The Latest #MeToo Allegations Result In Music Director Resignation At Bozeman Symphony

Multiple news outlets have reported Bozeman Symphony Music Director, Matthew Savery, has resigned amid allegations of “bullying, harassment, mistreatment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior.”

According to an article by Rachel Leathe in the 2/1/2019 edition of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, allegations were presented to the orchestra’s board in a letter dated 1/23/2019. The letter contained 14 signatories that included former and current musicians, staff members, and donors. A copy of the letter was also sent to the newspaper, which published the following excerpt:

“Of paramount concern is the bullying, harassment, mistreatment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior we have experienced, seen and heard from the current Music Director, Matthew Savery, toward our local and guest musicians, BSO administrative staff, and donors.”

One of the letter’s signatories included a former board member who served as the board chair from 2013-2016.

Denis Prager, who was a board member from 2010 to 2016 and board chair from 2013 to 2016, also contributed to the complaint. As the chair, Prager said he raised money to celebrate Savery’s 20th anniversary with the symphony but noticed a pattern of female donors unwilling to contribute. His letter included in the complaint alleges women on the board were often harassed and embarrassed when proposing ideas Savery considered “dumb.” On Friday, Prager did not point to any one instance but said the patterns of behavior are unacceptable for a community organization.

At the time, Savery denied any wrongdoing and that an investigation would clear him of any allegations.

The board ultimately decided to launch an independent investigation into the allegations and before that work was complete, Savery decided to resign, effective February 14, 2019. According to a follow-up article by Leathe in the 2/15/2019 edition of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the investigation will continue.

The third-party inquiry will continue, according to the Board of Directors. The investigation by Amy Christensen of Helena law firm Christensen & Prezeau is expected to take until mid-March. Upon completion, the board “will review the report to identify opportunities to better serve musicians, staff, patrons, volunteers, and our community,” according to the board’s letter.

Elliot Moore, Longmont Symphony Orchestra music director, will fill in for the remainder of the orchestra’s season. The orchestra’s executive director left at the beginning of the season and the position has yet to be filled.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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