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Associated Press, Published September 21 2013

Musicians protest outside Symphony Ball

MINNEAPOLIS – The nearly year-long lockout of musicians put a damper on festivities at the Minnesota Orchestra’s annual Symphony Ball fundraiser, long considered one of the top social events of the year in the Twin Cities.

Ball organizers say they considered canceling Friday night’s event. But it’s the orchestra’s largest fundraiser of the year and was expected to bring in about $1 million in one night. And board member Doug Kelley said the organization really needs the money right now to try to break the stalemate.

“It is a solemn night,” said Kelley, who is also on the management negotiating committee. “Never before in the history of the orchestra has there been labor strife during the ball. The people who attend have great love for this orchestra.”

He spoke as musicians rallied outside Orchestra Hall to protest the idea of management and the board celebrating. They’ve rejected three management proposals for ending the lockout.

“Can you imagine being locked out for a year and the management and board celebrating? This seems odd to me,” said Tony Ross, the orchestra’s principal cellist and a member of the musicians’ negotiating committee.

Management says salary cuts and other concessions are needed to keep the orchestra solvent. Both sides are working with a mediator, George Mitchell. Looming is deadline set by Osmo Vanska, who has threatened to resign as music director if the orchestra has to cancel concerts set for November at Carnegie Hall in New York. He has said rehearsals need to begin by Sept. 30 for the orchestra to be ready.