID-19 uncertainties. More than 14,000 donors gave financial gifts to the Orchestra in Fiscal 2022.

Total expenses were $39 million in Fiscal 2022, reflecting a return to more regular operations; in the prior year expenses were lower ($27 million) due to organization-wide salary reductions and the limited number of performances.

“Thanks to loyal audiences and extraordinary donor generosity, we have been able to maintain consistent year-over-year fiscal improvements,” said Burns. “We will continue to move forward in the season ahead to increase both earned and contributed revenues as part of our financial plan—and to build connections with music lovers across our communities as part of our artistic aspirations.”


Minnesota Orchestral Association Election Results

Directors elected to a first term: Annie Betts, Rochelle Blease, Shamayne Braman, Mark Copman, John F. Farrell, Jr., Karen Grandstrand, Teresa Mogensen, Thomas Newton, Cindy Olmanson, Michael Roos, Timothy Welsh

Re-elected Directors (second term): Darren Acheson, Roma Calatayud-Stocks, John W. Dayton, Jerome D. Hamilton, Jr., Lloyd Kepple, Leni Moore, Brian Tilzer, Laysha Ward

Re-elected Directors (third term): Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., Douglas M. Baker, Jr., Evan Carruthers, Tim Geoffrion, Michael Lindsay, William B. Miller, Mary Sumners

Ex-Officio Directors: Michelle Miller Burns, Julie Haight-Curran, Nan Nelson

Life Directors: Margaret A. Bracken, Anne W. Miller

Executive Committee: Nancy E. Lindahl; Darren Acheson, Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D, Michelle Miller Burns, Roma Calatayud-Stocks, Evan Carruthers, Yvonne Cheek, Ph.D, Barbara Gold, M.D., Luella G. Goldberg, Joseph T. Green, Laurie Hodder Greeno, Jerome D. Hamilton, Jr., Kathy Junek, Lloyd Kepple, Michael J. Klingensmith, Mary G. Lawrence, M.D., Michael A. Lindsay, Patrick G. Mahoney, Kita McVay, Anne W. Miller, William P. Miller, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Michael Roos, Brian Tilzer


Chair Nancy E. Lindahl
Vice Chair  Laurie Hodder Greeno
Vice Chair  Jerome D. Hamilton, Jr.
Vice Chair  Michael J. Klingensmith
Vice Chair  William P. Miller
Officer At Large Kita McVay
Secretary Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph. D.
Treasurer Evan Carruthers
Immediate Past Chair  Joseph T. Green
President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns


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