Editorial: Baltimore can not afford a #Metoo civil war

Editorial: Baltimore can not afford a #Metoo civil war


norman lebrecht

November 11, 2018

Two months ago, the principal oboe of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra went public with a complaint against the concertmaster, alleging that he came to her room while on tour and asked for sex, which she refused.

The incident took place in 2005 and the complaint had been investigated by legal counsel and found insufficient to warrant further action.

That seemed to be the end of the matter.

At the start of this month, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra management confronted its musicians with demands for a 23 percent cut in working weeks in order to address mounting deficits.

The demand produced an impressive show of solidarity from the musicians as they dug in for what looks like being a nasty long fight. That solidarity was shattered this weekend when the concertmaster Jonathan Carney was suspended after complaints from two more women. The principal oboe voiced her satisfaction. The players, we hear, are divided.

Legal issues aside, Baltimore musicians can ill afford another conflict at this point.

Allegations of misconduct must, of course, be aired and investigated, but the musicians surely need to button their lips and put old scores on hold. Their livelihoods are at stake. Their future looks much diminished.

All other issues must take second place to survival.



  • Anonymous says:

    Baltimore is a great orchestra and needs a decent management. They could’ve learned a lot from Cleveland’s investigation. Ignoring problems, whether they be sexual harassment or financial, is not the way to security.

  • “Allegations of misconduct must, of course, be aired and investigated, but the musicians surely need to button their lips…”

    How does that work? Talk about it but don’t talk about it?

    I can imagine some musicians siding with the suspended concertmaster, but I can’t imagine one deciding “The concertmaster has been suspended, therefore the management must be right about me needing a 23% pay cut!”

  • music_montreal says:

    ‘The players, we hear, are divided.’ Regardless of how inconvenient NL thinks this is, there is no reason to ignore the alleged inappropriate actions of any person, and certainly not of a concertmaster. This has no impact whatsoever on the negotiating position of the BSO musicians vis-à-vis their management, which appears to be a strong one judging by what is being reported here and elsewhere.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It is quite normal that players within an orchestra are divided. I know of an orchestra where a couple of attractive females were harrassed by the conductor, upon which the unattractive ones began to behave hostile towards them when they took action and complained. Whereupon different factions of the males began to quarrel among themselves, expresing different opinions about the matter, etc. etc. All of which greatly contributed to the intensity of performances of Stravinsky’s Sacre.

  • A Klein says:

    Perhaps management can be more discreet in addressing complaints, or, preferably, take it seriously 13 years earlier before it becomes a bigger issue. To imply that the principal oboist should now be quiet or temporarily pull back her complaint until the financial situation improves is a direct denial of her rights. That won’t help the BSO and is grossly unfair to Katherine Needleman.

    Granted, no management wants to deal with #metoo based complaints, but lets remember that this is what they are paid for: To manage. Otherwise the law is worthless, and so are pages and pages of pseudo civil rights protections imbedded in musicians’ contracts and addenda. Regardless of what one might think of Katherine’s actions and strategy to deal with this, I hope we can all agree that the events she described should not happen in the work place. Let her voice her opinion.

    • Wai Kit Leung says:

      Of course the events she described should not be allowed in the workplace. However, she seems to be the only one who noticed those events, even though everyone could see how the concertmaster acted while the orchestra was tuning. Was it fabrication or imagination? Only she would know.

      From my personal experience with Katherine Needleman [redacted].

      • Jack says:

        Unsupported drive-by character attacks should not be tolerated, Norman.

        • Wai kit leung says:

          I have hard evidence to back up my claim. She accused me things I didn’t do. Is that a character attack on her?

          • CelloFellow says:

            Wai – it is completely unnecessary to try to make every single story about Needleman about you. We get it, you had a bad experience- but your obsessive nature to chime in and make a dig every time her name is mentioned, is disturbing to say the least.

          • Wai Kit Leung says:

            Point well taken CelloFellow. However, If you look closely, I didn’t comment on any of the other recent stories on Needleman. I was just replying to Alex Klein’s comment here, and wouldn’t have commented otherwise. Alex Klein and Needleman are friends, and his comments on this story should be taken with a grain of salt.

          • Bruce says:

            ^ “However, If you look closely, I didn’t comment on any of the other recent stories on Needleman.”

            True. However, every single time you do comment on any story relating to her, you bring up the same incident over and over again whether it’s relevant to the current story or not. You might have noticed it’s the only thing you ever talk about on Slipped Disc.

            Feel free to nurse your grudges in private. As you continue to air them in public, however, your obsessiveness is starting to make you lose supporters who were originally on your side. You are starting to make her look more sympathetic, as someone who has had to cope not only with Jonathan Carney but also with you.

            Also, your remark that being friends with someone makes their comments untrustworthy is insulting.

          • Wai Kit Leung says:

            Alex Klein publically supported Needleman’s lynching of me two years ago. That’s the reason why I don’t believe his opinion on this matter is unbiased.

          • A Target of Mobbing says:

            Bruce, I don’t think you (or the myriad others who show irritation and disdain for Wai Kit) understand the nature of the psychological and emotional trauma Mr. Leung suffered and clearly is still suffering today. Unlike physical injuries, which heal in weeks or months, non-physical trauma takes a long time to recover from, and sometimes it lasts a lifetime. The human being you are attacking has lost his job and lost his good reputation which cost him some loss of students and the loss of his home due to the reduction of income. You can imagine it put quite a strain on this family trying to make a living in Hong Kong. That is an awful lot of stress to endure for doing what he thought was a conscientious job. It has been, what, 2-3 years? And the abuse continues, frankly, as those who criticize him here on Slipped Disc are proving insensitive and disturbingly judgmental. I suggest you check out Monica Lewinsky’s TedTalk about cyber bullying and how it affected her and changed her life. Perhaps you will come away from that informed and empathetic.

          • Bruce says:

            You’re probably right. I have some experience of continuing to be affected by emotionally traumatizing events long after the point where others have “gotten over it,” but it was nothing like losing my job or my home.

            I have considered myself to be on Mr. Leung’s side of the argument, in the sense that the review was well-written (IMHO) and he provided plenty of examples and reasons to back up his opinions, and nobody should be punished for writing a — it wasn’t even a bad review, it was simply criticized for being insufficiently worshipful. I’m sure Ms. Needleman can now expect nothing but enthusiastic reviews for all of her subsequent recordings, written by knowledgeable and objective critics with loads of integrity who are anxious to keep their jobs and homes.

            The extent to which that debacle still affects him is obvious from his online comments. You might notice, if you care to, that I didn’t tell him to “get over it” or attack his character or his writing. I was only trying to let him know that his continued fixation on the topic was beginning to wear people out. (I’m also familiar with well-intentioned but tone-deaf offerings of advice, and was aware as I typed it that that might be what I was writing.)

            I didn’t intend to come across as justifying the assholes, but I can see now how my comment would look that way. Sorry about that.

          • music_montreal says:

            Get. Over. It. Amateur.

          • A Klein says:

            Oh, no. Not again. Wai Kit, at least you are transparent. Everyone can see WHY you are commenting here, and it has nothing to do with the subject at hand. You have a personal vendetta against Mrs Needleman, and hope that you can verbally pounce her while she appears to be in a weak position. Well…she isn’t. #metoo complaints are destroying careers of male conductors, musicians and others before they even go to Court, as controversial as that is. Believe me, Mrs Needleman is in the strong position, and your statements against her, particularly coming from a human male, only give her MORE power.

      • DJ Quentin says:

        Crawl back under your bridge you impetuous little troll. No one cares what you think.

  • Sandra says:

    The irony that a man is telling the women of the BSO to, essentially, be quiet about sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior and continue to play alongside their harassers because it is an inconvenient time for the orchestra should not be lost on anyone.

  • Sharon says:

    I had believed that renaming the New York State Theater the David Koch Theater (although admittedly this happened a couple of months before it became public that he was funding the Tea Party movement) would result in a decrease in audience because some audience members would want to protest honoring such a man but apparently that has not happened, to my knowledge.

    Mr. Lebrecht seems to be implying that the Baltimore Symphony will lose donations or subscribers because of this scandal. The jury is still out. In the Levine case some donors and subscribers believed that the Met knew for a long time and did nothing. This is not the case here; the management did not know and when they did it took action immediately.

    As far as splitting the orchestra is concerned people can be divided on a lot of issues at work and still be united when it comes to negotiating things like pay scales and number of performances

  • Guest says:

    Norman, your comment in support of keeping the BSO as a world-class orchestra is appreciated, but it must be said that the musicians are 100% in lock step fighting management’s awful, ill-conceived, capricious proposal to diminish the orchestra. Look at the Baltimore Symphony Musicians’ Facebook page and the newly-launched Save Our BSO and there can be no doubt that there is a unified front of solidarity with broad support from the community. The musicians have a compelling vision for keeping a world-class, 52 week orchestra in Baltimore and there is nothing that will change that.

  • Some Peace Please says:

    Please, management has to be looking at all this and smiling, knowing the division makes a weaker opponent to negotiate against. I also don’t believe in coincidences. Doesn’t it seem like an awful big coincidence that after sitting on Ms. Needleman’s complaint they out of the blue denied it a few weeks ago, right in the middle of this contract situation, which precipitated her EEOC complaint. Its almost as if they knew darn well what they were doing, and on cue, timed it perfectly, we have dissention right in the middle of critical contract negotiations.

    • TubaGuy says:

      There was a court peace order was handed down against the concertmaster last week stemming from an Oct 31 event.

      I don’t know if you want to call that a coincidence or not, but it isn’t a conspiracy.

      • A Target of Mobning says:

        That peace order was dismissed yesterday. There is no merit to it. I heard directly from one of the parties in attendance at the hearing.

  • Emil says:

    “Allegations of misconduct must, of course, be aired and investigated, but the musicians surely need to button their lips and put old scores on hold. Their livelihoods are at stake.”

    Is this a joke?
    Ladies, please do not cause trouble!
    To be clear, if (if!) the suspension causes trouble in the labour negotiations, then the responsibility lies with the (alleged) perpetrator, not the victim(s).

  • Scotty says:

    If his alleged crimes were against Jews, based on anti-Semitism, rather than against women, would we be ready to forget them for the sake of the orchestra?

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Last week, I was in the “Governing Members Lounge” (the notion of ‘governing members’ being somebody’s old joke) and “President and CEO” (not a joke) Peter Kjome was there grinning like Michael Henson and schmoozing up the socialites. All seemed normal. But downstairs in the lobby others were handing out flyers urging concertgoers to complain to management.

    It’s worth noting that management waited until its recent fund-raising push was declared a big success before dropping its belated bombshell ‘offer.’ (Think about that.) My gut feeling (probably a joke) is that a significant proportion of contributors will support the musicians in some way if this comes to what I expect it will come to. In any case, I don’t think the #metoo fracas, which must carry through, will have any real effect on the issues of the musicians’ livelihood and the orchestra’s future.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    The Baltimore Symphony is one of the greatest orchestras in America. It is an oasis in a tragic city where there is no respite from bad news. The orchestra as we know it cannot be allowed to be destroyed. The City of Baltimore has only a very few civic institutions that can serve as ambassadors: two major league sports teams (one of which may move in the next 10-20 years), a couple fantastic small art museums, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which in the days of Zinman and Commissiona was as crucial to Baltimore’s identity as the orchestras of Pittsburgh and Cleveland and Minneapolis are to their cities (and as great an orchestra). The carpetbagger now leeching himself to the administration is a just symptom of the problem. The problem is the donors who are sick of footing the bill. Thirty-five years ago, Joseph Meyerhoff would simply have written out a check and all this would blow over. But those few for whom Baltimore has made them rich have a responsibility to the hundreds of thousands who were left behind. Much of their money was made in building contracts with local government that were legally dubious, but Baltimore was so desperate for infrastructure and investment that they had no choice. You would think that their legacy would be sufficiently important that, just as the industrialists of yesteryear did, they’d want to leave behind a legacy of culture and education for the betterment of the city that gave them everything.

    The members of the board are these. They need to be written to, called out, shamed in the press, and shown that their legacy is at stake:

    Barbara M. Bozzuto*| Biography

    Peter T. Kjome*
    President & CEO

    Lainy LeBow-Sachs*
    Vice Chair

    Hilary B. Miller*
    Vice Chair

    Barry F. Rosen*
    Vice Chair

    The Honorable Steven R. Schuh*

    Kathleen A. Chagnon, Esq.*

    Board Members

    Rick Bernstein
    A.G.W. Biddle, III
    Kelly Cantley
    August J. Chiasera
    Robert B. Coutts
    Walter Doggett III
    Alan S. Edelman*
    Michael F. Ernst
    Sandra Levi Gerstung
    Dr. Michael G. Hansen*
    Joseph Jennings Jr.
    Christian Johansson
    Robert C. Knott
    Dr. Sunil Kumar
    Marc E. Lackritz
    Sandy Laken, Governing Members Chair^
    Dr. Marshall A. Levine
    Howard Majev, Esq.
    Valencia McClure
    Jay Orlandi
    E. Albert Reece, M.D.
    Terry M. Rubenstein*
    Stephen D. Shawe, Esq.
    Dan Shykind
    Mr. James T. Smith
    Solomon H. Snyder, M.D.*
    David Trone
    Marguerite Walsh, President, Baltimore Symphony Associates^
    Peter L. Winik
    Jeffrey T. Zoller, Chair, Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras^

    ^ Ex-officio
    * Board Executive Committee

    Life Directors

    Peter G. Angelos, Esq.
    Rheda Becker
    Yo-Yo Ma
    Harvey M. Meyerhoff
    Robert E. Meyerhoff
    Linda Hambleton Panitz

    Directors Emeriti

    Barry D. Berman, Esq.
    Laura Burrows
    Constance R. Caplan
    Benjamin H. Griswold IV
    Murray M. Kappelman, M.D
    Catherine H. McClelland
    Ann L. Rosenberg
    M. Sigmund Shapiro
    Stuart O. Simms

    Chair Laureate

    Michael G. Bronfein
    Kenneth W. DeFontes, Jr.
    Calman J. Zamoiski, Jr.

    Board of Trustees – Baltimore Symphony Endowment Trust

    Chris Bartlett, Chairman
    Barbara M. Bozzuto
    Kenneth W. DeFontes, Jr.
    Peter T. Kjome
    Joseph Meyerhoff II
    Rick Monfred
    The Honorable Steven R. Schuh
    Andrew A. Stern


      Bravo. It should also be noted that Stephen D. Shawe, Esq., a board member, also serves as the BSO’s pro bono lawyer. He was responsible for “bargaining” with the musicians as well as screwing up the sexual harassment stuff so badly it ended up in the press. It is a major conflict of interest that any ethical organization or any decent lawyer would have never allowed. The place is run by a double-talking socialite who wants the worst for the musicians and her ventriloquist doll CEO who also wants the worst for musicians, being a failed one himself.

    • Guest says:

      Terrible that one of our sports teams may leave. The Blast will be missed.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    And now this oboist disgraces the orchestra with a hideous tattoo blotching her neck. She is not worth the trouble she creates. Replace her.

  • Brook F says:

    Addressing discrimination in the workplace is our legal right. The notion that ‘buttoning one’s lips’ is for the greater good is a logical fallacy. Discrimination hurts everyone in an organization. World class organizations manage their employees within the well-defined boundaries of the law. Claims of discrimination are not simply the settling of ‘old scores’. They are vital to keeping organizations healthy and moving our society toward a brighter future.
    There is no factual rebuttal to Needleman’s claims. People spend so much time trying to convince others and ultimately themselves that because they have cause to dislike someone that then they matter less. This type of thinking is antithetical to my beliefs. A powerful human being wants the best for his brethren in spite of long suffering. I’m not saying it’s easy.