Indy hits back furiously on age discrimination charge

Indy hits back furiously on age discrimination charge


norman lebrecht

May 14, 2017

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has issued a vigorous defence of its music director, Krzysztof Urbanski, who is being sued for harrassment and age discrimination by former principal bassoonist, John Wetherill.

Wetherill, 62, says Urbanski had ‘move out and replace’ strategy for musicians over 40.

The ISO’s response is that most of its musicians are over 40 and that the only one to be removed under Urbanski was 25 years old. It admits that several musicians resigned during the new conductor’s first years, but this was natural. ‘Defendant denies the baseless, malicious assertion of unlawful conduct by Mr. Urbanski,’ says the ISO.

Report here.



    Urbanski isn’t that hot of a conductor…yet, anyway! Not surprising some musicians want to leave, it seems pretty much standard procedure for young-ish conductors (I believe Urbanski is at least 35 years old by now).

    • Rich Patina says:

      Perhaps the real scandal here is that this human metronome is getting paid the ridiculous sum of $395K per year to wave a stick around and emote to the musicians who probably aren’t even looking at him. I don’t know what the musicians are getting paid, but you can be sure it is a mere fraction of the maestro’s bloated pay check.

      For anyone about to quibble with this, kindly read Norman’s excellent book “The Maestro Myth”.

  • Steven Holloway says:

    First, I think it should be noted that the article, published in a business journal, has the word “ADVERTISEMENT” in caps at the bottom, always something to watch out for these days. Secondly, two readings leave me of the opinion that it has been issued by the “ISO” in the sense of its executive, not of the Orchestra’s musicians. This tells me nothing re whether the case brought is or is not justified, but it does tell me this article is not the most reliable source on that question.

    • MWnyc says:

      Steven, I think you may have misread or misinterpreted what you saw.

      Lindsey Erdody, the author of the article, is, in fact a staff writer for the Indianapolis Business Journal. (Click on her byline to be taken to a brief bio.)

      I’m pretty sure that the label “ADVERTISEMENT” that you saw at the bottom of the article is referring to the (graphic) ad directly underneath it. (The one on my screen right now says “Connect with CREW to Build Best!”) Perhaps the JPG or GIF containing the ad didn’t load on your screen, especially if you have an ad blocker activated.

      For what it’s worth, in my limited experience reading the Indianapolis Business Journal, I’ve seen no indication that it’s in any way unreliable. In fact, lately it has been providing better news coverage of the Indianapolis Symphony than the Indianapolis Star has.

      As for your suggestion that the article is biased in favor of ISO management, the author has devoted most of her space to ISO management’s position because the news being reported is ISO management’s first official response to the bassoonist’s age discrimination charges. When those charges first became public two months ago, the author gave plenty of space to the bassoonist’s side of the story.


      • Steven Holloway says:

        Thank you for clarifying, MWNYC. I do not, indeed, have an advertisement below the article. Advertisements and press releases in the guise of news articles by journalists have become rather common in some sources of late, and thus I tend to be on the alert for them. What I should still appreciate is more clarity as to who is represented by the term ‘Indianapolis Symphony’ and its variants — members thereof or the executive. I’m inclined to the view that an orchestra is embodied by the former more than by the latter. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for your helpful response overall.

        • MWnyc says:

          I understand and sympathize with your confusion, Steven. Most people take the proper name “XXXX Symphony Orchestra” to refer to the musicians (if not the institution as a whole), and journalists and (especially) headline writers use the proper name that way as a shorthand.

          As a general rule, though, if the issue in question is any sort of legal or employment matter, and especially a dispute, “XXXX Symphony Orchestra” will refer to the management/administration and (in the States) the board of directors, as is the case here.

          If a news article or (especially) a headline says “XXXX Philharmonic [“Orchestra” can be understood here] Fires Executive Director” or “XXXX Symphony Fires Music Director” or some other top official, that will refer strictly to the board of directors and not to administrative employees or the musicians.

          Somewhat similarly, with “Lyric Opera of Chicago Fires Angela Gheorghiu” (as happened ten years ago), “Lyric Opera of Chicago” would refer to the general manager/executive director and top management, almost certainly with an OK from the board chair and possibly other key board members. (I mean, the general manager doubtless made a couple of phone calls rather than taking the time to convene a meeting of the entire board.) LOC’s chorus, orchestra, scene and costume shops, etc. probably cheered the decision, but they didn’t get to make the decision.

          Things work a bit differently in Europe, especially where the musicians and management are all considered government employees. For instance, when the Vienna State Opera fired Olga Borodina (11 years ago), that probably just meant Intendant Ioan Holender; I don’t know whom, if anyone, he had to consult.

          On the other hand, when the Berlin Philharmonic fired then-Intendant Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, I think that did mean the musicians, since it is governed by the musicians. Did they have to consult the city government, or at least the city’s Senator for Culture? I don’t know.

  • greatlakes says:

    I don’t know anything about the merits or lack thereof of the case. However, the petty comments about the conductor in the comments are pathetic. He is a great talent, clamoured after by orchestras around the world. Indianapolis should count its blessings to have a man of his stature, grace, education, and artistic vision.