In just 11 days, the Minnesota Orchestra may no longer be what it has been. The musicians have been locked out since last October and the crucial Sept. 30 deadline could spell the end of an era with maestro Osmo Vanska.
If no labor agreement is found before the end of the month, an important concert at Carnegie Hall in New York will be canceled. For the man who leads the Minnesota Orchestra, that would be the final straw.
On Thursday, both Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak tried to add a little leverage to the ongoing dispute, using their bully pulpits to urge both sides to meet face-to-face and talk to one another.
"I strongly urge that representatives of the board, representatives of the musicians meet with the mediator as soon as possible -- face-to-face," Dayton said. "Continue that face-to-face meeting as long as it takes to get an agreement, to get the orchestra reopened and serving the people of this state."
The public pressure comes as another season -- and the orchestra itself -- teeters on the verge of collapse. Any doubts about the popularity of the current roster were quashed on Sunday, when a sea of supporters gathered to hear the locked-out musicians play a free show at the Lake Harriet bandshell.
The mediator involved is former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who famously brokered the peace accord in Northern Ireland. So far, he has not been able to strike a chord in the Minnesota Orchestra dispute.
"There is no person who can ride in on a white horse and solve the situation where two groups have left too many things standing between them and simply getting to the bargaining table," Rybak said.
Orchestra management says it made a revised offer was made through Mitchell on Sunday, and they also welcomed the call for direct talks in a statement that read:
"We have been cautiously optimistic this week, hoping that the third proposal we issued over the weekend may help provide incentive for the musicians to meet and reach a settlement."
Meanwhile, Blois Olson, the spokesman for the musicians, said the indirect talks through Mitchell remain ongoing.
"We are still a long way apart, but by all means, we are talking to the mediator," Olson said. "We are making progress and we will continue to do so in the days ahead."
Dayton said he has personally spoken with Mitchell six times since last week, and even his chief of staff, Tina Smith, is talking with both sides. In the end, however, he says the musicians and management must meet with Mitchell one-on-one.