Legislative Testimony

Carole Mason Smith testified before the Minnesota Legislature this afternoon. Here is her testimony.

Chairman Atkins and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

The Musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are very grateful for your interest in this issue, and we are hopeful that you can help us get back to work – get back to doing what we love…and that is playing world-class orchestral music for our loyal audiences here in Minnesota.

In addition to being a member of the musician’s Negotiating Committee, I have been playing the bassoon with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than three (3) decades.  Over the years, we have had our share of contract challenges, but, working collaboratively with Management, we were always able to overcome our differences. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.

We are sad. We are disappointed. And we are frustrated by the negotiations. In addition to giving back more than $2 million in salary concessions over the last 10 years, we have made several concessionary offers, including our latest proposal, delivered yesterday to our Management- a framework for an agreement through 2016 which would save the Management $3.6 million… $4.6 Million, when we include the spending saved if the lockout were to actually end on Feb. 8.   Unfortunately, Management has canceled concerts through March 23rd, which while decreasing their costs even more, will increase the damage done to these Musicians and their families.

We have previously agreed to play more concerts and be paid less money, but that was not enough. Management wanted to cut more.

Management wants fewer musicians, more artistic control and lower salaries. Combined, these changes could cut the heart out of the Orchestra. Today Musicians will agree to go from 34 to 28 players, but only if Management commits to giving us a real voice in decisions about the rebuilding of our complement…having no background or experience, this interim management does not have the ability to make those decisions alone, and without Musician input, the ability to recruit and retain world-class musicians will be impossible.

We propose a Committee of 7 members, our Concert-master, 3 Musicians and 3 Management… a committee to decide the artistic future of the Jewel of St. Paul, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

We await Management’s response to this latest proposal.  It could allow us to get back to making music within the framework of a play and talk format… to settle major issues of pay and the number of musicians so Management can sustainably control costs.

For the record, as of today we have been locked out 93 days. During that time, we have spent many hours in the State of Minnesota’s unemployment offices. We have spent a great deal of time looking for new jobs and even for new careers. Several of us are no longer working as professional musicians and some of us have sold our homes and moved out of the community we love.

I speak for all the Musicians of the SPCO when I repeat we want to be part of the solution. We want to return to the stage, and make music for our community.  We want our Management to end this lockout, even while we continue to talk through any remaining contract differences.

Thank you, Chairman Atkins and members of the Committee.