More questions are asked over Chicago’s sacked violist

More questions are asked over Chicago’s sacked violist


norman lebrecht

September 18, 2023

In the face of stonewall silence from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, here’s what we know so far about the abrupt dismissal last week of young CSO violist Bea (Beatrice) Chen.

Ms Chen was sacked, we are reliably informed, for disciplinary reasons.

Many musicians have told that Bea applied to the CSO for a week’s leave from the Ravinia Festival in order to play a concert in Taiwan. Her request was turned down.

She then called in injured with a doctor’s note. Later she was pictured on social media (see below) on August 22 playing Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in Taiwan with her father, Robert Chen, who is concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Getting caught was a sackable offence on Bea’s part.

No action has been considered against Robert Chen, a trusted ally of emeritus music director Riccardo Muti.

But questions are being asked all around the orchestra about what Chen knew, and when.

This won’t go away.

To quell the furore, the CSO put out a rare weekend press release about a ‘tentative’ agreement between musicians and orchestra:

Following negotiations that began in June and concluded this evening (Sep 17), the Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM), and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) have reached tentative agreement on a new 3-year contract, through September 2026. If ratified by the Members of the Orchestra and by the CSOA Board of Trustees, the proposed agreement improves working conditions and wages for the musicians of the CSO and operational elements of the contract that benefit the CSOA. Both parties are thankful to their negotiating committees for their efforts to reach a successful conclusion before the current agreement was set to expire at midnight on September 17. Details of the agreement will be released after the changes to the contract are ratified by both parties.

Once again, no substance has been disclosed.


  • JB says:

    Isnt this the most common use of a doctors note for orchestral musicians? Maybe just in Germany…

    • Andreas B. says:

      in a German orchestra, just as in Chicago, you would be sacked on the spot, if caught playing elsewhere while being sick.

      if you know of a German orchestra that allows its members to abuse their employer as well as their colleagues in this fashion, pray tell!

      • JB says:

        What they dont know about they can’t sack you for

      • Disgruntled musician says:

        I used to play in a rinkydink Dutch orchestra whose chief conductor was was fired on the spot because he got caught conducting a concert in Germany after cancelling a much-needed rehearsal.

    • Gabriele says:

      I play in a German orchestra. If a colleague did this (and got caught) he would 100% be fired.

  • John says:

    Seems she tried to pull a fast one…maybe she thought daddy could protect her.

  • waw says:

    The role of the concertmaster is to be the leader of the orchestra, to set a work ethics by example and by discipline.

    It’d be a dereliction of duty if he encouraged, condoned and abetted an orchestra musician to contravene the employment policies of the orchestra.

    As father, it is impossible to imagine he did not advise his daughter. As concertmaster, it is inconceivable he did not know how a member on probation could be in Taiwan in the middle of a work week in Ravinia.

    He still plays well enough to be concertmaster, but does he have the moral leadership and repect of the orchestra?

    • Gerry Feinsteen says:

      He still plays well enough to be concertmaster? His playing of Heldenleben told the story much as NPR/BBC reporters would portray characters in voiceovers for Pixar.

      Boo-hoo. She got caught. Her daddy’s got tenure, and she was on probation. This is what happens when you hire children [of the concertmaster].

      Bravo to the orchestra for standing up to for principles, against principals.

      Nepotism is one way in, but family ties also seem to be her way out: Flight of the Bumble Bea.

      We can hope she returns to school to finish her degree. Professors, be ready to take attendance.

    • Midwestern Violin says:

      Moral leadership? I’m sorry, I thought we were talking about the Muti-led CSO here, and the two things don’t go together. The place is like a low budget remake of 2002 “Secretary”.

  • The punishment fit the crime says:

    There is an exactly zero percent chance that Bea hatched this idiocy on her own. Robert is frankly an aider and abettor here, and managed to torch his daughter’s reputation as an accomplice who Really should have known better. (She ALSO should have known better.) The audacity and entitlement on display here is something else. I cannot decide if they were dumb enough to think this would go unnoticed, or arrogant enough to think it would not matter either way.

    • Kurt says:

      Dumb, entitled, deluded, arrogant – whichever way you want to call it, there is a certain type of person that behaves this way and a Darwinian certainty that at some point, they will effectively terminate their own careers.

    • Section player says:

      Actually both! (Dumb and arrogant)

    • Not Lizzo says:

      >> (She ALSO should have known better.)

      How many 19 year olds really know better and actually act on that higher standard it when under considerable peer pressure for mundane teenage/young adult things like drinking, sex, partying, not following through on responsibilities (work, grades, etc.) We all make mistakes and did things we’re not proud of at that age and know our parent wouldn’t have approved, it’s part of growing up and asserting your independent.

      Now the but…

      “… doing things we know our parents wouldn’t have approved of…”

      Imagine that peer pressure to break the rules, in fact, perhaps a directive to break the rules and being told he’ll take care of it or maybe there will be no consequences is coming from your father, to whom you owe all your musical talent, success and possibly (very likely) a heavy burden of expectations that you will also be a musical star.

      I give Bea a pass here.

      • anonymous says:

        If you are hired as a professional, it is expected that you can act like a professional, not grow/age into the position. If Bea couldn’t determine that lying to HR was not acceptable, she doesn’t deserve to be in the organization. If it is clear that Dad aided and abetted the actions, his position as a leader of the organization should also be examined.

      • Woodbridge98 says:

        Harsh as this may seem, based on the facts as presented, I would not give her a pass. The fact that she is 19 or 20 is irrelevant. Presumably, she was being paid the same amount of money as any other musician at her level. Presumably, she signed the same form of contract as other musicians in her situation. Presumably, she was given the same set of rules to follow and the same opportunities to advance her career as other similarly-situated musicians. Why does she deserve special treatment because she happens to be 20 years old?

        • Yuri K says:

          She can’t even legally drink beer, in the USA at least.

        • Not Lizzo says:

          Wow, this is a harsh crowd.

          I didn’t say she deserved special treatment.

          I didn’t say she shouldn’t have been fired.

          I’m trying to say that based on the context she deserves more empathy and kindness than the verbal daggers that the folks in these comments are throwing at her.

      • Liam Allan-Dalgleish says:

        No offense but there must be some simpler way to saucy whatever the point is herr

      • Liam Allan-Dalgleish says:

        Exactly. This whole business of holding people responsible before they are mature enough to know what they are doing has to stop. Look at what happened to our former President, even after it was clear that he just wasn’t old enough and that he lacked the guidance he should have had before being thrust into the adult world.

  • CSOA Insider says:

    Here are two more questions for Mary Lou Gorno, Jeff Alexander, and Lynne Sorkin: how can you, with a straight face, discipline this young musician while tolerating the egregious conduct of you-know-who? Ms. Gorno, what do your clients do when they run into unacceptable conduct like that of Steve Easterbrook at McDonald’s?

    These are the questions we want answered.

    Major corporations do not tolerate such serious misconduct which not only breaches ethical standards, but exposes the organization to reputational and financial risk. Your double standard is not acceptable.

    • steve says:

      why haven’t you reported this to the press?

    • Anon says:

      Your rant is meaningless as long as you refer to any one of the 8 billion people on earth as “you-know-who.”

    • Concerned fan and musician says:

      It shows those that were soloing in Taiwan from the Cso also didn’t care about insulting the poor conductor of Tchaikovsky bang bang at Ravinia that week..who incidentally does insult a lot of people and women subordinates , and may have insulted her and her father as well. I feel some kind of anger was involved in the choice to lie and flee breaking contract rules . There had to be motivation beyond soloing with a youth orchestra. There is more to the story than some small solo opportunity . I can’t see how adding that to a resume makes a difference . On the positive side , maybe this will encourage the Cso to pick conductors and a music director for the year and Ravinia based on musical and intellectual merit and not for political reasons . Clearly , the Chens were not inspired by the opportunities at Ravinia that last week in terms of artistic leadership , and I wasn’t either enough to make the trip even once this year . We hope an excellent choice is made for the next md at Cso , enough to inspire people to subscribe and audition . It can also inspire musicians to have integrity , follow rules and be great role models for children following in their footsteps . It helps when musicians are also treated with respect by qualified artistic and managerial leaders that have integrity and follow moral and ethical high standards themselves . Politics are not the best reasons to hire musicians like music directors . Let’s leave politics for the voting booths for our governments, and hold artists to artistic , moral and ethical standards .

  • Music fan says:

    They should have both been sacked.

  • Thornhill says:

    I imagine that this must be a bit of an awkward situation for the union. If you believe that your request for leave time was unfairly denied, the procedure is to talk to your shop steward and file a complaint. Calling in sick essentially goes around the union, undercutting their authority.

    • Robert Levine says:

      The problem for Ms. Chen would be that the grievance process would take far too long to produce the outcome she wanted. Hence the subterfuge.

      • V.Lind says:

        Subterfuge my eye. She was exposed as a liar, and a cheat who disobeyed direct instructions. Silly bitch got what she deserved.

        • Dean says:

          Norman, what is the point of pre-moderating comments if you’re just going to let gratuitous abuse through which obviously violates your site’s stated comments policy? Totally inappropriate, regardless of what you think of the story.

        • BGC says:

          Whoa, V.Lind, there is zero reason to be this cruel. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • Jay says:

          There is no need to call this young woman a bitch. The vitriol is unnecessary.

  • Guest says:

    She was still on probation, so she could be fired instantly. Her father is tenured; if action is to be taken against him, it would need to go through standard procedures. The story has further to run …

    • Robert Levine says:

      It’s likely that having tenure would not have protected her against termination for so-called “just cause.” Orchestral contracts often have different (and lease) protections for such dismissals.

    • Violist says:

      Action could and would only be taken against him if his time off was also not approved. Most likely he was on approved time off since as concert master he is first in line for that sort of thing. His actions are only sh-tty since he most likely talked her into this huge mistake. She is most likely pretty innocent…

  • William Osborne says:

    I wonder why the orchestra wouldn’t have allowed her to have a sub at her own expense–especially since her absence would have been for an outdoor summer festival. When players do soloistic work at that high level and profile, it is actually beneficial to the orchestra.

    In Germany and other EU countries, this is less of a problem because they have larger personnel rosters and rotate the players in order to give them free time to practice and do chamber and soloistic work. The co-principal chairs do 50% of the services and tuttis usually about two thirds. Colleagues are usually quite willing to fill in for each other.

    • What? says:

      It was to be accompanied by a youth orchestra in Taiwan. Hardly “high profile”

    • John Kelly says:

      This seems to me to be the right question, but perhaps if the orchestra said “yes” to the request, lots of players would make similar requests. There’s no doubt in my mind that her Dad must’ve known about this and should have known better.

    • zayin says:


      She was on probation, and she had a job to do, and management and her colleagues were still evaluating her, not only her playing, but her work ethics and collegiality, you know, things every employer and co-worker wants to know before they give a teenager tenure for life!

      She acted like she already got tenure, or that the $160,000 job was beneath her, or that the Chicago Symphony was just a wait station on her way to a fabulous solo career as a violist (?!).

      Any other 19 year old who landed a $160K job in law or in business would’ve been doing overtime and coming in on the weekends to impress the boss. There is no equivalent of individual overtime in orchestras, so the least she could’ve done was just to show up for work.

      By calling in sick, she telegraphed to her colleagues that she believed her position did not matter, that any violist could replace any other violist. She is right, and for that, she did not deserve the job, because there are literally thousands of willing and capable violists who can do her job and do it with dedication and gratitude at the CSO.

    • Anon says:

      Yes William. Thanks for reminding us again about how wonderful things are in Germany.

    • Midwest says:

      That’s not the way it works. It’s contractual. Nothing pisses off colleagues more than seeing someone get special treatment. I’m actually all for people who are able to negotiate things in their individual contracts. More power to them. It’s when they break the rules and abuse the system to their advantage where I and everyone else in the orchestra has a huge problem. In my opinion, additional time off is actually worth more than extra pay since it gives people the opportunity do extra work and still potentially get paid (double dip). The punishment was swift and just.

      • Emil says:

        Also, there is a case that children of leaders *should* be treated with inflexible rules. What does it do to orchestra discipline, the musicians’ union, and management authority if not even a year into the job there’s a wide perception that the concertmaster’s daughter gets special favours? Obviously it would be disruptive to the orchestra. How would the principal viola manage their section in these circumstances? How could management deny leave to another musician in similar circumstances? How could the union purport to treat all musicians equally?
        The firing was sounds and inevitable. And she should have known that she had a special duty to toe the line and do everything by the book.

    • MJM says:

      Whatever. No defense for calling in sick and then working another gig. Character flaw. Fired. She’s lucky to have learned the lesson so early, although at high cost. And if daddy knew about it (he did!), his firing should be pursued, as well. That kind of behavior is caustic, especially from the leader of the orchestra.

    • Emil says:

      Orchestras also have standards to maintain, and must – for organisational purposes – make clear that they are the primary employer for their musicians (talking about full-time orchestras here). We’ve seen issues in Europe too – there was that musician who moved from the Netherlands to Belgium last year over leave issues. The Vienna Philharmonic famously has had very strict rules on orchestra commitments coming ahead of all other chamber ensembles of VPO musicians.

      A corollary question: she presumably knew well in advance about this commitment. Why did she a) not negotiate time leave for it when hired? b) ensure her leave would be approved before accepting the gig?

      • Shlomo says:

        You perhaps didn’t read it properly, her request for leave was denied, very likely because she was on probation and I can imagine being the personnel manager, do you want to work in CSO or do you want to play concerts with youth orchestras ..? I think there was only one correct answer to that.

        • Emil says:

          Oh, I read it properly. In most other fields, it is common when signing on for a new job to negotiate leave for pre-existing commitments.
          But the broader point I’m making: she should never have accepted the Taiwan gig if she was not 100% certain to have leave. Get the leave before you accept the gig.

  • Shlomo says:

    Norman, shouldn’t the headline be “Question answered about the sacking of…” ? Whether the management takes any action against Robert remains to be seen but if they do, it will definitely remain an internal matter, be it a warning, fine or any kind of suspension.

    To the other point, huge congratulations on the new contract (of course yet to be ratified), CSOA insider claims CSO is a poisonous snake pit yet it seems that ever since the strike, it is actually a place of harmony where both the orchestra members and management are willing to work together in mutual respect!

    • terence says:

      A place of harmony, you obviously did not get the David Cooper memo, or the fact that Muti music directorship was itself a huge fight

    • Former member of the "family" says:

      CSOA insider took a very reserved position but is clearly pointing valid questions in the right direction.
      I do like the snake pit analogy.

  • DirtLawyer says:

    Assuming this to be true: I’ve known people who’ve done this under similar pretexts, and it never ends well. My dad, who was a professional musician, taught me at a very young age that showing up to a gig early was half the battle. He also taught me that you don’t skip a gig to which you’ve committed just because a better one comes along.

    In a day and age of social media and instant communication and posting of events, there’s no way this would’ve ever gone unnoticed. So that means you either have hubris, you assume clout will protect you, or you thought asking for forgiveness after the fact would ultimately win the day.

    None of those strategies are particularly smart or mature. Hopefully this is the case of the latter from an otherwise excellent musician.

    • Gerry McDonald says:

      A long time ago a horn player in one of the BBC orchestras was fired for bunking off to do commercial sessions without permission!

      • Bone says:

        Moonlighting clauses are included in most contracts these days.
        Living in the American south, I know many musicians who are very protective of their church gigs and often turn aside substantial sums rather than fail to meet their obligations to perform on Sundays.
        Absolutely she should have been dismissed and her father potentially censured if he advised her course of action that resulted in her dismissal.

      • Sal says:

        Silly move because it causes embarrassment for the fixer too when discovered causing loss of future work on both fronts.

  • Paul says:

    I agree with all the comments. It will be interesting to see what fallout, if any, affects her father, the Concertmaster. “Waw” makes a very good point that at the very least he has likely compromised his relationship with his fellow musicians. (I’ve subscribed to the CSO for years and can’t feel too bad, as Mr. Chen comes across as quite arrogant.)

  • ES says:

    Either way it is not going well. If it is solely Beatrice’s and her father has absolutely no part of it, then where in the world of 20 year old would hatch such scheme and carry it out? Consider 20 year old is just end of being teenager. I’d put a big question mark about how she was brought up.

    If Robert did play a role but found not guilty, you can imagine what’d happen in the family.

    If he is found guilty, there’d be earth quake at CSO.

  • Reuther says:

    Ms Chen is a 19 year old kid. From bitter experience, I know that kids lie to their parents all the time. It is entirely possible that she told her father that she had arranged the time off successfully, not wanting to disappoint him by failing to be available for this opportunity, and then went through with the harebrained scheme of calling in sick on her own. I don’t know what happened and all of the jackals gleefully pouncing on Robert Chen here don’t either. And as others have pointed out here, she won a blind audition (at which her father was not present) to get the job in the first place. The charges of nepotism are unsupported, mean spirited, and contemptible.

    One last point: To characterize the announcement of a tentative agreement as an attempt to “quell the furore” is beyond idiotic. Please direct us to an example of the CSO reaching a contract agreement when it wasn’t immediately reported to the press.

    • Yup says:

      Contract agreement was reported to the press. See Chicago Classical Review.

    • Nick says:

      “Blind audition”…I don’t know who you are, but you’re a very naive individual if you actually believe that.

      • ES says:

        According to another CSO member interview on a YT channel: Blind audition in the first couple rounds. But towards the last few rounds, identity is made known. Candidates have to play with other members in a chamber settings to see how they fit in.

        So you now you know.

        • Anon vln says:

          The chair isn’t given blindly. End of story. All that matters for this point about nepotism is the final round, when the chair is actually won. Obviously she plays well enough to make it through the blind rounds, where they quickly weed out the players who dont belong. But if she wasn’t the concertmasters daughter, it’s highly unlikely that she would have won the entire contest on her own merit.

  • Geige says:

    I don’t have any knowledge of the CSO contract, but I agree with William Osborne that It is a little strange that the request was denied, and I can’t help thinking that there is a little more to the story. I suspect that it would not have resulted in firing if there hadn’t been some previous disciplinary infraction, which might also account for the denial of the request for leave.

    • Midwest says:

      Most orchestras have limits on how many people can be on leave (paid or unpaid) at a time. Other members probably asked for that week off first. Musicians on probation may not be able to get it off at all.

    • MJM says:

      How about she asked, they said no, she abused the sick leave policy, they fired her. Nothing strange about it. Happens all the time in the world. Only in the ivory tower world of symphony orchestras could management be questioned for turning down a leave request form a 19-year old.

      • Bone says:

        Occam’s razor. I believe you are likely correct.
        Then again, I believed the magic bullet theory was sound. Seems we really are in a post truth stage.

      • MD says:

        There is just one thing that makes no sense. How could the Chen’s imagine that her presence there, next to her father, would go unnoticed, after the denial? No one would be so stupid, so I believe that, whatever the reason, this must have been among the consequences they expected

    • Guest says:

      Not strange at all. A close friend of mine- member of a “Big 5” orchestra- called his personnel manager to ask to be let out of a concert because his mother was on her deathbed and hours away from dying.

      The response? “I need you onstage. Call me after she’s dead.”

  • Lachera says:

    Interesting. Here in Italy a player can ask for a temporary leave to play elsewhere and if possible it is granted, for any orchestra will be in need of players from other orchestras in the future and the favour will be reciprocated. But if you are on a sick leave, you cannot even leave home; the employer may call a check from a social security doctor – the check may ba called also by the social security administration – and if the doctor does not find you at home, you need a very compelling reason (usually only another medical examination is accepted). The control visit may arrive at any time between 9am-1pm and 3pm-7pm, even on a Sunday.

  • CA says:

    In my career my employer dismissed a non-tenured musician for doing something almost exactly like this.

  • Altviool says:

    Most orchestras have a quota for their concerts. Only a certain amount of members can be absent from a performance. It’s possible that Bea’s request came last or that the CSO based and granted their leave request on seniority (which she has none of course!)

    Why assume “previous disciplinary infractions” instead of “orchestras have 100+ page (complicated &) nuanced contracts and there is likely more to this story. Best not to troll or jump to the most uncharitable conclusion and go post it on the internet.”

    A young musician just lost a really good job, the news is posted all over the internet, and now some people are trying to smear her. I’d bet she’s feeling upset, regrets some of her choices, and is likely devastated. She is 19 or 20 years old- people of all ages make mistakes.

    Could we be a little bit kinder and understanding please? Especially when we’re speculating online.

    • Geige says:

      Altviool, your point is well taken. I didn’t intend to besmirch Ms. Chen, but only meant to say that the punishment seems harsh if her record was otherwise good. While this doesn’t justify her action, I would add that for the young, it’s easy to overvalue opportunities that feel “once in a lifetime.” I certainly made my share of mistakes motivated by such feelings when I was first freelancing, and I know I’m not alone. It doesn’t justify the lie, but if I’d had a day, I’d have been inclined towards compassion.

    • Thornhill says:

      Yes she’s young and I agree that we all make mistakes and we should show each other grace, but…

      There isn’t much nuance with this situation. She’s played with orchestras long enough to know that when you dropout of a performance because you’re sick, it creates disruptions, but nobody holds that against you or penalizes you because you cannot control when you get sick — we all get sick from time to time. So to play the sick card in order to get out of her responsibilities at the last minute so she could perform elsewhere is a huge betrayal of trust. Ultimately, this is about lying, and by the time teenagers are 16 I believe they fully understand the value we all put on being truthful.

      Should she have been given a final chance before being terminated? I lean to yes. Lying is serious, but I don’t think she’s going to make the same mistake twice, and it’s not like her presences will cause harm, distress or anxiety to anyone at the orchestra.

      This whole situation also merits discussion about if multiple family members should be allowed to serve in orchestras. Her father in his capacity as Concertmaster should have advised her not to do this… I’ve worked plenty of places where it was company policy not to hire a family member of a current employee if they would be in the same department/unit or would have reason to regularly interact. It’s crazy that orchestras allow siblings, parents, and spouses (especially given all of the concerns with fairness around the audition process).

      • Not Lizzo says:

        > Ultimately, this is about lying, and by the time teenagers are 16 I believe they fully understand the value we all put on being truthful.

        I agree, this is why I argue for empathy and grace. There are pretty much two options here:

        – Her father told her not worry about it, to call out sick and fly to Taiwan, he’d take care of it if she was caught.

        – She felt so much pressure/shame/guilt whatever from her father to play this concert that she felt she had to lie to both him (told him her time off request was approved) and the orchestra (then told them she was sick)

        My bet is on door #1 but you never know.

        In either case, daddy caused this.

      • Really? says:

        So what would you do if two members of the orchestra start dating and get married, fire one of them? Or tell them they can’t date? Same with the siblings, the CSO hired both Michal brothers in the same audition not because they were brothers but because they were the best two of the seven or eight finalists. I believe the Hou sisters was the same situation (though that’s been quite a while ago so I don’t remember 100%). Are you going to tell one of them we can’t hire you because we can’t have siblings?

        And perhaps you didn’t read the comments of the CSO players when they hired Bea, but the orchestra has a policy (so it’s very likely part of the contract) that family members cannot sit on audition committees when their relatives are auditioning and should the family member advance to the final, the screen automatically stays up. I do remember one particular comment where the player clearly implied that had the screen been down for the final, the audition committee would have likely down-voted Bea because of the general dislike for Robert so any call for nepotism was unwarranted. Orchestras are not companies and cannot be run the same way, you want the best talent available talent and if that happens to be a family member so be it.

        • Thornhill says:

          If you think that someone who doesn’t sit on the audition committee cannot influence hiring decisions, especially a senior-level member of the orchestra like the Concertmaster, then I have a bridge to sell you…

          Most organizations have strict policies about employees dating because of the power dynamics and the fallout when there’s a breakup. It should be pretty obvious how problematic it can be when one of the employees is more senior than another.

          Perceptions of nepotism can be extremely damaging to internal morale, which is why most companies have strict rules about when a family member can be hired. And it’s not like there are so few talented musicians out there that the only option is to hire a family member — which is all the more reason why everyone assumes nepotism was involved.

          Arts organizations get themselves in trouble all of the time precisely because they operate with the mindset of “you want the best talent available talent and if that happens to be a family member so be it.” As we’ve seen countless times on this website, they are reluctant to fire people for bad behavior because losing the musician might hurt the artistry of the organization.

  • freddynyc says:

    Looks like having your father as concertmaster of the orchestra you’re in brings with it a sense of entitlement. But alas….

  • RogationDays says:

    There are a number of things to unpack here. 1. She was on probation. All she had to do was behave in a professional manner for about 18 months. 2. Unprofessional behavior will eventually bite the butt of even the most favored musician (looking at the demise of TWO principal violists of the LA Phil). 3. I am particularly appalled by the role of Robert Chen in this. He not only failed as a leader in his orchestra, he has failed as a father. 4. Let’s forget all the crying about nepotism. You cannot have been in this business very long if you don’t see the enormous role it plays in who gets hired. It was traditional for Berlin and Vienna that only the students of members of the orchestra were seriously considered for positions in the string sections. And it has always been true in American orchestras as well. While I may have rolled my eyes a bit over this hire I also shrugged my shoulders and thought about the history of American orchestras and the “families” of musicians who got into various major orchestras. I have no doubt Ms. Chen plays well. But you can play Paganini fantastically and be a far better violinist technically than the concertmaster and be an inappropriate choice to be an orchestral musician/or simply don’t have the chemistry that is right for that particular orchestra/section. 5. When you are talking about who you want to be in your orchestra for the next 30-40 years you really need to be serious about how you treat tenure. My primary issue with Ms. Chen is that she seemingly doesn’t value being in the orchestra more than she values an opportunity to play a solo with a YOUTH orchestra. 6. Ms. Chen, if you want a position where you are feted and noticed and made much of…well, playing in the section is not that place. You are a cog in a wheel…an important cog, of course, and absolutely critical to the machine working its best…but not a shiny, fancy, diamond incrusted cog. 7. I’d be curious to have certain members of the viola section weigh in with their thoughts. I know one who didn’t get tenure the first time and won the next audition and has had a long career with the orchestra. 8. I also want to remind everyone on here that tenured and people on probation have radically different rights. 9. No doubt Ms. Chen can throw sand in the CSO’s eyes when she wins another great job. But the joy of winning is very short lived because you will not suddenly have a happy life because you won a big job. Orchestras are full of people who are utterly disillusioned because they had the expectation of love, appreciation, constant kudos, etc. It’s a job. It’s a wonderful job because you are making the world a more beautiful place, but it is still a job. When you equate your self worth with a job you are shooting yourself in the heart. It is your job, not who you “are”. The day you have this epiphany is the first day of your journey of life.

  • Paul says:

    She got what she deserved. Playing in an orchestra like Chicago is an honor, if she doesn’t understand that, she should be fired.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    For God’s sake, she’s not a criminal – she didn’t hurt anybody, the Chicago Symphony sounded no worse for her absence. But yes she was dishonest and so a punishment that fits the crime would be warranted. Dismissal seems too extreme here.

    • wah wah says:

      It’s not explicitly criminal but it’s pretty darn close. When someone takes sick leave they’re paid for their time off. Their chair still has to be filled, so someone extra has to be paid too. There’s a finite sub of

    • wah wah says:

      It’s not explicitly criminal but it’s pretty darn close. When someone takes sick leave they’re paid for their time off. Their chair still has to be filled, so someone extra has to be paid too. There’s a finite sum of money allocated for the operating budget. No, one extra sub doesn’t break the bank, but routine abuse of the system would be pretty harmful. No excuses. Appropriate contractual disciplinary measures for a tenured player, dismissal for a probationary member. And I can think off the top of my head of two players, one of them a concertmaster, who have been dismissed for the same conduct.

    • Another Party Heard From says:

      Funny that Muti hasn’t been mentioned here. You would figure that he would have the last say about whether or not the violist should be fired or not. It could be she wasn’t a member of Muti’s “team”. Not to say that her act doesn’t deserve discipline, it is a question of how much. It wasn’t mentioned if her dad got permission or not, or whether he bothered to ask for it.

      • Someone who knows says:

        Her dad gets a concertmaster leave so he was approved. Secondly Muti is not the MD anymore so he has no say over dismissals, thirdly even if he still were, he wouldn’t have a say because contractual breach of this nature gives the management power to dismiss the person without asking any questions. Muti would only have say if the dismissal was based on the grounds of her performance aka Cooper

  • Been there done that says:

    Maybe she shouldn’t have asked for permission in the first place. Once you ask for permission and don’t get it, then if you call in sick, nobody will believe you. She should have taken her chances by calling in sick instead of asking for permission. She could have gotten sick in Taiwan. “Oh I was going to make it back by the first rehearsal, whoops, sorry…” At least she would have had the possibility of getting away with it. Live n’ learn.

  • Sara K says:

    Another clown in the us empire’s circus. Neponomics and narcissism with a heaping of elitism.

  • Taras Bulba says:

    Bea gone.

  • Been there done that says:

    Actually, I already tried this, and got away with it! I went to another country without asking for permission, and when it came time to go back to work, I called in sick from the foreign country, and also got a doctor’s note in that same country. Not to say that this will work every time, but it beats asking for permission, not getting it, and taking it anyway, which is really the worst way of doing it, with the biggest possibility of getting fired. On the other hand, if you want to get yourself fired, this is a good way of doing it instead of doing something crazy (yes we have all fantasized about doing something outrageous, haven’t we?).

  • Closet Violist says:

    How are people who aren’t sick at all getting doctor’s notes?

  • Ziggy21 says:

    No excuse. Enough entitled crap. She lost a job that hundreds of violist are better qualified for. Glad she was fired.

  • Chiming in says:

    I had the opportunity to hear this young player in a chamber music event of new music at Orchestra Hall, an official CSO event, at which she was extraordinary. Big sound, ferocious technique, very promising. What happened was doubtless a disastrous experience for the violist. Excruciating for the parent as well. Apparently she made a judgment error, and now has paid the price. I hope her career can recover from this.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Seems like there are a lot of nasty, ill-willed people here. Fine her the cost of the sub who replaced her and consider it a “you’ve been warned” event. A bunch of hangin’ judges around here.

  • Daniel says:

    She’s only 19!! She’ll bounce back. She’ll have a tremendous career. And all these jealous people better be scared.

  • Elliott says:

    I want to know about David Cooper. He was principal horn but now someone is…

    • Shimi says:

      Cooper is assistant in LA and on trial for principal in SF, what else would you like to know?

      • RogationDays says:

        David Cooper is a phenomenal player. No one disagrees with that. That is not why he was not retained by Berlin and Chicago. I dearly hope he finally lands in the orchestra and horn section that will be the exact right fit.

  • Tim says:

    Anyone who has been both to Orchestra Hall and Ravinia knows that you’re likely to wonder where a lot of the familiar faces are in the orchestra and who some of these people are on stage at the outdoor summer concerts. As such, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that both father and daughter instinctively thought, “What’s the big deal?” Perhaps it is, indeed, a matter of how many members can take off and, of course, the lack of seniority. But, practically, why might not someone “trade off” dates with her? It also seemed that a lot of CSO concerts this summer were grouped on successive weekend and adjacent days. Was it just one concert she was missing or three? Did a particular date require a larger orchestra and more musicians from her section?

    Having heard her in small groups and with solo parts, she’ll be missed. I’m sure she’ll score other work, elsewhere, easily. Whether it pays as well and what sort of time she has for personal projects…

    • Anon says:

      She had a contract. She lied and broke it.

      CSO has working rules and protocols. Working there isn’t for freelancers who pick their dates and make their own arrangements. The orchestra doesn’t exist to provide time for personal projects or allow casual date trades.

      If she wants to run her own show, get a manager and go the solo route, but don’t take a full time orchestra job.

  • Novagerio says:

    That figures, social media….
    She put herself in the trap.
    How stupid is that?

  • Robert Holmén says:

    How awkward, to be recognized while AWOL.

    And how do you explain that at the next job interview?

    • CA says:

      Job interviews are not part of an orchestral audition process. If she auditions elsewhere it’s most certainly going to be a blind/anonymous audition and if she emerged the winner with the requisite number of votes including the support of the music director (all of which requirements are typically spelled out in detail in the orchestra master agreement) then she would be offered the job, no questions asked. No one in the auditioning or hiring process is going to ask her about this. At least that’s not something likely to happen in the orchestral industry.

      • anon says:

        By the final round, it is a very rare situation in which the candidates are still “blind” to the panel. And, there may be an additional hurdle such as playing a “test” concert or two, obviously with full ID, before being offered a probationary contract. Even with no actual interview, word gets around regarding people’s personalities, work ethic, and egregious breaches of protocol (as this was). Her ID will most likely be known before being offered a contract. Maybe those hiring for the next gig will assume she’s learned a lesson and adopted professional norms. When it come down to the final selection between equally qualified candidates, however, rumors, impressions and experiences known from previous contacts with the candidate, resume, etc can be and often are taken fully into account. This story will follow her around along with the social media pics.

  • William Osborne says:

    Perhaps the real story is that a highly gifted young musician decided she had better ways of being an artist than spending her life on working the tutti string orchestral conveyor belt.

    • Edo says:

      Pheraps there are best ways for gifted artists to assert themself that than going against company rules and engaging in unprofessional behavior that, in most countries in tbe world, is sufficient reason to be fired on the spot…

    • Karl Marx says:

      Dunno, that reputation follows you around… and either way she’ll have to deal with managers who do all speak to each other about this stuff. I can only imagine the conversations over drinks at the Pub the day this decision was made…

    • Guest says:

      Now she is free to explore those better ways. I hope she is satisfied. Most 19-year-olds still studying at Curtis would give their eye-teeth for a probationary seat in the CSO.

    • anon says:

      You certainly don’t know the business.

    • Midwest says:

      Yes, but it’s a golden conveyor belt. Kind of like the goose that keeps laying gold eggs. Keep trying.

  • GUEST says:

    Well, this is merely comment #3,476, but I came on just to say I imagine dinner at the Chen home isn’t very pleasant currently. If I were Bea, I’d be pretty upset at my father’s lack of judgment.

  • Anonymous says:

    Comments about what is typically done in orchestras don’t necessarily apply when you are under probation. That is true of many jobs, and it’s not necessarily strange her request for an excused absence was denied during her probationary period. In ordinary jobs, you don’t always take vacation shortly after starting a job either even though vacations are an accepted party of working life. And that’s for ordinary jobs. For Chen, this probation would have led to something unimaginable in most other fields—life-time employment at a good salary. In the scheme of things, the period during which she had to keep her head and down and made sure she complied with the letter of every requirement was pretty brief, and she would have gotten a lifetime of relative job security in return.

    It is sad that her entire career may be compromised by this youthful indiscretion—-although a relatively egregious professional indiscretion—-but it’s also sad that they are many, many talented musicians who are capable of playing at the level the Chicago Symphony requires and who are willing to comply with all its rules, but don’t have the luck or the connection to get hired. Although it’s a sad day for Chen, it may be a very happy day for a dedicated player who has a chance to get a job commensurate with her or his talent and dedication.

    She is young and it’s a shame no one around her, particularly her father, helped save her from herself, but, if she wants to have the salary and prestige of a fully-fledged adult, there can’t be exceptions because of her age. There are a lot of middle-aged musicians who would be thrilled to have her position and would do everything asked of them but can’t get one because of their age.

  • Zarathusa says:

    What an incredibly stupid decision on her part…and to think that she could actually get away with it!!! She’s lucky she just got sacked…in the “old days” she could have been stripped and beaten with a stick! Ah, those good old days!

  • MD says:

    There seems to be more to this story than it meets the eye. It does not take a genius to realize that, after her request had been rejected, and she had presented a medical certificate, her appearance at such concert, next to her dad, had zero chances to go unnoticed. For this reason, I’m sure this scenario was not unexpected by Chen’s and, whatever their motivation was, in their eyes it was worth. Considering that it was probably impossible to deny Robert’s request, denying his daughter’s has all the features of a move to hit him, revealing the existence of a feud between the concertmaster and some internal enemies, which does not bode well for the CSO.