When an orchestra fires a principal player

When an orchestra fires a principal player


norman lebrecht

August 04, 2021

It’s an event so rare I can recall only three or four instances in a major US orchestra in the past decade.

In September 2018, the New York Philharmonic dismissed principal oboe Liang Wang (pictured) and associate principal trumpet Matthew Muckey for what was described as ‘misconduct’. No elaboration was given but it was understood that a female complainant was involved.

NY Phil President Deborah Borda said: ‘the New York Philharmonic is committed to providing an environment of respect and dignity for all of our Philharmonic family.’

When the union objected to their dismissal, the Philharmonic placed the two musicians on ‘an unpaid leave of absence’ pending an independent assessment.

Nineteen months later, an arbitrator recommended that the pair should be reinstated, and they duly were, with ‘profound disappointment’.

That’s how hard it is to fire a principal in a unionised American orchestra.

So far, no case has been made for restoring the newly sacked Emily Skala to the Baltimore Symphony.

But it may be. This is not over yet.

UPDATE: We overlooked the 2018 Cleveland Orchestra dismissals, for alleged sexual misconduct, of concertmaster William Preucil and principal trombone Massimo LaRosa.


  • Maria says:

    How did I guess it was America who did the sacking before I read it? Perhaps they each put their hand on someone’s shoulder as ‘misconduct!’ Let’s hope it’s overturned.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      These days even a friendly hug can be misconstrued as an assault.

      • Karl says:

        The sexual harassment training at my workplace made it clear that touching anyone anyplace is a violation.

      • True North says:

        Do you go around offering “friendly hugs” to your colleagues, Alexander?

      • Bill says:

        What’s the difference between a “friendly hug” and a “friendly kiss”? Maybe the person doing the giving isn’t the one to decide how friendly the one on the receiving end finds it…

      • James Weiss says:

        Well, you shouldn’t be “hugging” anyone who isn’t an intimate. Period. Why haven’t people learned this?

  • Anon says:

    There have been a few besides this guy.

    The difference between the fired musicians I know of & Skala is that I seriously do not think she’s capable of defending herself. We have seen what she believes, what she’s written. She’s not all there. If she was capable of understanding the gravity of her situation, she would have changed her behaviour.

    This oboe player is very shrewd, canny. He’s young, from a mega wealthy Chinese family with resources to pay for the best legal defense possible. He was able to defend himself. I honestly do not believe Emily is. If she were, she would have deflected this situation months ago. It looks like the Union has done little for her, and she hasn’t had the good sense to hire a lawyer. She’s living in some alternate universe & doesn’t have the basic skills or grasp on reality to defend herself here. She just doesn’t know how.

    • Euphonium Al says:

      It’s an excellent point. In my experience, those who hold radical political beliefs, whether of the hard right or hard left variety, are invariably also holders of unquiet minds. Is it any surprise that someone with an unquiet mind engages in unquiet actions? Of course not. It is no surprise that someone who thinks the COVID-19 was cooked up in an American university laboratory might also treat her colleagues cruelly and capriciously. We are simply not talking about a rational actor, and irrational actors act irrationally.

      • Mick the Knife says:

        I don’t believe that she holds radical beliefs. Everything I’ve read is reasoned out. There are premises I don’t accept. But she appears to be “all there” and quite smart.

      • True North says:

        Agree absolutely. People who are generally well-adjusted, with happy personal lives, simply don’t behave like that in my experience.

    • Bill says:

      Her rant published elsewhere in SD today strongly suggests that you are correct about her issues. Sounds depressingly similar to my late brother-in-law.

  • Robert Levine says:

    It’s actually not that hard to fire a musician in an American orchestra – principal player or not – for misconduct; especially if one includes forced, but negotiated, departures. What’s rare is misconduct that requires termination.

    In my orchestra (in which I’m both a principal and president of the local union), we’ve had a bare handful of cases that required any kind of discipline at all in my 30+ years here. Most were dealt with by a letter of reprimand and a statement from management that further misconduct along the same lines would be answered with stronger measures, possibly including termination. That almost always resolves the situation.

    And most musicians aren’t fired for artistic inadequacy because very few musicians who were good enough to be hired in the first place let their skills deteriorate to the point that they become a problem. When that does happen, often it’s a result of a physical or neurological problem, which, if it does lead to a musician leaving, is achieved via a negotiated settlement of some kind.

    In my experience, most musicians who get fired for misconduct are, in fact, difficult people who have alienated most of their colleagues – and their employers – by their actions over a long period of time. And, even then, their terminations are generally disputed by the union via whatever process in the CBA is set up to handle such issues.

    In my experience, if management has done its homework, management usually wins that battle.

    • Hayne says:

      “And, even ten, their terminations are generally disputed by the union…” Hahahaha! Good one!

    • If the description of the events is correct and complete, this is a firing based on worldviews held by tens of millions of Americans (vax and election conspiracies.) Her views, like so many others, are misguided in the most literal sense. People are having their heads filled with nonsense by our most powerful leaders, and our our most influential media organizations.

      And yet orchestras are firing musicians who hold views held by about half the voting population. Something is incredibly wrong with this picture. It tells us more about orchestras than we’re willing to acknowledge.

      • Robert Levine says:

        “If the description of the events is correct and complete, this is a firing based on worldviews held by tens of millions of Americans (vax and election conspiracies.) ”

        We don’t know that. We don’t know on what the termination was based. And I’m not aware of any other case in an American orchestra where a termination was even alleged to be based on public speech.

        • If the many media reports are true (CBS, NBC, NYT, etc.) her firing was based on her social media statements concerning vaccines, the last Presidential election, and endorsements of BLM.

          • Bill says:

            The media are speculating. The orchestra is not required to divulge the reasons for her termination, and no halfway competent legal counsel would allow them to do so. If she files a wrongful termination action and the court or arbitrator allows it to proceed, the orchestra may then have to testify about why she was terminated.

          • Hayne says:

            Bingo! All this is speculation until a wrongful termination suit is brought.

    • I now read below that she is alleged to have also made racist comments. (The blog entry doesn’t mention this.) That is a different category of expression that could warrant a firing since as a section leader it could be seen as creating a discriminatory workplace atmosphere which is against the law.

      • Anon says:

        The problem here is that these were not overtly racist comments & as I understand it they were made in the context of private, internal Baltimore Symphony correspondences which were intercepted & posted out of context publicly on social media.

        Very few people have actually read her words. They’ve just heard “she made racist comments” & have condemned her on the basis of hearsay.

        I tried to find exactly what she said. I saw that she said that Hitler was of Jewish ancestry. This is common knowledge. It’s not anti-semitic. She made some offbeat claims about the origins of the Jewish faith, which she’d gleaned from a Dutch Qanon source. There was nothing derogatory to Jews about this, it was just odd. She said she felt uncomfortable in the flute section of her 1st orchestra because her section leader was a Jewish man and she was a non Jewish female. It was an observation, not a condemnation.

        None of these comments were the main theme of her writings. They were extracted from many correspondences and quoted out of context to try & demonstrate that she is anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, she has been an ardent champion for Jewish and Israeli composers. It doesn’t make sense. I have looked high and low for anything she’s said which is specifically anti-semitic and I do not see it.

        Then somehow BLM got tied into the witch hunt. All I saw there was her reluctance, stated in a private correspondence which was leaked, for Baltimore Symphony to publicly promote BLM because of its political implications and funding. BLM has become, if I’m understanding her correctly, a partisan theme and perhaps not appropriate for an organization like Baltimore Symphony to espouse, in her opinion. That opinion was pounced on and publicized by her detractors, the private email made public on an anonymous FB page, and she was suddenly decried as racist again.

        These are not specifically racist comments or attitudes. They are odd, politically incorrect and conspiracy theory rooted. People don’t like Skala and this has all the earmarks of a witch hunt. It’s like knocking down and destroying old statues of figures which sort of look like they might be racist but when you look at their actual history they actually aren’t.

        Her colleagues don’t like her, management was sick of defending her in the press and social media and it was just easier for them to take the low road and fire her.

        • BRUCEB says:

          She did say she believed she was discriminated against in Pittsburgh because she was denied tenure by a bunch of older Jewish men, and she was a young non-Jewish woman. She thought her religion (I don’t know if she’s religious, but apparently she’s not Jewish), as well as her age and sex, played a part in it.

        • I don’t know any details about this situation, but in general I prefer to err on the side of free expression and dialog when at all possible. I don’t know who you are or how reliable your comment is, but if true, it would be troubling.

        • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

          I agree. She’s a total nut case and I do not agree with what she allegedly has posted or said.

          But I am having a hard time understanding how her freedom of speech as an individual is cause for her dismissal if she was able to perform her duties as well as the others in the orchestra.

          If I were her, I would get a good lawyer, sue the BSO, get a settlement, and retire with the funds (33 years is a good run) and retire to an island in the Caribbean where no one knows you.

    • Anon says:

      “Difficult people who have alienated most of their colleagues” resulting in a musician’s firing is the most extreme example of workplace mobbing.

      Playing in an orchestra should not be a popularity contest. You come, you do your job and you leave. You know the stories as well as I do about legendary Principal players who sat next to each other for decades refusing to say a word. They hated each other. They did their jobs. It’s what good professionals do.

      Whether or not your colleagues like you is incidental. It has nothing to do with how you do your job. It should not cause someone to be fired. If Ms. Skala is putting colleagues at risk, yes, they have a right to complain to management. But whether or not she has “alienated” them should be inconsequential.

      I really bristle at the mention that “alienating” one’s colleagues could be a source of firing. It’s not the Miss Congeniality contest. You need no one’s approval to do your job well. You keep your thoughts to yourself, avoid conflict and play well. Looks like Ms. Skala forgot about the 1st 2 on the list.

      But whether or not she, or anyone else under the gun by management or the union for potential firing has “alienated” or is unliked by colleagues should be completely irrelevant.

      • Robert Levine says:

        “’Difficult people who have alienated most of their colleagues’ resulting in a musician’s firing is the most extreme example of workplace mobbing.”

        I didn’t say that being difficult, or alienating one’s colleagues, is a basis for termination. Even difficult colleagues generally manage to avoid violating stated and legitimate rules and regulations laid down by the employer (or negotiated with the union). Their violations of unstated social norms within the orchestra will result in them being unpopular, but not in their termination.

        Trust me; I’ve had my fair share of difficult colleagues over a multi-decades-long career in orchestras, and have been one myself on occasion. I can recall precisely one who management tried to “dismiss for cause,” which is the legal term of art for such actions. And even that attempt failed to pass peer review.

        People who repeatedly violate stated and legitimate rules and regulations – which is generally what it takes to be dismissed for cause – almost always make a habit of violating unstated norms of conduct as well, and are generally disliked by most of their colleagues as a consequence.That’s not “mobbing.” That’s life for anyone who’s not a hermit.

        • Anon says:

          Yes, but you really need to make that distinction between being disliked by colleagues and actually violating employment rules. You have to look at the violations objectively not thru the lens or hearsay of colleagues who just don’t like the person and want them gone.

          Orch. players are pretty clever. They won’t complain if someone they like breaks the rules, but if someone like Skala does all hell breaks loose. That borders on workplace mobbing.

          And you have to be aware that unpopular colleagues can be tripped up to violate laws unintentially, which it looks like to me is what happened to Skala.

          In her own words, the “violation” she was ultimately fired for was that she simply tried to open the door to the hall with her key card, not realizing it had been deactivated. Apparently management is labeling that an unlawful entry. Sounds like a set up to me.

          Yes, it’s really hard & expensive to fire tenured players, so management and other musicians often play dirty. Skala is not all there, so she’s an easy mark. Instead of trying to to negotiate a quiet departure with her, it looks to me like management set up her to fail with some pre-planned silly technical violations. It will potentially save them the money for a settlement if she doesn’t defend herself, which I don’t think she’s capable of.

          I’m sure you’ve seen this before. It’s dirty pool by management. It’s how you get rid of a tenured player you don’t want to deal with. I hope the Union steps in for her, but I don’t think she’s an especially easy client, so she may be left on her own, howling conspiracy theories at the moon.

          If anyone in Management or the AFM woud act wisely, they’d get this poor woman a psychatric dismissal, to get the care she needs. The pandemic was hard on everyone psychologically. Skala seems to have gone over the edge. No shame, but she needs help.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well, Rudi Verbsky in the NSO is one example, though that was over a decade ago. William Preucil? Another “frequent commenter” here named John Wetherill? I’m guessing these examples are far broader than your recall, or your agenda, acknowledge.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    American unions are too strong. It’s very hard to fire an incompetent musician let alone one who is competent but misbehaves for the common good of the orchestra. I say this as a member of the AFM.

    In the case of Baltimore, I would think that if the defendant hires a good lawyer, she could argue her case on the grounds of the First Amendment and get her job back along with back pay.

    Not that I agree with her, but if I were her, it would be a good investment in my opinion.

    • Emil says:

      Unless the Baltimore SO is a government institution, the 1st amendment does not apply.
      She could perhaps sue for discrimination based on political allegiance, but that would be a tough battle (as she would have to show she was fired because of a protected characteristic, not for misconduct).

    • Euphonium Al says:

      No, no, no. We’ve been over this. She may have other grounds to sue, but a First Amendment claim would be laughed out of court. The First Amendment applies against the state, not against private employers. Skala has every right to speak her mind, but she does not have the right to employment with the BSO.

    • Hayne says:

      I hope the board of the BSO have deep pockets.

      • Bill says:

        Why? In the extremely unlikely event that she sues the board members for damages and gets a judgment in her favor, they will be covered by the orchestra’s D&O policy. And firing this nut is not going to cause donations to drop.

  • buffalo_bill says:

    How about the former solo oboe of the Buffalo Philharmonic?

  • Michael says:

    William Preucill, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra.

  • Euphonium Al says:

    Hmmm. Perhaps. You may have inside information the rest of us do not, but I’m not sure the union will go to the proverbial gym mat for someone who thinks Jews brought the Shoah upon themselves. The BSO may well end up giving her some $ to settle any potential litigation subject to a nondisclosure agreement, but I’d be surprised if she actually gets her job back. She’ll be a culture critic on Fox News, Newsmax, or ONN soon enough and turn her circumstances into a gold mine.

  • Terence says:

    Unpaid leave for nineteen months?

    What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    One person makes a complaint, which is later found to be unsubstantiated, and the administration panics! Very poor NY.

    • Emil says:

      Did you miss the part where they terminated him first following an investigation?
      (Besides, he might very well have gotten back pay once he was reinstated)

    • Bill says:

      That applies in a criminal court of law in the US. No criminal charges have been filed here, so that is an irrelevant concept.

  • BRUCEB says:

    Cleveland, 2018: concertmaster and principal trombone


    (0 comments shown so far, but surely I won’t be the first to call attention to this example)

  • Bill says:

    Your memory is not very good if you can’t recall any other principal musicians being fired in the last decade from US orchestras.

    • Joshw says:

      Or certain people aren’t as connected as they think they are. There have been MANY principal firings in the past decade that have been kept quiet. (And I certainly don’t claim to know about all of them.)

  • Bill says:

    William Preucil and Massimo LaRosa were fired from Cleveland for exactly the same reasons these two were and there is no way they will get their jobs or careers back. The difference is Cleveland did their homework before firing those two and the NY Phil didn’t, leaving themselves open to the whims of an arbitrator.
    I’m most cases, principals who aren’t cutting it either figure out that it’s time to go, or the orchestra makes it worth their while to retire with some shred of dignity before it gets ugly.

  • Jim C. says:

    Maybe there was no good reason to fire them?

  • fflambeau says:

    Good and extensive article on the Baltimore situation here. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/aug/04/baltimore-symphony-orchestra-flutist-fired

    Apparently, she also made racist and anti-Semitic comments.
    She was fired by an orchestra, not government entity, so many constitutional protections do not apply. She will lose in court and make an embarrassment of herself.

    • The article notes that she said the orchestra shouldn’t align itself with the BLM movement because that position is too political. Typical right wing speciousness. The orchestra rightfully objected, but its an ironic stance for an ensemble that is 98% white in a city 63% black. A slight whiff of hypocrisy?

      Given the chance to play with the Vienna Philharmonic which has historically excluded Asians, hardly a musician in the BSO or anywhere else would decline. At times, our righteousness is matched only by our selective view of ourselves. This isn’t to defend to the flutist, but to remind us of actual realities we like to overlook.

      • Hayne says:

        It’s painfully obvious when it comes to BLM, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Same with most “intellectual” musicians.

        • Bill says:

          At least there are some topics where he does have an idea what he is talking about. If only the same could be said about you!

  • Nick2 says:

    So you believe the independent arbitrator was biased? You believe this has something to do with the Union having the power to influence the arbitrator? I know nothing about this case but let’s recall that most believed the accusations about the allegations against Domingo following the conclusion of the independent arbitrator. What makes this do different?

    • Bill says:

      “Independent” arbitrators have a tendency to do what will keep getting them hired. Not all of them turn out to be so independent.

      I offer no opinion on whether the arbitrator in this case was predisposed by his or her financial self-interest, just commenting in general on the biases inherent in the way arbitrators are compensated.

  • SK says:

    Norman, if you can recall only one instance–the NY Phil–in the last decade, then you must have forgotten that a while ago the Cleveland Orchestra dismissed both its concertmaster and 1st trombone for reported bad behavior. Both positions are currently unoccupied (except by acting personnel).

    Today one cannot get away with what one could in the past, and that’s probably for the best. What was reported about the two Cleveland players would seem to warrant dismissal, especially in the case of the CM. In Ms. Skala’s case, the decision to dismiss might be more debatable, but if in fact she is a denier of the 2020 election and truly believes the Orange Abomination won and should still be in power, then one has to wonder what she is using in place of brains.

  • wang in there says:

    Liang Wang has become the poster boy for orchestra members who sexually abuse colleagues who can’t be fired.

  • Anon says:

    There is one player who once played in an orchestra I won’t name, who I think is far worse than Preucil or the others you mentioned. All you mentioned are not to be forgiven for their action, but one musician I will not name, is far worse. I won’t give any details. But the one performer did what Preucil and the others you mentioned would never do.

  • sam says:

    So how do you strategically get rid of a principal player (who can’t play anymore)?

    Can you offer him say, $100 annual salary when his contract comes up for renewal, forcing him to resign?

  • sam says:

    NL, why are you defending this anti-semite?

    Her comments on this site in the past may be within the bounds of the reasonable, but her social media posts are not, not unless you subscribe to a position of absolute unlimited freedom of speech extended into every domain public and private, which no one, not even the most conservative justice on the US Supreme Court holds such a view.

    • Saxon says:

      The US Supreme Court does, however, believe people should be allowed to say things that are outright offensive. Or completely stupid.

  • Alphonse says:

    Don’t forget Phil Myers, principal horn from 1980-2017. There is still a great deal of murkiness surrounding his departure. He seems to have all but dropped off the face of the earth.

  • BRUCEB says:

    For the people saying it’s impossible, or nearly so, to fire a tenured musician: that’s not true. The process is long and difficult, and purposely so — nobody, except possibly conductors, wants to go back to the storied days of Reiner and Szell firing people in the middle of a rehearsal for having the wrong facial expression — but it can be done. Here’s an outline of the procedure per my orchestra’s CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement; some orchestras call it a “master contract”). I’m not familiar with other orchestras’ CBAs, but I don’t suppose ours is extraordinary.

    For artistic reasons: initiated at the discretion of the Music Director only.
    1. MD sends a letter by a certain date, listing the things about the person’s playing that they are not satisfied with and giving them 2 months to fix the problems.
    2. 2 months later, there’s a meeting where the MD says whether or not the musician’s playing is now satisfactory. If they’re satisfied, then great. If not —
    3. The MD or the musician can schedule a closed audition, using repertoire from the current season. The MD can then express satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
    4. If the MD is still not satisfied, the musician is notified that they will not be renewed for next season.
    5. If the musician decides to appeal the decision, there is a meeting with the MD and the principals of the orchestra. (If the player in question is a principal, then they are not included; if the player is an immediate family member of a principal, then that principal is not included.) The MD lays out the reasons behind the dismissal, and they discuss. The principals may choose to meet privately without the MD for further discussion. After this, they vote by secret ballot to indicate their support or non-support of the termination. A 2/3 majority vote is required to overturn the MD’s decision and reinstate the player.

    If the player believes the rules have not been properly followed, they can file a grievance. The procedure in this case is:
    1. A meeting with a representative of the Union local. “Every effort shall be made to settle the Grievance at this level in an informal manner.” If not —
    2. Mediation, with a mutually agreed-upon mediator. If an agreement can’t be reached (or one side refuses mediation), then —
    3. Arbitration, with an impartial arbitrator licensed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The arbitrator’s decision will be based on the standard of “preponderance of evidence,” not some higher standard, and will be final and binding on both parties.

    So, a few things. There’s not really any protection from a conductor who just doesn’t like you — they can just keep saying “sorry, I’m still not satisfied” — but they do have to be willing to undergo a couple of uncomfortable face-to-face encounters with the musician, and stick to the schedule and the procedure.

    And the musician has to be willing to go through this whole process in order to keep their job playing for someone who wants them gone.

    Then, if the musician does appeal, they are dependent on the good will of their orchestra’s principals to overturn the decision. If they uphold the conductor’s decision to get rid of you, there’s no way to prove whether it’s because they think you’re a bad player or just an asshole.

    If the player files a grievance, it looks like it can only be in response to an alleged violation of the rules, not just a disagreement about the outcome. (As I recall, this was what the famous kerfuffle between Seiji Ozawa and Charlie Schleuter was about: Ozawa tried to fire him unilaterally, like a player on probation, after granting him tenure. Schleuter won, but the decision was based on whether the rules had been followed, not on his qualities as a trumpet player.)

    • BRUCEB says:

      We also have a clause about behavior that is “unacceptable to the smooth operation of the orchestra.” (As with artistic reasons, it’s open to interpretation; but the general idea is, if the behavior is causing a problem, then it’s causing a problem.) It’s a 3-strikes-and-you’re-out procedure:

      1. Written notice describing the behavior and stating that it is a problem. If it continues:
      2. A second written notice that if it happens again, it will be grounds for dismissal. If it continues:
      3. Dismissal.

      • Bill says:

        It is a safe bet that Ms Skala does not have a large group of friends among the other principals, and the orchestra referred to multiple disciplinary actions against her. If the BSO CBA is similar to yours, I don’t think the BSO webmaster will be required to put her profile back on the orchestra’s website.

        Notice the lack of outcry from members of the orchestra about this? Not even “I know people in the orchestra, and they are upset about this” claims.

    • Anon says:

      A few people come to mind reading the procedures you describe. Dawn Weiss was the tenured Principal Flute for decades with Oregon Symphony. Well respected, from a prominent West Coast musical family.

      Enter new Music Director Carlos Kalmar who did not like her. She went thru every step you’ve described to try to keep her job. She jumped thru a mind-blowing series of hoops to try to please him and the Union. In the end, Kalmar won and she ended up with no job. As you’ve said, if the conductor doesn’t like you.. .

      It’s interesting to watch conductors like Kalmar because often if they try it once successfully they’ll try again. Sure enough he did. It was many years later when he took a music directorship in Europe. No union but as Mr. Osborne has pointed out, most EU orchs are govt jobs. The tenure the musicians have is stronger even than the AFM. Kalmar ran into a world of grief. He left even before his contract was up as I recall and he was quietly replaced. The bassoonist he went after is still on the job.

      • BRUCEB says:

        Yes, I remember that. He was successful because he was able to stick to the protocol. There’s almost no way for the musician to win unless a large majority of their fellow principals votes to veto the conductor’s decision; I’ve never been in the position of having to vote or be voted on (so far), but I sort of feel like everyone has to think you’re really good, and they have to like you. (Being united in dislike of the conductor might be a helpful factor, too.)

        The flutist Kalmar hired was someone just out of school; he said something to the local paper about how nice it would be to have someone he could mold into the player he wanted. She didn’t get tenure (not sufficiently moldable, perhaps). She is now in the Cleveland Orchestra.

        So there we are.

  • Robert Levine says:

    There have been a fair number of principle musician departures from major American orchestras over the past decade. Almost all of them have been negotiated departures, with the musician under pressure from management to leave. I know of a few, and am pretty sure about many others. Obviously I’m not going to cite examples. But I know of several just with my instrument.

    Most managements will pay to avoid airing their dirty laundry and to avoid a drawn-out and inevitably public dismissal process; one that’s painful both for the institution and for their musicians. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t achieve the dismissal through that process; often they would. But throwing money at this kind of problem often works well.

    • Anon says:

      I agree. You make key points. 1. negotiated departures are the norm. 2. management usually avoids airing their dirty laundry 3. money often solves the problem.

      These are all reasons why the Skala case is so disturbing. 1.Nothing was negotiated. She was just fired. 2. Management went right to the press and announced it, which was an amateur move. Makes the orch look bad, and it creates controversy. 3. They should have offered her a settlement to go quietly.

      These are not savvy or experienced people running the Baltimore Symphony. I hate to get generational here, but they sound like millenials who just assume that everyone thinks the way they do, and that firing an older, unpopular player is an accepted solution for everyone.

      • Bill says:

        Another possibility: they looked at her apparent state of mind and concluded she simply would not be able to comply with such an agreement to keep her mouth shut.

        I am not a licensed mental health professional, and cannot diagnose whatever issues she might have, but if she, or anyone else, has some forms of mental illness, they will not agree that anything is wrong, will not take medication, and will not be able to control their behavior. Maybe this termination will eventually lead to her getting some help, if needed.

      • Robert Levine says:

        “These are all reasons why the Skala case is so disturbing. 1.Nothing was negotiated. She was just fired.”

        You don’t know if there was an attempt at negotiation. Nor do I. Management has stated that they responded with “progressive discipline” (implying repeated misconduct) to her actions, and she stated that she had already been suspended, which suggests management is telling the truth.

        But “progressive discipline” is the opposite of “just fired.” It means that there were gentler forms of discipline imposed earlier in order to try to convince her to change whatever the behavior was in question, and that those gentler forms didn’t succeed in solving the problem.

        “2. Management went right to the press and announced it, which was an amateur move. Makes the orch look bad, and it creates controversy.”

        The timeline is not clear. But it would be extremely unusual for a management to make a public statement about a termination except as a response to public allegations of illegal termination from the employee. I strongly suspect that they were called by the press for a statement once Ms. Skala went public with her termination, and said the minimum that they could in defending their actions.

        For legal reasons, most employers these days won’t say anything about why an employee left even privately to other employers.

        “3. They should have offered her a settlement to go quietly.”

        Some people simply can’t be trusted to “go quietly.” If that’s how BSO management felt about her, then they would not have bothered with a settlement offer which would inevitably included a non-disclosure agreement.

  • Fired Principals… Don’t forget the crazy-FaceBooking Trombone principal in San Antonio and that oboe in New York they had to put a plastic barrier around.

  • BigSir says:

    What happened to the good old days when people got fired for playing badly? Something we could all understand.