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As Vänskä Leaves, So Does Urgency Around Future Negotiations

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota Orchestra’s famed conductor quit Tuesday, less than 24 hours after talks collapsed and two high profile concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall were canceled.

The departure of Osmo Vänskä means the lockout of the musicians, which hit the one-year mark on Tuesday, will continue indefinitely.

Orchestra musicians held a rally Tuesday outside Orchestra Hall, saying they want a new contract. But the sides are very far apart.

The musicians’ last offer was for 4 percent pay cuts; the Orchestra Board’s last offer was for phased-in cuts that would hit 25 percent in the third year, and a $20,000 signing bonus.

The impasse means the lockout is expected to continue well into next year.

“As far as the musicians are concerned, this is an incredibly sad day for us,” said clarinetist Tim Zavadil, who played with the other musicians Tuesday at Hopkins High School, without Vänskä.

The famed conductor’s resignation removes the urgency around any future talks. It was Vänskä who had set the deadline of Monday for both sides to reach an agreement. He had threatened to resign if a deal was not reached in time for the Carnegie Hall performances. And while both sides remain very far apart, both insist they want a deal.

“We would still like to find a settlement that could keep this orchestra great and still serve this community,” said cellist Tony Ross.

Jon Campbell, the Chair of the Minnesota Orchestra Board, says the administration can’t pay what the musicians want. He made it clear that the orchestra’s $22 million in deficits over three seasons means any deal will have to include significant salary cuts.

“I’d like to be the highest paid, too,” he said, “but the reality is we can do what the community can afford.”

While musicians criticize the $50 million renovation of Orchestra Hall, the Board Chair strongly defended it.

Campbell said now acts that couldn’t play in the Hall before can rent the facility and concession revenues will be increased.

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