Giving back: Minnesota Orchestra gets $250K gift – from its own musicians

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It's often said that you get out of your career what you put into it.

If that's true, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have a fulfilling job indeed – they've just gifted the organization $250,000.

According to a news release from the orchestra, the musicians raised the money during their recent labor lock-out – which put them on hiatus for 16 months while they and the company resolved a contract dispute – by giving "self-produced" concerts. Private donations also contributed to their quarter-million-dollar savings.

The so-called "Bellwether Fund" will go toward "education and community programming," which will likely include "Symphonic Adventures" concerts at local high schools and "Sensory Friendly" performances for people with disabilities, according to the orchestra.

The programs will help "inspire an ever-widening audience to seek a lifelong relationship with great symphonic music” and "increase access and deepen connections among musicians, the community and the Minnesota Orchestra.”

The musicians will have oversight of the fund and decide how the money will be spent, working with management to get projects going.

The charitable gift was announced during the Minnesota Orchestra’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday, and was made in memory of orchestra "friend and advocate" Lee Henderson, who the release says "was crucial in helping the orchestra back to its feet following the lockout."

“We are really pleased the musicians have made this decision,” Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith is quoted as saying. “It represents a significant step forward for the orchestra and recognizes that we serve our mission best when we harness the unified strength of the entire organization.”

It's been a big year for the group, which in May became the first American orchestra to preform in Cuba since the thawing of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the island nation.

The Cuba trip was also their first major tour after the highly publicized lockout, which was resolved last year.

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