Letter to Governor Dayton from Nils C Halker II

Dear Governor Dayton,

Cc: Representative John Lesch

Senator John Marty

I am writing again to urge you to use your good offices and influence to end the lockouts of two of our great cultural institutions, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.  I am a life-long patron of both orchestras, and believe they are among the great treasures of our state.  And with every passing day I fear that we are coming closer to losing both.

These orchestras are economic and cultural assets; the musicians are wage earners who live and pay taxes in our state, they buy goods and services in our communities, their children go to school with our children.  They are our neighbors.

I am a season ticket holder and a now former sustaining donor to the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as a past contributor and regular audience member at concerts by the SPCO.  I began attending concerts as a child, and now I take my children to young people’s concerts, and both my children have also gone to concerts as part of school field trips.  Before nearly every concert I attend with my wife, we eat at a nearby restaurant, we park in a municipal parking ramp, we may go out after the concert, and we pay a babysitter to watch our children.  Multiply that effect by the eight to ten concerts we attend per season and extrapolate it to the many other patrons who do likewise and it is clear that the vitality of the Twin Cities owe much to both orchestras.

In many press reports these lockouts are being described as labor disputes; I would argue that these are not labor disputes but rather colossal management failures.  I am dismayed by the actions and words of the both orchestra boards and management, and am at a loss to understand why both have decided that the only solution is devastating austerity.  Both Mr. Henson and Mr. West are displaying catastrophic single-mindedness in their unwillingness to engage in creative dialogue to seek artistically sustainable solutions.  Messrs. Henson and West both appear to have decided that there is only one right answer to the financial challenges that face both organizations, but it is rare in this complex world that there ever is only one right answer; if we only show some imagination, creativity, and willingness to listen we often will discover many possible solutions.

I am shocked that the board and management rejected the musician’s request for audited financial reports and offer to submit to binding arbitration. I am shocked at Messrs. Hensen and Bond’s apparent contempt for the opinions of Neville Mariner, Edo de Wart, Osmo Vänskä, Stansilaw Skrowaczeski, and Pinchas Zucherman, Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Minneapolis City Council, as well as of the literally thousands of Minnesotans who attended concerts earlier this season and who have purchased tickets to attend upcoming concerts staged by the musicians of both orchestras.

As a patron of the arts who has no interest in professional sports, I must tell you that the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are for me what makes the Twin Cities and Minnesota great.  I urge you to put the same amount of effort into helping end these lockouts as you did into building stadiums for professional sports franchises.

Yours sincerely,

Nils C Halker II