MN Orchestra extends contracts with Vänskä, musicians

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Less than a week after its historic visit to Cuba, the Minnesota Orchestra has announced new contracts with Music Director Osmo Vänskä and its musicians.

It's another sign that the orchestra is moving forward, a year after settling a labor dispute that at one time had threatened its very existence.

The musicians ratified their new three-year agreement Tuesday, and the orchestra's board of directors approved both contracts later in the day, the orchestra announced in a news release.

Vänskä's current contract expires at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the three-year extension will keep him at the helm of the orchestra until August 31, 2019.

Vänskä's contract extension was not surprising, MPR News notes. It replaces the one he signed a year ago to return to the orchestra after resigning in protest of the 16-month lockout of musicians.

That two-year deal included a 15 percent pay cut for Vänskä, the same as the musicians agreed to accept in the contract that brought them back to work in early 2014 after their long and bitter labor dispute with management. Terms of his new contract were not disclosed.

New deal for musicians; donors help with funding

The new musicians' contract is more of a surprise, since it comes more than a year and a half before their current deal expires in February 2017, according to MPR News.

The new contract calls for the musicians to receive salary increases of 2.5 percent in 2017-18; 2.75 percent in 2018-19; and 3 percent in 2019-20, according to the orchestra. It also calls for increasing the number of musicians in the orchestra from 84 to 88 over the next three years.

Two major donations will help pay for the contracts' provisions: $5 million from Douglas and Louise Leatherdale will support Vänskä’s vision for the orchestra, including "international touring, recording and fostering the artistic growth of the ensemble," and $1.5 million from the Ken and Betty Jayne Dahlberg Fund will help support the musicians' agreement, according to the news release.

"Stability and labor harmony are restored" at the orchestra, said president and CEO Kevin Smith in the news release. “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."

After the orchestra's high-profile visit to Cuba last week, its next big ventures include the recording of the final CD in its cycle of composer Jean Sibelius in June; and a performance at Carnegie Hall in March 2016, according to MPR News.

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