Jazz percussionist Babatunde Lea was photographed Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, after an interview at Minnesota Public Radio.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson
Jazz drummer Babatunde Lea told MPR's David Cazares that, though he has been hailed as a stellar performer of jazz and world music, what's more important is the fountain from which his music springs.
"I call it jazz steeped in the rhythms of the African diaspora because I've learned a great many drumming traditions, you know, from Afro-Cuban to Afro-Brazilian to Senegalese to Nigerian," he said. "And I bring all those elements to my music, as well as straight ahead. It all depends on what composition and where your head is when you hear us."
...[Lea] has no doubt that the spirit of African ancestors drives the music of much of the Americas, from Afro-Cuban Santeria and Haitian voodoo to Brazilian candomble and even the music of the black church. The call to Africa that emerges from the drum, Lea said, is about one unifying spirit.
"These are all the same people that were brought over here during the slave trade," Lea said. "That's what people don't know. They separate African-Americans, Afro-Cubans, Afro-Brazilians and ... Haiti and Dominican Republic. It's like we're different people. No, we're the same people that was brought over here. We're just separated by different languages.
"We're calling the ghost constantly. Our music is our music."
You can read the rest of Cazares' story, and listen to Babatunde Lea's music, here.
While Minnesota Orchestra management and musicians have yet to find a contract they can agree upon, a number of voices are crying foul over the management's approach to negotiations.
Bill Eddins is Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and co-author of the classical music blog Sticks and Drones. A resident of Minneapolis, Eddins has been following the negotiations closely.
The whole thing smacks of impersonality. There is no feeling in this. Everyone on the payroll is now just to be considered a cog in the wheel, and the output of the machine is supposed to be great music. The "Artist Entrance" should be renamed the "Servants Entrance." That's certainly the gist of the message from management. No matter how bad the situation is there (and it's bad and it has been bad for several years; denial ain't just a river in Egypt) this is no way to go about stabilizing this institution.
Matt Peiken is the creator of the newly launched MNuet.com, a website designed to aggregate information about the Twin Cities classical music scene.
...management's tactic is calculated, craven, callous, corrosive and cowardly--emboldened and made possible, in no small part, by the bullying that has happened in places as disparate as Wisconsin's legislature, Chicago Public Schools, Northern California hospitals and the worker breakrooms of union-allergic Wal-Mart, and championed across the commentariat at the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and the Drudge Report.
By going public, the management of the Minnesota Orchestra told their own musicians they're overpaid--not in context with these economic times, mind you, but in general. Management has refused to open its books to an independent analysis--how well has that worked for Mitt Romney?--and also refused binding arbitration. How do you negotiate with honesty and integrity under this rubric and, at the same time, tell the public you're committed to fielding a world-class orchestra? How do you hope to again work with these musicians from a position of mutual purpose and trust?
Emily Hogstad plays violin in the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra and writes about classical music on her blog Song of the Lark. One of her recent posts lists "ten obfuscations" in a recent Minnesota Orchestra press release, including the statement that" the full-time management and administrative staff have experienced a salary reduction, a wage freeze and more than a 40 percent reduction of their pension contributions from the Orchestral Association."
According to public documents, Michael Henson makes $404,000 a year, which is up from his 2009 salary of $390,000. (According to this Star Tribune article, Salaries drop for nonprofit leaders, this is 1.5x the average for "nonprofits with budgets of $25 million to $50 million," which is $243,000.) I know that others within the organization have sacrificed, and sacrificed greatly, but based on the available public evidence, I'm not convinced their leader did. Shouldn't great leaders lead by example? Of course Henson's salary alone wouldn't fix the financial problem management says they have, but it would send a message about his character. It would send a message about his humanity, and respect, and shared sacrifice. As Andrew Young once observed on the Colbert Report, strikes aren't about money; they're about respect. Also, let's be clear: I don't think any of the musicians are scorning the people who wield relatively little power within the organization, who have suffered terribly throughout this whole debacle. According to one of my readers, at least one of these hardworking underpaid people was fired via email. If this is indeed true (and I have heard no one dispute it, or apologize for it), do you believe that high-level management really cares so much about the people below them? Or might they instead be seeing them as pawns in a grand seven-tier chess game (as nationally renowned arts consultant Drew McManus feared back in May)? No, this is a failure of leadership from the very top: from powerful multi-multi-millionaire board leaders Jon Campbell and Richard Davis, and Michael Henson.
You can find out the latest on the Minnesota Orchestra contract negotiations here.(1 Comments)
Locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today announced former Music Director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will conduct them in what they call a "season opening concert" on October 18th.
Minnesota Orchestra management cancelled all concerts through the end of November shortly after locking out the musicians early Monday. French horn player Ellen Smith says having the conductor who led the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979 - during which time Orchestra Hall was built - means a great deal to the players.
"Because we know that it won't be a gesture taken lightly by our management," said Smith. "They won't be happy about it. But it truly shows that he supports us fully in what we are doing."
The musicians will announce later this evening where they will perform the concert.
UPDATE: Musicians union negotiator Tim Zavadil said on TPT's Almanac the concert will be at the Minneapolis Convention Center Hall.
Management wants major wage concessions from musicians to fix what it says are major financial problems. Musicians say the proposed cuts would destroy the Minnesota's world class sound. No further contract negotiations are currently scheduled.(3 Comments)