Letter from Lisa Renee Ragsdale, 11/6

To Whom it May Concern:

Right now the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are dealing with a lockout of both the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra by their respective managements.  What is so truly maddening is that the management of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is not “managing” the Orchestra at all, but trying to turn them into a work force that looks more like what a factory might use to train new workers to do their jobs followed by being fired.

If there were an artistic director for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, or even someone on the board of directors who had experience working with an arts organization, it would be obvious to them that this situation is untenable. When I moved to Minnesota in 1999 I came here for the arts organizations, especially the abundance of music making. As a composer myself, I quickly came to appreciate the SPCO and their tendency to incorporate new music on a regular basis. As one formerly involved in arts administration as well as being a composer, I initially felt that things were pretty well under control with the people of both the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra.

However, here we are 13 years later and both the SPCO management and the Minnesota Orchestra have invested heavily on new, and / or modified venues. Apparently someone gave no thought whatsoever to their musicians. Was this planned to coincide with musicians’ contracts ending? Or was this just one of those “accidental misfortunes” that seem to happen when no plans were made at all?  As the saying  goes; “Failing to plan is Planning to fail.” What is needed for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is a leader who can work with musicians and the board to compromise and to understand that you do not treat artists like machine tools in a factory. This is not strictly a matter of money. Yes, money is part of the problem, but there is a much larger problem here. Please let us get some cooler heads with arts administration experience into the board of the SPCO before there is no Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Lisa Renee Ragsdale