World-famous artists ‘express concern’ about playing in Indiana

World-famous artists ‘express concern’ about playing in Indiana


norman lebrecht

March 30, 2015

The chief executive of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has struck an alarm bell about the state’s new law of religious and sexual intolerance. Gary Ginstling published this open letter tonight:

urbanski indianapolis


As the Chief Executive Officer of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, I want to reaffirm our institution’s commitment to inclusiveness. The ISO does not discriminate in its hiring of staff, orchestra, musicians or guest artists, and our performances and programs are open to all.

The recent passage of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act has brought unnecessary negative attention to our state and its citizens. In addition, the economic damage of this legislation is real. Several world-renowned guest artists scheduled to perform with the ISO in coming months have expressed concerns about coming to Indiana in the future. The ISO is committed to providing our community opportunities to experience the most talented performers from around the world; that any artist might choose not to perform with us due to this legislation is but one example of its far-reaching consequences.

At a time when the nation’s attention is focused on Indianapolis this week as we host the NCAA’s 2015 Final Four Men’s Basketball Championship and our city’s unique personality and hospitality will be on display, it is a shame that the divisiveness of this legislation has become the headline. And given these headlines, it is important that the Indianapolis Symphony reiterate its commitment to inclusiveness and to the value and benefit of a diverse community.

Gary Ginstling
Chief Executive Officer
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra


indiana anti-gay


UPDATE: The President of Indiana University adds his voice to the growing concern here.


  • Doug says:

    Don’t succumb to irrational hysteria. Gather information and read up before you start flinging shit.

    The first RFRA was a 1993 federal law that was signed into law by Democratic president Bill Clinton. It unanimously passed the House of Representatives, where it was sponsored by then-congressman Chuck Schumer, and sailed through the Senate on a 97-3 vote.

    If there’s already a federal RFRA in place, why did Indiana pass its own RFRA?

    Great question. In a 1997 Supreme Court case (City of Boerne v. Flores), the court held that federal RFRA was generally inapplicable against state and local laws. Since then, a number of states have enacted their own RFRA statutes: Indiana became the twentieth to do so. Other states have state court rulings that provide RFRA-like protections.

  • Anonne says:

    Looks as if the artists visiting Indiana — and anyone else — could be refused a hotel room because they were gay if the owners felt gayness offended their religious freedom. Seems to me all sorts of other people could be refused things on “religious” grounds too.

  • Carolyn says:

    Exactly, who are these world reknown artists? It’s as vague as the understanding of this law, in the first place.
    Were they marching in France? Did those terrorist attacks outrage them? Do the little girls being kidnapped, raped and mutilated outrage them? Did Turkey’s charges and trial against Fayzil Say’s statement the President interpreted as anti- Islam anger them to stand up and cancel engagements in Turkey? Are they speaking out against the re-emergence of Anti-Semitism, as it was in the Thirties,
    and the attacks in Europe and the UK compel them to speak out and act in protest?
    Where? I missed it.What about the Chrisitian massacres, the destruction of museums and libraries with ancient and Medieval, irreplacable artifacts and holdings compel them to call for securing and protecting these unique and rare manifestations of Western Civilization? Worse, the devastation of communities that were thousands of years old?

    Let’s get real. This, obviously, is not Schnabel, or Hubermann’s , or Rostropovich’s
    generation. There are innumerable, horrific Human Rights crimes happening to millions of innocent people daily. What about the Islamic countries that ban music and dance and education for females ? What about the gays being tortured and hung in Iran?
    Are any of these artists- or any fine artists anywhere- protesting and demanding any justice for True crimes- not fabricated and paranoid projections of what does not exist?
    Are Managers not hiring musicians , because they are gay? Anywhere?
    In fact, it is a shield to protect individuals from the government’s discrimination.
    Individual business have every right to refuse to serve anyone.
    Maybe, they aren’t clean, or civil, or enter the store with food, or barefeet?
    Tragically, there are far too many problems in the world. I suggest, they get busy.
    If they refuse Indiana’s venues, then, they had better check the seventeen other states
    with similar laws.

    • Scott Fields says:

      This heart-felt statement in favor of legalized, protected discrimination is impressive. To extend the logic of the new bill, businesses are protected if they object, on religious grounds, to gays, blacks, jews, muslims, christians, asians, or any other group into which people can be lumped.

      That things are worse someplace (they always are) doesn’t mean that human rights shouldn’t be protected here.

    • David says:

      Not to veer off-topic, but to provide a quick answer to your question, Carolyn: yes. Sadly, there are managers who aren’t hiring artists because they are openly gay. I speak from relatively recent personal experience with a major orchestra in Asia. And lest you think that allegation simple sour grapes, that bit of discrimination was very explicit. After making an initial offer, that was withdrawn because their “research indicated that my [personal and professional] partner and I might possibly be – ermm… homosexual – and that could prove politically embarrassing”.

      I would like to think that this is not commonplace in the arts world, but unfortunately it does still happen.

      • Sixtus says:

        And which major Asian orchestra are you talking about? This kind of behavior will only stop if the perpetrators are exposed to public opprobrium.

        • Anonne says:

          Are there any “major Asian orchestras” outside Japan? Not saying they are not good, but “major” to me implies lots of recording and touring. Otherwise, “regional.”

    • William Safford says:

      Actually, Carolyn, what you wrote: “Individual business have every right to refuse to serve anyone,” is false, at least in the U.S.

      The fact is that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

      Alas, in Indiana, it is currently legal to discriminate based on one’s sexual orientation. Let’s hope that that changes soon.

      • cabbagejuice says:

        There’s a big difference between serving drinks in a bar or restaurant and being forced to participate in events like baking cakes for weddings or photographing them against one’s beliefs. I don’t think until recently the Civil Rights Law was invoked for travesties like that. This also applies to doctors who can opt out of termination of life that offends their consciences as well.

        • William Safford says:

          In what ways are those situations different? Why are certain things “travesties” and others not? Please explicate.

  • cabbagejuice says:

    This would obviously protect Moslem restaurants from serving pork or alcohol. Some cab drivers do not allow these products in their cars. It would also protect Moslem photographers not to photos of events or people dressed in a way they would deem indecent. It would protect Wiccan bakers from having to bake wedding cakes with Bibles on them.
    Bottom line: a person should run his business the way he sees fit. Too much reverse discrimination has happened in the misinterpretation of the extent of such laws.

    • Mikey says:

      No, a person should run a public business FOR the public, not according to the whims of their personal beliefs.

      You take work in a field that requires you work with the public, then you serve ALL of the public, not only those you agree with.

      • cabbagejuice says:

        If someone came into your restaurant with bare feet and dirty should you be obliged to serve him? How about cursing you out as well? Private businesses are not public institutions, unless it is a totalitarian state. It is not logically possible for everyone to share the same views. Those who crow diversity should be aware that some beliefs contradict others. Forcing your beliefs and lifestyles on others is the objective of certain groups and running them out of business if they don’t celebrate it. The fact they have succeeded in quite a few cases shows the need for such legislation. If it were just “live and let” live as originally touted, then there would not be any concern.

  • NYMike says:

    “Religious Freedom” – an oxymoron. The more religion, the less freedom.

    • Matt says:

      That’s right–purging religion is what made revolutionary France, the Soviet Union, and Communist China so free. Thank goodness they didn’t have to deal with totalitarians like Wm Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr.

      • Anon says:

        You are barking up the wrong tree. Secularism, strict separation of religion and public matters, is the choice of the enlightened people.
        State enforced atheism is just as bad as theism. Dogma replaced by another dogma is not the solution. Yet it is telling that the defenders of religious dogma do fall 100% for the fallacy of pointing the finger at ideological atheism. They can’t even envision a world without dogma.

  • Blaner says:

    It’s astonishing how many of these dullards only see what they want to see.

    There. Now lets count the number of people offended by that.