US music director resigns over ‘unsafe’ Covid conditions

US music director resigns over ‘unsafe’ Covid conditions


norman lebrecht

November 20, 2021

Message received:

David Rudge, Founding Music Director of the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina, and Director of Orchestras and Opera at the State University of New York has resigned his position with the Rock Hill Symphony in protest over unsafe working conditions for musicians and staff, and concerns for audience safety.

Maestro Rudge, on behalf the musicians, audience, and himself, voiced concerns that no masks or any other Covid safety precautions would be required of audience members for the upcoming family Holiday concert and the rest of the season. The RHSO Board of Directors has refused to require masks for its audience, even as virtually every other orchestra in SC is following the standard guidelines of requiring masks or masks/vaccinations for everyone in the building….

“This was one of the most difficult decisions of my professional life, but my vision and sense responsibility for the well being of everyone involved, was not shared by the majority of the Board,” said Rudge. “It has been such an honor to have worked with such talented and experienced musicians. I have so much appreciated their artistry over these years and now sincerely regret that precautions will not be taken to allow us to continue performing together.”



  • Brian says:

    I have a close relative who lives in South Carolina and says it’s a total s***show once you leave Charleston and Columbia (the two major cities): No one wears masks in stores or even doctors’ offices; huge crowds gather for church services and football rallies. They’re in complete denial of the pandemic.

    Good for the conductor for taking a stand.

    • celloman says:

      lol, you mean like the other 300 million Americans living a life without covid because they do not watch CNN? Just went to a concert with 2,000 in attendance in Illinois, guess what about half wore masks and no one gave af.

      • PFmus says:

        Oh, so the 700,000 dead Americans were all CNN watchers then? Died of CNN did they? But that’s not a good enough death toll for you, eh? Crawl back into your dacha, commisar Trollsky.

      • Brian says:

        You mean Illinois, where an average of 4,000 people a day are testing positive for Covid and only 60% of the population is fully vaccinated? Enjoy your mask-less concerts and “living a life” while you can.

      • J Barcelo says:

        I have been playing concerts with three orchestras – full rehearsals, large crowds, NO MASKS, for a few months now. There have been no problems at all. No Vaccine requirements, either. No superspreader events and there’s no social distancing. Of course in the great American southwest we have a lot more open outdoor space, we don’t live crammed into unhealthy apartments or subways (tubes). Yes, people catch Covid, but then in the past they’ve gotten the flu and other nasty things. Maybe people in South Carolina a scared, but in Tucson and Phoenix, things are pretty normal – the way it should be. My family in Leon, Mexico say that life is pretty normal there, too.

    • lalalalala says:

      Football rallies are probably outdoors…

    • Joe says:

      Greenville is a major city. Don’t speak like you know everything. Also Rock Hill is basically a suburb of Charlotte

      • BRUCEB says:

        I wouldn’t worry about it. He sounds like the kind of person who thinks there are only 10 “major” cities in the US.

        • Tom Phillips says:

          By the standards of global civilization and real cultural accomplishments there are barely 5 US “major cities”.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Just like everywhere else in red state America, particularly the South, our most backward and benighted region. They’ll be “saved” by “de lawd” and “owa guns”.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    Resigned from a church at the beginning of the pandemic because they were literally the only one in the state to have a dozen people on the chancel for streaming. When a singer who was four feet to my left for much of a service got sick (later tested positive for COVID antibodies) I said “do this right or do it without me” and they said “see ya.”

    • Rose says:

      And yet, you’re still alive? How EVER did you manage to survive?

      Or were you one of the 45% with asymptomatic infection (which means maybe you were a super-spreader and didn’t even know it)?

  • Larry says:

    The State University of New York at Fredonia, in upstate New York.

  • PK says:

    Why be afraid if you are vaccinated? The vaccine is 100% safe and effective and the numbers are decreasing tremendously since the emergency use authorization and now the pandemic is over as Fauci was able to develop this genius technology. I mean, how the Patent commission dared tell him in 2016 that the mRNA technology can’t be used in vaccine! And the idea of mass vaccinating population during a pandemic is genius too, the Ebola cases in Africa definitely did not provide any evidence that this leads to stronger variants becoming dominant. Oh well, it’s since, what can you do…

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    Good for the Maestro: he’s correct.

  • That is a terrible decision to be forced to make, and he is absolutely right to prefer safety of the artists and audience over the policy mandated by the board of non performers. Some other lucky ortchestra will soon snatch him up.

    • justsaying says:

      I’m still confused, it’s not a ban on masks—anyone could still wear masks if they wanted to, correct?

      • Corrie T. says:

        The audience was not required to wear masks or show proof of vaccination so you had hundreds and hundreds of people sitting packed together for 2.5 hours in the same poorly ventilated airspace, most not wearing masks, at a point when only 39% of the county had been vaccinated and the infection rate was 4th worst in the world. Still bad now. According to studies, masks are effective when the infected person AND the people around them wear them (correctly). If you are in an enclosed airspace for a long time with many other infected people who are not wearing masks, wearing one yourself isn’t that much of a guarantee…

  • justsaying says:

    Even if masks weren’t required for the musicians, they could still wear them onstage if they wanted to, right? Or am I missing something here…

    • JSC says:

      Have they designed masks for wind instrument players?

      • Bill says:

        Yes. ProTec has masks for wind and brass players and singers, and probably others do as well, but I was only willing to invest 15 seconds in researching this question for you.

      • CurlyQ111 says:

        They do, but they’re impossible to play with in an orchestra setting. As a brass player, trying to “find the hole” of the mask for a quick entrance takes too long, not to mention the moisture that builds up in there, which makes it really tough to play when your mouthpiece slides around and won’t stay where it needs to be.

        As a vaccinated performer with young children, who thankfully plays in a city that is very covid conscious, I’d not want to be around a bunch on massless people out of the chance that I could spread it to my kids.

        Good for him for doing the responsible thing.

  • JSC says:

    This link seems contradictory.

    Was Dr. Rudge’s Rock Hill contract up for renewal?

    Diversely appreciated by his students in NY.

    • Jules says:

      Rate My Professors is a ridiculous way to measure a teacher’s abilities.

    • BRUCEB says:

      The link is not actually contradictory.

      • “We are working to implement safety measures” is not the same as “we have safety measures in place.”
      • Masking and social distancing being “encouraged” is not the same as being “required.”
      • Proof of vaccination or a negative test result from the last 2-3 days is not mentioned. That, with masks required in addition, has pretty much become the industry safety standard.
      • Nothing about limited numbers of tickets being sold, or alternate rows only, or anything like that.

      In other words, there really are no safety measures to keep the audience or the orchestra safe.

  • Corrie T. says:

    As a professional orchestral musician in SC, I am familiar with this situation. RHSO is in a county with a 39% vaccination rate and per capita infection rates that were 4th highest in the WORLD when the last concert occurred (which he found a guest conductor who was willing to accept the risk since the Board refused to budge). They still have relatively high rates and low vaccination now in York County. Maestro Rudge is regarded as something of a hero by musicians here in SC for standing up for us at his own expense. Yes, we were allowed to wear masks on stage, but many (about 40%) in the audience did not wear them. We all breathe the same air. It was terrifying. The other professional orchestras in this state require masks or proof of vaccination or a negative test results or masks + proof of vaccination from EVERYONE in the airspace. Maestro Rudge has been conducting live orchestra and opera concerts in NY where safety measures are in place.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      And people truly wonder why the “educated cultural elite on the coasts” looks down on and condescends to those regions and their anti-intellectual hatred of science (i.e.reality).