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Minnesota Orchestra extends contract with Music Director Osmo Vänskä and announces new agreement with musicians

Vänskä extends his commitment to Orchestra through August 2019; Musicians ratify new agreement through 2019-2020 season

Douglas and Louise Leatherdale honor Vänskä’s legacy with $5 million contribution; Ken and Betty Jayne Dahlberg Fund for Minnesota Orchestra Musicians helps to supports musician agreement with $1.5 million gift

The Minnesota Orchestra announced today that it has extended contract agreements with both Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Orchestra’s musicians—the latter 21 months in advance of the current contract’s expiration.   The Board approved the new agreements at a meeting earlier today, and musicians—who are members of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union (Local 30-73)—also ratified their three-and-a-half-year contract in a vote earlier today.

“Osmo Vänskä and Minnesota Orchestra musicians enjoy a remarkable partnership, and these agreements, negotiated simultaneously, will allow that partnership to flourish over the next four seasons,” said President and CEO Kevin Smith. “We are profoundly grateful to our donors who stepped forward to support Osmo’s legacy and the musicians’ agreement with such generosity.”

A $5 million gift from Life Director Douglas W. Leatherdale and his wife Louise, contributed over the next five years, will create the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Music Director Chair in honor of Osmo Vänskä, intended to help support Vänskä’s vision for the Orchestra, including international touring, recording and fostering the artistic growth of the ensemble.

A $1.5 million gift from Betty Jayne Dahlberg will help support the Minnesota Orchestra musicians’ agreement through the Ken and Betty Jayne Dahlberg Fund for the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians. Said Board Chair Warren Mack, “Our board and community members have stepped forward to demonstrate their belief in the Minnesota Orchestra. These gifts will make a difference in the life of the Orchestra.”

Vänskä, whose current contract expires at the end of the 2015-16 season, will lead the Orchestra for a minimum of 12 weeks each season, according to the terms of a new three-year agreement that extends through August 31, 2019.

“Last week, we shared great music with the people of Cuba and it was a very unifying and humbling experience for us,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä. “I feel now more than ever, Minnesota is my musical home. We still have work to do together and many projects I am excited to pursue. I am grateful to continue working with these remarkable musicians and this exceptional community.”

Musicians and management have met quietly since February, seeking to establish a new agreement well in advance of the current contract’s expiration on February 1, 2017. “Reaching an early and amicable agreement with musicians sends an important message to our community that stability and labor harmony are restored at the Orchestra and our organization is facing the future with a shared purpose and agreed-on direction,” said Smith, who led the negotiations for management with General Manager Beth Kellar-Long. “We greatly appreciate the efforts of our musician colleagues and thank them for their collaboration in this process.”

“This agreement represents a real vote of confidence in the future direction of this Orchestra,” said Tim Zavadil, clarinetist and chair of the Musicians’ Negotiating Committee. “We are grateful to our Board and staff for all their efforts, and we are so pleased with the collaborative and cooperative process that led to our being able to ratify a new agreement nearly two years ahead of schedule.” Along with Zavadil, musician representatives on the team were Sam Bergman, Kathy Kienzle, Marcia Peck and Douglas Wright.      

The terms of the three-and-a-half-year contract include:

  • Increases in members’ minimum weekly salary from $1,967 in 2016-17 to $2,127 by the end of the contract in 2019-20. This represents a 2.5 percent increase in 2017-18; 2.75 percent increase in 2018-19; and 3% percent in 2019-20.
  • An agreed-on schedule to fill positions in the Orchestra, with the number of players increasing from 84 in 2016-17 to 88 by the final year of the contract.
  • A number of work rule modifications that allow for greater flexibility in scheduling rehearsals, touring and offering educational outreach concerts. The contract also includes a new provision that allows musicians and management to work beyond the rules of the agreement without concern for establishing precedent, if agreed to by both parties.

“Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra have enjoyed an electric chemistry from the start of Osmo’s tenure in 2003, and this partnership seems only to grow stronger, as is evidenced by their extraordinary performances and experiences in Havana last week,” said Board Chair Mack. “These contract agreements signify a common vision among music director, musicians, Board and management and establish a solid foundation for the next phase in the Minnesota Orchestra’s life.”

Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä joined the Minnesota Orchestra as its tenth music director in 2003.  During his tenure, he has led the Minnesota Orchestra to new heights, including conducting the ensemble in four major European tours, regular tours to communities across Minnesota and an historic visit to Cuba for two performances in Havana.  The recording projects he has undertaken with the Minnesota Orchestra have also met with great success.  In January 2014 their recording of Sibelius’ First and Fourth Symphonies won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance; a year earlier their previous album, Sibelius’ Second and Fifth Symphonies, had drawn a Grammy nomination.   Vänskä is also the principal guest conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra.  He began his career as a clarinetist, holding major posts with the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Turku Philharmonic.

The Minnesota Orchestra, now in its second century, has long ranked among America’s top symphonic ensembles, with a distinguished history of acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world. It is known for award-winning recordings, as well as for educational outreach programs, and a visionary commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of tomorrow. Founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble gave its inaugural performance on November 5, 1903, six weeks before the Wright brothers made their unprecedented airplane flight. The ensemble typically presents nearly 175 programs annually, primarily at its home venue of Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, and its concerts are heard by live audiences of 350,000. Its programs are heard nationally and internationally in broadcasts produced by Minnesota Public Radio.


Gwen Pappas, Director of Public Relations 
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