Guiding Principles

compassWith the lockout over, it was fantastic to see the musicians performing again! However, there is an ill wind in the air. A large number of musicians who are age 55+ took the Supplemental Retirement Package (SRP) and left the orchestra (you can see the orchestra roster, including open positions and retirements on this page of our website: Roster). The orchestra remains in more than a bit of disarray with six principal positions vacant. There are residual hard feelings in many directions due to the lockout. There is a high level of concern about management changes.

In light of this, and with our fundraising effort underway (details here: Grassroots Campaign), the questions may and should be asked: What does SOSPCO want? What is our “platform”? What use would we make of seats on the Board? What is the change we seek?

We drafted some Guiding Principles in mid-May and posted them here and on our Facebook page for audience members’ feedback.  Our thanks to those of you who gave us your thoughts and insights.  We subsequently clarified some points and reorganized the list; you will find the revised list below.

Please continue to add your comments and critiques in the “reply” section at the end of this post or write to us at or visit our Facebook page.  Thank you!

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15 Responses to “Guiding Principles”

  1. Susan Macpherson May 21, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Your principles are fine but I think you need to add at least one about the appropriate role of the Board. One problem for both the SPCO and for the MN Orchestra is that the boards of both organizations have forgotten that their role is to be caretakers or guardians of a unique community or public resource which is the organization that supports the musicians. The “management/owner” mentality is all wrong here. The musicians ARE the organization – they are its reason for being not merely its employees.

    • Jon Eisenberg June 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      This is a very good point. Part of this is the role of the board but part of it involves the mission and values of the organization, which are also the board’s responsibilities. According to the Charities Review Council: “A nonprofit board is responsible for determining and monitoring the mission of the organization and the strategy that supports it. Regular reviews of the nonprofit’s mission and strategy assure that resources are used responsibly and that the strategy is consistent with accomplishing its mission.” Another expert wrote that one of the top 10 roles of a nonprofit board is “Determining the organization’s mission and purpose.” So it is the role of the SPCO board to establish an appropriate mission and set of values or principles and then to take appropriate actions to see that they are carried out. Organizations such as SPCO go completely off the tracks because they lose sight of their mission and values, or they don’t have any.

  2. Rosemary Kapsch May 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    I have a very personal response to what has occurred with the orchestra. Our son, Marty, is an up and coming bassist, his teacher has been Chris Brown, principal bass of the SPCO, soon to retire. Marty has studied with Fred and many of the other bassists in both orchestras. Marty has been principal bass of the U of MN orchestra as a high school student,this past year, and will be leaving to study Music Performance at Rice University this fall. It is sickening to watch the entire bass section leave the SPCO, and not because they want to. We have been loyal season ticket holders, but will be giving it up because we can’t bear to watch a diminished orchestra. Our son will carry on and someday, hopefully, play in an orchestra. whose management values their musicians, and rewards them for their many years of hard work.
    Rosemary Kapsch

  3. Stephanie Digby May 21, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    This is why I gave up. How are you going to achieve what is still a political objective? Whether you like it or not, that does not change the reality. Appeasing Dobson West was futile — you CANNOT appease a bully and he is an extreme case. You need to go after the board members and risk alienating some, after all they have not stood up to the person they anointed as CEO, Executive Director, and Chairman of the Board so somewhere or other the board members are consent with West’s “take no prisoners” assault on the musicians.
    Both SOSPCO members and the musicians need to fight, rather than appease.

    • Sarah May 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      Stephanie, how exactly does one “go after the board members”?

  4. Robert Langford May 22, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    I received a request for funding from SPCO as though nothing had happened over the past months, and replied with considerable anger, indicating I would neither contribute nor attend while West and this board managed the Orchestra. Your principles seem to me to be precisely the start of the statement that should guide the Orchestra. The order of concern seems to me to also reflect my priority of value commitment. I think it impossible to support the existing board structure and the Orchestra and at the same time effect those principles, and that is the quandary. How can we support the musicians and what we knew as the wonderful organization that we loved, and at the same time enable this board that did the damage? When I read the NY Times article reviewing the “settlement”, I was struck by the amounts of compensation for musicians received by the recent resolution of the San Francisco Symphony settlement that provided almost two times that of the SPCO musicians. So long as this board and West are around, it seems to me that any attempt to support the SPCO will only enable them to return to their comfortable position of respect and authority that has been so horribly abused. One principle should call upon ensuring that leadership defers to musical concern and musician support rather than business modeling as a fundamental guiding force of the SPCO. Unfortunately, the board and management will continue to use contributed money that should have gone to musicians, to enhance their own control, raise more funds for their contrary vision and to make sure the principles you so carefully present are subordinate to their political and social belief.

    • Sarah May 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      And Coppock – he is supposedly the “good cop” to Dobby’s “bad cop”, but he was on the Board during this past year and during his previous tenure as CEO he was also the architect of many of the current problems.

  5. pam May 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    #5 yes yes yes! definitely #4. and #3- crying shame so few people understand that one. #8agree.

  6. Lois Hall May 23, 2013 at 6:53 am #

    The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Society has not earned the seal of approval by the Charities Review Council of Minnesota. ( The reason is obvious—the SPCO is so poorly managed it would fail the accountability review. The “Society” prefers to function in an opaque cloud of deceit, which has remarkably enabled them to treat the musicians brutally, and pillage audience donors, foundations, and the MN Legacy Fund for years. After the lock-out and the horrid contract forced on the musicians, I am mystified that so many individuals and institutions would turn over funds to such an unregulated mafia. Please add this guiding principle: The SPCO Society should pass the basic accountability standards of the Charities Review Council of Minnesota before they receive another dime from the state. Heads up foundations and donors–don’t waste your money until this management is up to snuff, and don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen!

  7. John Van Cleve May 28, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Only the tenth of your proposed principles directly cites management, but management is the focus of the furor, no?

    What you want to change is how management allocates funds. Perhaps less on the physical plant and more on the musicians, for instance.

    Or am I missing something here?

    If not, wouldn’t principles with dollars-and-cents numbers and budget percentages be in order? If you’re thinking of deferring such matters until later, think again. You’ll never attract as much attention as you will with the promulgation of a statement of principles.

    And five to ten principles should really be enough. Luther could get away with 95, but the audience was different in 1517.

    • Jon Eisenberg June 12, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      I believe that if the organization’s mission statement and guiding principles are right, then dollars will be allocated appropriately and all of its actions would follow consistent with those principles. I feel that SPCO has lost sight of its purpose in life and would focus my efforts there. Others may focus more on financial management which is fine too, but a budget is based upon mission, purpose and strategy.

  8. Lois Hall May 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Guiding principles without specific outcome measures will fall on the deaf ears of this SPCO management and not become reality. Treating people with professional respect is difficult to measure. The SPCO management has a stated agenda and a real agenda, as evidenced by their behavior. Whenever possible, these guiding principles should have specific outcome measures illustrated, or they will be functionally ignored by SPCO management regardless of what management states they believe or are doing. This is why it is important to be very specific, as in my example of meeting the Charities Review Council accountability standards, which should be a central guiding principle.

    • Jon Eisenberg June 12, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      Your point is well taken. Some of the proposed principles are value-focused while others are more specific such as reducing the size of the board. I agree with your point about the CRC accountability standards and was not aware of that rather alarming deficiency.

  9. Nick VanDuzee June 4, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

    Picking up on Lois Hall’s comments on measurable goals, perhaps some linkage of management salaries and management costs to musician’s salaries would help shift emphasis back to a high-quality music empowerment model rather than the fungable business model currently used.

  10. Lois Hall June 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Look at the mass exodus of superb, experienced musicians! Take the money you have raised and hire a first rate investigative reporter to explain in detail how a board led by hedge fund managers ruined a world class orchestra. Doing this has a better chance of changing the SPCO management in the right direction than your stated principles. Principles are for people with principles (like SOSPCO members)….this clearly excludes the current SPCO management and board of directors.

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