Boston's Zander scandal: And here's what NEC are telling worried students and parents

Boston's Zander scandal: And here's what NEC are telling worried students and parents


norman lebrecht

February 11, 2012

February 10, 2012


Dear YPO members,


We recognize that the last month has been tumultuous for all of us at YPO and at NEC. Knowing that we were facing a challenging time, I made an open-ended offer before the January 18th rehearsal to speak with any of you about your questions and concerns, as often and for as long as you’d like. And now, I thought I would take this additional opportunity to address you as a group.


First, on behalf of my NEC colleagues, I want to thank you for your mature, professional, and profoundly musical demeanor at the concert of January 20 and the rehearsals since. I also want to acknowledge the upheaval that many of you have experienced during this period.  We know how special Ben Zander has been to many of you, and how much he positively embodied your YPO experience.  You can be sure that none of us wished for any of this to occur, or for this outcome.  We all face unexpected events in life, and we, as responsible individuals, are challenged to handle them to the best of our ability.


Second, regarding the petition to reinstate Ben: we acknowledge your right to advocate for your beliefs, and to speak your mind.  The determination to release Ben was made by NEC’s administration with the endorsement of the Board of Trustees after a thorough investigation of the facts and deep deliberation. At its core was one overriding imperative –to create the safest possible learning environment for you and the rest of the NEC community.  Out of respect for the time and effort you’ve invested in the petition effort, however, I want to make it clear to you that the decision is final. It will not be reversed. The administration and the Board chose the most responsible course of action, even as they realized how upsetting the decision would be.


Third, I know that many of you have questions about the conductor search process.  After agreeing upon a succession plan with Ben beginning 2013-14, we initiated the search last August with a committee whose membership includes faculty from both Prep and the College, a member of the Boston Symphony, a member of the Board of Trustees, the Walnut Hill School, and senior administration.  Within the past six months, the committee advertised the position, received over 60 applications from highly qualified conductor/educators, and chose seven outstanding candidates with whom you will have the opportunity to work throughout the spring. The first candidate, José-Luis Novo, music director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Binghamton Philharmonic, will be here this weekend. He has made a special trip to come to Boston and we want to welcome him as our special guest.


We believe that you will find it gratifying to make music with these extraordinary musicians—all of them so different, with their own kinds of musical inspiration, and all with outstanding careers. Being the talented musicians you are, the YPO can continue to be as exciting as it has ever been and we hope you will work with us to chart its future for you and your immediate successors. Throughout the process, there will be several ways in which you can voice your reactions to the candidates. If, however, your personal views render you either unable or unwilling to participate in the auditions and rehearsals, we will offer the opportunity to other students. It is entirely your choice to make and we will respect this.


There are incredibly rich opportunities ahead to make music together, to learn from one another, and to take all of the great work that has already been done and use it to create something even greater.  YPO is moving forward. NEC is committed to this effort regardless of who chooses to participate, but it would be much more gratifying to do it with you than without you.  Your passion for YPO has been one of its greatest assets and we hope that it will be part of YPO’s future.  If, however, you ultimately decide because of these recent events that you need to find a different musical home, you will be missed and we will remain grateful for all your contributions.


We look forward to seeing you on Saturday.  If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.


In closing, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the outstanding review of your January 20th concert by John Ehrlich in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. You can read the rest at:


Difficult? Well, this January 20th concert’s breadth of challenges would faze almost any orchestra, and might have this one as well, one which comprises instrumentalists ranging in age from 13 to 18 years. But that particular difficulty didn’t apply. Though stretched at a couple of points, this wonderful ensemble soared past almost all of its technical issues. Inspired playing abounded.

The difficulty, known by all present in the hall and keenly felt by every young player on stage, was not the music, but the missing presence of their mentor, the person who had rehearsed them, encouraged them and ultimately inspired them, their long-time leader Benjamin Zander, whom circumstances had forced to leave the Conservatory…

But it was also evident that these players were ready to move on. Two estimable members of the NEC Orchestra Conducting faculty were deputized to lead each half of the original concert. Hugh Wolff, the Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras, NEC College, led a fiery reading of the Verdi Overture to La Forza del Destino, and an equally thrilling performance of the Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67…

[In two movements by Michael Gandolfi, conducted by David Loebel] the YPO made this music “sound easy,” [although] this was tricky and demanding repertoire.

The evening came to an atmospheric and brilliant close with a finely paced reading of Debussy’s La Mer.

Leaving Jordan Hall, I remarked to my concert companion that events such as this renewed my tottering faith in “the younger generation.” Go next time (June 1, 2012 – FREE admission!), and hear for yourself – you’ll be very glad you did.


Best regards,

Leslie Wu Foley


Leslie Wu Foley

Dean and Executive Director

Preparatory and Continuing Education

New England Conservatory

290 Huntington Avenue

Boston,MA 02115




  • Anonymous says:

    That’s pretty clear: if you protest, you’re fired. Thanks for your services, kids.

  • Anne S says:

    Incredibly insensitive. I certainly would be more inclined to boycott the rehearsals after reading this aggressive missive. Sounds straight out of some dictatorship archives. The least they could do is to postpone the search activities by a few weeks to give the kids some time to digest the events, take a few deep breaths and engage in some cathartic activity. All in the name of “our children”!!

  • Waldo says:

    I very much supported NEC’s decision, but I find this letter cold, soulless, and condescending. I’m very disappointed that they would release this.

  • tls says:

    Well, it’s the way this guy works – just look at his track record.

    I agree with Waldo – I felt NEC did what they had to do but this is a horrible, cold, soulless path that they now follow regarding the kids and their need to vent and grieve and THEN move on. I wonder if the Board of Trustees reviewed and approved this letter?

  • Cartan says:

    GPA 3.75 – 4.0: College of Business – Chalmers Hurley, Christopher Michael Boseak, Lind Aldrich, Joseph Steven, Michele Troy, Corky Denny, Alex Phil, Jackson Sergent, Zebulon Lovell, Giffard Moshe, Durward Carl, Braden Fonz, Hailey Riccardo, Glen Todd, Elihu Huntlee,

  • Kendrick says:

    National Honor Society: College of Music and Dramatic Arts – Jethro Eugene, Udell Pooh, Woodie Ahmet, Davy Perceval, Chris M Boseak, Arne Udale, Benson Fidel, Siddhartha Jesse, Philip Donovan, Gayle Witold, Connie Ramsay, Luis Garvin,