The Latest In Actions And Consequences

The 8/3/21 edition of The Baltimore Sun published an article by Mary Carole McCauley that reports on the orchestra’s decision to dismiss Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) principal flutist Emily Skala.

This situation appears to be one of those rare instances where a musician employee is dismissed for non-artistic reasons. Skala has made headlines a few times over the pandemic as a result of her decisions to speak out on social media in a way the Sun article characterized as “support[ing] conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus and about election fraud.”

But wait, there’s more.

In addition to her social media posts, Skala reportedly contacted musician colleagues to lodge her displeasure with the organization’s decision to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Officially, the BSO is remaining unsurprisingly tight lipped about the entire situation, but they did offer a brief statement.

“Ms. Skala has had discipline imposed upon her over these past few months; unfortunately, she has repeated the conduct for which she had been previously disciplined, and dismissal was the necessary and appropriate reaction to this behavior,” [wrote Peter Kjome, the BSO’s president and CEO].

This isn’t the first orchestra that decided to hold an employee responsible for similar behavior.

Just over a year ago, a Spokane Symphony administrator who regularly performed with the orchestra as a substitute musician resigned after being approached about hostile comments made on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement and pandemic conspiracy theories.

An article on that situation in the Spokeman-Review by Chad Sokol from 7/8/2020 reports that the comments violated the employer’s social media policy. But the orchestra’s executive director, Jeff vom Saal, went on to say “What [the employee] is representing is totally inconsistent with our positions on tolerance and openness.”

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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