Sacked Bach director was never shown the charges against him

Sacked Bach director was never shown the charges against him


norman lebrecht

November 16, 2017

The Oregon Bach Festival saga is plumbing ever greater depths of academic tyranny and incompetence.

Matthew Halls, who was fired as artistic director on anonymous charges of race and sex discrimination, now says the university refused to show him the substance of the allegations made against him.

Here’s his statement, issued last night through a lawyer.

I am reading about these complaints for the first time now. At no stage did anybody from the University of Oregon or the Oregon Bach Festival leadership present me — or my attorney — with these documents. I was not given any opportunity to respond to these complaints before my contract was terminated. At no time did UO leadership talk to me about any impropriety on my part or suggest any changes in my teaching methods or treatment of musicians.

As a life-long musician and performer, I have always valued diversity among those I work with because it greatly enriches the quality of our work. Until now, I was unaware of any concerns about my treatment of the OBF musicians when I was Artistic Director. I apologise to anyone who felt that I favoured one gender over another. I do not in any way intend to favour a particular gender and I wish I had been given an opportunity to address these concerns while I was still employed.

Read on here.


  • Robert Levine says:

    I’ve worked with Matthew Halls, and none of these charges ring true to me.

  • Kali says:

    According to reports, the first complaint was sent exec director McCoy on July 12. Halls was conducting through July 15. Why didn’t McCoy immediately contact Halls? If the complaints were serious wouldn’t a warning be mandatory because he was still working with musicians? The complaints (as reported) present room for interpretation. It’s possible that musical egos were ruffled (how often does that happen!) and that morphed into “harassment. ”

    The language of the complaint reads suspiciously like academic double-talk. The complaint reads more likely from a student than a professional musician. Perhaps these complaints were from high school age students of the Berwick Academy. Is this entire situation something that would only happen at a university?

    McCoy had the option not to fire Halls. There was a universty-approved path to working out the issues. What’s clear is that Halls should have had the opportunity to respond. People value fairness. This was unfair.

    The Oregon Bach Festival will have a difficult path now. McCoy has been stripped of leadership. The future is being planned by committee. Who would want to be the next conductor at a first rehearsal? What self-respecting musician will work at a festival that treated Halls unfairly?

    I don’t think Matthew Halls’s reputation will suffer from this. He needs to walk away and get on with his promising career.

  • DuckAlum says:

    Halls was a jerk AND this was handled horribly…. with the festival now falling under the inept leadership of the School of Music and Dance at the University of Oregon under the failing leadership of Brad Foley, the Oregon Bach Festival is well on its steep tumble into the depths of irrelevancy. They should just do the right thing and hang it up already.

    • Kali says:

      There are two overlapping issues : The firing of Matthew Halls and the future of the Bach Festival. The firing was mishandled and it’s not clear (to me) that it was justified . But opposing the continuance of the festival is about punishment – not protecting classical music culture. The people programming the next season are not those who fired Halls. Brad Foley is an effective leader to keep the festival afloat.

      • DuckAlum says:

        The festival is a mess an Foley is on his way out this year after significantly delclining enrollment in the SOMD and severely weakened academic reputation. PhD grads? Research output? Concert Hall? Faculty retention? The school should be reduced to save the university money. End the festival and save its founders the shame of its eventual sad demise.

        • Amy Adams says:

          Wow, Duckalum. That is some bitter opining there about Dean Brad Foley.
          I think he’s one of the few with the local gravitas to pull the festival from the jaws of disaster. Janelle McCoy is reportedly in over her head.
          Festivals do not just fold up….there are legacies, endowment funds, a whole infrastructure and rich history at stake. That it’s been damaged few would disagree.

          (Oh, hi Kali…let me know when you’re in town and we’ll go have that coffee. 🙂 )

    • Amy Adams says:

      You say “Halls was a jerk”…as though you were there, DuckAlum.
      Were you?
      In what way was he a jerk and to whom? Are you getting this off of heavily redacted documents, or are you sitting down and chatting with someone about it?

      To use a hypothetical example: there is a world of difference between critiquing the clarity of a conductor’s beat pattern….and groping.
      Again…what exactly did Matthew Halls do to be called a “jerk”?

  • Yora Baggadix says:

    I have NEVER seen Matthew Halls be a jerk. I’ve known him for years, having spent time with him in academic, musical and social settings. He’s a class act.