DSSO’s Bright Approach: First Minnesota orchestra to use interest-based bargaining process

As a kid, I took it for granted that my tiny hometown high school had an orchestra program and lots of community support. So it is not hard to agree with Duluth Mayor Don Ness when he says that “the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra continues to brighten the arts landscape of the Twin Ports.” A healthy community orchestra is a great thing!

Here is an article that paint the picture:

Duluth News Tribune: “DSSO musicians put their money where the music is

And here is the DSSO’s news release:

Musicians help sponsor upcoming concert

The musicians of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra are pitching in to help the organization financially by donating to help sponsor the Feb. 1 “Three B’s” concert (Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3; Barber: Violin Concerto (Erin Aldridge, violin); Brahms: Symphony No. 4), under the direction of new Music Director Dirk Meyer. The musicians encourage members of the community to attend the concert and, also, to consider a donation (gift) to the DSSO.

“The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra adds incredible value to our community, and after 82 years in Duluth, the DSSO continues to brighten the arts landscape of the Twin Ports,” commented Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

Judging from this season’s terrific concerts, most punctuated by multiple standing ovations, the casual observer would not guess that financial challenges face the DSSO. A new music director, challenging and engaging programming, and a focus on introducing our community’s younger demographic to symphonic music are what the public sees. But the Symphony has not been immune from consequences of recent years’ economic climate.

After a successful capital and endowment campaign completed in 2007, the organization built a new acoustic shell at the DECC. The DSSO moved into new office space on Superior Street and saw an increase in participation from the community. Then 2008’s sudden economic downturn brought decreased revenues and a reduction in gifts. Additional costs were incurred with transitions in both the Executive Director and Music Director positions.

The organization has fought back hard, with tough belt tightening that includes tough staffing cuts, changes in operation and a transition, last month, to new cost-saving digs. The move to the new office space, located in the lower level of the US Bank Building, will in itself save the DSSO $600,000 over its ten-year lease. On the upside, the organization has not reduced programming. Thus, musician pay remains intact.

One of the great strengths of the DSSO is that musicians, staff, board and other volunteers are working together to address financial challenge to achieve future success and organizational longevity. Many donors have contributed to a specific recent campaign, titled “Crescendo,” raising $60,000 to help allow the organization to operate debt-free. The campaign continues, and interested parties are encouraged to contact the office for more information.

“In addition to musicians helping to sponsor this weekend’s concert, they are helping in many different ways — promotions, guest appearances, volunteering in the office. All of these efforts add up, and management of the DSSO is confident that these collaborative efforts will all add to the future growth and financial stability of the organization,” said Concertmaster Erin Aldridge.

Here’s what other people are saying about the DSSO …

From Executive Director Rebecca Petersen:
“Working with the marketing team at Swim Creative has helped us reach out to a new audience. People tell us they see our promotions and advertising everywhere.” How does that translate into ticket sales? “People are also seeing and hearing from our New Music Director, Dirk Meyer and they are excited about a conductor who lives in our community and interacts with all of us. They are also excited about t he music that he and the musicians are creating on stage.”

The next step? “Our musicians are our rock stars. They fact that they want to help us and be out in the community more, getting to know future audience members is HUGE. This is a gift that is priceless to the DSSO!”

From Music Director Dirk Meyer:
“It is truly amazing to have our musicians stand behind our great organization in challenging times, such as these. It speaks to their love of music, and it speaks to the spirit of this community. I’m thankful for everything our musicians do for the DSSO and I encourage everyone to come experience their amazing talents by visiting our concerts!”

From Musician Board Member Elise Kuutti, cellist:
“The dedicated and proud musicians of the DSSO are ‘playing their part’ and showing their support as our leadership brings us to new levels and makes us more sustainable as an organization. If you haven’t heard us lately, come and check us out! The DSSO is playing a huge part in our community as the place to be on a Saturday night.”

From Musician Board Member Larry Zimmerman, principal trombone:
“The musicians of the DSSO came up with this idea to give back to the organization as a group. We don’t see ourselves as just employees of the Symphony; so we are choosing to do more than just play our part onstage, we are working with the DSSO board and staff to keep the music playing in Duluth-Superior.”

About the DSSO:
For over 80 years, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra has provided people with unique and exciting concerts and performances. They have established themselves as a prominent cultural organization in the Twin Ports region. The DSSO has brought both new and traditional symphonic music to young and old audiences. Their primary mission is to engage and move people through music.

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