So… how was your day? A Summation.

snowflake

What is it they say? Oh, right… “May you live in interesting times.”

Look… I did something that was fairly unusual for one of our concerts, especially a Pops-type show, so, it’s not like I didn’t understand there would be consequences of varying types… but, y’know… there comes a point where you can’t sit and bear it. I decided to take part of my early morning so interested parties could have the story or my story, anyway, and take it for what it may be worth, so, here goes.

This guy, Wainwright, is not someone whom I knew anything about until he showed up for rehearsal. I figured our director of Presentations had to know he has a big following of loyalists and that’s why we presented him, because we would have a big crowd. I think that’s great and our recent surplus proves these strategies to be the right ones. I’m saying all that to establish that I had no ax to grind with this guy. I didn’t know him from Adam. I even went to my ultimate source for such things, the musicians of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and asked them about him. They had no clue other than he has a famous cover of “Hallelujah” from the movie Shrek. Okay, sounded like a one-hit wonder with a following. My assumption turned out to be wrong but that’s how I went into it.

The rehearsals were fine, as he didn’t do any of his between-tune-audience chats. When he got to Cantique de Noel I was actually happy to hear him do it in French. I was less than happy when he 1) made it clear that he was only going to sing a Christmas tune because he was asked to (thanks for sucking it up and doing us the favor), 2) made a big deal about what a hero he was for singing it in a higher key and 3) decided it would be fun to translate the text so that they would have a double entendre that had as a punchline something about “falling on your knees for deliverance.” Funny guy. I was not among those that found it cute. Fine. I let it go.

The second half was the problem. Before the second tune in which I had an extended solo he found it necessary to rant about the recent and unfinalized tax bill. He was very upset about it and talked about Republicans as being “horrible people that had to be stopped” to the bravos and delight of his followers.

So, I stopped.

Contrary to what Chris Riemenschneider wrote in the Star Tribune  I made no gesticulation. I don’t know what he thought he saw other than my securing hold of my horn, turning, and leaving. Hell, I don’t even think I “stormed”. My knees can’t take much storming these days.

Two other trumpeters were in the lounge, as they weren’t playing that piece and I told them to get on stage because I had had it and was leaving. They had heard the rant over the lounge speakers and understood quickly what was happening and got on stage. The woman playing second trumpet, bless her heart, played my solo and everyone did a great job, as I knew they would. The context that’s important to understand is that I was in the position of playing a tender solo after being referred to as basically evil. No, thank you. Therefore, for the folks that think this was some planned event, it was not. It was as spontaneous as that. Remember, no one knew what his on-stage chats with the public were going to be.

Allow me to briefly address a few things. After this whole thing blew up and I was home, I decided to go on the various search engines and social media sites to see what this guy was all about. It turns out he had a rough childhood and some very serious drug use later on. I believe he has resolved what seem like the many issues he has dealt with and he is the place he wants to be. Good for him. It’s not easy to deal with bad things whether at the hands of the universe or self-imposed. Why didn’t I do that earlier? Well, buckle up but I actually never found myself thinking about this guy before the gig other than the times I was around people I could just ask. I didn’t think about him any more than he felt the need to think about me. In fact, I think neither he nor his arrangers thought much of the musicians having to play some of the poorest-written stuff I’ve played in a while. I don’t mean musically, I mean it was very difficult to read and led to wasted time in rehearsal. Scrawling everywhere and multiple parts on one line printed on 8 1/2 x 11 paper instead of the standards we’re used to.

From reading various comments it’s clear people expect us to know what to expect from the artists that come to perform. Somehow, we’re supposed to know who’s edgy and who isn’t. Sorry but we all don’t. Older musicians just aren’t up on the lifestyles of  niche artists just as many younger musicians might not know artists of an earlier generation. I can tell you this: it’s the first time in my memory of 37 years as principal trumpet that I can remember a political rant during a December show from either direction. I do remember Mitch Miller ending a show with a plea for people to support the arts from the stage that ended with a political rant veering to the left instead of just staying on point with a positive message about the importance of coming to concerts. It was the last time Mitch conducted a concert here. I was to the center left back then and remember putting my head down and thinking, “Mitch, don’t do this.” He did and that was that. I don’t claim to know that’s what ended his run here but I have to wonder if they got letters (remember those?).

The last thing I’ll address is the new “snowflake” moniker and the self-indulgence of one or both acts, so, for clarity’s sake I looked it up to see what the accepted definition is:

self-in·dul·gent
ˈˌself ənˈdəljənt/
adjective
 
  1. characterized by doing or tending to do exactly what one wants, especially when this involves pleasure or idleness.

    I did what I wanted. Check.
    Neither pleasure nor idleness was involved.

    I can’t speak for the singer. I can’t imagine he was speaking out of pleasure because the unfinalized tax bill allegedly had him very upset. I’m pretty sure he got pleasure from the assembled choir of loyalists applauding his hateful statement but again… that’s just my perception. You’d have to ask him. Anyway, there’s the definition and I’ll leave it to you to decide what you wish about both our actions.

    Snowflake or not… I’m not sure, either. If someone confronted me on the street or somewhere I had equal footing, I would not look for a safe space. I would engage. I suppose I felt at a disadvantage since he was not talking to me but, rather, about me without any way to respond and have the same audience hear the response as you would have, say, at a lecture with a Question Line at the end. Anyone who actually does know me knows that I enjoy a good talk about pretty much anything as long as they’re ready to listen as much as they speak. I didn’t shout the guy down nor did I  interfere with his playing because I provided better-than-adequate substitutes for myself in my absence. His 1st amendment rights were in no way diminished. He had his say. I had mine in the only way I could at the moment and am ready to deal with the consequences.

    I fully understand there will be consequences. Some of the Strib comments suggestions ranged from jail time to firing to a 10 concert suspension without pay. The Association has written in support of the visiting artist. My support will have to come in the form of believing what I did was right if not contractually appropriate.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it answers question you may have had.

    P.S.

    Props to Chris Riemenschneider for giving me a chance to explain myself. If I have a criticism of the piece it’s that it treats the visiting artist with more deference. That is, my part of the goings-on were painted as more extreme than his. What, to him, seemed innocuous was more offensive to me (and others not acquainted with Wainwright’s act). Critics have to call it as they see it at that moment.

 

79 thoughts on “So… how was your day? A Summation.

  1. Eric Berlin

    Manny, as you know, you are a hero to me. I consider you an inspiration as a trumpeter. You may remember I approached you in the basement of Symphony Hall in Boston while you were on tour in 90-91 exploring options to study with you for a master’s degree and I invited you immediately to perform at my 2007 ITG conference as well. I have known that your political leanings were far to the right of my own and frankly never understood how, especially seeing the hell that the far right corporate anti-union forces on the MSO BoD put your entire community through. However, I respect you and your perspectives, regardless of the dissonance of my own.

    My concerns in this situation are threefold.

    1) I worry about your orchestra and the community you serve. Your actions send a terrible signal to members of your management, board and community who already see musicians as pampered, underworked, overpaid and whatever else they choose to label us. Your orchestra fought through the worst labor dispute in AFM history and your colleagues around the country all suffered with you, supported your social media campaign, contributed financially and offered employment. These actions endanger the delicate balance with your community which was achieved through so much sacrifice.

    2) I worry about the implications of your actions for the young men and women who are lucky enough to perform under your baton in the youth orchestra. As educators, our actions serve as models for adult behavior. If students see this as an appropriate response to a difference in political opinion, your model endangers their future careers. I hope that you can say, as I have often had to say to my students “I am human and humans make mistakes. I was wrong in how I handled this. Please do not do this when you are in the real world.”

    3) I worry about you and your future. Your voice as the leader of MSO brass section is one of heroic brilliance, courage and swagger that I find so uncommon in our orchestral landscape anymore. Unfortunately, these same personal qualities, which fuel you as the powerful musician, gave you the hutzpah to walk of that stage. I come to this from personal experience and gratitude that my MDs gave me great deference as a fiery young man. I will admit publicly that for offenses much less egregious and nowhere near the public, I know that I should have been fired many times over. I hope that you can be so fortunate.

    So, my respect for you remains, but is overshadowed by these concerns. Reader comments above which draw parallels to the NFL controversy do not acknowledge that in those instances, the NFL players do their protest before they step onto their stage. They have a responsibility to perform for the audience they serve just as we have a responsibility to ours.

    This can be a healing moment if you play it right. I hope that you can be contrite to remain a vibrant voice both on and off the stage.

    With profound respect,

    Eric Berlin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Charles Cudd

      The hall needs to be a sanctuary from the public vitriol being spewed from every corner of our society.
      Beautiful music heals restive hearts and minds; ugly public discourse disturbs them. We desperately need places of peace and harmony and there is no better place for that than the hall.
      Kudos big time to Manny

      Like

  2. James Newcomb

    Manny, I just watched the clip of that cad making fun of O Holy Night. I don’t blame you one bit for walking off the stage.

    As a longtime patron of the Minnesota Orchestra, I find it difficult to believe that it would allow Wainwright to say something so blatantly disrespectful about one of the most sacred songs in the Christian tradition.

    Is it written in your contract that you’re required to tolerate people who blatantly ridicule songs that are sacred to your beliefs?

    I think the Orchestra owes you, its other members, and its patrons who were offended by his very peurile remarks a humble apology.

    Like

  3. Peter Knuddvig

    I have read, the Tribune’s article describing the Wainwright concert incident as well as Manny’s written response on this blog along with most of the comments that his response has generated. Though I was not at the concert, based upon these sources it is apparent to me that Manny acted out of a strong sense of propriety vs. impropriety, of what is right or wrong to say as a matter of public discourse. One of the commenters on this page suggested that Mr. Wainwright, because he had the stage had every right to say whatever he chose to say. That is absurd. Everyday we are all, bound by the rules of good taste and in some cases required by the rule of law to filter and temper what we might, in the privacy of our own thoughts want to say. What might have taken place if Mr, Wainwright chose to speak a pile of horrible obscenities against a specific social group, race or gender? What if he had chosen to use the “N” word in that venue at that moment? The point is, contrary to what this commenter has suggested, NO ONE has the right to say whatever they want, except in the privacy of their own thoughts. It might be argued that in fact, Mr. Wainwright made no such slurs, political or otherwise. As I said, I was not there. But based upon what was reported, that he equated a leading political party with evil, is an epithet that has no place in any venue of earnestful, public discourse, much less at a concert devoted to the holiday spirit. I submit that Mr. Wainwright, though he might have had the stage, had no right to speak such words not only because it was a subject, (a pending political bill) that is wholly inappropriate at a holiday concert featuring 90 of Minnesota’s most distinguished, leading musicians who collectively embody a spirit of artistry that we as their public all aspire to, but even more, because Mr. Wainwright’s discourse was not civil, but uncivil. And the moment he crossed that line, Manny did what he felt was an appropriate, civil response. He did not tit for tat, by shouting epithets at Mr. Wainwright, he did what he felt in his heart at that moment was an appropriate response for this inappropriate moment at a concert that should be celebrating this spirit of artistry that the Minnesota Orchestra almost solely embodies for our region culturally. In my mind, the moment he stood up and walked off, he became an ad hoc leader for the orchestra and what it stands for. That there are others, both in and out of the orchestra representing political views on both sides of the aisle is not the issue here, I believe Manny’s statement was not political but rather, a statement of protest to the propriety and civility of such a discourse at a concert in the presence of (and with captive witnesses) of a venerated artistic body as described above. One can argue for or against the “they should have known Wainwrights out spoken views” etc. outspoken does not mean disrespectful which in my opinion Mr. Wainwright was. And if one accepts the “they knew who they were hiring” argument (which I do not, by the way) then management put their own musicians in harms way by letting a loose cannon loose in the cathedral of high art. It might have been Mr. Wainwright’s stage at that moment, but it was the orchestra’s party, he was their guest and he acted disrespectful to both his host and the other guests (the audience, who as has been pointed out could not have all been democrats). So, what happens when a guest misbehaves at a party where the host in charge, who invited the guest is not onstage at that moment to manage it? Then it is left to a deputy to deal with it. Manny could have just sat there and endured the disrespect to the body, the guests and the moment, but he took ownership of this body at that moment and made, what I believe to be a far more civil gesture than the cruel words describing at least half of the current population as “evil”.

    I would submit that Mr. Wainwright has no business on that stage, not because of his political views or his right to freedom of speech but because by exercising that right, he was simultaneously degrading and abusing the very purpose and reason he wa hired to present his skills as an artist. Someone who shows so little respect for that mandate in my opinion had no right to share in the glories of what he supposedly aspires to be, which is not a political priest, or moral busy body, but an artist. I for one am ashamed for my art because of such behavior. Manny’s behavior in this situation was courageous and exemplary and far more civil and measured than that which he was checking.

    Like

  4. Allyson

    It’s good to read your side of the story and I don’t disagree that Wainwright’s comments were distasteful in one case and overwrought in the other. However, I’d have to say your actions were utterly unprofessional – your personal grievances on the matter should have been handled with your players’ committee as a first step.

    I’m left with two thoughts: 1) What the Jewish musicians must have felt playing chamber music for the Nazis and 2) You owe every single one of your colleagues a beer.

    Like

  5. Peter Knudsvig

    I have read the Tribune’s article describing the Wainwright concert incident as well as Manny’s written response on this blog along with most of the comments that his response has generated. Though I was not at the concert, based upon these sources it is apparent to me that Manny acted out of a strong sense of propriety vs. impropriety, of what is right or wrong to say as a matter of public discourse. One of the commenters on this page suggested that because Mr. Wainwright had the stage, he had every right to say whatever he chose to say. That is absurd. Everyday we are all, bound by the rules of good taste and in some cases required by the rule of law to filter and temper what we might, in the privacy of our own thoughts want to say. What might have ensued if Mr. Wainwright had chosen to speak a pile of horrible obscenities against a specific social group, race or gender? What if he had chosen to use the “N” word in that venue, at that moment? The point is, contrary to what this commenter has suggested, NO ONE has the right to say whatever they want, except in the privacy of their own thoughts. It might be argued that in fact, Mr. Wainwright made no such slurs, political or otherwise. As I said, I was not there. But based upon what was reported, that he equated a leading political party with evil is an epithet that has no place in any venue of an earnest, public discourse, much less at a concert devoted to the holiday spirit. I submit that Mr. Wainwright, though he might have had the stage, had no right to speak such words not only because it was a subject, (a pending political bill) that is wholly inappropriate at a holiday concert featuring 90 of Minnesota’s most distinguished, leading musicians who collectively embody a spirit of artistry that we as their public all aspire to, but even more, because Mr. Wainwright’s discourse was not civil, but uncivil. And the moment he crossed that line, Manny did what he felt was an appropriate, civil response. He did not tit for tat, by shouting epithets at Mr. Wainwright, he did what he felt in his heart at that moment was an appropriate response for this inappropriate moment at a concert that should be celebrating this spirit of artistry that the Minnesota Orchestra almost solely embodies for our region culturally. In my mind, the moment he stood up and walked off, he became an ad hoc leader for the orchestra and what it stands for. That there are others, both in and out of the orchestra representing political views on both sides of the aisle is not the issue here, I believe Manny’s statement was not political but rather, a statement of protest to the propriety and civility of such a discourse at a concert in the presence of (and with captive witnesses) of a venerated artistic body as described above. One can argue for or against the “they should have known Wainwrights out spoken views” etc. outspoken does not mean disrespectful which in my opinion Mr. Wainwright was. And if one accepts the “they knew who they were hiring” argument (which I do not, by the way) then management put their own musicians in harms way by letting a loose cannon loose in the cathedral of high art. It might have been Mr. Wainwright’s stage at that moment, but it was the orchestra’s party, he was their guest and he acted disrespectful to both his host and the other guests (the audience, who as has been pointed out could not have all been democrats). So, what happens when a guest misbehaves at a party where the host in charge, who invited the guest is not onstage at that moment to manage it? Then it is left to a deputy to deal with it. Manny could have just sat there and endured the disrespect to the body, the guests and the moment, but he took ownership of this body at that moment and made, what I believe to be a far more civil gesture than the cruel words describing at least half of the current population as “evil”.
    I would submit that Mr. Wainwright has no business on that stage, not because of his political views or his right to freedom of speech but because by exercising that right, he was simultaneously degrading and abusing the very purpose and reason he was hired to present his skills as an artist. Someone who shows so little respect for that mandate in my opinion has no right to share in the glories of what he supposedly aspires to be, which is not a political priest, or moral busy body, but an artist. I for one am ashamed for my art because of such behavior. Manny’s behavior in this situation was courageous and exemplary and far more civil and measured than that which he was checking.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bob H.

    Right on Manny! I’m with you 100%. And for Payton’s response,👎. Who can take anybody seriously that’s smoking a joint in the last ITG journal he was featured in. He’s a disgusting human being for using the B word to desribe you. Typical snowflake.

    Like

  7. Ted Fitch

    Manny, even though I am one of those left of center (more left than center), I understand your action and applaud you for standing up for yourself and your beliefs. I don’t know what the professional consequences will be, but I am quite shocked that someone suggested jail! Of course, online comments don’t often reflect civility, or reason for that matter.

    At any rate, if you did have to go to jail, you would have an instrument with which to entertain yourself and others. Hope you like playing the blues. 🙂

    Like

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