Update browser for a secure Minnesota Orchestra experience

It looks like you may be using a web browser version that we don't support. Make sure you're using the most recent version of your browser, or try using of these supported browsers, to get the full Minnesota Orchestra experience: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge.

From Our Community

Paying Tribute

Douglas Leatherdale was instrumental in helping to recruit Osmo Vänskä as Minnesota Orchestra Music Director.

In honor of Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s final celebratory season as Minnesota Orchestra music director, philanthropist Louise Leatherdale is donating a $1 million gift to bring to life Vänskä’s vision in the year ahead—generosity that the Orchestra will seek to match with a $1 million community initiative.

Louise Leatherdale and her late husband Douglas, a Minnesota Orchestra life director and former CEO of the St. Paul Companies (now Travelers), have been steadfast champions of Vänskä’s work. When Doug Leatherdale was named chair of the Orchestra board in December 2000 he outlined the organization’s top goal—to hire an extraordinary music director—and he proved instrumental in helping to recruit Vänskä to Minnesota a year later. They formed a bond from the start, nurtured by a mutual love of hockey.

Doug and I had great faith in Osmo. It gave us great pleasure to support his vision for the organization.”

Louise Leatherdale

Manitoba to Minneapolis

Doug Leatherdale’s earliest connection to the Minnesota Orchestra began thirty-some years before Vänskä’s arrival in Minneapolis. A native of Manitoba, Canada—where he was born during a blizzard and attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse—Leatherdale launched a career in investment banking after attending Winnipeg’s United College (now the University of Winnipeg). He moved to Minneapolis in 1968, initially accepting a position as an investment manager, and several years later was invited to sit on the Orchestra’s Investment Committee as an outside expert. Leatherdale advised board leaders on a novel way of financing Orchestra Hall, a move that helped paved the way for the opening of the new venue in 1974.

Joining the Orchestra board in 1980, Leatherdale became a steadfast presence, leading a $50 million endowment fund drive in the mid-1990s, serving as vice chair and ultimately as chair of the board when the Orchestra was searching for its next musical leader.

“When we were looking for a new director, Doug was in charge, and we looked all around the world, through all kinds of contacts,” said David J. Hyslop, who served as president of the Orchestra at the time. “We heard Osmo and liked what we heard. As board chair, Doug kept the search committee focused, which was not an easy thing. We wanted to make sure the fit with Osmo was good, not just with music-making but with this community. Doug played a big role in bringing him here, because Osmo felt comfortable with him.”


In the early 2000s, with Vänskä in place as the organization’s tenth music director, a new opportunity arose. A collection of fine string basses—made by some of the most revered instrument makers in the world—became available. The Leatherdales, alongside Ken and Judy Dayton, purchased the collection for the Orchestra.

“They are a museum-quality collection,” said Orchestra bass player Matthew Frischman. “The Orchestra’s bass section is known internationally for the depth and quality of its sound, and that is directly attributable to the quality of these instruments.”


The Leatherdales consistently stepped forward to support the Orchestra in multiple endeavors and campaigns over the last three decades, including through a $5 million gift made in 2015 to create the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Music Director Chair. That pivotal gift helped make possible some of the most memorable projects of Vänskä’s tenure, including a high-visibility 2016 performance at Carnegie Hall; the Music for Mandela 2018 tour to South Africa; and recording cycles of the symphonies of Sibelius and Mahler. In total, the Leatherdales have committed $8 million to support Music Director Osmo Vänskä and his special projects and initiatives.

For his part, Vänskä admired Doug Leatherdale’s openness. “He was always a listener. Sometimes people believe they know so much that they don’t need to listen. That’s not Doug. I think that it’s a great skill to listen to people who are involved.”

Doug Leatherdale died on his 79th birthday in 2015 and is recognized as a great booster of the Twin Cities. Louise Leatherdale sees her current gift as a continuation of her husband’s legacy. “Doug was an amazingly intelligent and caring man who loved music. He shared that with me, and he wanted to share it with other people too. He wanted to amplify Osmo’s vision.”

That vision will come to final fruition in the season ahead, as Osmo Vänskä leads his final season of concerts as music director.

Osmo Vänskä Tribute Initiative

The Orchestra is launching a season-long Osmo Vänskä Tribute Initiative, seeking to match the Leatherdale’s spirit of giving with additional community contributions to build a total of $2 million to honor Vänskä and support his final season. Minnesota Orchestra patrons will be invited to give a gift in any amount, as well as to share messages for Vänskä through the Orchestra’s website and through handwritten cards that will be provided. All these greetings will ultimately be delivered to Vänskä.

Support Osmo's Final Season