A US orchestra is abused for protecting its players

A US orchestra is abused for protecting its players


norman lebrecht

September 19, 2021

Message from Timothy Verville, music director of the Georgia Symphony:

For the past several weeks, the Georgia Symphony and I have been on the receiving end of baseless accusations, veiled legal threats, and borderline verbal abuse. They originate from a small, vocal minority regarding our Covid-19 policies across various aspects of our organization. These policies to protect staff, musicians, patrons, and our students have been called “highly unethical”, “authoritarian”, and more. This is while we are in the middle of a continuing pandemic, and our county is under a declared state of emergency.

We are accused of violating any number of federal laws, which we have not done. We are accused of violating a person’s constitutional rights, which we have not done. Just today, one individual accused us of imposing “dictatorial rules” “insane restrictions” and “Nazi-like rules on American Citizens,” which of course we have not done.

“Citizen scientists” and internet chatroom certified legal “experts” have been aggressive and at times hostile in tone in their communications towards us. I have even been yelled at in a phone conversation regarding our policies.

Not every objector has acted in this manner. There have been a couple of individuals who disagreed in a considerate manner. And while I believe they are wrong, I appreciate how they comported themselves.

But to those who choose to present themselves in the distasteful and untruthful manners described above, I say this: every communication you send provides another reason why organizations across the country are doing what they are doing.

I will not let you bully our staff and I will not allow any of them to suffer your fantasies of self-victimization. Performing arts organizations have a moral duty to care for those who work there and their patrons. It is the organization’s responsibility to let people come to be enriched, entertained, and educated in an environment that is as safe as possible for all.

And every unfounded accusation hurled in our direction further strengthens my resolve in this.



  • Bernard Jacobson says:

    Bravo, Maestro!

    • Bernard Jacobson says:

      By the way, Maestro Verville, you can console yourself with the very reasonable expectation that before the onset of forthcoming elections enough of these libertarians will have succeeded in accomplishing their own deaths that for Democratic candidates considerable benefit will accrue.

      • Antonia says:

        While I comprehend why you would feel this way, we should take no pleasure in the deaths of these people. They’re still human beings. Very deeply misguided ones, ones in which a propensity to believe in conspiracy theories is hard-wired into their brains, but still human.

        Further, dealing in truth is mega-important right now. The pandemic anti-mitigation people deal mostly in falsehoods. We need to take the high ground and deal in fact. It is not “fact” that all these people will die of Covid. It is fact that the overwhelming majority of the unvaxxed who get Covid will survive. OK, 28% of them will suffer long term effects and impairments from having had Covid, and some may come to wish they had instead died. But most do survive it by a huge proportion.

        The fact that we who believe in pandemic safety don’t acknowledge this is one reason they can continue in their conspiracy theories. They think we’re too afraid of the virus because we are doomsdayers and can’t see that most people do survive the illness.

        I see comments all the time such as yours that suggest most of the anti-vaxxers will be the victims of their own poor decisions. Most of them survive and seem and feel fine, although they surely have silent lung scarring and maybe other issues of which they are unaware. So they laugh at us when we say such things.

        I encourage all to deal in truth, even when the truth doesn’t please us.

        • Kathleen E King says:

          Sadly, you are correct. That does not mean, however, that their stupidity — for such it is — is not leading us to the advent of a still more deadly variant. Except for the fact that this will affect us all, we could simply applaud and wait for that occasion and the death of those too stupid to live.

          • Hayne says:

            I guess you haven’t heard about ‘leaky’ vaccines which create the mutated viruses in vaccinated people. It’s a common Darwinian principal on how they develop.
            That’s ok, I say you’re uniformed, not stupid.

          • TubaMinimum says:

            What amazes me about all of the latest anti-vax talking points is there is always just a pinch of science mixed in with intentional misunderstanding or plain ignorance.

            A “leaky vaccine” is one that stops symptoms but not transmission, because the more times a virus is passed back and forth, the more likely it is to mutate into something more dangerous. The study on chickens, that Joe Rogan and other “leaky” people are yelling about on the Internet was a vaccine for chickens that did just that. Stopped the symptoms of a disease but did nothing to stop it from being passed back and forth until it mutated. The mRNA vaccines do cut down on transmission of the virus. Not 100% and not as much as we would like, but definitely cuts down on transmission compared to the unvaxxed population.

            Let me make this clear. The reason the virus mutates is because it is given opportunity to replicate millions of times jumping from host to host. The virus isn’t inspired by the presence of a vaccine to get stronger than the vaccine. It’s all about opportunity to replicate and mutate. Delta came about all on its own because the virus jumped between millions of people all over the world for a year. The virus can and most likely WILL mutate into something stronger before we are done with it. Anything we can do to cut down on the transmission will lessen that opportunity, which of course means that a widely vaccinated public cuts down on the likelihood of the next strain. An unvaxxed population is basically human firewood, fueling it.

          • Hayne says:

            From the BMJ, 8/19/21
            “Fully vaccinated people can carry just as much delta virus as unvaccinated people.”

            Vaccines that don’t provide robust immunity are overused, they allow viruses to mutate in potentially hazardous ways. When you overuse an antibiotic that fails to eradicate the bacteria, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are allowed to flourish (superbugs).
            In the same way, overuse of a vaccine that doesn’t provide immunity can allow the virus to mutate inside vaccinated individuals into variants that evade vaccine-induced immunity.
            As the vaccines weaken, this becomes potentially even more dangerous.

          • Harpist says:

            That is some new level of Citizen Scientist here. And totally bogus and ill-informed.

        • BRUCEB says:

          “They’re still human beings.”

          Well yes, they are. But they don’t seem to think of others that way.

          You could say they’re following the Golden Rule (treat others as you would wish to be treated): they are treating others a certain way and therefore are asking to be treated that way themselves.

        • Hayne says:

          80% of covid deaths in August in the UK were vaccinated. And anti jab people are making poor decisions? Most people would be fine with early treatment. Does the UK do early treatment? I don’t know.

      • Paracelsus says:

        This Jacobson walks and talks like that Bernard Jacobson, member of the Philadelphia Orchestra Management Team, who on this blog, with immortal verses sang the praise of Muti as a mild-manner saint.

        It cannot be. The real Bernard Jacobson should know that Muti is a COVID negationist who never wears a mask. He wouldn’t want his saint to end-up like those deplorable libertarians now, would he.

        • Michele says:

          COVID wants nothing to do with Muti and steers clear of him.

        • Hayne says:

          Forget about Muti. What does wearing a mask have to do with anything? I can cite dozens of studies on the ineffectiveness of masks (even from our beloved CDC). Can you produce any for masks? N.B. Don’t bother. There aren’t any.
          N.B. again. The media does not count as scientific studies, sorry.

        • Guest says:

          Keep your labels. This pathetic civilization LOVES their labels. Fake vaxxx up!

      • Hayne says:

        Why do you wish harm on people who disagree with you?

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Well done and I hope that you have informed the police. People using ‘phones and computers can be traced these days.

  • Anon says:

    Unfortunately, this comes with the territory when you take a Music Director position in a place like Georgia.

    It’s a political issue. You’re in one of maybe 3 states in the US where this is likely to happen. I get your frustration. You’re right. But not sure it’s an artistic leader’s job to defend an orch’s policy to the public when it’s such a charged political point like this. Let someone else in your organization do it.

    • PK says:

      Exactly my thoughts, your job as a music director is to protect all musicians no matter their opinion and find middle grounds policy that the organization can lead (not you- the organization!). It does depend on the community your orchestra is located in. In some places full vaccination mandates will probably be embraced, in some – not and you can’t just dismiss people who disagree, find alternative ways. Find a way to protect all. As a music director you should be making sure musicians get paid during the pandemic, making sure that the orchestra you conduct survives, etc. You as a music director writing these type of statements is a mistake in my opinion because you create us vs them mentality, you are leader for everyone in the orchestra and it is your mission to find a way to accommodate everyone. I honestly think that many of your patrons will not be returning and you might say that’s ok we don’t need antivaxxers or people who question the narrative but really, don’t you think your job as an orchestra is to unify your community whatever it takes, not to divide it?

      • Anon says:

        Agree, but not even sure it’s his job to make sure his musicians get paid or are protected. There’s the union and management for that. A Music Director’s job is artistic. Period. He’s not the musicians’ father or benefactor or their general manager. He is their artistic leader.

        It’s his job to find artistic solutions to this dilemma, not to take a political stance on twitter. This orch obviously serves a community with diverging views on covid measures. The MD serves the whole community, not just those who think the way he does.

        It’s not doing any favors for the GA Symphony for a MD to get on social media and complain. It’s already a polarized political issue in Georgia and music should try to bridge that divide, not throw fuel on the fire. You need every single patron to be loyal to your orchestra right now. Find a way to do that. If your patrons must be scolded, let the General Manager do it. Keep your nose clean. Stay neutral.

        Be a diplomat, Maestro. Out of respect for ALL of your patrons, be neutral. Try to find artistic solutions which will please both sides of the argument.

        • Anonymous says:

          You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about this organization. This orchestra is an amateur ensemble with mostly volunteer musicians. Your talk about a GM and union show that you have not even done a cursory Google search. Perhaps you are getting this group confused with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra?

          • Anon says:

            Nope, but thanks for clarifying for other readers. On this site, amateur or community orchestras are generally referred to as “US orchestras” as this one was. It makes a better headline because readers (who aren’t from the US) always think it’s some major pro US ensemble.

            The conductor maybe could have mentioned that fact in his post. It would have made more sense that way, being a community, amateur orchestra. But no, he refers to his “organization” and his “staff”, as though it’s a professional group. No conductor wants to publicize that he’s MD of a volunteer community orchestra. Hence the misunderstanding.

            I figured this was a amateur group simply by the way the MD is behaving. That doesn’t happen in pro orchs. Few major conductors would be out on Twitter advertising their political views.

            Even amateur orchestras should have a protocol: a manager, some type of administrative staff, who should be handling this instead of the MD. The conductor refers to his staff, his “organization” in his post. It’s their job to address this, not his.

            I stand by my opinion. Unless this conductor identifies himself as the leader of a volunteer, community amateur group which might possibly justify him taking a political stance on their behalf, his “staff” and his “organization” – whatever that entails – should be handling this situation.

            A conductor should behave like a conductor – be it at the community level or in a top pro orchestra. If this guy wants to remain at the community level, as a conductor of volunteer and amateur orchestras, he’s on the right track.

        • Nick says:

          Look, Anon, how many “dislikes” you get for an absolutely human opinion and the right for it and for the dialogue! Can you imagine how many blind, deaf, brain dead, frightened and plain stupid people are there in the world, who would be happy to have a Dictatorship upon the whole World?!

  • Hayne says:

    OK, now let’s hear what the other side’s position is.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Bravo. Great choice of words. I especially liked ““Citizen scientists” and internet chatroom certified legal “experts” “

  • Gijs van der Meijden says:

    ‘Citizen scientists’, nice word. These are the people who want to vote whether a virus is contagious or not.

  • Brian says:

    Everyone loves democracy until the citizens voice their opinion.

    • BRUCEB says:

      As the conservative snowflakes among us like to enjoy reminding people: the US is not a democracy, and we should therefore get over whatever’s bothering us.

  • Kathleen E King says:

    Thank you, maestro. One must assume that the worst of these comments are not really arising from your audience. One surely must be able to assume that those who admire and resonate with classical music, with real music, are smarter than that. GOOD WORK, sir!

  • SlippedChat says:

    The maestro’s statement is a model of what should be a universal attitude and policy, not only of performing arts organizations but just about every other type of business as well.

  • anon says:

    For the first time in recorded history in the US, half of the states in the US had a higher death rate than birth rate in 2020, and they are almost all Trump states.

    It’s evolution, y’all. Natural selection is working.

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      Yeah… YEAH!!! Only through cheering the elimination and demise of those we don’t agree with can we truly show how compassionate, caring, and tolerant WE are. Now if we could only find a faster, more efficient way to rid ourselves of their presence…

  • Alan Glick says:

    No doubt those who are gloating over the potential death of people with opposing views count themselves as among the enlightened and compassionate crowd.

  • Roger Keyser says:

    Bravo! Do not be bullied by those wacco anti-vax extremists. Stay strong and true.

  • Randy Pepperoni says:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

  • Dr. Shirley Rombough says:

    Timothy Verville: You should be commended for acting to protect the health and safety of everyone, including artists, staff and audience.

  • Nicholas Ennos says:

    When all scientists and doctors opposing the vaccines are banned and censored, this is not surprising.

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    Timothy Verville should run for a high political office. Well said and done!

  • Guest says:

    The letter writers are 100% correct. Welcome to the death of classical music. Sad

  • Snark Shark says:

    When “two weeks to stop the spread” turns into forcing masks, vaxxes, and passes on perfectly healthy people, you couldn’t see this coming?

  • Harpist says:

    Bravo. Good for him and most of the people who want to enjoy music again safely.
    “Citizen Scientists” – I need to remember that one. So true.

  • Muzikmann30 says:

    Hear, hear! Although don’t forget to don your bullet proof vest when you venture out, can’t be too careful now….