Breaking: Judge dismisses concertmaster’s case against US orchestramain
Holly Mulcahy, who sued the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra for breach of contract after it cancelled her concerto performance, lost her case this week before Judge McVeagh in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court.
Holly has just issued this statement via Slipped Disc:
I am grateful for the opportunity to stand up for employee’s rights. I respect the judge’s decision and, given the heavy reliance on a technicality to secure a dismissal, I am even more confident about my decision to pursue this course. Combined with the outpouring of support from colleagues and patrons, this confirms it was the right choice to make.
While the venue of small claims court doesn’t allow the time needed to fully examine the unique nature of solo agreements, the process afforded the opportunity to introduce the conversation to a broader audience.
Based on an agreement of an engagement this season with the CSO, I declined another performance opportunity because my intention is always to honor my original agreements. Sadly, the CSO executive leadership informed me barely three months before the performance date that they no longer intended to honor that agreement because my individual contract was set to expire and we had yet to reach an extension. This is contrary to the long-established performance of contract activity where all parties work to prepare and execute events a season in advance.
Because the CSO did not abide by the agreement, I made the distressing decision to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.
Unfortunately, I’m not the first musician to be put in this position. A board of directors customarily provides guidance and oversight in order to protect ticket buyers and will correct any executive decision that inflicts financial harm and/or puts the institution at risk. While I am unsure of why that did not transpire here, it broke my heart that the situation reached this point.
As concertmaster of The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera (CSO), I have been proud and excited to share so in many remarkable experiences since 2013. Connecting with listeners and community, growing audiences and contributing to making an inclusive place for someone’s first or 100th concert experience continues to be a career highlight.
My commitment to the CSO’s mission and our patrons is unwavering and, now that this matter is concluded, I am optimistic we can move forward by reopening communications toward reaching an extension for my individual agreement.
The trial lasted six hours. We have no determination yet on costs.
But it has set a precedent for musicians to sue their employer for breach. The next plaintif may get luckier.