Eminent Mahler conductor quits over sex-offender associate

The New England Conservatory has announced the immediate departure of its Youth Philharmonic conductor, Benjamin Zander.

No reason was given and Zander was unreachable for comment. His facebook page is starting to show messages of regret from players past and present.

Conservatory officials told AP that its director, Tony Woodcock, had disciplined a staff member who, over the past ten years, employed a videographer to record rehearsals and performances of preparatory school students. The videographer was known to be a registered level-2 sex offender.

Zander, English born, is widely known as a meticulous conductor of Mahler and the late romantics and an inspirational lecturer to business conferences. He is also chief conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

I have known him for a very long time and would not suspect him of anything worse than extreme naivety and, perhaps, excessive loyalty to his friends. There is no suggestion that he acted improperly in any way towards students.

Tony Woodcock, also English, is a former head of the Bournemouth and Minnesota orchestras. He, in my experience, is not a man who acts impetuously.

More details as they come in.

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  • This is terrible news. He is a phenomenal conductor and a huge inspiration for several generations of students who worked with him.

  • Our schools have gone from an era of “turning a blind eye” to faculty indiscretions to instant dismissal for any suspected sexual misconduct. Due process has become a luxury that schools can no longer afford. Most American conservatories have windows on practice room doors and some even have windows on the doors of teaching studios dating from the early part of the last century (i.e. the 20th) when roving faculty hands were often the rule rather than the exception. I’d like to think that a good man (Ben Zander) has been caught in the backlash from events like the recent Penn State debacle and the inability of that institution (or unwillingness) to protect students from a sexual predator. But, the devil is always in the details which we will never know (one can only hope!). I agree with Norman’s assessment of the two principals involved since I also know them both. Hopefully NEC can turn the page and move on……

  • As a follow-up: please go to Ben Zander’s website http://benjaminzander.com/ and read under “What’s New” these two documents: Letter from Ben to YPO; and Press release regarding Peter Benjamin. These statements speak for themselves. No further comment needed from me.

  • He is an “eminent conductor” of what? A London Orchestra he likely hired for a week? His amateur orchestra in Boston? If his IQ was two points higher, he’d be Leon Botstein.

  • Not meant to be catty. If he’s an eminent conductor, where has he done that? By definition, “eminent” means “standing above others,” so I’d like some examples. Not wanting to criticize Zander, only met him once, but to question why people are using his “genius” as an excuse for knowingly putting kids in harm’s way.

    • The comments about IQs is a bit snarky, (though very funny,) but in her book, “Mozart in the Jungle,”Blair Tindal has done very important work, and there are a lot of people who respect her courageous voice. She has spoken truth to power, which explains why she is often vigorously attacked and denounced.

    • Hi Sasha, exactly what professional organization has discredited me? Why don’t you phone up:

      NY Philharmonic
      Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
      Orchestra of St. Luke’s
      San Francisco Symphony
      Pittsburgh Symphony
      Houston Symphony
      New Jersey Symphony
      NYC Ballet
      NYC Opera
      Blue Note
      NARAS
      Cape and Islands Chamber Festival
      Chamber Music Northwest

      And you, Miss Hamilton? Where have you played? Which one of these organizations have discredited me? Maybe you should actually read my book instead of making assumptions.

      As for your link, that has nothing to do with my professional life. Any self-respecting woman would have done the same, and CBS’s shoddy journalism apparently didn’t include contacting me for my side of the story.

  • I think Blair’s got it right in that he’s not really an eminent conductor… he’s a cult figure. I seem to remember that when IMG were representing him they were taking 50%. That was the deal for taking him on.

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