Boston's Zander scandal: the full truth, at last (updated)
I have received an independent account of Benjamin Zander’s dismissal which does not accord with the official version. This report has been confirmed by two people close to the case and reflects nothing but discredit on the New England Conservatory and its president, Tony Woodcock.
Here’s what happened:
Zander was on tour in Europe with the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra last summer. Three 16 year- olds went out and got a bit drunk on beer in Austria, where the drinking age is 16. NEC policy is to send kids home if caught drinking.
Zander fought to keep them because putting substitutes in for principal players in Mahler 9 would have been disastrous for the orchestra and its morale. He said they could be disciplined once back in the USA. This was contrary to NEC rules.
Zander got his way on the tour but was ordered to resign when he got home. A deal was worked out by which he could stay on two years and then retire with honour.
That, however, was not enough for Woodcock. The affronted president went looking for an excuse to sack and disgrace Zander and came up with the long-serving videographer with a sex crime in his distant past.
UPDATE: Further information has come my way which suggests that a decision to remove Benjamin Zander was taken before the Mahler tour of Europe. If that were so, then the drink-play incident is yet another excuse in this unhappy saga. There is also some speculation as to whether Woodcock was acting on his own volition, or under orders from his board. Since the NEC is hiding behind a crisis-management PR and refusing to speak for itself, full discovery may take a little longer to emerge.