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Shutdown of music venues sidelines musicians
Minnesota Orchestra cancels tour to Vietnam, South Korea

Orchestra Hall

Orchestra Hall: All concerts canceled through April 27.

File photo. Photo credit: George Heinrich

Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, March 27, 2020

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — From Orchestra Hall to the Hennepin Theatre District to local bars and nightclubs, COVID-19 closures have stopped public performances by members of the Twin Cities Musicians Union.

“The hardest thing is that it happened so fast,” commented Dave Graf, secretary-treasurer for TCMU Local 30-73. He described an “avalanche” of cancellations that took place in just a week. Some organizations — like the Minnesota Opera Orchestra — have canceled their entire season.

The union is negotiating to get those musicians paid, Graf said. “A situation like this does not remove the responsibility of the employer to pay the members.”

Members of the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, who are protected by their collective  bargaining agreement, are still being paid, Graf said.

The Minnesota Orchestra announced March 27 that it was canceling a planned tour to Vietnam and South Korea this summer.

As the Labor Review went to press, the Minnesota Orchestra had canceled all local concerts through April 27.

Apart from the region’s major orchestras, “it’s very  hard because a lot of our members rely on a combination of lots of different jobs,” Graf said. “A lot of it is 1099 work, it’s not W2 work.”

“Musicians are a pretty creative bunch, they’re adapting to changing circumstances,” Graf said. Musicians who also teach private lessons are teaching their students via Skype and other online tools. Musicians are offering living room performances online and taking tips via PayPal.

No doubt, however, “it’s still going to be a challenging time,” Graf said.

He’s also worried about some of the local music venues, both for-profit and non-profit. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some of them go out of business.”

With COVID-19 shutdowns looming, the Minnesota Orchestra performed March 13 at Orchestra Hall for a live broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio — with no audience attending. Click here for a link to listen to the concert, featuring works by Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich.

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