The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 26, 2013

Symphony sympathy: A Kato remedy

Why it matters: Twin Cities music lovers can stop suffering rom the year-long lockout of the Orchestra and enjoy a season with the Mankato Symphony


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Attention all classical music lovers in the Twin Cities. We feel your pain and we have a remedy.

We know you must be frustrated. The Minnesota Orchestra musicians have been out of work since October 2012, locked out by management over a salary dispute. It’s been like a long-running TV drama, only this is painfully real.

Six summer concerts scheduled for July and August were canceled. Musicians have told Minnesota Public Radio that as many as 20 players have decided to leave the orchestra for work elsewhere. The situation is so desperate former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, a Northern Ireland and Mideast peace negotiator, was brought in and apparently even he could not broker a deal.

Now, in the latest episode, music director Osmo Vanska said if the orchestra are not back in their seats by Sept 9, he’s packing up.

This has been a long-running serial with talks going back to April of 2012 when management proposed salary cuts of more than 30 percent in the wake of projections showing multi-million deficits. The musicians hesitated and management locked them out. Caught up in this tiff have been scores of music lovers throughout the state who lost a whole season.

Well, maybe not throughout the state, our metro brethren, and there lies a remedy to your long-running frustration.

Without taking sides in this issue, we did want to make you aware that the Mankato Symphony Orchestra is still alive and well and has been playing since it was organized in 1950 by the local Musicians Union, the State Teacher’s College, Gustavus Adolphus College and the Mankato Public Schools.

Since that time, the Mankato Symphony has featured musicians from around the state and the world, including occasional musicians from your metro orchestra and our Mankato musicians have subbed up there. Why even the Mankato music director is Kenneth Freed, a violist and assistant conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, appointed by Vanska.

So fellow Minnesotans, if you’re itching to fill that musical void, the Mankato Symphony Orchestra just opened up ticket sales for the 2013-14 season with an impressive lineup including the music of Sibelius and Brahms, a Christmas concert featuring Frank Babbitt of the Chicago Lyric Opera, world-renowned concert pianist Richard Kogan who will deconstruct Rachmaninoff and, finally, music by Latin American composers featuring Freed and, we’re told, a surprise artist who is well known in your neck of the woods.

We’ll keep the light on for you.