Oboist is banned by Musicians Union

Oboist is banned by Musicians Union


norman lebrecht

June 18, 2020

The Musicians Union has expelled the oboist Dominic Kelly, one of London’s leading orchestral fixers, after complaints of sexual harrassment by fellow-musicians.

Kelly denies the allegations and maintains that the decision against him was unlawful and unfair. He is now considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Kelly is managing director of the English Session Orchestra, which comes together for film, advertising and other commercial sessions. He was banned by the MU as an ‘approved contractor’ for 10 years in 2018. Kelly went to court to challenge that decision.

The Court of Appeal upheld his suspension this week.

Specifically: the Court of Appeal upheld the Employment Appeals Tribunal decision that complainants could raise complaints over 28 days but it did not adjudicate on the substance of the decision by the Musicians’ Union, or its process.


  • mary says:

    Dominic Kelly
    Liang Wang
    James Huang Zheng
    Katherine Needleman

    What’s up with oboists?

    Is a certain personality type drawn to the oboe?
    Does the instrument change you?
    Is it the intoxicating power of giving an A to the orchestra?
    Is it the oxygen deprivation from blowing so hard?
    Is it all those solitary hours making their own reeds?

    • The View from America says:

      We could add Pierre Roy to the list …

      But then there’s the antidote of Blair Tindall for sidebar commentary and comic relief.

  • Edgar Self says:

    The first and only advice I got in orchestra was never lend money to oboists, so neither a borrower nor a lender was I Solo horn and oboe are often the next highest paid after concertmasters. In Chicago Symphony it was first trumpet Adolf “Bud” Herseth, then reputed the highest paid wind/brass player standing.

    I’ve heard those dark theories about cranial pressure and oxygen deprivation affecting an oboist’s’ personality but never heard oboists mention it. Terrible Marcel Tabuteau of Philadelphia was the first of many. I’ve not heard such things about a favorite oboist, Leon Goossens; that was his brother Sir Eugene’s department. Leon’s slow winding vibrato was so distinctive I could recognize orchestras by his sound. Other double reeders and circular breathers seem to escape.

    Orchestras tune to the oboe by default, unless a piano’s involved, because it’s the hardest to play in tune, so Mohammad goes to the mountain.

    • NYMike says:

      French “Terrible Marcel Tabuteau” was not only the founder of the American school of oboe playing but also a non-pareil musical coach @ Curtis whose precepts are still widely practiced today.

      • Edgar Self says:

        No-one denies that,Mike. I’ve admired Tabuteau since Stokowski’was in Philadelphia, but he had a reputation as being difficult and even explosive … why not, and no wonder … and so fits the profile suggested a peculiar to oboists, which it may or may not be. I’m just playing along to keep the ball, and the discussion,rolling. Mayabe you are too. What do think of Ray Still? Goosens? John de Lancie, Helmut Koch, Karl Steins, Pierlot, Holliger?

        Tabuteau recorded with Casals in Prades Bach’s Cantata 82 “Ich habe genug” and Stokowski as one of four stellar soloists in “Mozart’s” sinfonia concertante with Bernard Portnoy, Mason Jones, and Ray Still’s buddy Sol Schoenbach. The VPO oboes and a Dutchman DeVrees (?) I are less for.

        I read your posts with pleasure. You know your stuff.

  • Phillip Ayling says:

    As a very young oboist in college, I was confronted by some older grad students telling me tales of ‘back-pressure and oxygen starvation’ which would led to a life of insanity and instability if I continued in my quest to become a professional oboist.

    When I next saw my teacher, Norman Benno (a brilliant player who had served in various solo orchestra positions and was then principal oboe for Universal Pictures and ABC Television for many years), I excitedly and fearfully blurted out to him:

    “Mr. Benno, Mr. Benno is it true that playing that oboe makes you insane?”

    “No, no; not at all true” he replied.

    I started to calm… but then he continued: “It’s precisely because you are crazy, that you are making such rapid progress”.

  • Get many more like this and “oboist” will start to crowd out “Florida man” for headline crazy.

  • Karl says:

    The allegations are from YEARS ago. The union has a 28 day limit on reporting allegations, but they just ignored it. Also note that the allegations were made in a ‘safe space’ meaning no one questioned their veracity. He might be better off without the union. He is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

    • Bruce says:

      “Lord Justice Singh, sitting with Lord Justice Floyd and Lady Justice Carr, backed the tribunal’s findings, saying union rules insist on prompt investigation once an allegation is made but it also has the power to probe complaints outside a 28-day limit in line with the ‘reasonable expectation of union members or with common sense’.

      “’In my view, there could in principle be circumstances in which the delay in the making of a complaint is so long that it would be unfair and/or irrational for the union to investigate and/or lay a charge,’” he said in a ruling on Thursday. ‘The power to investigate outside the 28-day period is not therefore unlimited.'”

      BTW, he doesn’t seem to be contesting the veracity of the complaints, only saying that they are more than 28 days old.

      • John says:

        “By letter dated 4 March 2018, the Appellant exercised his right of appeal to the Appeals Sub-Committee of the Executive Committee.”

        Presumably he wouldn’t have done that unless he was disputing the veracity of the complaints themselves.

        Also looks like there are other complaints against the MU pending, which may include disputing the veracity of the complaints and the way they were handled. This appeal only seems to be about a very narrow preliminary issue.

        “The complaint alleged a breach of the Union rules in respect of the disciplinary proceedings of 16 February, 8 March and 24 April 2018. The attached particulars contended that consideration of the charges was in breach of a 28 day time limit in Rule XVII(4); ****and also made complaints of breaches of the rules of natural justice**** … The Certification Officer addressed the alleged breach of Rule XVII(4) ****as a preliminary issue.****