Save Our SPCO Announces Exploratory Committee to Examine Forming New Chamber Orchestra Society

Read all about it in our press release:   Press Release 

More details can be found in SOSPCO Chair Mariellen Jacobson’s statement from our March 26 press conference:  Press Conference Statement 

April 6 Update:

Despite the additional progress that was made this past week in the negotiations between SPCO management and musicians with the involvement of Mayor Coleman, some open issues remain including resolution of the digital rights disputes. The remainder of the 2012-13 season is still at risk. In addition, the parties are hammering out the details of a “Play and Talk” agreement, not a final contract, which could take much additional time to resolve. Therefore, we have concluded that it makes sense to continue forward with our exploratory efforts.

As of April 6, these are the members of the Exploratory Committee:

Representative Joe Atkins:  Representative Atkins was first elected to the Minnesota legislature in 2002, and is now serving in his sixth term in the House. Representative Atkins is an attorney who also served as Mayor of Inver Grove Heights for 10 years.

Danny Berenberg:  Mr. Berenberg is the founding partner in the firm  He counsels clients – symphony orchestras, museums, arts organizations and others – in strategic planning, capital campaign planning and management, major gift solicitation, donor research and development system audits.  Mr. Berenberg serves on several nonprofit boards and a number of corporate boards.  He is a recipient of the Minnesota Human Rights Award and a number of other awards for his work.

Jim Hainlen:  Mr. Hainlen, a violinist, is conductor and artistic director of the Roseville String Ensemble. A respected conductor and music educator, Mr. Hainlen taught orchestra in the Stillwater Area Schools for 28 years. He has also conducted for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies and Wisconsin Youth Symphonies in Madison, Wis., and he has guest-conducted community orchestras around the Midwest.

Peter Howard:  Mr. Howard was the Principal Cellist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for 29 years, retiring in 2004. He has performed as a soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra and a number of other orchestras in the United States and Europe. He was a prize winner of the International Pablo Casals Cello Competition and the Queen Elizabeth Competition for String Quartets.

Layton (“Skip”) James:  Mr. James served as Principal Keyboardist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for 41 years, retiring in 2011. He has performed on a variety of instruments including harpsichord, piano, organ, celesta and synthesizer. He has also performed with the Minnesota Orchestra and with a number of orchestras and ensembles throughout the world. He has also been a frequent conductor, director, composer and recording artist.

Donald Kahn:  Dr. Kahn is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. In addition, Don is an amateur cello musician who enjoys performing with chamber ensembles and listening to both classical music and jazz.

Representative Phyllis Kahn:  Representative Kahn has served in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 1972 – over 40 years – and is now in her 21st term in office. Among other responsibilities, Ms. Kahn is Chair of the Legacy Committee, which provides Constitutionally-mandated funding to the Minnesota Arts Board and the Perpich Center for the Arts as well as to the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Robert Olsen:  Mr. Olsen is the President of Olsen Consulting (“Connecting ideas and vision for organizations that are relationship driven”).  Bob served as Executive Director of COMPAS from 2008 through 2012 and prior to that served in fundraising and management capacities in other nonprofits and as a nonprofits officer for two banks.  He served as a Director of Century College and on the Boards of many nonprofits in the arts, education, economy, history and religion sectors.  And Bob is a French horn player!

Michael Posnick:  Mr. Posnick is Gift Counsel’s Managing General Counsel.  His professional background includes advising individuals, businesses, and non-profits on matters related to gifts, trusts, estates, taxation, real estate, corporate and unincorporated organizations, and construction.  His experience includes lobbying on behalf of clients he has represented.  He has served as director and officer of a variety of local, national and international non-profit organizations.

Sarah Schmalenberger teaches courses in music history and literature, as well as studio French horn, at the University of Saint Thomas.  Currently, Dr. Schmalenberger is engaged with several areas of research, from black American women in concert music, to music pedagogy, to music and disability, and to the occupational and medical well-being of musicians after breast cancer.  In addition, Dr. Schmalenberger maintains an active schedule as a freelance hornist, on both the modern and the valveless horns, and serves as the principal horn of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra.  Best of all, Sarah organizes an annual event for female brass students called BrassChix!

5 Responses to “Save Our SPCO Announces Exploratory Committee to Examine Forming New Chamber Orchestra Society”

  1. John B Noyd March 26, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    I have a suggestion for the committee to explore. The committee should approach the Schubert Club of St. Paul about merging the SPCO into the Schubert organization. This is really the only solution at this juncture. The president of the Schubert Club was employed by the SPCO and the organization has some experience in merging with very successfully adding the Music in the Park organization under their umbrella several years back. The current SPCO society is no longer in a position to raise money, or effectively recruit new musicians let alone settle with their musicians. In addition both the SPCO and the MO are at a point where they can no longer perform without assistance from each group of musicians. Perhaps we are at a point where both organizations are merged with two performance ensembles (minus the orchestra hall real estate). Once the mergers happen leaving both organizations with no musicians, my guess is what ever is left of the former endowments can be acquired by the new organization. It is evident at this point both the SPCO & MO organizations must be abandoned. Thanks for organizing the committe and carefully consider the Schubert Club as the new managing organization. They have a stellar history of artistic performance management.

  2. Julie H March 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    I believe that The Schubert Club has been smart enough to avoid union musicians and if the founders of the new and improved SPCO are smart they will stay far, far away from the union.

  3. Jon Eisenberg April 3, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Thank you, Mr. Noyd, for the suggestion to consider collaboration with the Schubert Club. I don’t think SPCO itself would be interested, however it is something Save Our SPCO should consider.

    In regard to Julie H’s comment, speaking personally, I believe it is precisely that attitude that has infected the SPCO board as well as other orchestral boards and is one of the big reasons we are where we are today. It amazes me that people expect the musicians to give and give, and not pull together with their union to protect and preserve what they can. If it were not for the union, SPCO would already have been run deeply into the ground.

    As far as I am concerned, if there is a new organization developed, it will be one that trusts and respects the musicians and recognizes that they, not the board, management or donors, are the heart, soul and lifeblood of the orchestra. Therefore, any new organization would certainly want to partner closely with the musicians and work respectfully and constructively with their union and elected representatives. Any other course of action is foolhardy and destined for failure.

  4. Robert S Swan April 6, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Ah Julie, singing the anti- union siren song -ideology and politics infecting a very serious situation.

  5. Julie H April 9, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    Julie again.
    I meant no disrespect to anyone on this forum, in the SOS group, or anyone involved with union activities. I was responding primarily to the Schubert Club comment above and the fact that I don’t believe this organization has historically held collective bargaining agreements with any of their workers or artists, at least not that I am aware of. I am not necessarily anti-union in principle. In fact, I am grateful for the progress that unions have made to improve the working lives of everyday people and workers. I say bless them!
    But performing artists are anything but every day (assembly line or office) workers and I have observed over the years that the American Federation of Musicians has not always been popular with all the ranks of musicians in orchestras despite what their union reps say. Those musicians who do not support the AFM, (but have no other choice but to go along with it and with ICSOM too), don’t necessarily have the loudest mouthpiece.
    My experience has been mostly with larger symphony orchestras rather than chamber orchestras since both of my children have played with symphony orchestras in the U.S.
    If the SOS group is interested in starting up a new orchestra it would be very important I think to take into consideration all opinions and options when starting up a new venture.
    I wish you all the best as you consider those options moving forward.

    Julie Hight

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