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Protests as rightwing radio host gets to conduct Santa Monica Symphony

July 17, 2017 by norman lebrecht

103 comments.


A petition is going around California calling on musicians to boycott a concert of the Santa Monica Symphony to be guest conducted next month by Dennis Prager, a radio host who is some way to the right of the spectrum.

Prager has been ‘enthusiastically’ invited by Santa Monica’s conductor Guido Lamell. He is not a trained conductor, say the musicians who are organising the petition, but that’s the least of their objections.

One of Prager’s recent epigrams is ‘The news media in the West pose a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia does.’ He is a Trump-pumping motormouth.

Read the musicians’ protest here.


Comments (103)

  1. Ungeheuer says:

    This is absurd. Even if the man’s right wing views are of questionable value, the banishment by intolerant liberals of people whose views disagree with theirs is far more damaging. I would surely ban him on the basis of being a non musician but never for his political or religious views. Too often liberals are just as ‘checked out’ as their nemeses.

    1. Holly Golightly says:

      Totally agree; the authoritarian impulses of the Left mean they’ve completely forgotten the body count of their Lefty idol Stalin and the continuing atrocities in that socialist paradise, China; oh, and Cuba. Where to stop?

      More repression from the “libertarian” Thought Police. Prager has guts and says what is unfashionable. He doesn’t follow the herd and group-think. Instead he advocates for personal responsibility!! What a novel and threatening idea!!!!

      1. Joel stein says:

        “Libertarian ” thought police? “Unfashionable” ? Trump is President -the Republicans rule the Senate-Prager is hardly out of fashion.

        1. Holly Golightly says:

          Well Joel, I’m glad to hear it. This is apparently what people from the ‘libertarian Left” find so offensive about Prager; they advocate for women through this spectacularly intelligent intellectual:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJkFQohIKNI

        2. M2N2K says:

          In places like Santa Monica, California, he definitely *is* out of fashion.

      2. Rick Goesheavily says:

        To call Stalin a “left-winger” shows as much lack of understanding of history and politics as confusing “libertarian” with liberal. Recommendation: go take a civics class and a 20th c Western history class as a start (maybe an online course; there are some good ones) and then you can come make informed comments on the gossip blogs.

        1. M2N2K says:

          No one here called Stalin a “left-winger”, but an idol of many western lefties he certainly was.

        2. Chris Svenstrom says:

          Jaypee
          The communist totalitarian ruler, murderer, of the Soviet Union for 30 years, is not a leftist, you say. Really?
          I
          I suppose you will say that the communist thug, Castro, who ruled Cuba for 60 years is not a leftist either.

          Leftists want government control — bigger government. Barack Hussein Obama is a leftist.

          I suppose you will deny that too.
          * * *
          This whole endeavor to block a person (Dennis Prager) from performing music because persons on the left do not like his thoughts is thought control.

          This Santa Monica thought control and destruction of those it does not like, has a lot in common with the government totalitarian, communist, leftist — Stalin

      3. jaypee says:

        Wanna talk about the rightards’ idol, Adolf Hitler?

        1. M2N2K says:

          He was an idol of Stalin, that’s for sure.

        2. Chris Svenstrom says:

          Adolf Hitler was a racist.
          He was the leader of the National Socialist party.
          He was not a right winger. The main benchmark of the left is big government — you know, like Barack Hussein Obama, who was a champion of big government.

          Whether Hilter was left or not, does not matter.
          He was sui generis — a racist. He was not right wing. If anything, he was a National Socialist; that Santa Monicans, is left wing.

          What makes Hitler right wing, Mr. Jaypee?

          That Hilter was for small government is a big lie. He was the champion totalitarian of thought — just like the people who want to exclude a musician because they do not like his viewpoints, which have nothing to do with his conducting an orchestra.

      4. Amy Adams says:

        Ugh.
        “Holly” is back, commenting. Just how many of these other names are sockpuppets for the same person?

        You’re getting trolled six ways to Sunday, people. If it’s idiotic or inflammatory, consider leaving it alone.

    2. John Boewman says:

      Welcome to SOVIET city of Santa Monica.

      1. Bob C says:

        In the People’s Republic of California

    3. skip says:

      How is denying Dennis Prager the ability to conduct because he thinks differently any different than denying him because of the color of his skin?

      1. norman lebrecht says:

        Who the hell cares what he thinks? He is not equipped to stand before a professional orchestra.

        1. Malcolm Kottler says:

          Is the Santa Monica Symphony a “professional orchestra”? I don’t mean to demean the orchestra, but I don’t think the word “professional” is an accurate description.

        2. Peter Belanger says:

          Norman, did you read what Lawrence Wheeler had to say?

    4. Buxtehude says:

      Non-musicians have put on some pretty memorable concerts

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE2aIk1fyso

  2. John says:

    The past few days show what is really happening: there are people who have no problem with political statements from those on the left, but will do everything they can to hold back those from the right. Hypocritical c*nts.

    1. mr oakmountain says:

      Actually the difference here is between eminent musicians who occasionally offer what some consider “leftist” comments, and a person of unknown musicality whose only claim to fame is his “rightist” views. Anyway, calling everyone “left” who is pro-European and critical of Trump is ever so slightly generalizing things …

  3. Michael Chwe says:

    Please look at this link for more information.
    https://sites.google.com/view/donotattendpragerconcert/

  4. Dan P. says:

    What was the professional reason for inviting a non-conductor to conduct. Is this a “celebrity event” designed to raise money? If it isn’t, what does he then contribute to the concert? Is it an amateur event and advertised as such?

    But more than that, before the name calling begins it’s important to decide where the line is drawn when it comes to deciding who one wants to be associated with professionally. Prager has made vicious comments about gay people, non white European people, non-Christians – members of groups, one assumes, that make up a portion of the Santa Monica Symphony. Why should they wish to associate themselves with someone who questions the validity of their own existence in our society? I wouldn’t want to. I’m not sure anyone wants to make this a right/left issue unless the right wants to take ownership of these hateful positions based on false assumptions.

    1. Lara St. John says:

      Yes. Exactly.

    2. enness says:

      Gala concerts are generally designed to raise money.

  5. trolley80 says:

    …..why would anybody invite him to conduct a symphony orchestra? Did he contribute $10K or win this in an auction? This makes no sense.

  6. Malcolm Kottler says:

    Here is a Los Angeles Times article from December 2014 about Dennis Prager conducting an orchestra in California.

    http://www.latimes.com/tn-gnp-celebrities-convene-for-holiday-event-at-the-alex-theatre-20141214-story.html

    According to this story “For 20 years Prager has guest conducted for the Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale Symphony Orchestras, among many.”

    So the Santa Monica Symphony concert in August (a “Summer Gala”) is not the first time Prager has conducted.

    He will be conducting a Haydn Symphony, one of three pieces on the program. The concert details are here: http://www.smsymphony.org/concerts

    Have there been previous protests concerning Prager’s conducting concerts in California? If anyone knows about any, let us know.

  7. Roger says:

    Everything in the United States revolves around political issues and money, with little to no interest or respect for much else. Logical and intelligent thought, forget about it. The force of real and honest cultural discourse, forget about it. I have tried so many times on multiple visits there and find the idiocy and latent seething violent mentality of the vast majority so pathetic. Years ago, it was not like this. Today I find it an unbearable and extremely irritating society, sadly beyond repair and to be avoided if possible.

    1. Stephen Limbaugh says:

      Roger, you are exactly right. Politics is in everything now… and I don’t expect it to change until Gen Z gets into the workforce. The Boomers and Millennials are just disasters (and I’m a millennial…), and the Gen X folks are just burnout slackers (still).

  8. Catullus says:

    I just looked at the website. Most concerts this group puts on are free of charge. This one is a gala _fundraiser_ concert for the orchestra. And letting the hateful Mr. Prager conduct one of the three pieces is likely attempt by the orchestra admin to bring classical music to conservatives who would not otherwise attend a local (and mediocre at best) community orchestra concert.

    Some more insight into the choice of Prager as a guest would be welcome before calling this instance something that normalises hatred in society. We have no idea what financial pressures the orchestra board is under. Blaming Lamell for what is likely a decision beyond his control doesn’t seem very nuanced either.

    Furthermore, most of the former members petitioning against the Santa Monica Symphony are _not_ professional musicians, and don’t depend on per-service work to scrape together an income. (Both primary petitioners have comfortable salaries of over $140k/year and tenured positions in non music fields, for example.)

    Yes, let’s support inclusion. Yes, let’s dismantle the patriarchy. Yes, without explanation–beyond the anecdotal “he’s my friend” one–Prager’s guest appearance does seem inappropriate and offensive. I’m sure the irony of Haydn 51 being an Esterházy symphony is lost on Prager. But let’s not let the irony of Esterházy’s patronage of Haydn (and Beethoven) be lost on us too.

    Let’s also understand that we are not all experts in orchestra financing. We are not all privy to the strategic financial goals of this organisation. If this fundraiser is a last-ditch attempt to raise money to support its contingent of professional musicians, venue costs, and general sustainability, can we show some compassion for members of our own (musical) community?

  9. Steve P says:

    From the musicians’ protest letter:
    “Our orchestra is not a political organization.”
    Well, then, get paid to play, do the gig, and go about your political persuasion.
    By the way, if the musicians don’t want to play, I believe it is fully within their rights to not provide their services. I just disagree with their blatant apolitical stance when it is clear that politics very much is influencing their decisions.

    1. Jeff Schwartz says:

      It’s an almost all-volunteer orchestra.

    2. Ungeheuer says:

      Correct

    3. Disinterested Bystander says:

      1. The first amendment applies to all.
      2. Three of one hundred and one musicians have signed the petition.
      3. Musicians generally have attendance requirements to keep their job.

      1. Jeff Schwartz says:

        The open letter is not a petition: there is no way to add one’s name on the site.

        And the Santa Monica Symphony is an almost all-volunteer orchestra. It is not a job and the authors of the open letter are not unusual among the members in having careers which are not playing classical music.

  10. Disgusted says:

    Wow I had no idea what bigots lurked on this site. Never coming back.

  11. John says:

    Years ago, Walter Matthau would regularly guest conduct one of the chamber orchestras in the West LA area, but these were seen as apolitical and Matthau — I believe — was a generous patron and amateur musician.

    Prager is a strident figure. I used to live in LA and occasionally listened to his program. I liked to call him ‘Rush Limbaugh with shoes’. His politics are quite far right. No ambiguity at all to his extreme views.

    Whether anyone likes it or not, his selection is bound to attract controversy.

    1. Cubs Fan says:

      Strident? Not really. He’s quite thoughtful, well spoken and reasonable. He’s not hateful at all. Just prefers what we’re once traditional values. He has frequently spoken about his conducting activities over the years and is the only media personality of any political stripe who openly loves classical music and interviews classical performers. Of all the radio loudmouths he’s pretty soft spoken and thoughtful.

      1. Rick Goesheavily says:

        Yes, strident. You can speak as if you are the embodiment of Santa Claus and still spew hateful ire.

        From an article I easily found online:

        “Conservative radio host Dennis Prager claimed during a Republican get-out-the-vote rally in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday that the number of sexual assaults on college campuses has been exaggerated to win votes.”

        Is that “reasonable?” Were those once traditional values? I’d put up the exact quote here but it’s too vile.

        Yes, an orchestra should have a tolerance for a wide range of political views, but hateful people, open bigots, and proponents of violence on the right or left should not be welcome.

        1. Barry says:

          “Conservative radio host Dennis Prager claimed during a Republican get-out-the-vote rally in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday that the number of sexual assaults on college campuses has been exaggerated to win votes.”

          That’s extremely reasonable, unless you believe 20 percent of the women on college campuses in the U.S. have been sexually assaulted. That’s the number put out by left wing advocacy groups and if it were true, it would mean that there is a DRAMATICALLY (and I mean DRAMATICALLY) worse rate of sexual assaults on college campuses than in the American neighborhoods and cities with the worst rates of violent crime.

          As I and many others find that extremely unlikely to be the case, it would seem that the people putting out those numbers are counting incidents that would not meet the legal definition of sexual assault. In fact, the Obama administration changed the rules on this issue so that rather than someone charged with a crime being presumed innocent, the burden of proof is on the accused when it comes to campus sexual assaults. We’re just supposed to take every accusation at face value.

          Does that strike you as reasonable?

          1. Theodore McGuiver says:

            @Barry. Not at all. Having to defend a point of view other than that of the ambient left-wing ‘bien pensance’ falls into the same category.

      2. John says:

        Yup. Like I said, Rush Limbaugh with shoes.

  12. Zain Khan says:

    Orchestral musicians deserve to have conductors who know how to conduct (you have to have some technique) and who are musicians themselves. Prager neither knows how to conduct nor is a musician (to my knowledge). So, why does he deserve to stand in front of an orchestra and flap his arms? What value will he provide to the musicians of the SMS? Will they be inspired by his great musical interpretation? In awe of his tremendous musicianship? Wowed by his charisma? Probably none of the above.

    I don’t care what his politics are, actually. There are plenty of conductors out there who are “right” and who are “left,” and/or who are simply just nasty people. What’s important though, is that they can make music, and actually have something to say musically. If not, then why waste everyone’s precious time?

    Zain Khan
    Vicente Chamber Orchestra

    1. enness says:

      Actually, he says he plays the piano and has been doing score study since high school.

      I’d have to see him conduct to know whether I would consider him “good,” but to suggest it’s such a rarefied skill that he is unqualified to conduct a single piece at the fundraiser of a community orchestra made of volunteers is nonsense. I doubt he could be substantially worse than some of the so-called professionals I’ve encountered in my own career.

  13. Donald J. Trump says:

    We will build a wall, we will bring back jobs, and we will MAGA!

    ~D.

  14. Catullus says:

    I just looked at the website. Most concerts this group puts on are free of charge. This one is a gala _fundraiser_ concert for the orchestra. And letting the hateful Mr. Prager conduct one of the three pieces is likely attempt by the orchestra admin to bring classical music to conservatives who would not otherwise attend a local (and mediocre at best) community orchestra concert.

    Some more insight into the choice of Prager as a guest would be welcome before calling this instance something that normalises hatred in society. We have no idea what financial pressures the orchestra board is under. Blaming Lamell for what is likely a decision beyond his control doesn’t seem very nuanced either.

    Furthermore, most of the former members petitioning against the Santa Monica Symphony are _not_ professional musicians, and don’t depend on per-service work to scrape together an income. (Both primary petitioners have comfortable salaries of over $140k/year and tenured positions in non music fields, for example.)

    Yes, let’s support inclusion. Yes, let’s dismantle the patriarchy. Yes, without explanation–beyond the anecdotal “he’s my friend” one–Prager’s guest appearance does seem inappropriate and offensive. I’m sure the irony of Haydn 51 being an Esterházy symphony is lost on Prager. But let’s not let the irony of Esterházy’s patronage of Haydn (and Beethoven) be lost on us too.

    Let’s also understand that we are not all experts in orchestra financing. We are not all privy to the strategic financial goals of this organisation. If this fundraiser is a last-ditch attempt to raise money to support its contingent of professional musicians, venue costs, and general sustainability, can we show some compassion for members of our own (musical) community?

  15. Chris says:

    Amazingly, Prager is conducting an entire symphony. The orchestra’s website lists him as the guest conductor for Haydn’s Symphony No. 51.

    1. enness says:

      OMG! A whole 25 minutes.

  16. Malcolm Kottler says:

    This article in the Los Angeles Times from December 2014, on the occasion of another concert with Dennis Prager conducting, states: “For 20 years Prager has guest conducted for the Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale Symphony Orchestras, among many.”

    http://www.latimes.com/tn-gnp-celebrities-convene-for-holiday-event-at-the-alex-theatre-20141214-story.html

    So this “Summer Gala” concert with the Santa Monica Symphony, in which Prager will conduct one of the three pieces on the program (Haydn Symphony), is not his first conducting effort.

    http://www.smsymphony.org/concerts

    I am curious to know whether any of his previous conducting events have been protested in the way this one is being protested. If you know, please tell us.

    1. Steve P says:

      Interesting that NL fails to include this rather salient bit of information in his “Trump-pumping motormouth” hit piece. Faux news, anyone?
      Again, if the musicians (and NL) think not playing is appropriate, fine – the aren’t slaves and don’t have to perform if they don’t want to. Just be honest: purely an anti-Trump/conservative protest, not anything about an inexperienced or untrained conductor.

  17. Curtis Knight says:

    I honestly can’t imagine what the leadership of the Santa Monica Symphony was thinking when they asked such a divisive (and repugnant) person such as Dennis Prager to conduct their orchestra. It’s frankly, appalling. I’m interested to know what the hell they were thinking – because they WEREN’T – unless it was a pretty big check! And now all they’ve done is give legitimacy to an anti-gay racist bully; and tarnished the image of this otherwise fine community orchestra. And has anyone given any thought, BTW, of how this might backfire on their corporate donors? Wait until THAT stone gets turned over! If they’re smart; they’ll rescind the offer. And were I a musician in that orchestra, I’d quit.

  18. Zain Khan says:

    Well, the musicians should decide if they want to play based on who is conducting – if they get value from a non musician, and they enjoy this, then they should play. If not, sit this one out. But, don’t sit it out based on his politics. Good luck!

  19. Ann Eckels says:

    I’m a musician and would love to attend this concert! I’ve listened to Dennis since his “Religion on the Line Days.” People against him obviously haven’t listened to one of his entire shows are followed Prager University. He makes one actually think!

  20. MacroV says:

    If he’s actually a competent conductor, I’d have no problem with him conducting despite finding him a pretty toxic pundit. But if he’s not…

  21. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Isn’t it amazing how one is now forbidden to have any political standpoint other than that of the ambient mainstream media centre-left stance? Basically, if you don’t subscribe to the Awful Trump or Putin/Brexit Thickos/’Refugees’ Welcome mindset then you’re basically an unspeakable fascist. So much for the tolerance and humanity of the egregious left.

  22. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Sorry for ‘basically’ twice. In one sentence, to boot.

  23. Nick says:

    How right you are MDGUIVER!! This is called ” tolerance” which the left preaches to all of us. But how pleasant it is to read the reaction to the event from readers of this blog. Can’t believe it: they actually approve Dennis Prager – one of the most eloquent writers and speakers from America’s normals.
    Probably Prager is not Toscanini, but Santa Monica orchestra is not Berliner Phil. either. And someone put it correctly: you get paid – you play. Your political stand interests no one.

  24. Pianofortissimo says:

    According to the protest letter, ”rates of violent crime in Sweden have decreased.” The official ”statistics” lie. That’s what happens every day in Sweden, in a never before heard-of frequency: shootings i public places, sexual abuse and rape, ”honor” killings, you name it.

    Of course, Mr Prager would never be invited to conduct the Royal Philharmonic.

  25. dooby says:

    Is there ANYTHING you whiny little left-wing bitches won’t protest?

    1. jaypee says:

      Is there ANYTHING you disgusting rightards won’t destroy?

  26. Rich C. says:

    I am TOTALLY convinced that if Rachel Maddow was conducting that orchestra, the headline on Slipped Disc would have read “LEFT-WING television host to conduct ……”

    So move on here! (tongue totally in cheek)

  27. VPAONM says:

    Look plain and simple, He has been conducting with at least 3, paid, professional symphony orchestras in the area for 20 years. Likely he exhibits much more competence conducting than most of the volunteer community musicians do playing. Frankly I’m tired of hearing about what musicians “deserve”, want or think. You either play or you don’t. If you don’t like the conductor leave.

  28. wolflen says:

    as a professional musician I find the “protest” a sad statement. Music, much of Classical music in particular in essence transcends the human emotional conflicts and merges with a universal awareness. If as a practicing musician you pick and choose who you perform for or with..you have placed your values way above the intent of the music.

    It is a tragic comment that in todays divided world that one group would literally eliminate the other to have a “cleansing” of political outlook..

  29. Lou Korell says:

    Some musicians apparently do not understand what music is all about. Perhaps it is they who do not deserve to sit in an orchestra. Since when does politics come before music?
    What next? Book burning? Store windows shattered? Prager is Jewish. Should he be forced to wear a yellow star? The attitude by some of the musicians is disgusting. As a person who has been a professional musician for almost fifty years I am ashamed of any musicians with this attitude. Apparently the Santa Monica Symphony is struggling. I actually played in that orchestra many years ago. An orchestra needs to be above politics. Music is more important. If you don’t care to communicate that message maybe you belong in a different field!

  30. SMS Alum says:

    Its a mostly-volunteer community orchestra with some pros. Some of the pros get paid a small amount, some are volunteers, some are from the L.A. Phil doing a favor for their colleague, Maestro Lamell, whose main gig is as a violinist in the L.A. Phil.

  31. Larry W says:

    The statement by three members of the Santa Monica Symphony says: “Our orchestra is not a political organization.” True. And the engaging of Dennis Prager to conduct a Haydn symphony is not a political statement. Prager is a fan of classical music and Haydn in particular. Guido Lammell is as enthusiastic about music as anyone. He has worked tirelessly to help promote and sustain the SMS. Prager and Lammell find commonality in music, not politics. This fund-raising concert will be a sell-out in financial terms only.

  32. JMAL says:

    Great music is one of the very best ways to bring people together — unless it’s used to exclude the very people that need to come together.

  33. Gary says:

    If his conducting is on the same level as his logic this will be a disaster.

    1. Peter Belanger says:

      I’ve listened to his logic for 30 years. Airtight.

  34. Carol says:

    I must assume that those who post hateful comments about Dennis Prager have never listened to his program. I have listened to him for years. How could anyone misconstrue his comments to be hateful, bigoted or racist? I have never heard him make any such statements. He also has vast knowledge of classical music, and Hayden being his favorite composer does qualify him to lead a Hayden piece. He has been conducting for 20 years, so I would ask on what basis are some musicians protesting other than their political positions?

  35. SM Alum says:

    Carol: Just because a voice physically sounds reasonable does not mean the message is the same (reasonable). Prager’s words and position below are excerpted from the protestors’ letter. The sources are linked and you can access the citations – Prager’s own words and thoughts – in the open letter to which N.L. has kindly provided a link.

    When Keith Ellison of Minnesota became the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, Prager wrote that Rep. Ellison “should not be allowed” to take his oath of office using the Koran “because the act undermines American civilization. . . Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible.”

    This profoundly bigoted opinion was condemned by many organizations, including the United States Holocaust Museum, whose executive committee stated that Prager’s statement was “antithetical to the mission of the museum as an institution promoting tolerance and respect for all peoples regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity.”

    Prager writes that “Diversity and multiculturalism celebrate the national/ethnic identities of the nations from where American immigrants came instead of celebrating the American identity and traditional American values. The result is the beginning of the end of the United States as we have known it since its inception.” Our orchestra participates yearly in a Martin Luther King Day concert which celebrates multiculturalism and all of the diverse ethnic identities in our community. According to Prager, we are thereby hastening the end of the United States.

    Dennis Prager promotes deeply bigoted views using disturbing, apocalyptic language.

    For example, Prager has written: “Society has the right and obligation to prefer heterosexuality to homosexuality. . . It is unfair to a child who can be adopted by a married couple to be adopted by a same-sex couple. . . Yes, most gay men control themselves around boys; but the disproportionate sexual abuse of boys by homosexual priests suggests that some proportion of gays will not be able to control this desire.”

    Prager has called gay liberation an “assault” on the family and has stated: “The acceptance of homosexuality as the equal of heterosexual marital love signifies the decline of Western civilization.”

    1. enness says:

      Those are quite short excerpts with a lot of ellipses. Yes, I’d like to see the full context. I might agree with him in some respects (or not). In fact I do think it is unfair when children are deprived of a mother and father, and I don’t think our civilization is better off because of it. Maybe I should never be let on a stage again? Get over yourselves, people.

  36. Lou Korell says:

    Like it or not, America was founded on moral principles found in the Bible. The Koran is almost the antithises of all of our American principles and laws. It is not bigoted to expect the oath of office, to protect and defend the constitution, to be taken on a Bible.
    As for the other comments, we have become culturally fixated on very small parts of human life, such as homosexuality, trangender, LGBT, etc. and as a result entire movements have been established to take these small minorities and present them…no…shove them in everyone’s faces as being just as “normal” as heterosexuality. This is scientifically 100% incorrect. I’m not suggesting that any of these groups be persecuted in any way. They have as much right to exist as everyone else. However, we have gone overboard to suggest that everyone must somehow change everything in order to accommodate alternatives to the normal structure of human biology. There are some things that can be done to better understand these minorities so as not to hurt their rights as Americans, but that in no way suggests that everything must change. That is the extremist view, and not the other way around. Prager is not bigoted. He is a realist and a proponent of common sense when it comes to both culture and politics. He is always polite and caring about others while stating his opinion, but he is strong in his values and like the rest of us, does not need to compromise them based on pressure from extremist groups who are not truthful in their motives. The pawns in this game are the minorities themselves who just want to be left alone to pursue their own happiness. That is getting more difficult as politicians and subversive elements are using these causes to undermine the core values of America. It is sad that they have to be used in that way but as you can see, the subversive elements are becoming successful in destroying the foundations of our society. They win because they have made a lot of people intolerant of our core values. All the while, using the word “tolerance” as their facade of deceit.

    Music should not be used to further ANY political agenda. Both conservatives and liberals need to put their political agendas aside in order to bathe in the beauty of great music. In that state, we will find more than tolerance. We will have to submit to a much more all inclusive and magical experience which transcends all of our own ideas and unifies our hearts.

    If you use music to express a political agenda, you have devalued and debased the music. Bad idea.

  37. André Cameron says:

    Dennis Prager is an influential right-wing radio personality. He is not a maestro nor is he a professional musician. He is a music lover. His followers are leaving comments here and that is their right. He has lots of followers. Some right-wing musicians like him as can be seen from the comments. That is their right. Given that he is, however, NOT A CONDUCTOR, and that he is such a controversial public figure, choosing him to conduct the SMS was, from the very beginning, going to be questioned. Had the orchestra invited a true professional conductor of recognized artistic merit, this situation would not have evolved. Inviting a non-conductor, that is also a politically controversial figure, was of course going to be seen as provacative! California has so many TALENTED young conductors. Real professional musicians! I find the choice very unfortunate. His positions are anti-gay, and here I am not saying homophobic although that is my personal opinion. As a gay professional musician with 40 years of international experience, I would refuse to play under an anti-gay radio personality that pretends to also be a maestro in his spare time. He has a BIG CAREER….., but it is not as a musician.

    1. Malcolm Kottler says:

      You write: “Given that he is, however, NOT A CONDUCTOR, and that he is such a controversial public figure, choosing him to conduct the SMS was, from the very beginning, going to be questioned.”

      Given that Prager has been doing similar guest conductor stints with southern California orchestra for many years, and as far as I can tell, these have not been protested in the past, I actually doubt that when Prager was invited to conduct at this benefit concert it ever occurred to the person(s) responsible for the invitation that there would be a protest from orchestra members or the public.

      If you are aware of protests of Prager’s previous conducting appearances, you would be doing a service by calling them to our attention.

    2. Cubs Fan says:

      Too bad people can’t just put politics, religion, and other personal feelings aside and look at this the way I’m sure Prager looks at it: this is all about the love of music. Who cares if it’s a professional orchestra or a bunch of amateurs? Prager knows he’s not Toscanini. He’s fully aware that this isn’t the Berlin Philharmonic. But so what? It’s about musicians, a conductor (or, a semi-conductor to use NL’s term) an audience who just get together for the enjoyment of it all. Why do liberals always have to make such a big deal out of everything and take it all so personally? I’ve played with orchestras for 40+ years and I’m sure I’ve played under conductors whose personal beliefs I don’t agree with. It didn’t matter – we made music together and that was the only important thing. And…don’t be too quick to condemn the man because he isn’t a professional musician. There have been lots of wanna-be conductors who as it turned out did a credible job: Gilbert Kaplan may have been limited, but his recordings of Mahler’s 2nd are not to be dismissed so easily. And let’s not forget Serge Koussevitsky who had limited skill as a conductor, but somehow achieved amazing results. I’m not suggesting that Prager is in that league, but, heck — give the guy a chance!

    3. Larry W says:

      I would caution my viola playing colleague from making assumptions. André, you should not assume that any words in support of this orchestra’s right to choose a guest conductor does not mean support for the guest chosen. In this case, Prager has conducted orchestras several times, which makes him experienced at least as much as the young conductors to whom you would give a chance.

      While several have taken it upon themselves to speak for the orchestra members, or even try to tell them what they should do, this has its origins in ignorance. The musicians were informed and asked how they felt about having a controversial figure conduct a piece on their fund-raiser. Fully 90% said they would perform. This includes those who do not agree with the political positions of Prager, making it clear that music transcends politics. As it very well should.

    4. Lou Korell says:

      So, you would also have protested Danny Kaye? When personalities guest conduct they HELP the orchestra. Nobody cares about their political views at that time. Things have changed for the worse if that is so.

    5. enness says:

      I’m sorry to inform you, but you’ve probably performed with people who held similar views and just weren’t as vocal — even in this field it’s not statistically unlikely. You would probably consider me “anti-gay” too, but you might sit next to me for 20 years and be none the wiser unless you asked, because I never treated my colleagues any differently.

    6. Peter Belanger says:

      He filled Disney Hall at $250 a pop. Pretty talented.

  38. Lynn says:

    For a fund raiser, the guest conductor has to be chosen for the ability to bring in an audience. Let us hope Mr. Prager’s fans will fill the Disney, which this controversy should encourage them to do.

    If the SMS has a reasonable profit from this performance in the Disney, and if some of that profit can be attributed to Mr. Prager’s fans, music has been served with money for the SMS’s free concerts.

    The SMS concerts in Santa Monica are free admission and attended by all ages and segments of the community, These SMS concerts give employment to professionals, experience to young musicians who volunteer, and great enjoyment to older volunteers who had to give up careers in music for dependable incomes in other professions.

    My devotion is to bringing classical music into young lives and I am very grateful that there are free symphony orchestra concerts in Santa Monica to which parents can bring their children.

  39. Michael Chwe says:

    Statement from Vox Femina Los Angeles, the premier women’s chorus in Los Angeles: “VOX Femina Los Angeles is committed to standing and fighting for a world that affirms the worth and dignity of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual identity, ethnic origin or religious persuasion. The expressed views of Dennis Prager are directly at odds with these values, and we are disappointed to see him welcomed into our local music community.”

  40. Michael Chwe says:

    Statement by Mayor Ted Winterer, Santa Monica City Council: “I will not be attending and certainly have not encouraged anyone to attend.”

    Statement by Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis, Santa Monica City Council: “The City cannot take any action in connection with the symphony based on Mr. Prager’s political and other statements. Of course, they are not representative of my or our city’s progressive, inclusive values.”

    Statement by Councilmember Kevin McKeown, Santa Monica City Council: “I personally will most certainly not be attending a concert featuring a bigoted hate-monger. The judgement (or lack of) shown in inviting Prager may affect future community support for the Symphony (whose concerts I have attended in the past).”

    As far as using the City’s funding to control who is on stage at a particular concert, I think Rick Cole put it very well in his statement to the Lookout:

    “This City supports the arts,” said City Manager Rick Cole when asked by the Lookout if the symphony’s invitation to Prager posed difficulties. “It appears that Dennis Prager supports the arts. The City, in funding a season of musical performances, does not choose what music is played or who plays it at any particular concert.”
    “Ticket buyers are in a different position. They can choose to buy a ticket for a particular performance because they love Dennis Prager; they can choose not to do so because they loath Dennis Prager; or they can choose to attend or not attend based on the orchestra and the music and ignore the political views of the person waving the baton.”
    “But that is not the realm of a city to make those distinctions,” he wrote in an email.
    “Reasonable people can argue for or against cities making arts grants –even arts grants to particular forms of art (folk vs. classical; performing vs. visual; community vs. institutional etc.) But the Constitution and courts keep us out of regulating content — and the personalities or political views of performers.”
    “And even if you hate Dennis Prager, that is a good thing,” Cole said.

    1. enness says:

      It is hilarious to me to hear politicians talk about “progressive” values in connection with symphony orchestras, which are among the most conservative institutions on the planet, dedicated largely as they are to the preservation of 300-year-old music played on 200-year-old instruments.

      To threaten that punishment will rain down on the orchestra in the future if they let Prager on stage for a half-hour is frankly idiotic. If that fellow is looking for a bigot, he can try the mirror.

  41. SMS Alum says:

    Larry W. points out that 90% of the orchestra voted to play the concert. I suspect that the opportunity to play in Disney Hall, an amazing venue acoustically and visually, influenced the players decisions more than the Prager issue. To play in Disney Hall is a fairly rare event for community orchestra members, and is a treat for many musicians, pro and amateur.

    While Larry W. cites statistics, he does not delve into the reasons for the vote. Is Larry W. on the Board? Is he in the orchestra? How did he come upon these facts that he states?

    Larry W. himself says “While several have taken it upon themselves to speak for the orchestra members, or even try to tell them what they should do, this has its origins in ignorance. The musicians were informed and asked how they felt about having a controversial figure conduct a piece on their fund-raiser. Fully 90% said they would perform. This includes those who do not agree with the political positions of Prager, making it clear that music transcends politics. As it very well should.”

    How does Larry W. know what the orchestra players think? Did he talk to each one individually to determine (1) whether or not they support Prager and (2) what the exact motivations were for each player?

    Were the votes cast by ballot? Were the individual votes supposed to remain confidential?

    Larry W. talks the talk and chastises other posters, but does he walk the walk, or does Larry W. simply make the same assumptions of which he chastises others? Certainly, if Larry can support his statements, that would answer much of the mystery.

    1. Larry W says:

      Does ‘SMS Alum’ mean you play or have played in the Santa Monica Symphony? That would help clarify your involvement here. In any case, this is not the venue to delve into any of the attacks- sorry, questions- that you have made. Suffice to say I don’t make a habit of making statements without substance or justification. However, if you have any evidence contrary to what I have said, by all means post it here. Saying you “suspect” is insufficient.

      1. André Cameron says:

        Larry you followed me here and used the same attack that you used on another forum. I am not uninformed. I am not making assumptions. My comments are not ignorant. I stand by every word from my previous comment. I will not be silenced because you believe that you know better than anyone else. I even said that everyone has a right to their own opinion. I do realize that a lot of right-wing musicians are fans of Prager and support his pseudo musical career. He is self trained and he waves his hands in front of musicians. He is not a maestro. His one and only career is being a right-wing radio provocateur.

        1. Larry W says:

          Dear André, not only are you misinformed/uninformed, but you are also untruthful. I posted here 60 hours before you ever arrived, so who followed whom? As for ignorant comments, those are not yours alone. You also share in the making of assumptions. (And those, from 6,000 miles away!) My “attack” has only been to caution you to not make those assumptions. Going on the attack yourself (along with your colleague SMS Alum), does nothing to draw support or even invite discussion. Finally, you should not assume either my politics or my beliefs because I think you or others are acting unfairly. Now, please do not scream (all caps) your reply. Thank you.

          1. André Cameron says:

            Larry you followed me in the sense that you replied to my comment and used the same argument that you used on another forum. I may be 6000 or 10,000 miles away. That doesn’t matter. I have expressed my opinion. I will not be silenced by you. Call me ignorant, uninformed, etc. I am an independent man. A musician. An American. I am not your subservient. I never said that your comments were ignorant or uninformed. I said that everyone has the right to their opinion. I stand by that. Please di not attempt to treat me as a young student. I am not. I repeat; Prager, as a conductor in this concert, is a provocation. Please accept my right to express my opinion and refrain from addressing me on a first name basis. We do not know each other. I used your first name in response to your replies. You are free to express your opinions and or your support of Dennis Prager. That is your right and I respect that. I don’t support people with an anti-gay platform.

  42. Larry W says:

    You are welcome to address me as Larry since my last name was not used here. Yours was. Mr. Cameron, you said basically the same things here as elsewhere. My response to your comments is consistent. You are confusing the right to an opinion with making false statements based on ignorance, misinformation, or assumption. You must accept that those statements will not go unchallenged. Just as you have challenged the engaging of Prager as a guest conductor.

    You have never seen Prager conduct, yet you have judged his abilities. You don’t know me personally yet you have judged my politics. To my knowledge, you have not spoken with the SMS conductor or any SMS board member, yet you judge their motivation. My taking issue with your statements is apparently quite vexing to you, even though I have responded in a consistently respectful manner. That hardly makes you subservient or a student, but an equal.

    André Cameron, the world was quite different over four decades ago when you began your career in music. I have no doubt you had to fight for your human rights and against discrimination. That has largely changed, and the arts led the way. An aggressive approach today will only turn people off. I do not support everything Dennis Prager says, but I will fight for his right to express it. The same holds true for you. Let’s move on.

    1. André Cameron says:

      You have accused me of being aggressive and misinformed from your very first response to my posts. You have attacked ne instead of writing posts directed at the problem at hand. I di not need lessons from you. You have assumed that I know nothing of Prager nor that I have ever seen him. Where is your proof? You have none because you don’t know me. I have respected your right to your opinion. You responded by saying that I am making assumptions, my posts are ignorant, I am misinformed, and that I live 6000 miles away. I repeat c I stand by my original post.I an nit your student neither an I your subservient. I do believe that right-wing Prager supporters are leaving many comments. That is their right. I never said that “Larry” supports Prager. I did say that I DO NOT SUPPORT ANTI-GAY radio commentators. I do not support Prager. If David Duke were a music lover I wouldn’t play under him etc. I am not the only one against this engagement so please stop trying to single me out.

      1. Larry W says:

        All the best and good luck to you, André Cameron.

      2. enness says:

        Just so we’re clear, and I knew this was coming, Prager = David Duke. They’re all David Duke. Got it.

  43. SMS Alum says:

    Simply said, “Larry W” purports to have knowledge about the inner workings of the Santa Monica Symphony and claims to know the motivations behind the orchestra’s votes, but fails to provide any evidence that his posts are factual and truthful. Therefore, one can only reasonably assume that Larry W’s statements are as false and misleading as he claims other’s are, because he fails to back up WHY he knows what he supposedly knows. If Larry can provide reasonable explanations for his supposed inside knowledge of the orchestra and its votes, then blog followers would have more reason to believe that Larry speaks facts. As for “suspect,” of course that is insufficient, since I did not survey the orchestra, as Larry purport to have done (since Larry claims to know the thoughts and feelings of the orchestra members). As I previously stated, I simply “suspect” that that the draw of playing in Disney Hall was a major motivation for orchestra members, regardless of the Prager issue, given the general postive feelings towards performing in Disney Hall shown by hundreds of community and professional players. Yes, “hundreds,” since I have played with many orchestras in Disney Hall since its opening, and every musician in every orchestra was thrilled at the opportunity to perform in such an amazing concert space.

    1. Larry W says:

      Does ‘SMS Alum’ mean you play or have played in the Santa Monica Symphony? That would help clarify your involvement here. You have many questions, but if you can’t answer that, please just give it up.

  44. SMS Alum says:

    Larry W: Pot kettle black. You refuse to justify your “facts,” expecting the reader to believe you simply because you say you do not write unfounded remarks. That circular logic shows poor intellect. Your ad hominem attacks on other posters shows poor character. You should follow your own advice and “give it up” because this forum shows your weaknesses, especially in your refusal to simply state why your “facts” are real. If you do eventually prove your case as to why your facts are the truth, then you will have shown greater character than you have exhibited in your other posts. As of now, you have shown only your “beliefs” as to what is really happening with the orchestra members, and that you are as ignorant of the true facts as those you attack for the same reason. Perhaps you fail to state the evidence for your claims because you have none. Prove me wrong, that would show the readers of this blog that you have true statistics and that you are not just making up “facts” as the troll you are presenting yourself to be. Bless your little heart. Peace out.

    1. Larry W says:

      Too bad you can’t answer one simple question. All the best and good luck to you, SMS Alum (or is it CB?).

  45. SMS Alum says:

    Too bad you can’t answer one simple question. All the best and good luck to you, Larry W (or is it LW?)

  46. enness says:

    On the whole, this episode could be a lot worse (three people refused to play…a distinct minority…meh). It still makes me glad I switched careers. I’ve had conductors who verbally abused and humiliated the musicians. I’ve also had ones who held the orchestra hostage to their political grandstanding, almost always of the liberal sort. The orchestra world has bigger problems than Dennis Prager. I am so, so sorrynotsorry one of us infiltrated the ranks at this level.

  47. Michele zukovsky says:

    Aaaaaaaaacccckkkkkkkk
    Michele Zukovsky
    I for one,
    Would not like to stare at a man such as this giving the downbeat.
    Don’t we have to look at and hear Trump every day??????
    MZ

  48. Jay-Z says:

    May years ago, I played in an orchestra conducted by Prager. The musicians in the orchestra (this was a professional orchestra) had zero respect for his musicianship – of which he had none. This was many ears ago, before the “Trump” era. It was a very forgettable event.

    1. Peter Belanger says:

      Please read what a professional conductor had to say about Prager’s conducting. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/451171/dennis-prager-conducts-orchestra-los-angeles

  49. Carol says:

    If the leader of that orchestra wanted him..Let him do it!
    This protest show the intolerance if the left towards those with deep religious beliefs..If the liberals are so “tolerant” let Prager conduct!


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