Covid panic: Orchestra suspends conspiracy-theory musician

Covid panic: Orchestra suspends conspiracy-theory musician


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2021

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s School of Music has banned a teacher who attended an illegal gathering of conspiracy theorists.

The schhool says John Stetch is being investigated for violating COVID-19 restrictions by attending an indoor gathering. Stetch featured in a video of the meeting, now taken down.

Stetch, originally from New York, is a jazz musician, nominated seven times for a Juno award. He has a vibrant trio and is a sought-after jazz teacher, whose services are retained and advertised by the VSO.


  • Roman says:

    I could understand if government fined him for breaking the law. But how the employer could make action on him, given that some private meeting clearly doesn’t have anything in common with his professional position?

    • How? By breaking the COVID restrictions he is risking bringing the virus back to the school and his students.

      Probably already a stated policy by the school.

      • Bramwell Tovey says:

        As a co-founder of the VSO’s School of Music (though no longer involved on a day-to-day basis) I read this report and the reputable journalistic link attached by Mr Manno with great concern.

        Mr Stetch, whom I have no recollection of meeting, is reported by the journalist who has seen the YouTube video concerned, as hosting an illegal gathering that contained comments that clearly require investigation by the VSOSM and so he has been suspended, not ‘banned’.

        That seems a perfectly reasonable course of action when Adolf Hitler gets an alleged positive name check.

        Add to that, alleged comments conveying ‘hanging from a noose’ and ‘lead between the eyes’ being options for a local public health official, the Vancouver Police are now rightly involved.

        In normal times, the VSOSM is a bustling hub of activity with an outstanding faculty who have worked tirelessly during lockdown to maintain standards and engage their community of students online. Hence, if a staff member’s conduct raises issues, the management has a duty of care to everyone, staff, students and reputation. This has nothing to do with Covid panic.

        When individuals show you who they are (and in this case it includes prominent flat-earthers) they are wanting to be believed. Why should a response to a public video be a surprise to anyone?

    • Maestro51 says:

      It does if he infects everyone at the school he comes in contact with on a daily basis.

  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    Sounds fascistic to me. Has Vancouver gone ‘Germany 1933’?

    • José Bergher says:

      Sorry, it does not sound fascistic. It IS fascistic.

    • Gustavo says:

      You mean like this?

      „Mein Zweifel wuchs indessen in dem Maße, in dem Sie sich zunehmend obskurantistischer Esoterik zuzuwenden begannen, der Sie umgebende Kreis zunehmend sektiererischen Charakter annahm und Sie sich schließlich dann auch im Zusammenhang mit Wagners Antisemitismus auch öffentlich zu höchst fragwürdigen, ja grenzwertigen politischen Äußerungen hinreißen ließen, die bereits geeignet waren, an Ihrem Geisteszustand zu zweifeln.
      Eigentlich hatten Sie da schon den Rubikon überschritten.
      Der unten zitierte Vergleich ist nun nicht einmal mehr geschmacklos, sondern widerwärtig! Indem Sie die Worte Hans Scholls im gegenwärtigen Zusammenhang der Corona-Pandemie zu Ihren eigenen machen, schänden Sie nicht nur das Andenken eines der wenigen Zeitgenossen im 20. Jahrhundert, auf die wir stolz sein können, sondern missbrauchen ihn auch noch als vermeintlichen Zeugen für den geistigen Abschaum der Gegenwart, mit dem Sie sich so gemein machen und in eine Reihe stellen. Und Sie stellen damit unsere Regierung auf eine Stufe mit dem NS-Regime…
      In einer Mischung aus Traurigkeit und Zorn entziehe ich Ihnen hiermit … das vertrauliche ‚Du’ und erkläre Sie zur persona non grata im Haus Wahnfried!“

    • BruceB says:

      I know! If you can’t endanger the health of your students and colleagues by breaking the law in your free time, then what have we come to as a society?

    • BC resident says:

      BC’s laws employers to take action to prevent workplace spread of COVID — the entire legal liability is placed solely on the employer to keep everyone safe, and as such, have been given authority to terminate contracts of suspected COVID rule breakers. Several wrongful termination suits have been dismissed already on courts of all levels in BC, so it’s hardly surprising.

  • The “virus” is a means of installing world dictatorship. and too many supposedly intelligent people are falling for all the propaganda and labelling truth tellers “conspiracy theorists;” The Ministry of Propaganda is destroying free thought.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I suppose they are worried that he might try spreading his ignorance amongst the orchestra.

  • Hayne says:

    “Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.” Etienne de la Boetie

  • Birchley Poundbottom says:

    He’s a witch! Grab yer pitchforks gang.

  • Michael says:

    Oh, come on people! We’ve been living with the pandemic for a year now. The virus is real, and is killing thousands. We can debate whether policies in response are correct, proportionate etc. but this case is not about an individual’s rights.

    As an employer, the orchestra has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of its employees – or in this case, likely students as well. A person can think and do whatever they want on their own time; that is not the issue.

    One does not, however, have the right to knowingly and deliberately put colleagues, co-workers, students etc. at risk by flouting public health directives – at least not without consequences. His actions may or may not be criminal themselves, but by violating COVID-19 restrictions, he was evidently putting himself in a position of increased risk of contracting and transmitting the virus. As a responsible employer, the orchestra clearly had no choice to suspend him to prevent him from further endangering others.

    With so many struggling through this pandemic, misplaced outrage really does not help.

    • Hayne says:

      What if “public health directives” are wrong?
      There are many thousands of scientists and doctors who think so.

      • Gustavo says:

        I am beginning to wonder why I know of not a single Corona-case among friends, relatives, colleagues, while all 80+ individuals in this group have been jabbed twice!

        Feels like things are under control in the part of the locked-down world I live in (Germany).

        I also know nobody in person who has lost her/his income.

        I still wouldn’t say that Corona is not a problem.

        I would rather say that many people in Europe have made the right over-precautionary dicisions so that for a preveledged majority life could just go on.

        It is time to say thank you to public health professionals world-wide!

      • Michael says:

        Sure, if you say so.
        Even if public health directives are wrong (Which ones? Wash your hands? Keep your distance? Wear a mask? I’d love to see your scientific footnotes), that doesn’t mean they can be ignored by anyone who has their own “truth”. That’s not freedom, that’s anarchy – and there’s no vaccine for that.

        • Hayne says:

          Proof must be on the side of the “lawmakers.” SHOW US PROOF ON LOCKDOWNS, MASKS, ETC. Just because figures of authority pronounce it doesn’t means squat. Don’t be lazy, think for yourself.

      • BruceB says:

        Then he should be totally free to violate the law and/or terms of his employment without consequences.

      • Geoff says:

        How many of these scientists do YOU know?

      • George says:

        And even more thousands who disagree.

      • Maestro5151 says:

        Tell that to the 500,000 who died just in the US. I believe the people you are referring to are known as QUACKS.

    • BC resident says:

      He was a faculty member at UBC, and his class there was suspended as well.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    This is an adequate start, but we must accelerate the purge of these incoherent fools across our industry. The music will not return and be be made whole until these knuckle-draggers are silenced.

  • Gustavo says:

    In Germany, “Aufstehen für die Kunst” is off the leash (because hairdressers are opening March 1).

  • Harald says:

    70 years ago…..
    Who had the star at their coats and who did not…

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      Seventy years ago? In, wait… 1951?

      The ones with stars in 1951 were usually Sheriffs, or U.S. Marshalls. In Hollywood Western movies, most of them second-rate.

      On this thread, some of the comments supporting conspiracy theories were despicable. Some others were irretrievably dim. Your insinuation achieves the rare distinction of being simultaneously despicable and dim.

  • True North says:

    He is also a “flat-earther” as well as a COVID-denier. Not the brightest penny in the jar.

  • Robert Manno says:

    “Flat Earthers gather maskless in Vancouver apartment

    Stetch appears to have hosted more than a dozen people at a West End apartment Saturday evening.

    In an 87-minute YouTube livestream posted Saturday to the Flat Earth Focker channel, roughly 14 people are visible sitting maskless in close quarters, with some drinking alcohol and eating vegan chili. The video as since been made private, but NEWS 1130 viewed it on YouTube and obtained a copy.

    The stream was filmed by Mak Parhar, a prominent conspiracy theorist who lost a business licence for his Delta yoga studio last March after he spread false claims about the virus. In November, Parhar was arrested for allegedly breaking the Quarantine Act when he refused to self isolate after returning to Canada from a flat earth conference in the U.S.”

    • Hayne says:

      Shouldn’t the state have to prove scientifically why they put these draconian laws in place first? I don’t mean fear but science.

      • Symphony musician says:

        No, Hayne.
        The primary duty of any state is to keep its citizens safe. The state doesn’t have to ‘prove’ its measures scientifically – almost impossible in the early stages of an unprecedented situation. The state simply needs to justify restrictions with data and scientific evidence as far as it reasonably can. The more serious the measures/restrictions the stronger the evidence needs to be. For example, a vaccine by injection needs to be demonstrated to be very safe. On the other hand, requiring people to keep 2m apart or wear a mask just needs the weight of data to suggest it offers protection. It is likely that those two restrictions have saved tens of thousands of lives, possibly more. More and more data is coming in now, and the response can therefore become ever more sophisticated, but we probably won’t know the full picture for years.
        I know, because you keep banging on about it, that you believe the mortality rate of Covid-19 is 0.2% or lower. I see no point in arguing with you, because you seem intent on broadcasting on Slippedisc, not listening. However, for anyone reading this who is more willing to listen, it is far too early to say exactly what the mortality rate is, but the best estimate in the UK at the moment seems to be between 0.5% and 1%, even with excellent medical treatment. One would expect it to be higher if there is insufficient or inadequate medical treatment available. In the UK almost 0.2% of the whole national population have died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test; the figure is virtually identical to the number of excess deaths overall, so I believe it would be unreasonable to argue that all those people died of something else. The proportion of people who’ve had the virus could, from what I’ve read, be around 20% by now, which means the mortality rate here could have been around 1%. There are large margins for error in all these figures, so it is irresponsible to state figures with any certainty. Again, the sensible approach is to err on the side of caution, when talking numbers and when considering easing restrictions.
        Everybody, including politicians, is asking themselves whether the efforts to save lives will be worthwhile on balance in the long run, compared to the negative effects on quality of life and economic wellbeing. I don’t know and nor do you. I suspect the long-term consequences may be even worse than the virus, but I can’t possibly know yet. What is absolutely clear is that lockdowns, distancing and masks have saved many lives in this pandemic, and that is tangible and concrete.

  • Warren Cohen says:

    Ok, my nephew takes (or now took) piano lessons with him. I’m not sure how far I should go in correcting the misleading impression here. Stetch hosted a meeting of the Flat Earth Society, But the reason for his suspension from giving in person instruction at the school was because it was a violation of both British Columbia law and school policy to have an indoor gathering of that many people who are not following protocol. They were all unmasked at his place for a dinner and meeting thar lasted several hours. To allow him to come back to the school right after having hosted this gathering would’ve been highly irresponsible on their part. This has nothing to do with fascism or with his Looney Tunes beliefs.

    • Hayne says:

      Good point. Look at all the new covid cases after
      the Super Bowl parties in the US. They were warned by “authorities” not to have them:)

  • You could have at least had the courtesy of putting ‘conspiracy theory’ in quotes. So he told authorities to kiss his ass and went to an indoor meeting. Good for him. Hey performers — start growing a pair and end the hysteria. You’re being played like a bad fiddle. Do your own research. Disbelieving the pop press is not the same as being a conspiracy theorist.

    • AnnaT says:

      The “do your own research” types are utterly exhausting. I’m a musician and an academic–I’m not an epidemiologist, a public health worker, a nurse, a doctor, or an infectious disease specialist. If you’re none of those things, either, then what you call “research” is “searching the internet to find videos, statements, articles, and discussion groups that accord with what I feel.” Note: not research.

      • Hayne says:

        Science is not faith based.
        Anyone who tells you they believe or “trust” in science, is confusing science with marketing. Science demands proof and skepticism, and if those are censored and mocked, what you are left with is corporate marketing, not science.

        I don’t care if you’re not a scientist. You have a brain. Think critically and weigh evidence. Why is so much scientific evidence being censored? Doesn’t it make you wonder at all? With all governments draconian curbs on liberty shouldn’t THEY have to provide evidence? Why are you so naive to accept media and state pronounments?